The anxious wait for baby to develop speaking skills

Mothers yearn to hear them say 'Mama' but other words can come first

In Summary

• The first audible words of a baby are among the milestones taken pride in


My baby has refused to say the word ‘mama’. I wonder if my feelings are hurt or I’m expecting too much. The kid is about to be 14 months and I guess I see him as my little man. Unlike other babies I have been around before, I find that his verbal communication is slower to develop than his other communication skills.

He still talks in baby babbles, but he has started saying some words. For some reason, the da-da sound is his favourite and he uses it to try to express himself. When he is happy, upset or curious, the “da-das” will flow. 

His first audible word, surprisingly, was his own name. Two syllables, three letters, and contains the d-sound. He probably hears his name more than any other word in a day… It was bound to happen.

Some people warned us from the very beginning that as a result of speaking several languages to him, his speech will probably be delayed. I do not know how accurate the statement is, but I have heard this old-wives-tale more than once.

As a mother, I focus so much on my baby’s development that I simply overlook things that affect me. I beat myself up every time I feel like he has a delayed milestone or he is behind his peers. “Am I talking to him enough?” “Am I being too easy on him because he is my baby?”

In the mummyverse, one of the reasons mums debate strongly against Cocomelon is that they turn babies and children into zombies. Some mums have sworn that when they switched to educative baby programming, their babies learned to speak easily.

There are some programmes that are geared towards the development of the baby’s speech. The person in front of the screen will carefully articulate the word using slow and deliberate motions. For example, if the word has an O-sound, then the presenter will shape his/her mouth like an O to show the children how to do it. They will then slowly repeat the word until the baby connects the mouth movement with the word being said.

I have tried to expose my son to these shows but he loses interest easily. Even though these programmes are especially curated towards a baby’s development, they do not have the same pull as the likes of Cocomelon.

My son is still growing and learning new things every day. Just yesterday, I think, I heard him say “star”. I love seeing him grow and learn things at his own time, and I need to learn how to let my expectations go. I am his mother whether he can say the word or not. Every hug, every smile, shows me that he knows who I am and I should not let a word dictate his appreciation of me.

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