Picking out a name for your new baby is an exciting process, but when should they acknowledge they know their name? “My baby ignores me when I call his name” is a common question parents ask.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, babies should respond to their names between 7 and 9 months. A baby responding to their name is one of the first signs they understand language.
Admittedly, my first son didn’t know his name for a while. At first, I was concerned until I realized I had many nicknames for him and rarely called him by his actual name—major face-palm moment.
Once we made a point to call him by his name and look at him when we said it, he quickly caught on. However, every baby is different and every situation varies on why a baby ignores you when you call them.
Let’s uncover why your baby doesn’t respond to their name and find out when it’s a cause for concern.
6 Reasons Your Baby Is Ignoring You When You Call His Name
Most babies aren’t purposely ignoring their parents, despite how it seems. While it can be frustrating, there are several reasons why your baby isn’t responding to their name.
Understanding common reasons can help you determine the root cause and work on a solution. Responding to their name is a developmental milestone for babies, so let’s look at seven reasons why your baby is ignoring you when you call his name.
1. They’re Distracted
It’s not difficult for babies to become distracted by the world around them, so if you frequently call their name when they are focused on something else, they likely won’t connect that they should turn around.
In addition, if they are tired, they are more likely to become distracted and won’t have a problem ignoring you when you call their name. I’m convinced you can’t teach anything to an overtired baby.
2. Lack of Consistency
If you’re anything like I was, your baby isn’t responding to their name because they don’t know it. While nicknames are cute, if you want them to respond to their name, you have to use it. It seems simple, but it can become an issue if you don’t call them by their name.
Reminding family members and caregivers to use your baby’s name to promote consistency is also important. Babies can get easily confused, so you’ll see better success if everyone is on the same page.
3. They Were Premature
Premature babies generally are on a different developmental path than babies born at full-term. It’s best to consider their adjusted age when determining whether they hit developmental milestones on time.
According to Children’s Hospital Colorado, as long as your preemie is healthy, growing, and making progress, they are doing great. In addition, they reiterate that childhood development isn’t a race, so it’s best not to compare your baby to others.
4. Short Attention Span
Babies generally have a short attention span and will quickly shift their attention from you to something else. In addition, a baby’s curiosity has them exploring the world around them, meaning they are likely to ignore you occasionally.
If your baby tends to have a short attention span, take note of what keeps their attention. For example, if they love it when you sing, make a point to sing songs with their name while making direct eye contact.
5. Hearing Issues
While newborns generally receive hearing tests at birth, your child could have a hearing issue you don’t know about. Typically, children with hearing loss have difficulty distinguishing speech and, therefore, won’t respond when called.
Signs of hearing loss include:
- Babies that don’t startle when there is a loud noise nearby
- Not using single words by 15 months
- No reaction when spoken to
- Inattention and falling behind in developmental milestones
If your child frequently doesn’t listen to you, you should contact your pediatrician for further testing. Your healthcare provider can provide additional testing and refer you to a specialist. Remember that hearing loss problems can be temporary and have no long-term impact on your child.
My middle son had severe hearing issues, and it took almost a year to determine that he needed tubes and had several allergies that affected his hearing. From one parent to another, don’t give up if you feel something isn’t right.
6. Underlying Condition
Occasionally, there is an underlying condition causing your child to ignore you when you call their name. One example is autism, which can appear in the first 12 months of a child’s life. However, some symptoms don’t appear until the first few years of a child’s life.
Signs of autism include:
- Problems with social interaction
- Restricted or repetitive behaviors
- Different ways of learning, moving, and paying attention
However, it’s important not to self-diagnose and jump to conclusions without speaking with your pediatrician, who can refer you to a specialist for further testing. It’s easy to find information from Dr. Google, but it’s best to resist. Remember, early intervention can significantly impact a child’s life.
11 Things to Try to Help Your Baby Recognize Their Name
Remember, every baby is unique, so it’s best to be consistent and patient in your efforts. Frequently, your child is going through a phase where they’d instead focus on something else.
However, it’s always best to work towards helping your baby hit appropriate developmental milestones. Being a parent is overwhelming, and I think we can all agree we want what’s in the best interest of our child.
Here are eleven tips to try to help your baby recognize their name.
- Ensure you are calling them by name in a calm, quiet environment, ensuring they hear you.
- Use repetition and frequently use your child’s name throughout the day, offering positive reinforcement when they respond.
- Avoid using too many nicknames and call them by their real name.
- Sing songs and rhymes using your child’s name to help make learning more fun and enjoyable.
- Use an excited and high-pitched voice when using your child’s name to help get their attention.
- Establish a routine where you consistently say their name at various times throughout the day. (i.e., when they wake up in the morning, at meals, before nap, while reading books, etc.)
- Use mirror play and point to your child’s reflection while saying their name.
- Play peek-a-boo and say your baby’s name before you reveal yourself.
- Create a name recognition board with pictures of family members and point to and say the names aloud. (I did this with pictures of family members who lived out of state.)
- Encourage friends and family members to use your baby’s name to help reinforce recognition.
- Customize a storyline with your child’s name, and make eye contact when you use it.
These tips are merely guidelines to help your child learn their name and shouldn’t replace medical advice. If you’ve exhausted your options, it might be time to call your doctor.
When It Could Be Time to Seek a Professional Opinion
Occasionally, your baby not responding to their name can be due to an underlying reason. Sometimes, all it takes is a parent’s instincts to know their child isn’t progressing as they should.
For example, if your baby doesn’t make eye contact or their behavior isn’t developmentally on track, it’s best to seek your doctor’s opinion. You can also gauge other developmental milestones, including social interaction, communication, and motor skills.
The great news is that various early intervention programs help a child if there is an underlying issue. If your baby is diagnosed, staying involved and working with healthcare providers and other professionals is essential to ensure your child gets the appropriate help.
Kelly is a mom of three who finds joy in writing about her parenting experiences and filling in others about the must-have products and the ones you can leave on the store shelf. With a bit of humor, Kelly tries to laugh off the messy side of parenting and, instead, focus on the beautiful moments it brings. Originally from South Florida, she now calls Northern Virginia home and looks forward to connecting with readers through The Place for Parents.