When our baby was born, we talked to one of our professors. He’s the kind of person that just has a lot of random trivia, and he talked about how ‘mama’ is a sound babies tend to make while eating and became applied to mothers due to being the ones to feed the baby. It’s a bit more universal than the words for ‘dada’- which can range to ‘papa’, ‘baba’, and more. Which was interesting, but I didn’t think much of it.
Right now we’re going with both of us as ‘dad’, and we don’t have many parent friends we hang around with- so words like ‘mom’ are almost never used. But our baby says a very distinct “Mama”, and that’s about the only distinct word our kid uses. I still remember the first time, a few months ago now. We were getting ready to go, getting the kid in the carseat (which involves crying because our baby does not care to be strapped into the carseat), and in the middle of tears there was a clear, distinct “Mama!“. We both looked at the baby, then each other, and one of us asked if that counted as a first word. I’m not totally sure.
This word is only said with tears. It isn’t directed at either of us. It is not said excitedly upon seeing one or both of us. It’s not used to get our attention to show us something cool. It’s not the “mama” that most people know. For our baby, ‘mama’ is not a person. ‘Mama’ means, quite clearly “Something is wrong- fix it”. It’s not a specific problem, it’s not a request for food; it can be, but it’s also a complaint of tooth pain, of being tired and not wanting to sleep, of head bonks from falling while trying to stand and walk.
Our baby doesn’t seem interested in using “real” words yet- although they understand some words and a few signs and can babble. Our attempts to get our baby to use “dada” or “baba” are met with giggles and no attempt at copying despite being able to make ‘da’ and ‘ba’ sounds. I don’t know what my baby thinks of “mama” as- if it’s just a sound that comes out while crying, or if it’s a consciously used word meant to communicate a need. The latter seems unlikely.
It’ll be interesting to see how long this lasts and what it becomes. Even if it’s a subconscious noise- it may turn into a proper “word” for the time between “first words” and “full command of language”.