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My 9 month old doesn't say mama or dada -- is something wrong?

Dr. Christine Wood, M.D


Q My daughter is 9 months old, and she still does not say mama or dada. Is that okay?

A In looking at developmental milestones, you need to look at other things that the baby should be doing, too. There is always a range of age when a baby will do certain things. Saying "mama or dada" (nonspecifically, meaning they do not necessarily know who mama or dada are, but just jabber the sounds) may occur as late as 10 to 11 months. Saying it specifically, meaning that they may direct the sounds appropriately to the right person, occurs from 10 months to about 13 months.

There is always some variation in when babies will do one specific thing. Does she turn to your voice and babble a lot? (If not, you may suspect a hearing problem. Sometimes if they have an ear infectio,n or if they have had several ear infections, this may impact their hearing). Is she saying other repetitive sounds like "baba, gaga?" Does she try to imitate sounds? How are other areas of development? Is she sitting? Does she stand when holding on to something? She may be starting to crawl, or pull up to stand or cruise on the furniture. She may be able to get to a sitting position when lying down. She should be able to pick up large objects and transfer objects from hand to hand. Most will have started to develop a "pincer grasp," that is, where they use their thumb and forefinger to pick up small items. She may be starting to wave or clap. Most will bang two toys together that are held in their hands. Most will be playing peek-a-boo, and reaching for toys well, and will also resist you from pulling a toy away.

If you have concerns, it is best to have a checkup with her doctor and review these. Some babies are slower in their language, but fast in their fine motor or gross motor skills development. Her doctor should be able to reassure you by looking at your baby's physical exam, and all areas of development. We use a testing system called the Denver Developmental Screening. You can probably get a copy from your baby's doctor, because most pediatricians will use these and keep them in the chart of the patient.

Dr. Christine Wood is a practicing pediatrician in Southern California. She attended the University of Detroit for her undergraduate degree in chemistry and received her medical degree from the University of Michigan. She completed her pediatric residency

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serra Nov 6, 2011 12:43:35 AM ET

Hi my daughter is 9mths and moving like lightening she took a little longer but got there eventually dont worry

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shirley Mar 18, 2011 06:41:51 PM ET

If your baby is makeing baby sounds don't worry but if they are not makeing any sound have them check there hearing ,I say this because we have a deaf child and that was one way we knew she could not hear.

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