You help lay the foundation for a lifetime of development during your child’s first three years of life. Talking to your baby has a major impact on their long-term language development. 

Brain Development in the First Three Years 

A child’s brain goes through enormous development during the first three years of life. The physical size of the brain grows and the child rapidly builds connections. Let’s look at two key terms to help us fully understand the awesomeness of your baby’s brain.

Neurons: Nerve cells that send and receive information from your brain. Babies are born with all the neurons they will have in their life.3

Synapse: The point of contact between two neurons that allows them to communicate with each other. Neurons pass information to other neurons through synapses.3

Babies are born with all the neurons they will have in their life. However, the number of synapses they have explodes during the first three years of life. They will go from about 2,500 synapses per neuron to 15,000 synapses per neuron between birth and three years old.3

These synapses are pathways for information. They help your baby understand the world around them. A synapse forms based on the information or experience the child intakes. The more they use a synapse, the stronger it becomes. A child’s experiences develop and strengthen their synapses.

When you talk to your baby, you help strengthen the connections in their brain. Synapses that help them understand language, become stronger as they are exposed to more language. 

{ Adèle listening to her mother wearing the Etoile Romper }

When to Start Talking to Your Baby

Today! I’m serious. If you’re pregnant, start talking to your baby while they’re still in your womb. Research has found that fetuses respond to their mother’s voice and touch during the third trimester.1 The key here is to start talking to your baby as soon as possible.

Even though babies can’t initially use language, they still communicate through crying, facial expressions, coos, yawning, smacking their lips, babbling, and laughing. You can foster their communication and language development by introducing them to language as soon as possible.

Babies take in and understand a lot more than they are able to say in the beginning.

I loved the phase when my firstborn would imitate conversations by babbling at my partner and I. It seemed like he would tell me multiple complete sentences through his babbling. Of course, I couldn’t understand him, but he was telling me something and he was passionate about it.

How to Talk to Your Baby and Toddler

The three easiest ways to help cultivate your child’s language development are to:

  1. Read to them - There are so many benefits to reading with our children, such as expanding their vocabulary, deepening their comprehension, fostering empathy, and helping us connect with them.

  2. Talk with them - Have conversations with them about anything you like. Give them time to respond (coo, babble, grunt, word) then reply to their response.

  3. Play together - Playing with our children has many of the same benefits that reading does. In addition, to building their language development, playing together strengthens our relationship with our children and helps them develop emotional, social, cognitive, and problem-solving skills. 

Speech and Language Development Tips


  • Describe the daily routines and activities you’re doing. 
  • Talk to them about what they see, hear, and feel. 
  • Use your baby’s name when talking to them.
  • Look at your baby and respond when they make a sound.
  • Sing to them.
  • Read rhyming books.
  • Name their emotions.
  • Use an engaging and fun tone of voice.
  • Introduce another language. 
  • Look at photos together and talk about what is going on in the picture. 
  • Expand on the sounds or words that your child uses. (Child says: “Ma” You say: “Mama. I’m your Mama.”)

Young Toddlers

  • Use songs to talk about your daily activities and routines like picking up toys, bathing, brushing their teeth, eating lunch, or putting on their shoes.  
  • Talk about what you see in books that you read together.
  • Initiate conversations related to what they are doing or things they have done.
  • Ask questions and give time for your child to respond.
  • Build on what your child says. (Child says: “Wa-wa.” You say: “You want water.”)
  • Give your child choices. (“Do you want a banana or strawberries?”)
  • Describe what you do with a common object. (“This is a toothbrush. I use a toothbrush to brush my teeth.”)

Older Toddlers

  • Go into more detail when identifying and describing how they feel. 
  • Help them learn how to follow instructions.
  • Explain what they see, feel, and experience in their daily lives. 
  • Use hand gestures when you talk.
  • Follow their lead. When they bring up a topic, engage in the conversation and expand on their knowledge about the topic. (Child says: “Look a frog!” You respond: “You’re excited to see the frog. Frogs can live on land or in the water.”)
  • Play a guessing game where you describe a common object in the room, and they have to guess what it is. (Using a shoe, you could say “this is something you put on your feet before you go outside. It has laces.”)
  • Introduce new words, explain what they mean, and use them in a sentence. 
  • Play a grouping game. Name objects in a group and have your child identify which one doesn’t belong. 
  • It may get on your nerves, but it’s not a bad thing if your child wants to read the same book over and over. In fact, repeatedly reading the same book helps your child process the information and increase word recognition and comprehension.

{ Adèle listening to her mother wearing the Etoile Romper }

What if my Toddler Isn’t Talking?

It’s a good idea to pay attention to whether or not your child is meeting common speech and language developmental milestones. Early intervention services are crucial for speech delays. If you are worried about your child’s development, talk to their pediatrician and trust your gut. You can ask your child’s pediatrician for a referral to a speech and language pathologist or your local early childhood intervention services.2

Speech and Language Milestones2 

Birth to 5 months

  • Cooing
  • Vocalizations when happy or upset (giggling, crying, fussing)
  • Makes sounds when spoken to

6 to 11 months

  • Babbles
  • Understands “no”
  • Repeat sounds (E.g. “ma-ma,” “da-da,” “ba-ba”)
  • Tries to repeat your sounds
  • Says their first word
  • Tries to communicate with gestures

12 to 17 months

  • Says 2 to 3 words
  • Tries to imitate your speech 
  • Understands 4 to 6 words
  • Answers easy, simple questions nonverbally

18 to 23 months

  • 50 words vocabulary
  • Uses 2-word phrases (E.g. "no bed," "more milk")
  • Starts using pronouns (E.g. "mine")
  • Starts asking questions (E.g. "what's that?")
  • Makes animal sounds 
  • Begins naming pictures in books 
  • Asks for food by name

2 to 3 years

  • Uses prepositions (E.g. "in," "on," "under")
  • Uses more pronouns (E.g. "you," "me," "him")
  • Uses descriptive words (E.g. "big," "small," "happy")
  • Uses 3-word sentences
  • Speech is becoming more clear, but it's probably still easier for you as the parent to understand them 
  • Answers simple questions
  • Asks more questions
  • Starts using plural forms of words (E.g. "toys" or "socks")

Remember these developmental milestones are general guidelines. All children develop language and speech at their own pace. The main thing children have in common is that they all greatly benefit from having caregivers who talk and engage with them in positive ways.

So talk, talk, talk to your baby or toddler.

The staff at Ellie and Becca are parents ourselves. We know becoming a mother is full of surprises. Being a parent seems to come with frequent challenges and changes you have to learn how to navigate to guide your child well. That's why we make high-quality nursing-friendly dresses that you can wear as you grow and change long after you stop nursing. 


  1. Marx V., Nagy E. “Fetal Behavioural Responses to Maternal Voice and Touch.” 2015. Accessed June 26, 2022. 
  2. Stanford Children’s Health. “Age-Appropriate Speech and Language Milestones.” 2019. Accessed June 26, 2022.
  3. Urban Child Institute. “” 2009. Accessed June 26, 2022.
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