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Music To Your Ears: Cooing and Babbling

The endearing sounds that babies make, from the most delicate coo to the most elaborate string of syllables and consonants, are evidence of serious work going on. As your baby progresses through the different stages of sound making, she lays the groundwork for learning to speak.

The First Sounds

At some point during the second or third month, your baby will try out her first cooing sound. This will be a vowel sound, such as ahh. As the weeks pass, she will work on her cooing sounds, trying different vowels and adding gurgling noises.

Your baby will be entertained by the sounds she makes and will coo for her own benefit. If you imitate her, she may respond; this is an early form of conversation.

When Coos Turn To Babble

At four or five months, your baby will be familiar with all the sounds that make up human speech. She may begin adding consonants to her syllables in a happy babble: Bah, dah, mah. Her vocalizations will include squeals, chortles, giggles, gurgles, and loud laughter. She may try out long strings of vowel sounds.

When your baby reaches six months, she may find a favorite sound and say it over and over. Some babies at this age start putting together two or more syllables and repeating the combination.

At this age, your baby can express a full range of emotions with her sounds. She may babble almost continuously, but she can also growl when she's frustrated or giggle when she's in a silly mood.

Getting Ready To Talk

When your baby is about nine months old, she'll start saying long strings of one syllable sounds: Bah bah-bah-bah. The next step is putting together different sound combinations: Bah-dah-la-boo. This combining of syllables--the step before actual speech--is called jargoning. When you listen to your baby jargoning, you'll hear inflections and pauses; it will sound as if she's speaking some unknown language.

At this point, she'll have gone through a kind of sorting process, setting aside the sounds she won't need for the native language she is learning and keeping the ones that make up that language.

Over the next few months, your baby will learn the meaning of actual words. But she probably won't say more than a few words before her first birthday.