Babies begin in a non-verbal world, yet they are powerful communicators. Why not use every tool to help you access their world as you guide them into our verbal culture - fine tune your body language and natural gestures with some 'Baby Sign Language'... it's really easy to do.
Introducing some simple signs gives your baby another effective way to communicate with you about their needs - and for you to talk with them.
I used baby sign language with Maven from around 5-6 months. A few sign and word 'combos' (as the sign is always done with the spoken word) such as milk, more, up, finished, hot, hug, gentle, and of course toilet. The first sign he used, not surprisingly, was 'toilet', when he was about 8 or 9 months old. He wasn't that regular with it, but we had a pretty good communication level anyway!
Using Baby Sign Language is a great bridge for non verbal communication. It complements Elimination Communication really well as it is based on respecting and attempting to understand the baby's messages from before they can verbally state them like the rest of us.
A 'Secret Code' to Communicate With Your Little One.
It is also fun in that it can be like a secret 'code' between you and your baby - so they can communicate their need in public, and you can respond by retiring to a toilet to help them relieve themselves - without anyone else the wiser...for your baby's privacy and discretion.
Gestural and body language is the first language we learn, and Elimination Communication is a strong basis for adding in sign language, as we are already primed to believe baby is trying to communicate and are open to learning from them and with them - attempting to close the barrier of communication. Experts seem to agree that a vast amount of our communication takes place non-verbally - using baby sign language can help us to decipher and appreciate more of this communication, as we develop our 'baby radar' - our innate, motherly or fatherly awareness and knowledge about our babies.
What Baby Sign To Use?
Really, you can choose any gesture that seems logical to you. As the signs are used for a while and then naturally drop in favour of spoken language, purity to an official sign language is not at all crucial. Think of it simply as another way of communicating - offering baby another way of communicating with you. I have always found offering many was the way to go - as he could then choose the one that appealed to him, or seemed easier to him. They changed over time - he would use different ones at different times.
Examples of Baby Sign language you might use to mean time for baby to use the potty or toilet:
- Patting at a thigh.
- Patting at the lower belly or hip - a pretty intuitive gesture.
- Pointing one finger into palm of other hand.
- Tugging at an earlobe.
- A fist with thumb between first two fingers, shaking from side to side.
- Rubbing hands together as if washing hands.
5 Tips for Getting Started Using Baby Sign Language at Potty Time:
What to Expect or Look for when Introducing Baby Sign Language:
Signs can basically be used in relation to any toileting activity - using the potty, toilet, having an accident, talking about using the bathroom. They do sort out the before, during and after aspect in time - usually as a toddler.
Meanwhile they may associate using the bathroom, or going to the bathroom, seeing the potty itself, or using the potty, or having had an accident, or seeing a sign for 'Toilet" while out and about all as the same sign. This is fine - it tells you they are recognising the sign.
They may respond by facial expression or gesture, body language with a positive or negative when you use the sign to ask if they happen to need to go. For us, a 'No thanks' was always really clear, whereas a 'Yes, please' was a calm expression, or looking to the toilet place, or simply waiting for assistance. Later it may be grabbing a hand to go with them for company.
Initial signs will be approximate - they do mix them a bit, and so you'll need to use your intuition and the context to work out what they mean. Don't 'correct' their sign, but make the sign in response, showing them - they will develop the dexterity as soon as they are able.
Using a co-operative sign to communicate with baby:
Here is a logical way of using a physical sign with baby to help them communicate a need to go. It is nice as it involves the baby coming up to the parent, as of course they'll still need your help!
"We were late starters to ECing. Our son was 9 months old when we
learned about it and began. Here is a suggestion that worked well for
us. Our son did not give any 'cues' when we first started, so we taught
him one ourselves that seemed to work really well. We taught him to
gently pat us on the shoulders/chest when he needed to make a tinkle. We
did this by gently taking his hand and guiding him to pat us when we
took him to the potty (using largely timing), and we would say "Lets
try to go potty". We did this every single time, and within a week,
he was patting us (or the table, or the sofa!), telling us that he
needed to make a tinkle. This lasted a good few months, until he
became able to verbalize his needing to go by 18 months."
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Wikipedia Entry on Baby Sign Language
Use Baby Sign Language to Help Your Baby Use Less Diapers!
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