Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024
Speech Delay in Preterm InfantsSpeech Delay in Preterm Infants

Speech Delay in Preterm Infants



Preemie parents frequently worry about the wellbeing of their children. Infants who are preterm are more likely to experience health issues or developmental problems, such as speech and language difficulties. There are risk factors to be aware of even though it can be difficult to determine why some kids experience communication delays and others do not. Find out the symptoms and treatment of speech delay and what to do if you think your preterm kid may be experiencing one.

How likely it is that preemie will have a communication delay?

There are some risk factors that make a premature baby more likely to have a communication delay:

  • Require respiratory support, especially for an extended amount of time
  • Having a hearing loss
  • Having a tracheotomy
  • Has many other health problems related to prematurity
  • Having Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)

 How can someone tell if a child has a speech delay?

In a baby’s first year, a lot of language development takes place. Even though the majority of newborns don’t start using real words until around age 1, there are still many other communication skills that need to advance beforehand. These abilities might provide you a hint about your child’s progress. But if you aren’t aware of the warning signals, it could be difficult to identify a potential speech or language delay.

The speech and language milestones for ages 0–12 months, 12–23 months, and 24–36 months are useful to know. According to research, by the time a child is 36 months old, there is less of an association between preterm and speech and language difficulties.

What are the signs of a possible speech or language delay?

Understanding the abilities that infants and toddlers are anticipated to develop over their first few years is helpful, as was already indicated. However, be sure to use your child’s corrected age, also known as adjusted age, when comparing their current skills to those expected for their age group.

The proper age of your preterm infant can be determined as follows: Subtract the amount of weeks your child was born prematurely from their age.

Make sure you are using your child’s corrected age when comparing their abilities to those expected for their age group.

Here’s another illustration. You might be curious about your preemie’s speech development. Around the age of twelve months, children typically utter their first word. Therefore, a preemie who was born four weeks early might not communicate until they are 16 months old.

Some major communication milestones that should occur during the first and second year:

Milestones for 0-3 months

  • Responding to sound by startling or reacting to loud sounds
  • Cooing
  • Smiling

Milestones for 3-6 months


  • Shifting eyes and turning head toward sound
  • Experimenting with their voice
  • Simple babbling like “mama!”
  • Laughing

Milestones for 6-9 months

  • Reacting to simple games like “peek-a-boo”
  • Waving
  • Longer strings of babbling: “babababababa”


Milestones for 9-12 months


  • Displaying joint attention
  • Responding to very simple directions like, “Come here” or “no”
  • Imitating sounds after you
  • Saying first words around 12 months

Milestones for 12-18 months

  • Responding to their name
  • Following simple directions such as, “Give me the bat”
  • Lengthening attention during play routines
  • Speaking more spontaneously

Milestones for 18-24 months


  • Should be able to understand around 50 words
  • Saying early consonants like /p/, /b/, /m/, /n/, /d/
  • Playing with toys appropriately
  • Making eye contact consistently
  • Saying at least 5 to 10 words frequently
  • Beginning to use 2-word phrases, like “Want ball”

How do you know if your premature baby needs speech therapy?

Regardless of whether they were born prematurely or at full term, every child develops at a distinct rate. Consult a Child Psychologist if you observe that they aren’t displaying some of the abilities that are expected of them at their corrected age. A speech examination may be necessary for your preterm child or toddler. To determine if your kid require speech therapy or not consult a Child Psychologist who has ample experience in speech therapy for children.

Your doctor might advise delaying a little longer so you can monitor your child’s growth. But remember, it’s crucial to believe your instincts. It’s best to avoid wasting time while your child may be receiving assistance throughout these key early years of growth. Do not wait more than a month to speak with a speech therapist if your pediatrician advises a “wait and see” strategy.

If you’re worried, you might schedule a consultation with a Child Psychologist right away. You can book your appointment at TalktoAngel: an online platform for all the Child Counseling.