Developmental Communication Milestone Series: Birth To 4 Months

During the first few months of life, babies begin to demonstrate the ability to respond to and initiate interactions with those around them. Some of the ways babies attract interactions and pay attention include: looking at people around them, crying, smiling, and clinging to caregivers. These are the earliest forms of communication. Babies learn to be excited when they hear your voice because they begin to learn this means they may be picked up or someone may play with them.

Crying is the main way young infants communicate. Babies may cry to communicate to let caregivers know that they are hungry, need a diaper change, or just want company. As babies begin to explore their voices, cries turn into gurgles and babbles. Usually between birth and four months of age, babies begin to laugh out loud for the first time. Babies use their whole body to communicate including their eyes, hands, legs, and feet to express happiness, excitement, or displeasure. By paying attention and responding to babies’ communication attempts, babies start to learn that they can let people know what they want.

By four months of age babies should:

  • Gaze into caregiver’s eyes while being fed
  • Turn head to familiar voices
  • Stop crying when they hear caregiver’s voice or familiar voice calling to them
  • Look intently and stop kicking legs and moving arms when a family member speaks to them
  • Quiets and seems to “listen” when music is played softly
  • Smiles or coos when talked to
  • Follow caregivers with their eyes
  • Cry or fuss to gain attention

Vocally, babies should be:

  • Making babbling or cooing sounds or waving arms or legs when a person speaks to or smiles at them
  • Practice a consonant sound repetitively while lying on their back (ex: dadadada)
  • Vocalize or make babbling sounds at their rattle or swinging mobile
  • Cry in different ways for different needs

Your baby may need additional support if:

  • Baby does not respond to sound of familiar voices
  • Baby shows little or no reaction to seeing their bottle
  • Baby does not seem to show recognition when caregiver approaches with outstretched arms
  • Baby continues to search in several directions when they hear a familiar voice and cannot localize sound
  • Baby stops crying briefly when they hear a familiar voice, but then resumes crying and cannot be calmed
  • Baby looks but does not respond when someone talks to them
  • Baby shows little interest in the movement and music of a mobile over the crib
  • Baby does not cry in different ways to signify hunger, tiredness, need for diaper change, etc.
  • Baby is not vocalizing or makes only a few babbling/gurgling sounds