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Communicate with Your Infant Using Baby Sign Language

Infant Communication

Your baby is trying to communicate with you. How can you understand them when they cannot yet speak?

What happens when your baby wants to tell you something, but cannot? They get frustrated, cry, or throw a tantrum.

Is your baby learning more than one language? Are you concerned that they will get confused?

Read on to find out how to improve communication with your baby by reading their body language and using some simple hand gestures.

Baby Sign Language

Learning some basic signs that you can use when communicating with your baby will give you a parenting tool which helps you understand your baby before they can speak. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to find out what they need or want before they get upset? You could respond before they start crying. Learning baby sign language will help you:

  • Improve your relationship with your child and strengthen your bond.
  • Have a more contented baby who feels secure in the knowledge that they are understood and that their needs will be met.
  • Give your child a head start with their multilingual language development if you plan to raise a multilingual child.

What is Infant Communication?

Being able to communicate effectively with your infant involves learning to read their body language and using some simple signs (hand gestures) when speaking with them. This does not mean that you need to learn a whole new language (ASL or BSL), nor are the signs I recommend meant to replace these languages. They are simply meant as a parenting tool to help with communication before your child can speak. The hand gestures that I teach are also ones that little hands can manage to make at a very young age.

Since 2016, I have been helping families gain all of the benefits listed above through my English Voice Academy. I also have a book, Infant Communication: Baby Sign Language, available online.

How Does Infant Communication Work In Practice?

For the first months, you learn to observe and interpret your baby’s body language. You will be able to recognise when your baby is tired, hungry, or needs to pee or poo by reading their facial expression or how they move. This will enable you to respond to their needs BEFORE they start crying. You will enjoy less fussing and a lot more fun with your newborn.

Later, you choose and learn a number of signs which you feel will be relevant and helpful for your family communication. Your baby will soon notice your use of the signs that they can connect with specific situations. Before you know it, they’ll be using the signs to communicate back to you. I suggest starting with these five signs:

  • I love you
  • Milk
  • Eat
  • More
  • Sleep
Baby sign language, top five signs, beginning sign language, infant communication
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When Will Your Baby Sign Back?

It’s important to have realistic expectations. Some babies have been observed performing signs as young as 16 weeks old. But most don’t sign until they are around 9 months old when their motor skills are sufficiently developed. They can understand the signs earlier than that, though; generally, babies can recognise signs and their meanings at around 6 months of age.

Babies say their first word at about 12 months of age, and don’t make sentences for many months after that. However, they will be able to sign and communicate their wants and needs much earlier, avoiding a lot of frustration.

How Can Your Family Get the Best Out of This Communication Method?

Some families start with one sign and add others when their baby is signing back. Others learn quite a few and get into the habit of using them all as soon as possible. Consider what will work best for your family.

Once you have identified the signs that will be useful for your family, learn them and start using them with your baby in their context. Help make it a habit by putting up reminders (for example, a Post-It on the formula box for ‘milk’ or a reminder on your phone when the next feeding is due). Be consistent and do not give up. This is very important because your baby needs repetition in order to learn the signs and their meanings.

Be sure to incorporate your use of sign language when engaging in fun activities. For example, consider learning nursery rhymes which are easy to sign, such as “The Incy Wincy Spider” (“The Itsy Bitsy Spider” in the US).

It’s also a very good idea to teach the signs you are using to siblings, extended family members and other caregivers who spend time with your baby. This will give your baby more opportunities to communicate and make life easier for everyone!

Note: True Colors Childcare in Delft uses my Infant Communication Method. If your child goes there, ask them about it.

Father, parent, baby, sign language, communication

I would love to hear about your experience with establishing an early line of communication with your baby, so please add your comments in the comments section below. I especially want to hear about your experiences if you are raising a multilingual child. Using infant communication and baby sign language will help you raise a multilingual child with whom you share a very close bond. That is every parent’s dream!

What Are Delft Mamas Saying About This Method?

‘I just wanted to let you know that we’ve been practising a lot with our little one and he is signing back to us!!! It has been an amazing journey to see him get to this point.’ – Laura

‘Aiden signs milk, more, bed! It was so exciting to see it work…she is now starting to talk more, but thank you for introducing it to us so early on. I tell all the new mums how great it is to do.’ – Celien

An Invitation to a free workshop!

The Delft MaMa community has given me a lot of support since my two little ones were born and I am excited to give something back. Therefore, I invite anyone reading this to enjoy a free Infant Communication Workshop. Sign up here.

Also, join our Facebook group and connect with other families using the Infant Communication method. We are building a global community of international, multilingual families who know what it’s like to raise a child far from your country of origin during a pandemic. You do not have to do this alone; let’s do it together!

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Roya, from the UK, is married to an Italian and has lived and taught English in several European countries. After having kids in the Netherlands she became fascinated with how babies and multilingual children communicate and is now exploring the best ways to support them with this.

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