A World of Dogs and Milk

My daughter has mastered two signs, those for dog and milk. It is not uncommon for babies to apply those early signs to a wide variety of things. For example, the baby will sign milk when she wants to nurse, but also when she eats, is sleepy, or wants me to hold her. This is not incorrect usage when you consider what milk means to her; it is food, cuddling, mother, and a sleepy-time activity. Similarly, dog also means excitement and play time for her.

She has divided her world into two categories: Dogs and Milk. Dog refers to anything fun and playful. Milk refers to anything comforting and nourishing. Makes sense to me :)

How do you help baby to move beyond those 1st few signs in a positive way?

1st, acknowledge that baby is using signs to communicate. Say “Yes, good signing!”

2nd, offer baby a more accurate sign. For example, when Rose signs milk when she is eating solids, I say “Good signing, you are eating (while signing eat).”

Never discourage signing when a baby uses a sign inaccurately. Signing, even when somewhat inaccurate, is an amazing gesture of communication that requires advanced physical and psychological skills. Remember to keep signing fun and positive, and to enjoy the quirky ways in which your baby applies signs. Perhaps we are living in a world of Dogs and Milk after all.

Is My Baby Really Signing?

Infant gesturing - but is it a sign?Okay moms, do you remember those early months of pregnancy? Before your babies starting throwing champion punches in utero, you probably went through a stage of wondering whether or not you were feeling the baby’s movement. I remember feeling a fluttery sensation and wondering whether I was feeling my daughter’s first movements or just had indigestion.

Similarly, before you confidently recognize baby’s first sign, you will pass through a phase when you hope that baby’s ambiguous gestures are signs, but you suspect they are just the flailing motions of an excited baby with minimal muscle control. How can you tell whether your baby is signing or flailing? Honestly, you can’t. Just like those early pregnancy flutters, you can’t be sure until the movements progress and become unmistakable.

Go ahead, though, and give your baby the benefit of the doubt. Assume that he or she really is signing. Get excited, pull out the video recorder, call the grandparents, and post on Facebook that your baby is a signing prodigy. Baby Sign Language is Fun! So revel in those early moments of sign recognition, even if it turns out that your baby is just flailing. And guess what? Even if baby was not signing, when you do fuss over baby and encourage baby it will turn into real signing!

Jack and Jill with Baby Sign Language

The Jack and Jill nursery rhyme incorporating some baby sign language. Nursery rhymes are a great way to practice signs with infants who already have the basics down. Babies just love any kind of repetitive game and it is a great way for them to build their confidence. You can also sign along to a picture book or the story. Enjoy!

Transcript
Hi Welcome to Baby Sign Language dot com. I am about to teach you the signs for the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill. This is a fun little way you can do songs with your baby. It’s easy and incorporates some very basic signs.

I am joined here today by my eight month old daughter who seems to be minimally interested in learning these signs here today. So she is just here for entertainment.

Ok here we go.

First of all the signs that we are going to use for Jack and Jill are the signs for boy and girl so we are going to use boy for Jack and girl for Jill. So Jack and Jill went up the hill. So you just do you little legs and go up an invisible hill. To fetch a pail of water. Fetch, it’s like you are grabbing a broomstick with both hands. Pail, it’s like you are carrying a bucket. Water, make your W hand and tap it on your chin. So let’s do it again. Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.

Jack fell down. So it’s like he is standing and goes legs up. And broke his crown. This is the sign for hurt and when you do it up by your head it means you hurt your head. So broke his crown. And Jill came tumbling after. So she is standing on the hill and comes down.

So again from the beginning.

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after. So there you have it. A fun way to incorporate baby sign language with your child. I think it’s easy to remember, so have fun with it.

And I also wanted to let all of you know that we have created a Baby Sign Language Facebook page and are hoping to build an audience there. You can access that through our website BabySignLanguage.com. And stay tuned because in coming months we will do some giveaways exclusively through the Facebook page and you don’t want to miss out on that.

1st Foods… the Messy, Fun, and Challenging Way

Baby Eating Squash

My Daughter at 8 Months Feeding Herself Homegrown Squash

The vast majority of parents are very familiar with the small jars of purees known as “baby food.” As my daughter approached 6 months, the age at which I began offering solids, I began to contemplate this whole baby food issue. What did babies eat before supermarkets started stocking an entire aisle of these little jars? Do babies have to eat pureed food? And do babies have to be spoon fed?

My own mother skipped the pureed foods and spoon feeding, so I suspected that this was a viable option. After doing some research I came upon the idea of “Baby-Led Weaning.” In this case, weaning refers to starting solids, not to reducing bottle or breast feedings (I think it is a British use of the term, but don’t quote me on that). The basic premise of baby-led weaning is that from 6 months of age, baby is offered healthful table foods and allowed to self-feed. If you are interested in this method of feeding, here is additional information on the Baby-led Weaning website.

My daughter loved feeding herself from the moment I allowed her to grab food off of my plate. We started with well-cooked, soft produce such as zucchini, potatoes, and baked apples. Soon she was eating a wide variety of foods. I have never prepared any foods specifically for her to eat; she eats what my husband and I eat. And I have never spoon fed her. She loves to feed herself.

Is it messy? Very! Fortunately we have a dog who is happy to assist with clean-up. Do not be afraid of a little mealtime mess. Have a stash of bibs and a damp rag for wiping hands and faces (and tummies, toes, neck creases, ears…). The messy stage does not last forever, I promise.

And finally, I believe that self-feeding improved my daughter’s manual dexterity. She mastered her pincer grasp (thumb and index finger) very quickly after she started solids. By 7 months of age she could pick up a single grain of rice or a pea using her pincer grasp. I have no scientific data to prove it, but I confident that her fine motor skills have benefited from this style of eating.

So don’t assume that you have to feed your baby pureed foods with a spoon. That is a perfectly fine option, of course, but there are plenty of other styles of feeding that may hold greater appeal for you and your baby.

Baby Massage Bliss

baby massageEver had a massage? Blissful, huh? Your baby would think so too!

Mothers all over the world have been massaging their babies for centuries. It may seem like a new fad, but really it is an age-old tradition in many cultures. Baby massage is a fun, inexpensive, and simple way to bond with your baby, and more and more studies are showing the innumerable benefits of baby massage!

Research has shown that babies who are massaged tend to cry less and sleep better. Baby massage can help with colic and constipation, and massage increases circulation and stimulates digestion.

A University of Miami study, involving babies born prematurely, showed that massaged infants gained 47% more weight than unmassaged infants, and all the babies were fed the same number of calories. Studies also show that a 5-minute massage enhances the performance of babies on tasks requiring their attentiveness.

Baby massage is a therapeutic way to nurture your baby’s psychological, physiological, and cognitive development. Infant massage is also believed to promote emotional security and foster healthy self-esteem.

When getting started, many mothers choose to take an infant massage class, which usually meets once a week for 4-5 weeks. While this might be helpful, it isn’t necessary. There are also books and DVD’s to teach you the baby massage ropes, but these too, you might find extraneous. In reality, you can follow your mommy instinct.

Just be sure to use gentle strokes, with minimal pressure. Keep at least one hand on your baby for the entire massage, so that she’ll know where you are, and nothing will startle her. Practice small circles, or long feathery sweeps. A baby massage can last from 5 minutes to 30 minutes. Just make sure that when you are massaging your baby, you give her your complete attention. Turn off the TV and the cell phone. You can turn on some soft music, or you can make up a silly song about rubbing your baby’s belly.

You can massage your baby on the bed, or on a towel on the floor. I prefer the towel on the floor, as it is a soft surface, and I can let my baby be naked. (If there’s an accident, it’s no big deal on the floor!) I wonder how annoying a diaper gets after a hundred hours, so I imagine that my son enjoys some “free time” on the floor. On colder days, I keep him covered up with part of the towel, while I massage one area at a time.

You can start a baby massage on your baby’s head, and work your way down her face, her neck, chest, belly, legs and feet. You can then roll your baby over and massage his back and the backs of his legs. It is healthy to give your baby time on her belly, and many of us forget to do it often, so this is a good chance!

Don’t neglect the feet and ears! According to the principles of reflexology, rubbing your baby’s feet can have positive effects on every part of his body! And Chinese medicine teaches us that there are over 40 acupoints in an ear!

You don’t need any fancy oils or lotions, though some moms like to use them. You can make your own oil by adding a few drops of lavender oil to grapeseed oil. Or you can use something as simple as olive oil.

The hustle and bustle of early motherhood is so overwhelming, sometimes we forget to simply bond with our baby, and tell her (or in this case, show her!) that we love her! Massaging your baby can help you slow down and enjoy her for a little while. It’s a beautiful thing for both of you!

Why Does Your Baby Smile?

Baby Smiling

Watching a baby smile is a joyful experience. Nothing is sweeter than seeing that first hint of a smile and watching it develop into first a little grin, then a whole face smile, and then uncontrollable giggles. Most babies start smiling toward the end of the first ten weeks.  As soon as that first hint of a smile appears,  we parents start doing all kinds of silly things to earn another smile. My husband and I happily spent hours jiggling our daughter in just the right way, or singing ridiculous songs just to see a little smile.

According to this article on baby smiling in Slate,  smiling might be a bit more complicated than I thought. The article talks about different types of baby smiles:

  • Duchenne Smiles – when baby smiles with raised cheeks and pinched eye, it signals a more focused thinking smile, like when baby is smiling at something in particular.
  • Open Mouth Smiles – when baby smiles with her mouth wide open, she is being playful. This is a good signal from baby that you should move in for a little tickle time!
  • Anticipatory Smiles – a more advanced smile, when baby smiles at some object then turns to you, baby is trying to get you to take a look at what they were smiling at. Baby is trying to share their joy in the object. Our baby does this a lot with the dog, she smiles at the dog, then turns and smiles at us in an effort to share the excitement.

So there’s some research to confirm what all parents know… a baby’s smile is very special indeed!

First Post

This is the first post for the baby sign language blog. I hope this site grows to be a great resource for everyone that is interested in teaching their baby how to sign. We have put together a collection of resources including a baby sign language dictionary, flash cards, or a baby sign language chart.

I put together these materials teaching my daughter signing. I found these really useful teaching her how to sign and I hope you find them useful as well.

If you have any questions or suggestions on how to improve the site, please email them or use the comments section below.

-Lila
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