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Why doesn’t my baby say “Mama”?
Just keep talking to her, labeling people and objects for her, and showing her simple picture books and saying a few words to go with each picture.

It is easy to overlook the importance of labeling objects for babies. Let me explain what I mean. When you prepare a bottle for her, hold it out before giving it to her and say, “Want your bottle?” emphasizing the word and holding on to it a bit longer than usual. Or, if you are giving her milk out of a glass say, “Want some milk?” Point to the refrigerator and say “Let’s get it out of the refrigerator.” When her daddy is in the room ask, “Where’s daddy?” If she looks or points correctly, praise her. Play on the floor with her and say, “Give the ball to mama.”

In addition to labeling, let her see how you make certain sounds. Do you know why “mama” is one of the first words used by babies the world over? Apparently it is because it is easy for a baby to see how to make the sounds: the lips close and open and, if there is any breath or sound inside, a word approximating “mama” comes out. And what do you do when your baby makes this sound? Why, you rejoice and get excited, and your daughter will share that excitement with you.

But try not to push, to seem too anxious for these sounds to appear. That takes the joy out of language. Language should indeed be one of the most joyful experiences we have at any age—talking and listening to the people we love.

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education