When should I be concerned about my baby not talking?

It’s only natural to want your children to reach their developmental milestones when the books say they should (or way earlier), but every baby is different, and develops at her own pace. However, at a certain point, a delay could be a sign of other possible problems. So when it comes to talking, when is the point of concern?

Talking milestones

Through the first 9 months, doctors and child development experts like to see babies become more and more verbal, even if what they’re doing can’t quite be considered “talking.” Cooing and other attempts at vocalization should be taking place, as should gestures as a form of communication, like pointing, reaching, clapping, or waving. By the end of the first year, most babies can say a few words beyond “mama” or “dada.” They should also be able to understand simple commands, and carry them out. By the end of the second year, most babies are speaking in simple, two and three word sentences.

So when should I be concerned?

  • If she is neither making gestures nor babbling by the one-year mark
  • If she hasn’t spoken any real words by 16 to 18 months
  • If she can’t form simple sentences by 26 to 30 months

Just because a baby misses one of these marks, doesn’t mean there’s necessarily anything really wrong. It’s totally possible that there are more minor problems affecting her speech development that just need to be addressed, or that she has been focusing on other milestones, and will be playing catchup soon. Another fairly common reason for speech delays is hearing issues, which can contribute to delayed development, though there are often other signs of hearing issues, like lack of responsiveness to sounds and voices.

What should I do?

You should speak to your child’s doctor if she hasn’t met these marks, just to help identify what the issue might be, and get on a path towards fixing it. There are many interventions parents and therapists can make to help children who may be slow to talk get up to speed, so it’s often wise to get an early jump on an intervention if you think it’s best.

Well-child visits are a great time to bring up any concerns you might have, even if it can feel uncomfortable to bring up a concern a doctor hasn’t raised first.

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