The first time it happens, you don’t expect it. Your baby looks at you, sticks out her tongue, and makes a gentle razzing sound. It’s almost impossible not to smile and make a raspberry back at her.
What starts as a game between parent and baby actually sets the foundation for language, social skills, and fine motor skills, such as eating and drinking from a cup. So pucker up and help your baby experience a new world.
A Workout for Lips
Most babies start blowing raspberries and bubbles between 6 and 8 months of age. After a few tries, they usually get it, particularly if you encourage them.
“Razzies really teach babies how to regulate their voice, how to turn it on and off, change the volume and the pitch. It shows them how to navigate the diaphragm, mouth, lips, and tongue,” says Tara Kehoe, a speech and language pathologist at Easter Seals.
Producing the noise gives the jaw a workout by exercising the muscles needed to move the lips independently of the jaw and tongue. That’s a crucial skill for using a spoon and eating chunkier foods.
Speech and language pathologist Mary Barry says, “Lip raspberries are just lip and no tongue. They help develop lip tension so that when babies start drinking and eating they will have the appropriate tension to provide a seal for skills such as cup drinking.”
The raspberry stage is fun. Babies laugh in response to their parents’ lip blowing, and they do it back. It’s the basis for the back-and-forth rhythm of a conversation. Frequently, this is when older siblings realize the baby is capable of interaction.
Blowing raspberries may be nature’s way of ensuring reciprocity. “We usually just do it automatically, it’s so cute,” says Kehoe. Imitate your child, then wait for his reaction.
“Use lots of non-verbal communication—eye contact and expression,” Barry says. “Show them how enjoyable it is. Show them how to manipulate their environment by making sound; that’s really what language is. Just match the sound, wait, and go back and forth. Balance and match.”
New Sounds, New World
Once they’ve mastered raspberries, language should develop. Courtney Romano, the mother of a 7-month-old, says, “I think blowing the bubbles has taught her how to use her mouth and enhance her language skills. Right after blowing bubbles, she started using different sounds, like her “G”s and “B"s in her baby talk.”
Early speech usually entails repeated consonants and vowels with no discernible meaning. To the delight of mom and dad, the “m,” “d,” and “a” sounds are frequently the earliest. Hence “mama” and “dada” are often two of the earliest words. That soon develops into strings of sounds such as “bababababa” and then combined consonants of nonsense words. Babies frequently combine gesture with the sound, so you might get “ah” with the arms raised for “up.”
Cause for Concern
Talk to your doctor if your baby doesn’t vocalize by 8 months old. Some babies may skip the raspberry stage but should make some type of sound that plays with their lips and their mouth. If not, it could indicate delayed speech development or a hearing issue.
Otherwise, enjoy those razzies and bubbles. Play other games of cause-and-effect with your baby and get him to communicate back to you. It’s an amazing and wonderful time; enjoy every sweet smile and sputter.
Laura Amann is a freelance writer and mom to four children. She loved blowing bubbles and razzies, and enjoying her babies’ giggles.