From pointing and poking to touching, crawling, walking, and babbling, babies do a lot of fun and interesting things. After all, trying said behaviors is how they learn. It’s imperative to their physical, emotional, and cognitive development.
But why do babies blow raspberries? Well, the spit-filled behavior is actually tied to language development. Experts say the drooly noisemaking is related to learning about conversations.
“Babies blow raspberries as they begin to understand that their lips can come together to make sounds,” according to Jocelyn M. Wood — a speech-language pathologist and the owner of Jocelyn M. Wood Speech Language Pathology.
Babies usually start blowing raspberries around 4 or 5 months. However, your little one may begin sooner. Some children engage in this behavior as early as 3 months. That said, raspberries aren’t the only linguistic development at this age.
Children begin cooing around 3 months and blowing bubbles around 6 months. Babbling begins around 9 months, as do gurgling sounds, and at this age, babies begin to understand and express tone, recognizing and responding to whether voices are soothing or sharp. By their first birthday, your baby may be uttering a few, basic words.
While the reason behind this behavior is rooted in language development, babies actually blow raspberries for numerous reasons.
“Babies are experimenting with their mouths, voices, and volume,” Allie Gallinger, a speech-language pathologist and the owner at Express Yourself Speech, explains.
Blowing raspberries is “your baby’s opportunity to experiment with intonation (the sing-songy quality of speech),” agrees Wood, “and with turning their voice on and off in a deliberate way.”
“Babies start to communicate by learning to play around with the movements they can make with their faces and mouths,” Gallinger notes. “They start to do things that result in a reaction from their caregivers and other adults.”
That reaction is key, according to Gallinger. “They start to think, ‘Oh! This sound is making my mom laugh and play with me! I am going to do it again!’”
Babies also blow raspberries because it’s just plain fun. They laugh and giggle because the action feels funny. As Wood points out, “They receive the positive reinforcement of the tickling feeling that happens when their lips start vibrating, and this makes them want to continue.”
While they’re engaged with the good feelings, blowing raspberries strengthens baby’s facial muscles, which is imperative to speech. Gallinger also points out that “raspberries are the building blocks for first sounds and babbling (e.g. baba, dada, etc.).”
The best thing you can do when your baby begins blowing raspberries is to blow them right back. “Blowing raspberries will encourage interaction with your baby and can be the first opportunity for back and forth communication, which is the foundation for conversation,” Gallinger says.
The action can elicit giggles and will encourage fun, and blowing raspberries will help your little one learn they can manipulate their environment using sound.
“It is also a great opportunity for eye contact and engagement with your child,” Gallinger adds.
That said, blowing raspberries isn’t the only way to engage your child and encourage interaction, vocalization, and fun.
- Repeating sounds back to your baby stimulates their linguistic development and simulates conversation.
- Singing songs will help you bond with your baby. It also helps them learn new words and hear new sounds.
- Reading to your baby teaches them about communication and introduces concepts such as numbers, letters, colors, and shapes.
“You can also make other sounds to your baby, like tongue clicking, and see if they start to imitate. Not only will this help with engagement and interaction but it will also lead to a lot of giggles and fun,” Gallinger says.
While blowing raspberries is very normal, the absence of the behavior can be problematic in that it may imply your baby is struggling linguistically.
That said, experts say you shouldn’t stress — at least not yet. Like those little ones who skip over crawling in favor of walking, some babies skip the raspberry stage altogether.
If you have any concerns about your little one’s development, consult your healthcare provider.
Blowing raspberries is a delightful developmental milestone — one most children will reach — however, it’s not necessary for language development.
Children can (and do) begin babbling without this spit-filled behavior. That said, if your baby begins blowing raspberries you should applaud them, encourage them, and interact with them. Love, laughter, smiles, and support are key.