Baby talk cheat sheet

Stumped by what, exactly, the smallest member of your family is attempting to communicate? Your baby is quite insistently attempting to tell you something of great importance, but is she “all done” or does she want “All-Bran cereal”? Their special lovey or the greatest hits of The Lovin’ Spoonful?

You’re not alone in the hair-pulling angst of early communication breakdowns. Luckily, those seemingly indecipherable babbles have an easy cheat sheet, complete with helpful context clues and alternate possibilities:

The sound: Baa

What it means: Bottle, bye bye, banana, bubble, binky, beans, bear, Boppy

Unless it means: Banh mi or “bring me somewhere else.”

Context clues: Are you at a Vietnamese restaurant? Does baby enjoy Vietnamese food? If it’s neither of those two, odds are good it’s one of the first seven listed words.

The sound: Paa

What it means: Papa, potty, peas, please (hahaha), push, puppy, play, pincushion

Unless it means: Perhaps there’s someone nearby who is a tad more intuitive with children?

Context clues: A look of disdain—or lack thereof— might inform the situation. Maybe. Also, I sincerely hope you’re not exposing your infant to the sewing kit. Ease up, Maria Montessori.

The sound: Meh

What it means: Mama, milk, more, merry-go-round, military school, macaroni, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

Unless it means: Meh, I’m not really feeling this household situation anymore.

Context clues: Has your baby packed a backpack? (Have they uttered the words “baa” or “paa”?) If not, offer them some milk and put on the PBS.

At the end of the day—early bedtime—you’re the best judge of your kiddo’s early language attempts. Don’t let frustration (on either side!) get you down, and don’t forget the magic of baby sign language. Yes, pointing counts. Yes, snacky bribery counts. Besides, odds are good that your kid will be an as-clear-as-a-bell chatterbox before long—and just think of how eloquently she’ll be able to communicate with her therapist! (“She thought I was saying backpack.”)

Happy babbling!

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