So I got an e-mail today from babycenter.com about Penelope's development. I get one every week (and one for the pregnancy), sometimes they have tips on how to handle common problems or issues at the child's stage in development and sometimes they're just informative. Today's was on vocalization, here's what it said (fyi, they switch genders all the time so don't be confused when they go from "he" to "she" mid-sentence):
Your baby's ability to vocalize is improving, and he may say his first word any time now. When he does, repeat it softly and clearly so she can learn the correct pronunciation. (Bear in mind that many babies won't utter an intelligible peep for several more months, and that's normal, too.) First words don't always have precise definitions, by the way. "Dog" may mean anything with four legs, and "ba-ba" could signify bottle, teddy bear, bye-bye — or all three.
Now, the last part is the part I'm most interested in, and I've bolded it, mostly because it I think it's a load of crap. If you count a first word as anything semi intelligible but that is NOT used consistently with meaning then you can count Penny's first "word" as uh-oh when she was 4 months old. Ha.
One of my very good friends (who has a daughter 4 months older than Penny) is a speech therapist - with a Masters (she works with infants and children). And her line of thought, backed up by her degree, is that a first word is when a child uses a word consistently with meaning - so "mama" will count when baby is using it to refer to mom, and only mom. If baby says "mama" to her mom, food, and teddy bear then she's just playing with sounds. This is a good thing, but it's NOT a first word.
Penelope says mama, dada, and baba pretty consistently but not exclusively for mom, dad, and bottle. She just likes to use the sound combinations to babble - which is great, but I'm not counting ANY of them as her first word. She's also said tights, wookie, and work - so she's repeating things I've said - but she has no idea what she's saying so they don't count either.
Some people think I'm being too strict with what to count as a first word. I think I'm being realistic and much more accurate than websites like babycenter. If I followed their guidelines then Penelope has been "talking" since 6 months - which is a little ridiculous. She's a smart kid, but not even Einstein talked at 6 months.
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