Hearing your baby babble "mama" or "dada" while looking right at you fills your heart with love and pride. But if your little one’s speech lags behind others, you might wonder whether his speech is lacking or if your friends' babies are all geniuses. Knowing the norms for infant speech can either put your fears to rest or encourage you to seek early intervention to help him catch up.
Long before your baby starts to make meaningful sounds, you can start to evaluate her potential speech issues -- by noticing her responsiveness to noises, including voices. If your baby is born with hearing loss, which affects two to three infants per thousand according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, it will certainly impact her speech. If your baby doesn't settle down or smile at the sound of your voice, doesn't appear to listen when you talk, doesn't turn toward sounds or react to loud noises, she might have hearing loss that will affect her speech.
Babies respond to voices by attempting to make sounds themselves. A baby who doesn't babble, gurgle or coo and who doesn't begin to make the sounds p, m and b between the ages of 4 to 7 months may be showing early signs of speech impairment. By age 1, your baby's speech should sound like conversation, complete with inflection, even though the words are completely unintelligible. He will also show signs of understanding the "give and take" of conversation, waiting for you to say something and then talking himself. By age 1, he should also point to objects and wave bye-bye.
By age 1, your baby should be able to use dada and mama appropriately, as well as one other word. He should understand the meaning of many common words, such as cup, bottle or names of body parts. Between the ages of 18 months and 2 years, children learn to say one new word per week on average, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports. By age 2, he should say 50 to 100 words.
Sometimes your child's vocabulary is on target for her age, but she seems delayed because her speech is difficult to understand. By age 2, around 50 percent of her speech should be intelligible to other people, according to KidsHealth. Some sounds are more difficult for kids to master, but by age 1 to 2, she should properly pronounce the p, b, m, h, and w sounds. Between 2 and 3, she should pronounce k, g, f, t, d, and n correctly. By age 3, you should understand 75 percent of what he says, and by age 4, even non-family members should understand most of what he says.