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When Do Babies Learn and Respond to Their Names?

Maybe you chose your baby’s name long before you even knew you were pregnant, or perhaps you and your spouse spent hours flipping through name books and looking over lists of baby names on the internet.

Whether you chose a treasured family name, a name with deep meaning, or just a name that had a nice ring to it, you surely put a lot of thought into what to call your baby.

After so much preparation, when she’s finally born it’s natural to wonder, “when will my baby learn her name?”

What Age do Babies Know and Respond to Their Name?

Baby Wearing Name Badge

After spending nine months in your womb, your baby will already recognize the sound of your voice and probably the voices of your spouse or any others who live in the home, like older siblings.

When you call out, “Sophie!” and your newborn turns to you, it’s not because she knows her name (though new parents always want to claim how smart their baby is!) but because she recognizes the sound of your voice.

With time, however, she’ll learn what you mean when you say her name and begin to recognize that when you say that word, you’re talking about her.

Most babies begin to understand that their name refers to themselves at some point between 5 to 7 months and pediatricians generally expect that a child should turn when they hear their name called by 9 months.

These are only general expectations and many perfectly normal babies take longer to recognize their names, and that’s okay.

How to Teach Baby Their Name

Mother Talking to Baby

Most parents are already doing exactly what they need to do in order to teach their baby her name simply by using it again and again. Repetition is the best way for a baby to learn their name.

The more you refer to your baby by name, the sooner they will understand that it corresponds to them. You can start teaching your baby her name from day one – from the time that they are born, talk to them using their name as frequently as possible.

Say things like, “I love you, Jackson” or “It’s time to eat, Eva.”

As they gain more mobility and begin grabbing toys and objects you can ask questions like, “Lucy, would you like your giraffe?” and “look at this book, Zane.”

Babies love looking at the human face, so spend some time looking at photographs and in the mirror. Reading baby books with mirrors in them or pockets for photos are a great way to spend some time practicing names.

Point to people in the family and name them in order to help your baby understand that names are representative of people. Look into the mirror with your baby and talk about her features. Say things like, “here is your nose, Lizzy” and “look at Ryan’s ears!”

What to Do When Baby Doesn’t Respond to Their Name

All children develop at their own pace, so just because your baby isn’t showing a response to their name by 9 months is no cause for concern. Maybe your baby is just too busy playing and exploring the world around them!

Distractions could be keeping your baby from responding, so if you have noticed that your baby doesn’t respond to her name, spend some time with her each day in a quiet room, removed from distractions.

Use her name during feeding times or read a personalized name book together at bedtime.

Once you see that she is responding to her name in a quiet setting, practice getting her attention in slightly busier environments to see how she responds. Most likely, she just needs to get away from the noise and excitement of a busy home.

If you notice that your baby doesn’t respond to her name and is missing other important milestones or is generally uninterested in human interaction, talk to your pediatrician about your concerns.

A doctor can tell you whether or not your baby’s behavior is within the realm of normal and can refer you to a specialist if needed. Early intervention is best.

Even if your child is delayed in this milestone, don’t compare your baby to another, even (and especially!) another of your own children.

A comparison will only lead to unnecessary stress and will steal the joy of everyday moments and treasures with your child.

When Do Babies Say Their Name?

Baby Speaking First Words

Most babies begin speaking a few words between 15 and 18 months. Those words will relate to the objects, people, or actions that they are most interested in, but not necessarily their name (though they may say “me” or “I”).

Most pediatricians aren’t really concerned about when a baby says their own name so long as they are showing progress in speech and understanding.

After 18 months, a toddler’s language explodes and the number of words they can say drastically increases from about 20 to 100.

At two years old, they’ll probably be able to say their own name but don’t worry if they don’t – they’ll get there.

One of the most important things you can do in order to help your baby’s speech progress is to simply talk to her using real, natural speech; avoid “baby talk.” Describe what is going on around you or talk about your activities for the day.

You can say things like, “look, Micah! A pretty flower. The flower is pink. Look at the pretty pink flower!”

Using repetition helps assign meaning to each word, and plenty of varying verbs, nouns, and adjectives will help develop her vocabulary understanding, even if she can’t say everything just yet.

Babies repeat the words they hear frequently so continue using her name and soon she’ll say it on her own.


Navigating the world of parenting may feel overwhelming at times, but take a deep breath and remind yourself that each child is their own, unique individual, just like the name you gave them.

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Nancy Clark

A former labor and delivery nurse, Nancy is an experienced daycare owner as well as mother and grandmother with over 4 decades of childcare experience.

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