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Is Your Baby on Track? Babbling Milestones Explained

Updated: May 19

A baby holding a phone with a speech bubble

As a parent, there's nothing quite like hearing your baby's first words. They’re such small sounds and yet so meaningful! It all starts with babbling—the "goo-goos" and "ga-gas" that your chatty little one will first use to develop their voice. As you listen to your baby babble away, know that it is the beginning of their language development.

At this stage, babies are hearing new sounds, strengthening their vocal cords and getting ready to use real language later on in life. Whether they're imitating animal noises or speaking their own baby language, this early verbal communication is an exciting milestone for both you and your child!

In this article:

What is babbling?

What babbling sounds like

Ages for babbling

Stages of babbling

How babies learn to babble

The developmental significance of babbling

An important step in language acquisition

Expressive language

Receptive language

Importance to other developmental domains

The meaning of baby babbles

Delays in speech development

Identifying a developmental delay

Possible causes of delay

What to do if your baby doesn't babble

Encouraging babbling

Seeking a professional evaluation

Frequently Asked Questions

The Takeaway

What is babbling?

Babbling is an early language milestone in which babies make simple sounds and often repeat them. Although your babbling baby is not yet making sounds to communicate ideas, practicing babbling sounds helps them prepare for talking!

What babbling sounds like

Early babbling sounds will be simple consonant-vowel (for example, "ba," “ga,” or "ma") or vowel-consonant (such as "um") sounds. After a couple months, babies begin to string these sounds together in longer combinations.

Fun fact: Although babies from different cultures typically begin babbling around the same age, the sounds that they make may sound somewhat different depending on the native language that they hear!

Ages for babbling

Most babies start babbling between 4 and 6 months of age.

Their babbles will become longer and more complex until around 12 months, as babies learn to make sound “approximations”—sound combinations that begin to sound like real words.

Even by 12 months, babies may still use different babbling combinations to say a word. The difference is that they are beginning to attach meaning to those sounds.

As your baby begins to say more actual words, their babbles will gradually decrease.

Stages of babbling

You might think of babbling as simply "ga-ga-ga," but it's actually more nuanced than that. There are several phases of babbling that your baby will progress through, each with its own developmental significance.

Pre-babbling sounds

Before they learn to babble, your baby will make lots of other sounds. In their first three to four months, your baby will likely make a variety of crying and cooing noises. Cooing refers to single-vowel sounds, such as "ooh" or "aah."

These sounds are not babbling, but they are still important steps in your baby's language journey. They are learning to communicate if they are happy, upset, or uncomfortable.

Marginal babbling

Around 4 to 5 months, your baby will really begin to experiment with sound production! They will figure out how to combine a consonant and vowel sound to make a syllable like "baa" or "umm." They will also try out a variety of other sounds, such as blowing raspberries, gr