By Barbara A. Samfield, MA-CCC/SLP


When spoken by a new father’s one year old, it is music to his ears!  Second only to baby’s first smile or grabbing Daddy’s finger for the first time, hearing baby say “da-da” transforms most men from father to “Dad!”

“Da-da” sounds sweet, no matter if hearing it for the first or umpteenth time. Often, “da-da” is baby’s first real word, which occurs about the same time as baby’s first steps.  Moms often take a back seat to Dads, though, when it comes to first words.

There is physical reason why babies say “da-da” instead of “mama.”.-  Saying “d” is easier for babies to say than “m.”  Saying “da-da” requires simple movements of the jaw and tongue, whereas saying “mama” involves lips coming together plus added jaw movements.

First words are memorable milestones in baby’s first year. After a few months of playing with sounds, a process known as babbling that occurs around age 6 months, the toddler unexpectedly says a real word.  Parents are surprised and react in delight, which encourages babies to repeat the word, and this leads to even more words.

By their first birthdays, most babies have learned to tune in to the sounds of their language through a complex process of hearing, mimicking, and combining those particular sounds.  Parents may be amused to watch a baby saying sounds as if talking, but this is not just playing.  Instead, it is a critical step in speech development.

If other languages are spoken at home, then typically developing toddlers learn to hear those sounds, too.  This process sets the stage for acquiring more words, so that most children are naming objects and using about 20+ words by age 18 months, combining words by 2, and talking in short sentences by 3.

And so it goes.

That first word “da-da” represents a pivotal point in baby’s first year, and opens a new chapter in baby’s life.

Dads, as you celebrate your special day, take time to savor that word “da-da.”  It is the start of a beautiful, lifelong conversation with your little one.  Happy Father’s Day!


SPEECH CHECKLIST (Ages 18 – 24 months)


  1. ___Yes ___No      My child says the names of at least 10 objects without imitating someone
  2. ___Yes ___No      My child tries to repeat new words although sounds may be incorrect
  3. ___Yes ___No      My child uses words more often than pointing to communicate
  4. ___Yes ___No      My child’s speech is easy to understand even though sounds may be unclear
  5. ___Yes ___No      My child shows interest in other family members talking  and tries to join conversation


At least one “No” answer may indicate possible speech delays.  Concerned parents should consider having their child’s speech evaluated by a qualified speech-language pathologist.

 Questions? Call 210.495.9944

Barbara Samfield is owner of the Speech and Language Center at Stone Oak , a private practice of speech-language pathologists in the Stone Oak area. Clients are seen individually by appointment, with evening hours available. Many health plans have speech benefits. To find out about your health plan, or for more information about the Speech and Language Center at Stone Oak, call 210-495-9944.

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