Baby Language Development Milestones to Watch For
You are right to pay close attention to early developmental milestones in your infant. Observing developmental milestones is useful for understanding and tracking developmental progress. While we want to watch out for red flags indicating possible developmental delay, it is also important to understand that there is variability in the rate of each individual child's development.
Baby language development occurs in a fairly predictable and progressive course, with each stage building upon the next. Between two and six months, infants display a variety of nonspecific vocalizations, including cooing, squeals and laughing. Babbling, which is the vocalization of specific repetitive syllables (e.g., ba-ba, da-da), begins to occur near 6 months of age and continues until around 10 months. Babbling sets the foundation for use of specific and meaningful words and word approximations, which typically begins around 10 to 12 months. For example, "ma-ma-ma-ma" becomes "mama" (specifically referring to "mother") during this time.
Lack of babbling at 10 months is cause for concern, but not for panic. If your child isn't babbling by 12 months, I would advise seeking consultation from a child development specialist who can assess the nature of the delay. In most states, Early Intervention Services are provided from the time of birth to 3 years of age for children with a qualifying delay. To arrange a developmental evaluation, contact your county Department of Human Services or your child's pediatrician for local resources.
If concerns persist through the second year, and if the speech delay is accompanied by delays in other domains of development such as social skills (e.g., responding to others, making eye contact, seeking out caregivers) or motor skills, your child would likely benefit from a medical evaluation by a Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician to rule out any underlying cause. Most of the time, a speech delay can be treated quite easily with therapy.