When Do Babies Say “Mama” And “Dada” ?

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Hearing the baby utter their first word is the most joyous moment in the parent’s life. Parents may also wonder when do babies say “mama” and “dada.” It is a milestone that most parents anticipate.

Learning to talk is a gradual process that starts with basic communication skills such as gurgling and cooing. Most babies can do it by the time they are three months of age (1). However, every baby is unique and grows at its own pace. So, the timeline for when they would utter “mama” or ”dada” may differ.

Read on to know when babies say “mama” and “dada” and some tips to encourage your baby to say those adorable words.

At What Age Do Babies Say “Mama” And “Dada”?

Babies may say Mama” and “Dada” by the age of nine months

Image: iStock

Babies usually say “Mama” and “Dada” by the age of nine months (2). It is the average age for achieving the milestone, and it does not mean all babies say those words at nine months. Some infants might be able to say it earlier, while some may take a few extra months to say those adorable words.

“Mama” Or “Dada”: Which Comes First? 

There is no fixed trend or rule about whether the baby would say “Mama” or “Dada” first, although they may usually say “Mama” first. The “M” consonant sound is usually easier for a baby to say, and they might use the “Mmm” sound while gurgling by the age of six months (1). They may also say vowel sounds, such as “Ah” and “Eh.”

By the age of nine months, a baby learns to club the “Mmm” sound with the “Ah” vowel sound to make “Mama.” Some babies also club the “Ah” vowel sound with the “D” sound to say “Dada.”

As their speech skills improve and orofacial muscles become stronger, they become better at speaking various consonant sounds. Thus, most babies can say both “Mama” and “Dada” by the age of 12 months.

Do Babies Mean It When They Say “Mama” And “Dada”? 

Most babies understand when they call parents

Image: Shutterstock

Most babies can understand the words’ meaning and correctly attribute “Mama” and “Dada” to the right parent by the age of 12 months (3). Some younger babies may understand the meaning of the words, that is, they learn that the words are used to refer to the primary caregivers — the parents. However, it is not uncommon for younger babies to use the words interchangeably to refer to a parent or anyone else.

As the baby’s cognitive development progresses, they become better at understanding nouns and could remember names. A one-year-old could even point towards the right object or person when it is named (4). Therefore, it is usually by the age of 12 months that babies say “Mama” and “Dada” with the correct understanding of its meaning (5).

Tips To Make Babies Say “Mama” And “Dada”

Each baby is different and may achieve the milestone at a slightly different age. Nevertheless, you may try various activities and exercises to help the baby achieve this speech milestone. Below are some methods to improve the baby’s language and communication skills, thus encouraging the baby to say “Mama” and “Dada” gradually (1).

  1. Teach the name of objects and people: One of the best ways to teach names and other proper nouns to your baby is by pointing at an object and naming it. While playing with the baby, point at a toy and say its name. When your pet walks by, refer to it by its name. As the baby grows older, you can use words to refer to a parent by saying sentences such as, “Where is Dada?” and “Look, it’s Mama.” The baby will learn to associate the sound with that person and gradually understand it is used to refer to that person.
Quick tip
Put your baby in front of the mirror and see them enjoy talking, laughing, and babbling. It will pique the baby’s interest and inspire them to talk new words.
Teaching them by naming objects

Image: iStock

  1. Read to the baby: Sit with your baby, lay a children’s book, and read it aloud. Make sure to point at various pictures and name them. The next time you read the same book, point at a picture and ask the baby to name it. This activity helps the baby learn and memorize the name of different items or objects, laying the foundation for using words, such as “Mama” and “Dada.”
  1. The “Mama” and “Dada” photo album: Make an album with the pictures of the mother and father. Sit with the baby and say “Mama” and “Dada” while pointing at the pictures. You can also encourage the baby by asking, “Who is it?” while pointing at a picture.
  1. Play peek-a-boo: It is one of the best games to improve a baby’s speech and language skills. Let the mother sit with the baby while the father hides behind the curtain. Prompt the baby by asking, “Who is that behind the curtain?”. Encourage the baby to answer it. You may ask questions, such as “Is it Dada?”. Let the father draw the curtain away and exclaim, “It is Dada!”. Play the peek-a-boo game regularly to improve the little one’s skills gradually.
Playing peek-a-boo

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Sing songs and nursery rhymes: Nursery rhymes and songs help babies and toddlers practice their language skills. The musical nature of rhymes and songs could also make it easier for the toddler to memorize new words and understand their meanings. You may pick from a plethora of classic nursery rhymes or create your very own songs that include “Mama” and “Dada” in the lyrics.
Did you know?
The speaking style parents adopt, where simple words and exaggerated sounds are used to hook the baby’s brain socially, is known as ‘parentese.’ (7)
  1. Have conversations: Babies begin to respond to sounds by making sounds by the age of six months. They may even respond to their name by eight to nine months (6). Use this achievement to teach words and nouns through conversations. Ask questions to your baby and wait until they respond. React to their response, even if it is coos and gurgles. When the baby notices responses, they are more likely to initiate conversations with their parents.
  1. Praise achievements: Appreciate and praise your little one once they learn to use “Mama” and “Dada” correctly. Respond promptly and positively each time they call you “Mama” or when they refer to their father as “Dada.” Constant praise through words and cuddles is a great way to reinforce speech and language skills in babies.
Praise achievements

Image: iStock

Remember that each baby is different, and it is okay for a baby to achieve milestones at a different age than their peers. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, consult a doctor if your baby does not say any single words by the age of 12 months (1). Depending on the underlying cause of speech delay, the doctor may refer you to a pediatric speech therapist.

It is common for parents to wonder when babies say mama and dada. It usually varies from one baby to another as each child’s development rate is different. However, you might expect them to utter their first words by the time they are about four months of age. You must keep having conversations with your baby and sing them songs or poems to help them understand words and motivate them to speak. But if your baby does not utter words or make sounds by the time they are about a year old, it is advised to consult a doctor or a speech therapist.

Infographic: What Other Words Do Babies Say During This Time

As your baby approaches nine months, you have probably noticed them trying to speak, also saying one or two small words. While “mama” and “dada” could be the most awaited words you wish to hear, babies may also say other words and phrases at this age, as listed in the infographic below.

phrases and sounds babies may say by nine months [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Babies usually start uttering words by the time they are three to four months old.
  • The duration can vary from one baby to another, depending on their development.
  • In most cases, babies usually say ‘Mama’ first!

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
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