Language Delay? Baby Speech Development Basics

When your baby goes from crying to communicating with actual words is a proud and useful milestone in the memory book, but what do you do if that milestone is delayed? When is a baby’s speech development considered delayed? At six months one of our sons had only-recognizable-to-those-closest to him words, but at nearly a year old his brother rarely and only quietly expressed even the tiniest of verbal communication such as “up.” The question then became, did one of our children have a language delay? The answer was in the baby speech development timeline.language delay baby speech development

How does baby speech develop?

Baby speech development begins before your baby is even born. Research shows that in the final 10 weeks of pregnancy your baby hears you and takes the first step in developing speech– listening. This is why newborn tend to be comforted more by familiar voices and will respond better to speech in their native language. This absorption of language sounds continues and soon your baby forms the connection that sound can express wants, a lesson which is well reinforced in the early months by frequent screaming.

Common milestones for infants between birth and 3 months include:
-startling at loud sounds
-showing reaction to voices (being calmed, changing expression, etc.)
-recognizing care giver voices
-cooing, gooing, and signs of happiness
-cries differently to express different needs/feelings

Later, your baby begins to connect where sounds are coming from and make sounds that more closely recognize speech. Making the following common between 4 and 6 months of age:

-looking in the direction of noises
-babbling including letters sounds
-listening to music
-laughing
-cooing, gurgling, or making sounds to express different emotions

Finally, random letter sounds lead to imitation as your baby begins to mimic sounds and form actual words. Between 6 and 12 months most infants begin:

-to mimic sounds
-play peekaboo
-understand common words, such as “cup” or “nap”
-follow simple one-step directions, such as “come here”
-Repeat letter sounds in sentence-like gibberish
-Communicate with gestures
-Say a few simple words (mom, dad, hi, bye are common)

So, when should your baby start talking?

It turns out neither of our sons had a language delay. As the baby speech development timeline above is variable,  language skills are not considered delayed unless no recognizable words whatsoever are said by 15 month of life. Concerns over language delay like mine are common, but often misdiagnosed. Having a child that’s slow to talk is also not a reflection on you. As long as you are talking to your baby often and giving her/him the chance to hear language, you’re doing just fine. Every baby is just different. Often a baby that lags behind in one developmental area may excel in another.

What should you do if you suspect a language delay?

First, there are some cues your child may have an underlying developmental issue prior to that 15 month cut-off.

Warnings of an infant language delay include:

-Doesn’t react to sounds.

-Doesn’t make eye contact or attempt to communicate with you or suddenly stops doing so at any point.

-Doesn’t use gestures as non-verbal forms of communication by 12 months of age.

-Doesn’t try to imitate sounds he or she hears often by 12 months of age.

-Doesn’t babble (random sounds) by 12 months of age.

If your baby isn’t doing any of the above, it’s a good idea to speak with your pediatrician to confirm a language delay, try to figure out what’s causing it, and help your child get back on track.

Common causes of language delay in infants include:

-Hearing loss (partial or complete)

-Learning or intellectual disabilities

-Auditory processing disabilities

-Autism

-Structural problems in areas vital to speech

-Being born premature

-Neurological disorders which may or may not be associated with other medical conditions

-Speech disorders such as Apraxia of speech

-Selective mutism

-Neglect (a baby that is not interacted with enough to hear language will not learn to speak)

Many of the above are correctable or at the least their effects on language can be minimized if caught early on.

 

 

 

 

Bottle Weaning: A Guide for Weaning from the Bottle

My kids weaned from the bottle with ease–during the day that is. As toddlers, all four still clung to that nippled-relic of babyhood at bedtime, and stories of baby bottle rot fueled my feeling that big kids didn’t need bottles. However, if you’ve made it to the toddler stage, you likely know that discovering your child shouldn’t have something is a lot easier than taking it away. Breast or bottle fed right from birth, babies are taught to associate milk with sleep.bottle weaning

Why should I wean my toddler from night and nap-time bottles?

That was a big question for me. A bottle at bedtime really comforted my toddlers. It also helped when they awoke from nightmares. Often they didn’t drink much of the milk, just held the bottle like a security blanket. I thought to myself, eventually they’ll give it up on their own so what does it hurt? Sadly, it does hurt.

Prolonged pacifier or bottle use can cause dental deformities including over, under, and cross bites. On top of that, the bacteria that like to cause cavities like to feed on the sugars present in milk, which just so happens to pool around the teeth while sleeping. As a result, children who sleep with bottles often develop what dentists call baby bottle tooth decay or rot. Between the two, a toddler who is allowed to bottle feed at night may be smiling at bedtime, but it likely won’t be a very pretty smile after a few years. Ideally, according to dentists, babies should cease nighttime feedings and be weaned from the bottle onto a sippy cup if bottle-fed by 6-12 months of age.

How do I wean my toddler from nap and nighttime bottles?

While there may be subtle variances in each, there are basically two ways to go about bottle weaning a toddler at nighttime or nap.

Crying Turkey:

This is pretty cut and dried. You take the bedtime bottle feeding away, suffer the drama, and eventually your toddler will get over it. Some parents are shocked to find their toddler isn’t that upset by it. Others have a long tantrum-blocked road ahead of them. It may help to exchange your child’s bottles for something, for instance, like a nighttime stuffed friend. You can even make up a bottle fairy, much like the tooth fairy, that will come and switch the bottles for the bedtime snuggly.

Like-a-Turtle:

Your other option is to take it slow and gradually remove the bottle from your toddler’s night or naptime routine. This is where the slight variances come into play. You could slowly decrease the amount of milk in your toddler’s bottle until it is no more than an empty plastic snuggly and then take it away, which makes it less heart-breaking.

You could also simply replace the milk in your toddler’s bottle with water, which eliminates the worry of baby bottle tooth decay, and then slowly decrease the water in the bottle, adding it to a sippy cup. Water is fine all night long and a sippy cup does not cause dental alignment issues as your child won’t be sleeping with it in his or her mouth. Some parents also add a stage on this one where they water down their child’s milk before switching to water. Personally, I find the idea of watered-down milk fairly unappetizing, so this may help deter desire for bottled comfort.

Fence-Sitting Turkey Turtle:

If you just can’t decide which way you want to go, you can take away the bottle cold turkey and introduce a milk-filled sippy cup which you then use one of the gradual techniques with. Alternately, you could offer an empty bottle and a full sippy cup, and let your toddler choose to ditch the bottle, because it’s empty. Also remember that if something just isn’t working and you’ve given it plenty of time (it will take time), there’s no shame in switching your game until you find something that works.

 

 

 

 

 

Kids, Cars, and Heat Stoke: What You Should Know

While leaving your child in the car for a moment is often a legal and moral conundrum in itself, the heat wave hitting the nation has added a new safety factor to the equation. Honestly, living in Alaska where typical weather does not top 70 degrees Fahrenheit or so, there have indeed been times that I have left a sleeping child in my car while stepping out to use a port-a-potty or run into a convenience store where I could see them through the glass. In areas such as mine that are now seeing record highs residents just aren’t used to, the dangers of leaving an child in a car even for a short time may be unknown.heat stroke cars kids

On average 37 children die of heat stroke or heat exhaustion in hot cars each year, with a total of 669 since 1998. The vast majority of those children– 97 percent–are under the age of 5 with 74 percent being younger than age 3.

How hot can a car get, and when does heat stroke become an concern?

A human being can suffer from heat stroke and die once the surrounding temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit. A child is more susceptible to heat stroke, because his/her central nervous system (which acts to cool the body in extreme heat) is not fully developed. A study from San Francisco State University found that in temperatures between 72 and 96 degrees a car will increase in heat by approximately 19 degrees in 10 minutes, 29 degrees in 20 minutes, 34 degrees in 30 minutes, and 43 degrees in an hour. That means on a sunny 80 degree day, it may take 20 minutes for a car’s interior to reach lethal temperatures, but in 100 degree heat, it would take mere minutes. The color of the vehicle’s interior may affect this rate. Numerous studies have shown cracking the windows to have little to no effect. In addition, interior temperatures don’t increase at a steady rate either, rather they vary with the external temperature and rate at which the surfaces of the car absorb radiation.

What do you need to know about vehicular heat stroke?

To put it frankly, never leave your child alone in the car. If you absolutely must, leave the car and air-conditioning running and be as quick as possible. That being said, the majority of heat stroke deaths in children are not a result of parents intentionally leaving them in the car. In fact, only 17% are, while 54% are a result of children that were simply forgotten in the car, another 29% were playing in an unattended vehicle, and the remaining 1% are unknown. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’d never forget my child,” but parenthood can be hectic. It can and does happen– even to parents who said, “I’d never..”  It may help to always bring your child in first before groceries, your purse, etc (even if they are napping), refrain from answering calls or texts until you and your child are inside, and talk to your child often while driving.

To keep your child from sneaking into your car unattended, always keep your doors locked and your keys out of reach. You might also try some efforts to prevent toddler escapes.

Next, know the symptoms of heat stroke. These include dizziness, confusion, agitation, an overall sluggish appearance, dry, flushed skin without sweat that is hot to the touch, rapid heartbeat, hallucinations, seizure, and finally unconsciousness. In younger children, such as infants, some of these signs may be hard to spot.

If you suspect your child may be suffering from heat stroke, seek medical help immediately and make efforts to cool their body temperature. This may include removing clothing, applying cool water to the skin, offering cold drinks, cranking the AC, and so on.

Of course, heat stroke can happen outside of cars too. Remember to dress your child accordingly, use sunscreen, stay hydrated, and when not in the car, find cool places to escape the heat as often as possible. Avoiding strenuous activity in peak-heat hours is also recommended.

It’s hot outside, be safe.