0 to 12 months: your baby's communication development

As your child develops from being a baby to a toddler, you will notice them becoming more independent.

Every child is different and will develop at their own rate. You can support your child  through these stages to help them to become confident and secure.

How to develop your relationship with your baby

You can develop your relationship every day by learning to understand and respond to your baby. Do this by:

  • 'tuning in' to their cues and responding to them - for example, looking for signs they are hungry or need to be comforted
  • spend time looking at each other - your baby's brain makes connections and gets to know your face and facial gestures
  • observing them to see what touches, sounds and environments they enjoy and dislike
  • paying attention to the way they respond to you

Watch a video on connecting and communicating with your baby

Birth to 4 weeks

You may notice that your baby:

  • likes to look at people’s faces more than objects
  • recognises their mother’s voice
  • likes hearing people’s voices and prefers high-pitched voices
  • can search for and suck from a breast or bottle
  • can grip small objects in their hands, like your finger
  • smiles
  • cries to communicate their needs
  • is crying or upset for 2 to 3 hours a day

Why babies cry

1 to 2 months

You may start to notice that your baby:

  • becomes more alert
  • is awake for longer
  • is more interested in the world around them
  • responds to your voice
  • smiles, cries or coos
  • is often soothed by being picked up (most of the time)
  • puts their thumb in their mouth and quietens - not all babies do this

3 to 4 months

Your baby may:

  • give warms smiles and laughs
  • cry when upset and looks for comfort
  • show excitement by waving their arms and legs
  • continue to enjoy looking at your face and making eye contact with you

5 to 6 months

Your baby may:

  • get upset when they can’t see their main caregiver
  • recognise familiar faces
  • smile more often - especially at their parents or main caregiver
  • try to hold their bottle while drinking

6 to 9 months

Your baby may:

  • be scared of things they weren’t afraid of before - like having a bath
  • become upset if you go away - for example, when you leave with a childminder or at a crèche

9 to 12 months

Your baby may:

  • continue to need your attention and cry to get it
  • be shy around strangers and less familiar people
  • express their feelings by laughing, screaming and crying
  • recognise feelings in others - for example, they may get upset if another child is crying

12 to 15 months

Your child may:

  • be easily frightened by loud noises - they may cry if they are startled by a sound like a door slamming
  • want your attention and praise
  • react to changes in their daily routine
  • be able to soothe and comfort themselves as well as getting comfort from you

15 to 18 months

Your child may:

  • enjoy getting praise and attention from you
  • get upset when they don’t get something they want
  • not want to share toys with other children

18 to 24 months

Your child may:

  • test limits to see if they can get their own way
  • have temper tantrums when they don’t get their way
  • be less frightened by things like heights or strangers
  • become less upset by short separations from you
  • become more difficult to put to bed
  • cry if you’re cross or upset with them
  • be jealous if you give attention to other young children
  • have an understanding of self - for example, recognising their face in a mirror

Page last reviewed: 20 November 2018
Next review due: 20 November 2021