Baby Sign — is it the newest craze in the parenting world used by parents who hope to have a child genius, or is it a valid and extremely useful tool to use with infants and small children? Whatever the reason, Baby Sign is slowly taking the parenting world by storm, and reactions are mixed.

Supporters of using Baby Sign say that it allows your infant, who is not yet able to communicate verbally, express needs and wants with signs, thus eliminating guessing games and confusion as to why they are crying and fussing.

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Type the words “Baby Sign” into Google and a slew of useful links will come up, from sites that contain facts and resources for baby signing to cute YouTube videos of signing babies. Although Baby Sign may not be the decision of every parent, those that have implemented it into their relationship with their baby express great satisfaction with the results and are firm believers in the usefulness of using Baby Sign while communicating with their infant.

Not only do they express that they experienced less frustration as a result of not having to attempt to figure out what their baby needed or wanted, they also expressed that they enjoyed the eye-to-eye contact and time with their infant that teaching Baby Sign involved. I am one of those parents. I was intrigued by Baby Sign at first, just because I have always loved sign language; I think it’s a beautiful language.

Then, as I researched Baby Sign more, it just made sense to me. I didn’t feel I was trying to put pressure on my baby and attempting to prove I was super mom by teaching her sign. Instead, I felt I was doing something that could make both of our lives better.

I began using basic signs with my daughter from the first week: “Milk”, “Mom”, “Dad”, “wet”, “cold”, “hot”, “dirty”, “pee”, “hurt”, “poop”, “drink”, and “change” (for diaper change). How thrilled I was when she signed “milk” frantically one morning at 2 a.m. as I was changing her diaper! She was about 7 months old.

She’s been signing it ever since.

“I Love You”

baby sign language

Other words have come and gone, however. We have had periods of time where she has signed for Mama and Daddy consistently and then weeks have passed where she hasn’t signed at all. As a family that practices Elimination Communication part time, we have implemented the signs into that, and again, she has periodically signed for that and then had week where she hasn’t signed at all.

Currently, at 11 months, all signing has stopped, to be quite honest. I think maybe we have gotten so caught up in teething, standing, and trying to walk, we don’t use the signs as much as we once did. But I still try. I’m still a firm believer that she may find use for the signs before she can verbalize what she wants or needs, and so I’ll continue using them as much as I remember to.

Here are a few basic signs that any parent can start out with:

“Milk”. Take your right hand and hold it at shoulder level. Open your fingers and then squeeze them shut into a fist rapidly and repeatedly, as if you are milking.

“Dad”. Right hand. Hold your fingers open as if you were doing the number five. Take your thumb and put in on your forehead, pulling your hand away in a rocking motion twice.

“Mom”, Same as above, only rock away from your chin.*

“Hurt”. Take your two index fingers, point them at each other, and push them towards each other at the location of the source of pain.

“Wet”. Hold both your hands up at shoulder level, palms facing you, and fingers spread open. Pull down slightly and bring fingers to meet thumbs.

“Dirty”. Put your right hand under your chin, palm facing down, and wiggle your fingers.

“Sleep”. Put the five hand in front of your face at eye level, palm facing the face. Pull down while closing fingers to thumb. Indicative of shutting eyes.

“Cold”. Make fists, put at shoulder level. Hunch shoulders together and shake fists together.

“Hot”. Put open hand to mouth and then pull quickly away.

For more signs or for videos to these, you can usually type in “sign language, video” into Google and various websites that provide both a brief sign description and a video clip of the sign will pop up.

For a comprehensive Baby Sign program, check out Dr. Joe Garcia’s program, Sign2Me kit. Or, a much cheaper method is to check books out of your local library. Be aware that some Baby Sign books and programs are not based on American Sign Language, however.

These signs are fine if you want to use them, but if you hope to have a true sign language-based program, double-check the introductions to each book and manual to see what the signs are based on.

For those yet undecided about using Baby Sign and fearful of expecting too much from their infant, getting on a forum that discusses Baby Sign and asking questions of those who are using it can help alleviate some of the concerns. The undecided parent can also go to YouTube, type in Baby Sign, and watch videos in which children are happily signing away to help determine if implementing this into their lives is for them.

In the end, if Baby Sign is chosen, it can be a rewarding investment for both the parent and the baby’s life.

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