Have you ever been out to the store or restaurant and noticed a Mom who was communicating with her baby or child via sign language? Maybe you seen a baby that looked like this (see pic below) and noticed mom digging in her bag. No crying, no miscommunication. A simple sign and mom was in action.
When all of my boys were around 8 weeks old, I began to sign to them. I would sign “drink” when they would begin to nurse and I would sign “listen” when we could hear birds or a plane flying overhead. My boys are now old enough to communicate with words, but we still find ourselves signing to each other, especially when they aren’t close enough to talk. Many times I have signed my boys during school concerts and soccer games to tell them what I needed them to know without yelling across the field.
“Listen” I will tell Ethan as I point to my ear. The coach was telling them what to do, but he was to focused on the game and was tuning him out. A quick glance at mom and a sign to “listen” and he catches the end of the coaches words.
“Drink?” I sign to Ian as he is sitting the bench across the court in the middle of the basketball game. He replies with yes. No shouting required.
Signing with a newborn and infant takes persistence. They won’t sign back to you until they are ready, but when they do… OH!, when they do, it is simply amazing. Here is a little person who, in most cases, can’t even walk and they are communicating to you. Signs like sleep, cold, eat and dog quickly become such a thrill that you’ll most likely decide to add on as you go.
For me, the biggest joy was watching them as they realize they just told you want they wanted, what they needed or shared their excitement in something they could hear or see.
Elias, my three year old, was probably the most enthusiastic about signing. He would hear something of interest and immediately gasp, smile and point at his ear.
So, the question at hand is … Should you learn signing while you are pregnant? I suppose my question back to you would be, “Why not?”
Sign language is so beautiful and practicing will allow you to get into the habit. I recommend choosing four or five signs that you feel you will use most often. My starter words were drink, sleep, cold, bath and dog, but you can choose the words you feel best fit your family. If you don’t have time to read a book or watch a video, here is a handy guide to get you started. You can also search your app store for baby signs. If you’re a book lover, my favorite was Sign With Your Baby.
Signing is not a time consuming adventure, but it can save a lot of time (and frustration) when it comes to baby. Starting to practice while pregnant will allow you to get a head start on building the habit and learning to love a language that your baby will be able to use for the first few years of their lives. In my case, it is a language that my now 3, 5 and 7 year old boys continue to use and which has continued to be a great resource for both communication and fun (you know it’s cool to talk to mom when no one can understand you).