Baby sign language is such an empowering tool for your baby because it gives them the ability to communicate with you before they have words. Baby signing will not only help you raise an intuitive, non-picky eater, it will also make life and tantrums so much more enjoyable because everyone’s frustration levels goes way down when your baby can effectively communicate what they need.
Written by: Jessica Diamond, MPH, RDN
When babies start feeding, they don’t yet have the language to tell you when they are all done or want more. We want to raise intuitive eaters that can communicate their hunger and fullness cues to us as they learn to listen to their body. But this can be challenging when our babies don’t have language yet, and all they can do is cry, fuss, or turn their head away.
This is where baby sign language comes in: it is such an empowering tool for your baby because it gives them the ability to communicate with you before they have words. Baby signing will not only help you raise an intuitive, non-picky eater, it will also make mealtimes so much more enjoyable because everyone’s frustration levels goes way down when your baby can effectively communicate what they need. And as a parent or caregiver, you won’t ever forget that moment when your baby signs back to you for the first time – it’s truly a surreal moment!
In addition to supporting intuitive eating, baby sign language has been shown to speed up speech development, reduce tantrums by giving kids a way to express themselves before learning to talk, and improve the parent-child bond (because you’re both able to communicate more effectively!) All this leads to higher levels of confidence and self-esteem, which, of course, pays off in the long run.
It’s great to begin baby sign language when you’ve started your baby on solid foods. Developmentally, they will be ready to learn new signs, and it’s a practical way for them to communicate their hunger to you. With some time and consistency, they will begin signing back to you, not just about food but also in other aspects of life. But we want you to know sign language is a learned tool that can take months for your baby to start doing back to you, but we promise that the time and effort (as silly as we feel doing it before they do it) is totally worth it!
To get started, you don’t need to learn all the signs. We suggest starting with these four (see video below):
We have a very simple method for introducing the signs: say the word out loud while using your hands to model the sign. You’ll do this for a couple of months before your child will sign back. But soon enough, your baby will have the superpower of communicating with you before they have words. (And this is especially helpful for tantrums, when words are really hard for them to use!)
We share many more tips and tricks to successfully (and confidently) feed your baby in our Feeding Your Baby Solids course. The class breaks down all the basics and gives you the tools to prevent picky eating and raise an intuitive eater from the start. We can’t recommend the class enough. Check it out here!