It’s pretty thrilling when baby starts babbling—finally, your little one is a step closer to talking! Of course, that also means the race is on between you and your partner to see which word baby says first: “mama” or “dada.” It’s unlikely that baby is going to start saying either word right after they begin making noises, but it naturally raises an important question: Just when do babies say “mama” and “dada” anyway?
In this article:
What age do babies say “mama” and “dada”?
“Mama” or “dada”: Which comes first?
How to help baby say “mama” and “dada”
At What Age Do Babies Say “Mama” and “Dada”?
While the timeline can differ for every child—even those in the same family—most babies start stringing together syllables that sounds like “mamamama” or “dadadadada” by 7 months, says Jennifer L. Maietta, MS, CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist who works with children from birth to 6 years old at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston. These initial sounds are just babbles, but as they approach 9 months and beyond, they get better at saying the actual words.
That still doesn’t mean they actually know what they’re saying at that point. “They might look at you or the dad and say it, or say it to the mailman,” says Danelle Fisher, MD, FAAP, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “They’ll say it to anybody.” But around the one-year mark, baby will likely start to use the word correctly within context. And when it happens, “it’s magical,” Fisher says. “When they look at you and say ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ and mean it, it’s the best thing in the world.”
“Mama” or “Dada”: Which Comes First?
It’s a common belief that babies naturally say “dada” before “mama.” But Gina Posner, MD, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, says that’s not necessarily the case. “Some kids are really obsessed with the ‘da’ sound, and others like the ‘ma’ sound,” she says. Whichever they latch onto in the beginning will help determine which word they say first.
Still, some kids just are better able to say “da” than “ma.” “It’s not that they love dada better, but it really is the function that the ‘d’ is easier to say than the ‘m,’” Fisher says. But if the mom spends more time caring for the child, she might have a leg up, Fisher adds, pointing out that babies may say the name of their primary caregiver first.
How to Help Baby Say “Mama” and “Dada”
While you can’t rush baby’s development, there are a few ways to help teach your child to say ‘mama’ and ‘dada.’
Babies imitate their parents, Fisher says, so continually sounding out “mama” and “dada” and encouraging your child to repeat the words is key. To help baby understand what those words actually mean, make sure to teach them in context. “I encourage parents to identify each other as ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ when talking to the child,” Posner says. “For example, you can say, ‘Look at Mama! Mama has food for you.’ That way, baby starts associating a parent with a specific name.”
When it comes to fostering baby’s language development in general, the best way is to read to her, play with her, talk to her and limit screen time and electronic toys, Maietta says. Find children’s books that rely heavily on the words “mama” and “dada” and read them often—it can go further than you think.
Every child is different, but if baby isn’t saying “mama” and “dada” by 12 to 15 months, flag it for your pediatrician. Most doctors expect children to have mastered those words by that point; for those who haven’t, a hearing test or speech therapy may be recommended. If your child says plenty of other words but “mama” and “dada” aren’t on the list, don’t panic. “While the words ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ are highly motivating for parents to hear, we’re more focused on whether the child is babbling using a variety of consonants, copying sounds and movements that a parent or caregiver does, using gestures like pointing and making eye contact, and engaging in back-and-forth games like ‘peek-a-boo,’” Maietta says. “Mama” and “dada” will come in time—and it will be well worth the wait.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.
Plus, more from The Bump:
When Do Babies Recognize Their Name?
At what age should babies say mama and Dada? ›
In these months, your baby might say "mama" or "dada" for the first time, and may communicate using body language, like waving bye-bye and shaking their head.When should baby consistently respond to name? ›
While some babies are able to recognize their names as early as 4 to 6 months, most should reach this point consistently by 7 to 9 months.When should I be worried if my baby is not saying mama or dada? ›
Every child is different, but if baby isn't saying “mama” and “dada” by 12 to 15 months, flag it for your pediatrician. Most doctors expect children to have mastered those words by that point; for those who haven't, a hearing test or speech therapy may be recommended.Why does my 1 year old say Dada but not mama? ›
Casares also suggests a more primal reason for “dada” often getting the first-word honors. “Some linguistic specialists theorize [that] babies say 'dada' before they say 'mama' because they don't identify mom as being separate from themselves initially,” she explains. “Instead, their identities are fused.”Why is my 9 month old not saying mama or dada? ›
Babies typically say words like 'mama' or 'dada' by 12 months old, so if they're not quite that old yet, you might just need to wait a while longer. Once your baby reaches 12 months of age, try to be patient with them, and rest assured that once your baby can talk, they will talk.Why does my baby ignore me when I call his name? ›
Researchers at the U.C. Davis M.I.N.D. Institute and ASHA, have found a child's failure to consistently respond to one's name by their 1st birthday is often one of the most consistent early indicators of autism spectrum disorder and other developmental delays.Why is my 2 year old baby not responding to his name? ›
Speech-language pathologists working in early intervention often consider a young child's lack of response to their name as a potential sign of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It can also be an indicator of issues with receptive language skills.Why does my 7 month old not respond to name? ›
A child who repeatedly does not respond to their name might be autistic, but they could also have other developmental conditions. They could also have a health condition that prevents them from responding to their name—for example, they might not be able to hear.How do you know if baby is not responding? ›
If a baby is not moving and does not respond when you call them or tap their foot, they are unresponsive. Shout for help. 1. Check their breathing by tilting their head back and looking and feeling for breaths.Do autistic babies clap? ›
In some cases, a child may appear to have clumsiness and awkwardness in doing normal activities like walking and running. Some children also have repetitive behaviors such as hand clapping, twisting, or twirling.
Do babies with autism say dada? ›
12 months: Doesn't crawl, stand with support, search for things he sees you hide, say simple words like “mama” or “dada,” gesture (waving hands, shaking head), or point to objects of interest. Loses skills he once had.Do babies with autism babble? ›
Babies later diagnosed with autism are slower to start babbling and do less of it once they get started than typical babies do, reports a study published 31 January in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Because delays in babbling are rare, this could serve as an early marker of autism.Is it normal for 18 month old to not say mama or dada? ›
Try not to worry if your toddler isn't talking much at 18 months. The age at which children learn to talk can vary widely. If it takes your child a little longer than usual, it shouldn't affect how he develops later on. Ideally, by 18 months, your child should know between six and 20 words, and understand many more.What are signs of autism in a 1 year old? ›
- Point at things.
- Babble or talk back and forth with another person.
- Try to gain the attention of others.
- Smile in response to your smile.
- Make good eye contact.
- Show objects to others.
- Point to request.
- Respond to their name.
At 18 months, according to the CDC, developmental red flags may be when a child is not copying others, not gaining new words, and losing any skills they may have once had. For a 2-year-old, look out for an inability to follow simple instructions, walk steadily, or use common items like a spoon.What words should my 9 month old be saying? ›
Babbling, babbling, babbling – you'll hear a lot of this from your baby as they get closer to saying their first meaningful words. Your baby might even say 'dada' or 'mama' and know what these words mean. If your baby is an early talker, they might be using 1-2 words already.How many words should a 8 month old baby say? ›
And if your baby is an early talker, you might hear them say 1-2 words like 'mama' or 'dada', but they won't know what these words mean. You might also notice that your baby tries to respond when you call their name. Most babies are still also using body language to communicate at this age.Why does my 14 month old babble but not say words? ›
Babbling is a good sign! It's the precursor to talking. If your 14 month old is babbling but not talking, it's possible that they will say their first word on their own in a matter of a few days or weeks.Do babies Remember me yelling at him? ›
“For instance, a baby may not remember explicitly the time they were yelled at in the kitchen booster seat when they were 6 months old, but their body remembers the way it recoiled, the way it pumped blood to increase oxygen to the muscles in response to feeling unsafe,” Keith explains.How do I teach my baby to respond to his name? ›
Teaching with motivation and rewarding success
Say his name. After saying the child's name, immediately tap his shoulder and, if needed, gently guide his face to look at you. After you say his name, quickly tap him on his shoulder or gently lift his head to face you.
Why is my 9 month baby not responding to his name? ›
Not responding to name being called is also an early sign of autism. If you notice your child is not responding to their name (or very rarely) by their first birthday, it's extremely important that you bring this up to your child's pediatrician and call your local early intervention program.What noises do autistic toddlers make? ›
For example, children might:
- make repetitive noises like grunts, throat-clearing or squealing.
- do repetitive movements like body-rocking or hand-flapping.
- do things like flicking a light switch repeatedly.
Main signs of autism
finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling. getting very anxious about social situations. finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own.
Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be difficult because there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorder. Doctors look at the child's developmental history and behavior to make a diagnosis. ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months of age or younger.Should a 9 month old always respond to name? ›
Most babies understand and respond to their own names by about 5 to 6 months of age, and most do by 9 months.Can a 7 month old baby show signs of autism? ›
Autism signs by 7 months
They don't turn their head to locate where sounds are coming from. They show no affection for you. They don't laugh or make squealing sounds. They don't reach for objects.
Babies with autism often selectively respond to sounds; for example, a baby with autism might not acknowledge a parent calling their name, but they may react suddenly to a television being turned on. Parents often mistakenly suspect their child has a hearing problem.How can you tell if your baby is going to be smart? ›
- They seek constant stimulation.
- They want to play with older children a lot.
- They are happy to play on their own and can remain focused on a task.
- Your baby can quickly mimic sounds when compared to other children.
Certain symptoms of developmental delay include trouble with speech or movement as well as having trouble interacting or communicating with other people. They may also include difficulty remembering things or being unable to perform everyday tasks like getting dressed or going to the bathroom without help.What are some signs that a baby is experiencing developmental delays? ›
- Delayed rolling over, sitting, or walking.
- Poor head and neck control.
- Muscle stiffness or floppiness.
- Speech delay.
- Swallowing difficulty.
- Body posture that is limp or awkward.
- Muscle spasms.
Can a 6 month old say mama and Dada? ›
Can a baby say mama at six months? Babbling evolves over time, and some babies can say mama and dada from six months – although seven to eight months is more common. And then around their first birthday, some babies can say “mama” and “dada” plus another word to construct a mini sentence.How many words is a 1 year old supposed to say? ›
By the time your baby is a year old, he or she is probably saying between one to three words. They will be simple, and not complete words, but you will know what they mean. They may say “ma-ma,” or “da-da,” or try a name for a sibling, pet, or toy.Can a 7 month old say dada? ›
Real words can come anytime between 9 and 14 months. This isn't the case for all babies though, some don't say a word that is recognisable until they get to about 18 months yet others can communicate recognisable words such as 'ba-ba' for bye-bye, 'da' or 'da-da' for dad (or dog!) from as young as 7 months.What milestones should a 12 month old have? ›
- Be 3 times their birth weight.
- Grow to a height of 50% over birth length.
- Have a head circumference equal to that of their chest.
- Have 1 to 8 teeth.
- Stand without holding on to anything.
- Walk alone or when holding one hand.
- Sit down without help.
- Bang 2 blocks together.
She will babble just as if talking in sentences; imitating an adult's speech pattern, facial expression and tone of voice. This conversational babble is another sure sign that your baby is getting ready to talk.What speech should a 1 year old have? ›
How Do Toddlers Communicate? Most kids say 1–2 words by 15 months and 3 or more words by 18 months. By 2 years old, most toddlers are saying even more words and can put together 2-word sentences. No matter when they say their first words, it's a sure bet they already understand much of what you say.What should a 1 year old be doing developmentally? ›
- Pulls up to stand.
- Walks, holding on to furniture. 1 Year – Walks, holding on to furniture. ...
- Drinks from a cup without a lid, as you hold it. 1 Year – Drinks from a cup without a lid, as you hold it. ...
- Picks things up between thumb and pointer finger, like small bits of food.
As your baby babbles more expertly, around 6 months old, you may hear word-like sounds like "ma-ma," "ba-ba," and "da-da." This doesn't count as real talking, though, because your baby doesn't yet understand the meaning of these words. By around 12 months old, your baby will say a few words and know what they mean.What words should a 7 month old baby be saying? ›
Your child may start to use sound-words like "mi" for "milk" or "dat" for "that" (as in, "I want that!") as early as 7 months. Or your child might not start to say words or word-sounds until as late as 18 months.What counts as baby's first word? ›
“Mama,” along with “papa,” “dada” and “baba,” are typical first words of babies the world over, says Sharon Weisz, a Toronto-based speech language pathologist. But that's not because babies are recognizing or naming their parents. It's because those sounds are the easiest for babies to make.
What are red flags in child development? ›
Can't support head (by 3 months) Doesn't babble or try to imitate sounds (by 4 months) Doesn't bring objects to mouth (by 4 months) Doesn't push down with legs when feet are on firm surface (by 4 months)What are the early signs of ADHD in a 1 year old? ›
- being overly fidgety and squirmy when seated.
- being unable to sit still for calm activities like eating and having books read to them.
- talking and making noise excessively.
- running from toy to toy, or constantly being in motion.
By the end of 12 months
Say a few words, such as "dada," "mama" and "uh-oh" Understand simple instructions, such as "Come here" Recognize words for common items, such as "shoe" Turn and look in the direction of sounds.