Kids Health

What your baby’s first word really means

There is nothing quite as exciting as hearing your baby say their first word. And while many new mothers can only hope that they’ll hear the word “mama,” according to Motherly, it is more common for babies to first utter the word “dada.” This is because at the stage of saying their first word, babies are usually still bonded to their mothers. Generally, they differentiate their father as someone outside of themselves and their mother, which is one of the reasons they have a tendency to say “dada” first.

Experts believe that the reason “mama” and “dada” are common first words is because they are both easy for babies to learn. Judit Gervain, who conducted a language study for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explained to Yahoo!, “It’s probably no coincidence that many languages around the world have repetitious syllables in their ‘child words.'” However, more often than not, when a baby’s first words are “mama” or “dada,” they aren’t necessarily referring to their parents.

Babies' first words are often just babble

“Kids start with simple words that have various meanings,” Sandra Disner, Ph.D., a professor of linguistics at the University of Southern California, told Yahoo!. “The word ‘up’ could mean ‘pick me up’ or ‘the moon in the sky.'” Harvard education psychologist Catherine Snow agrees, explaining to The Atlantic that what parents might think is their baby’s first word could actually just be baby babble.

A study developed the Communicative Development Inventories in America, which was led by UC San Diego researcher Elizabeth Bates, found that parents are usually able to understand their babies’ babble even if it’s not actual words. Ultimately, parents are best placed to understand their baby’s wants and needs because they can monitor and decipher body language and behavior, allowing them to guess what their baby’s babble really means.

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