The word for “mom” is very similar across SO many languages. In English, it also happens to be one of the first “words” spoken by babies. And it’s for good reason!

Intentional speech sounds develop from the front to the back of the mouth, so that sounds made with the lips come first, such as “m”. They combine with sounds that require the jaw to simply drop open, such as “uh” and “ah”, and form what we then interpret as words. So, when baby says “muh muh”, it’s like “Ermergerrrd! She said MAMA!”

First words are very exciting, and most of us look forward to this milestone. As babies say more, our interactions become more back and forth and snowball into full on conversations! 

The importance of speech and language development in children cannot be understated, especially for families where speaking is the primary means of expression. As children’s thinking becomes more complex, they require complex ways to express themselves, and that way is through speech (for most). If kids can’t express themselves easily, we all know how that manifests behaviourally. Further, development of speech is closely associated with development of reading skills. So, when there is a speech delay, we need to pay attention.

What constitutes a delay isn’t debatable. We have decades upon decades of easily accessible information about children’s development. The challenge and risks happen when we wait to do something about a delay, for whatever reason. Much like our knowledge of milestones, we know how important and helpful it is to identify speech and language delays early in life. 

But if we want to help prevent speech or language delays in our babies, here’s one simple thing to do: talk to your baby. A LOT! All the time. Everywhere. About everything. So, after you do your endzone dance over her first word, you can look back at her and say…

“Yes, I’m your mama. You’re mama’s baby. Mama loves you to the moon and back, forever and ever!”


Mohamed (Mo) Oshalla, MHSc.,
Speech-Language Pathologist & Executive Director,
Ontario Speech & Language Services


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