First words

A baby’s first word seems such a big milestone. Many adults I know tell the tale of their first word as told to them by their parents. Baby albums have spaces to record the first words uttered. When my baby was little we often pondered what her first word might be. So it’s not surprising that I was expecting a bit more of a revelationary moment. The reality, whilst still magical, was a bit more muddled.

If asked I’d probably say her first word was uh-oh or hiya. She started saying both a while ago, but at first they were sporadic. Was that a word or just babbling sounds? It seemed to be in context, she said uh-oh when she dropped something, but the next time the same thing was dropped we said uh-oh and there was no response back. At other times she would be saying it randomly all the time. After a few weeks they became a bit more consistent and regular so I can now say she is saying them, but only with hindsight. There was no eureka moment, and I couldn’t tell you which came first.

There were lots of others words babbled around the same time that might have been candidates for first words. In amongst the stream of jibber jabber we thought we heard Night Night or Dada or Mama. Our eyes would meet and eyebrows raise. We would whisper in wonder – did she just say? But it’s so hard to tell what’s a word and what’s just her practicing random sounds.

We have a field of sheep near home and I often say baa as we go past. We also often read Baa Baa Black Sheep, so last week when we looking at a book of animals and she said baa at the sheep picture I was so proud. Until I turned the page and she said baa at the cow, and the horse and the pig. So she probably thinks baa is the word for all animals, which isn’t quite the same, or she just likes that sound.

People often ask me if she is talking yet, and I’m not sure what to answer. She says one or two words, and possibly understands them, but that’s mixed in with blowing raspberries and nonsense, so she’s not exactly talking. I tend to say we think she’s almost talking.

Children have their first words at different times. There were people on online forums saying their baby said Dada at 4 months (I’m not fully convinced that wasn’t them just burping but I’m open to all possibilities). I’ve also heard of children who talked very late and had their parents worried, but were very talkative once started. Others need a bit more help to communicate. Every child is different and every parent is different and counts when the first words were spoken differently. It isn’t a clear cut distinction between babbling and words. So comparing when a child says their first words isn’t helpful.

For now I like the little streams of nonsense. It’s so cute watching her chatter away to herself. A typical conversation goes ablablablablaaa thrpppppp ablabla oh do oh ablablabla. It might not happen like I expected but it is still magical trying to spot the real words and work out if they are actual words.

I don’t want to create a mythical story of first words, to fit the conventional perception of how it happens, if it’s not the truth, as that doesn’t help other first time mums who are worried about whether their child is starting to talk like expected. I want to be honest about it being confusing and not clear cut.

So next time someone asks me what her first words were, I’ll be honest and say I’m not really sure what or when they were.

What do you think? Is my experience typical, or did your baby have a clear cut first word?

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12 thoughts on “First words

  1. My daughter never has a clear cut first word. She wasn’t much of a talker until she reached about 18 months. Now she never stops! I’ve heard my baby boy utter the odd word or what I think is a word. I think they just do it when they are ready. I was so worried when my daughter wasn’t saying many words but in the end there was no need to worry.


  2. My daughter’s first real word that definitely meant something was ‘spoo’ for spoon. I don’t think it’s that typical as a first word! She’d said dada and other sounds, but didn’t really associate them with anything. ‘Spoo’ was the first time she really communicated with a word and knew what she was saying. My little boy has just turned 1 and has been saying dada for ages. He says it all the time so for him I think it’s just a sound he likes, rather than a word. #itsok

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  3. I completely agree! There was no one moment for my daughter and I’m not expecting one for my son (who says da da da all the time). In my daughter’s baby book I wrote a long list of ‘some of’ her first words to cover myself ^^


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  4. I love this because it’s honest and real. I’m pretty sure my eldest’s first word was No! Like that. But that’s not the conventional thing people want to hear and some think it’s a reflection of my negative parenting – maybe I’m a mean mommy who says no to her children all the time. Anyway, 7 years on it matters very little what her actual first word is and I’m far more excited by each and every milestone she makes on her journey. Love this. Thank you.

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  5. This post has really summed up how I feel about Jasper’s talking and I guess in some respect a few of his milestones like crawling etc. Everything he does sort of gradually happens and I can’t really pin it down to an exact day x

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  6. For us J’s first word is a happy and sad moment. By 9 months J could say ‘hiya’, ‘ta’ and ‘dada’. Then overnight he lost it all. He stopped babbling, stopped talking. He didn’t start talking again until he was nearly 2 and even that was just a few odd words, rarely meaningful. He was 3 before we had proper speaking and 4 before understandable and meaningful sentences. Regression is one of his autistic traits. When he finally did say a word again it was “baby”. Random but it was beautiful to hear x

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  7. We were lucky to have clear cut words both times. Well ish… with Rory we were reading a book and it sounded like he said bear when we got to the the picture of the bear. I’ve often thought that it was a bit of a fluke. Not long after he said Dinosaur (not surprising as he was obsessed) so I tend to say that was his first word. For Rowan, we were at a toddler group and they had a parachute with stars on and he said star. He then didn’t say it again for weeks and I started to doubt myself. Then we had a time of star being the only word he’d say.

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