Communication and Your 1- to 3-Month-Old
This is an exciting time for parents, as babies this age make real progress in communicating. You and your baby will enjoy two-way “conversations” — exchanging smiles and oohs and aahs. And your baby’s personality begins to show as your little one becomes a more active and alert member of your family.
How Babies Communicate
Crying continues to be a baby’s primary means of communication for many months. Aside from letting parents know that they need something, they might cry when overwhelmed by all of the sights and sounds of the world.
Sometimes babies may cry for no clear reason. As long as your baby is not sick or hurt, try not to get too upset if your baby cries and you can’t console him or her right away.
Your baby will respond to the sound of your voice by becoming quiet, smiling, or getting excited and moving his or her arms and legs. Babies this age begin smiling regularly at mom and dad, but may need some time to warm up to less familiar people, like grandparents. Your baby probably won’t smile and act friendly with strangers.
Babies now discover their ability to vocalize: Soon you’ll have a cooing and gurgling machine! Some babies begin to make some vowel sounds (like “ah-ah” or “ooh-ooh”) at about 2 months.
Your baby will “talk” to you with a variety of sounds, and also will also smile at you and wait for your response, and respond to your smiles with his or her own. Your baby may even mimic your facial expressions.
What Should I Do?
Your baby loves to hear your voice, so talk, babble, sing, and coo away during these first few months. Respond enthusiastically to your baby’s sounds and smiles. Tell your baby what he or she is looking at or doing and what you are doing. Name familiar objects as you touch them or bring them to your baby.
Take special advantage of your baby’s own “talking” to have a “conversation.” If you hear your baby make a sound, repeat it and wait for him or her to make another. You are teaching your baby valuable lessons about tone, pacing, and taking turns when talking to someone else.
You are also sending the message that your baby is important enough to listen to. Don’t interrupt or look away when your baby’s “talking” — show you’re interested and that your little one can trust you.
Babies this age seem to respond best to the female voice — the one historically associated with comfort and food. That’s why most people will raise the pitch of their voices and exaggerate their speech when talking to babies. This is fine — studies have shown that “baby talk” doesn’t delay the development of speech — but mix in some regular adult words and tone. It may seem early, but you’re setting the stage for your baby’s first word.
Sometimes babies aren’t in the mood to talk or vocalize — even babies need their space and a break from all the stimulation in the world. Babies might turn away, closes their eyes, or becomes fussy or irritable. If this happens, let your little one be or just try cuddling.
There might be times when you’ve met all of your baby’s needs, yet he or she continues to cry. Don’t despair — your baby may be overly stimulated, have gas, or may have too much energy and need a good cry.
It’s common for babies to have a fussy period about the same time every day, generally between early evening and midnight. Though all babies cry and show some fussiness, when an infant who is otherwise healthy cries for more than 3 hours per day, more than 3 days per week for at least 3 weeks, it is a condition known as colic. This can be upsetting, but the good news is that it’s short-lived — most babies outgrow it at around 3 or 4 months of age.
Try to soothe your baby. Some babies are comforted by motion, such as rocking or being walked back and forth across the room, while others respond to sounds, like soft music or the hum of a vacuum cleaner. It may take some time to find out what best comforts your baby during these stressful periods.
If You’re Concerned
Talk to your doctor if your baby seems to cry for unusually long periods or if the cries sound odd to you. Your doctor will be able to reassure you or look for a medical reason for your baby’s distress. Chances are there is nothing wrong, and knowing this can help you relax and stay calm when your baby is upset.
During this period, babies usually reach these communication milestones:
- paying attention to faces and surroundings
- smiling at the sound of a parent’s voice
- smiling with social contact
- cooing and making sounds when talked to
- imitating some sounds and facial expressions
Keep in mind that babies communicate at different rates, just as they mature physically at different rates. There’s usually no cause for concern, but talk to your doctor if you have any questions about your baby’s language skills or hearing.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2014