What are the speech and language milestones for a child ages birth to 3 months old? Below we will review the following: key vocabulary terms when discussing speech and language milestones, milestones expected in the age ranges birth - 3 months, and examples or clarification for each milestone.
Speech & Language Milestones: the speech, language, and hearing skills that most children (90%) will demonstrate by identified ages
Speech: how we say sounds and words - articulation, fluency, or voice
Language: the words we use and how we use them to share ideas and get what we want.
Receptive Language: the ability to understand/comprehend language (following directions, vocabulary, sentence comprehension)
Expressive Language: the ability to express self using language - by gestures, sign language, verbally, or a communication device (vocabulary, grammar)
Pragmatic Language: the use of appropriate communication in social situations
Speech and Language Milestones: Birth - 3 months old:
Hearing & Understanding (Receptive Language):
Startles at loud sounds - this lets you know that your child is able to hear correctly. When a child is able to hear correctly, they are able to receive the verbal information around them. If they are having difficulty hearing, they could eventually have difficulty distinguishing different sounds, miss what others are saying, and/or have deficits in both speech and language skills.
Quiets and smiles when you talk - this is a prelinguistic skill. Practicing this skill is the beginning of learning how to turn-take during conversation. Make sure to pause (10+ seconds) after speaking to give your child an opportunity to respond. A response may look like smiling, cooing, punching their arms, or kicking their legs).
Appears to recognize loved one's voices and quiets if crying. During this time, your child will also begin to turn towards voices or people talking. They are learning to locate sounds and starting to become interested in listening to conversation/talking.
Recognizes loved ones and some common objects. Your child might change their facial expression or appear excited when seeing a loved one (parent, caregiver, etc.) or familiar object (bottle, book, pet, etc.).
Talking (Expressive Language):
Makes cooing sounds - cooing sounds are vowel sounds (ex: "oooo", "ahh", or "mmm"). When practicing these sounds with your baby, it helps them to learn which sounds are important to learn to talk.
Makes sounds back and forth with you. Practicing sounds back and forth helps work on imitation of sounds and turn-taking skills. Copy what your child says and try to go back and forth. Remember to pause and give them ample time to respond.
Smiles at people - this is a great prelinguistic and social skill. Practicing this skill also allows babies to learn different emotions (i.e. happy, sad, angry, etc.). This also helps with imitation. Being able to imitate is an important skill a child needs in order to learn language.
Has different cries for different needs (ex: hunger, discomfort, tired, etc.). You may begin to recognize that your child's cries sound different whether they are hungry vs. tired. As you learn to distinguish these new cries yourself, look at your feeding and sleeping schedule to help give clues regarding what your child may need.
Check out our other parent resources and blogs about how to help enhance and grow your child's speech and language skills during these specific age ranges.
If you are concerned about your child's speech and language development - some of the next steps you can take include:
contacting your child's pediatrician (ask for a referral for a speech and language evaluation)
contacting your local regional center to see if your child could be assessed
contacting a local speech therapy private practice that specializes in early language development
ASHA. (n.d.). Communication milestones: Birth to 1 year. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/public/developmental-milestones/communication-milestones-birth-to-1-year/