Too much excitement just might kill me!
This is a phenomenon that seems to be abounding, and which drives me bananas. I can no longer count the number of times I’ve been witness to it, and I find it increasingly difficult to bite my tongue.
Case in point, one of the mothers at story time at our local library, who proudly announced that her 6 month old had just started saying “Dada”, and whose husband was reportedly thrilled with this development, because said baby had been saying “mama” and “buba” for a couple of months.
Yeah, no. I understand that it’s exciting when your child starts talking, but at that age, smart money says the child is saying “dadadadadada”. This is reduplicated babbling, which is a precursor to speech. But the semantics are nonexistent – it’s not a word.
People who post on Facebook that their 7 month old has started saying “mama” and it melts their hearts… Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s very unlikely the child is referring to you.
On average, first words appear around 12 months of age – but it can be as late as 2 years. It’s only a word if it’s being used deliberately, with intent and in the correct context. Why do I get so frustrated by this? Monkey’s Grandma (my mother) is a speech pathologist, so while I’m certainly not full bottle, I do know a little bit about language development. Reduplicated babbling precedes variegated babbling, which precedes the appearance of words.
A word doesn’t have to sound perfect to count – and hand signs count too, but the context and the clear intention of the child have to be there. Monkey uses ‘oh’ for ‘off’, as distinguished from ‘oh’ for ‘hot’ which comes with a hand in front of the mouth (as in ‘these chips are hot!’). First words often come and go, and that’s to be expected. On average they expect kids to have about 50 words by 18 months, and then their vocabulary starts to skyrocket.
Monkey is a little behind – but it isn’t unusual for boys to be slower to develop language. I don’t think he has 50 words yet but we’re starting to see it pick up. He hasn’t yet said ‘Mama’, and although we think he had a go at ‘Dada’ the other day, he hasn’t said it again since.
He does however correctly use ‘up’ in a number of situations, and this gets him about 90% of what he wants in life. He also has ‘out’ and ‘open’, which cover another 9.5%. He also constantly surprises us with just how much he actually understands.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m super excited for Monkey to start talking properly… I can’t wait to hear what’s going on in his fuzzy little head! But I think it does a disservice to other parents when people claim their baby said their first word at 6 months old. It makes others wonder what’s wrong with their own kids – and the answer is nothing. Because reduplicated babbling is not talking!