How to talk to your baby and get them to talk to you

Talking to your little one builds up important communication skills. Here’s what to look for…


Independent speech and language therapist, Gaby Harris, explains when you can expect your little one to start up his version of conversation.



Babies are aware of the sounds around them, doorbells, phones and people chatting. Under 3 months they’ll stop their activity and listen closely to the sound of an unfamiliar voice. Newborns love to mimic you, even at a few days old. They may try to copy you as you move your tongue and lips, such as when you stick your tongue out.

0-3 months

By 56 weeks your baby may smile at you, and by 3 months his smiles will come more easily. When you talk to your baby, wait for his response, and you’ll hear content sounds like cooing. He’ll have different cries for when he’s hungry or tired.

4-6 months

The cooing sounds will develop more and he’ll start adding consonants to his syllables while he’s babbling, saying ‘Bah, bah, mah’, and this’ll sound like he’s talking. Vocal play will happen when you’re playing with your baby, or when he’s occupying himself happily under the mobile.

By 6 months your baby will have found a favourite sound, and will repeat it, regularly. At this age he can express a range of emotions with his sounds, like giggling when he’s happy and growling when he’s getting frustrated.

7-9 months

Your baby’s babbling will start to include a wider range of vowels and consonants.

From 9 months he’ll start saying long strings of one-syllable sounds like, ‘Bah bah-bah-bah’. The act of putting together different sound combinations, such as ‘Bah-boo-na-dah’, is called jargoning, and is one step before talking. At 9 months your baby tells you what he wants by using different actions, like pointing. He’ll also shout to get your attention, so this is when you should watch him to know what he’s saying.

12 months

Words will start developing after your baby’s first birthday. So look out for words such as, ‘mama’, ‘doggie’, ‘night night’, and ‘bye bye’.

Speech problems to look out for:

  • 4 months – not smiling yet
  • 6 months – not laughing, squealing or cooing
  • 9 months – not trying to tell you what he wants using other non-verbal ways of communication, such as facial expressions or gestures.
  • “If you’re concerned about your child’s communication skills, verbal and non-verbal, contact your GP or seek advice from a speech and language therapist. Delays with speech can be due to an array of reasons, such as hearing difficulties, so seeking advice is advisable,” says speech and language therapist, Gaby Harris.

Mums’ stories

“Whatever I was doing, whether it was making his bottle or taking him out in his buggy, I would tell him all about it. When I’m shopping I’ll say the names of things before I put them in the trolley. Now he knows that Vegemite goes on his toast and the milk he drinks is from a cow that goes ‘moo’.”

Kylie Lambert, 28, from Sydney, mum to Cooper, 12 months

“I started talking to my daughter Willa from day one. I asked her things like how she was, what did she dream about, was she all right in her new world. And now, we’re
eight months on and she matches me word for word, her language is just a tiny bit harder for me to understand.”


Nicky Boersma, 34, from Australia, mum to Willa, 9 months

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