When will my baby respond to their name?

  • By: Sandra
  • Date: March 18, 2022
  • Time to read: 7 min.

As your baby’s first playmate, your voice will be the one that they will be most familiar with and, as such, will be the one that they will first respond to.

Such a lovely moment….

When should babies recognize their name?

As with most major milestones in your baby’s life there is no ‘definite date’ for your baby to first respond to you calling them by their name. Every baby is different, and every baby develops at their own pace, but, in general, most babies will begin to start recognizing their name between six and nine months of age.

During this period, it’s vitally important that you give your baby the maximum amount of support and love that you can as this will definitely improve their confidence in responding to you. You are, in effect, your baby’s first ‘playmate’ and so they will react to your voice, the sight of your face and your touch. Baby’s development and their ability to meet developmental milestones often comes from this vital interaction with them. Baby learn by seeing their parents doing it.

How should babies respond in the beginning?

Many experts believe that a baby will start to respond to the people around them from the very moment they’re born, but in terms of interacting in general, you should find that within a few days of their birth, your baby should be able to make eye contact with you. 

Within about eight weeks they will be giving you gorgeous little smiles…

Then comes voice recognition….

If you want to encourage your baby’s early social skills, it can be a good idea to join a moms and toddlers group or some other type of parent and baby group. This will not only help with their socialization skills, but will encourage them to interact with other babies. Whilst you might not love baby talk, they should!

What are the stages and what skills should they have?

Well, by the time your baby reaches the six-month stage, they should be able to interact with not only yourself, but with other people. 

Having said that, some babies might show signs of response as early as five months of age and as later as nine months. You may find that they will turn their head in your direction when you call their name. Not all babies respond to their name instantly, but by 9 months they should.

At this stage, pay attention to whether or not they use noises or sounds to get your attention. Simply repeat their name on a regular basis to assess whether or not they show any signs of recognition.

Between six and nine months of age they should start recognizing and responding to their own name. By this time they should be happy spending time with people they’re familiar with and will be quite happy to be separated from you. Don’t take this as a bad sign!

How do you encourage your baby?

By the age of about six months, your baby will understand that he or she is a separate little person and will be happy to interact with both yourself and others. 

You can definitely help your baby to respond to their name.

For a start, try using their name as frequently as possible, so that they are able to make the connection between themselves and their name. Social development will help, along with repetitive behaviors. If they begin responding then really encourage it.

The 15-month stage

By this stage your toddler should be able to say up to about five words and their name should be easily recognizable to them. You may even find that your child is trying to say their own name at this point. It may not be as clear and audible as when you say it, but that’s perfectly normal. 

Continue with the repetition by always referring to your child by their name so that they’ll start to imitate your speech. This is particularly important as they move into toddler behavior and start to explore language.

By now, instead of ‘cooing’ and ‘babbling’ with your child, you need to start using adult words and pronunciation. Language milestones like these are important and developmental specialists say by this stage they should recognize their name.

Combine verbs and adjectives in your everyday language so that your child starts to develop vital language skills.

What if baby doesn’t respond?

Now this is when parents start to panic if their baby isn’t responding to their voice. As I said earlier, every child is different, so don’t panic. Babies develop at different paces, so if your child isn’t responding to your voice at the ‘suggested time’, don’t get yourself into a state.

ust monitor their progress and accept that they’re maybe taking a little longer to start responding. It’s the equivalent of babies/toddlers who seem to take longer to start using the toilet instead of the potty; there are few children who start school who can’t use a toilet, so go with the flow – literally! Just because other children see ahead, don’t panic as babies learn at very different rates. We know as a new parent we often compare our babies by these important milestones, but honestly take time just to enjoy them.

Could my baby be on autism spectrum?

At the moment, there’s a lot of research being done on links between autism and kids who are unable to respond to their names. As I said, don’t panic…..even if your child is experiencing this issue, it doesn’t automatically mean that they are on the autism spectrum 

Autism is generally diagnosed between around three and four years of age. 

Check out these developmental stages….

If your 12-month-old doesn’t respond

It’s estimated that year-old babies, who don’t respond when their name is called, may be more likely to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or other developmental problem at the age of two, but, according to UC Davis M.I.N.D Institute researchers, a simple test can initiate earlier assessment and intervention in kids, who don’t respond at the ‘expected time’. 

‘Parents would often tell us that they suspected something was wrong with their children well before they received an official diagnosis,’ said Sally Ozonoff, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences with the M.I.N.D. Institute, and senior author of the peer reviewed studies.

‘We set out to pinpoint the earliest possible behavioral indicators of autism. Whether or not children respond to their names by 12 months of age is turning out to be a good early indicator of developmental issues.

‘The response-to-name test turned out to be a very good marker of a developmental issue. Most of the children who failed to respond to their names at 12 months of age had autism, general developmental delays, behavioral problems or social communication problems,’ she continued.’.

Fifty-five at-risk infants and 43 control infants completed this test at age 6 months, and 101 at-risk infants and 46 control infants were tested at age 12 months.

‘The response-to-name test turned out to be a very good marker of a developmental issue. Most of the children who failed to respond to their names at 12 months of age had autism, general developmental delays, behavioral problems or social communication problems,’ said Ozonoff. So it might be worth talking with your baby’s doctor at this stage if you have concerns and they are not showing interest or responding to their name.

What to do if your child doesn’t respond to their name?

While it can be challenging to recognize that your child isn’t recognizing their name at the appropriate milestone, there are plenty of things that you can do at home to help them with any potential social delays.

For a start, you can limit distractions. If your child isn’t responding to their name, try to limit their distractions so that they have your full attention. 

If they can’t hear you because they’re listening to the TV or gaming etc, then you’re not going to have their attention at all.

Find somewhere in your home where there are no distractions. The kitchen table can be a good suggestion. 

The old ‘reward for good behavior’ also works well in this task, so try giving them a favorite toy or delicious treat into the experiment!

Call their name and if they look at you, give them a treat or a reward. If there’s no response, employ a non-human voice cue, such as tapping the table. As you tap, repeat their name over and over again and, if they then look at you, offer a treat or reward. Repeat this exercise until your child is responding to you around 80% of the time.

Take it up a gear

If you’re managing to get your child to respond to you in this ‘no disturbance’ atmosphere, then take it up a gear by trying the same experiment in structured settings with more distractions.

Over a period of time, slightly increase the number of distractions in the room. You might find that the process will take longer with your child than with the ‘no distractions’ version, but it’s still vital that you get your child’s complete focus.

As with the ‘no distraction’ version, try calling your child’s name and, if they respond, provide them with a treat or reward. If there’s no response, use physical and verbal cues, slowly eliminating the physical signal.

As with the first version, continue this experiment until they respond 80% of the time. 

The ultimate goal

Once you’ve tried these various steps, it’s time to go for the ultimate goal – testing your child’s ability to focus on responding to their names in unstructured settings where there are plenty of distractions and other noises. 

One of the best methods of doing this is to call their name when they’re sitting at an activity, such as reading, while the TV is on or they’re listening simultaneously to some form of social media.

If baby responds to their name under such circumstances, you have absolutely nothing to worry about…..