Introducing the Signs
Even after you have chosen the type of sign you are going to start with, you will still have to choose that very first sign. This may seem daunting, but there are really only two “rules” to keep in mind: Choose a sign that is easy for baby to form and one that you will have many opportunities to demonstrate.
For example, perhaps you have chosen MILK as the first sign you are going to introduce to your baby. This is a great first sign because it is easy to form and it can be used over and over every day. Introducing it is very easy. After your baby gets settled into your arms and begins to nurse or take a bottle, demonstrate the sign for MILK in her line of vision. Make the sign two or three times while also orally speaking the word each time. It is not necessary to repeat the motion throughout the entire feeding (your hand would surely grow weary). It is most important to demonstrate the sign at the beginning of the feeding. If she is not overtired or distracted by something else, she will likely watch your hand movement intently. If your baby looks away during the feeding and then looks back at you, you can certainly take the opportunity to demonstrate the sign again.
The key to signing with your baby is repetition. Every single time you feed her, you should form the sign for MILK. Likewise, if someone else feeds her, that person should demonstrate it as well. Another learning opportunity for your baby is while another child is drinking from a bottle or nursing. If you see that your baby notices the other child, speak the word “milk” out loud and then form the sign. The more often your baby is exposed to it and the more diligent you are, the faster she will learn the sign.
Sometimes it may seem as if your baby just won’t pay attention to a sign. Babies are easily distracted and will frequently look away. Since your baby will not acquire a sign the first time (or even the tenth time) you model it for her, don’t worry if she looks away sometimes. Keep repeating the sign and she will eventually pick up on it.
Now that you have introduced your baby’s first signs, you are going to be eagerly waiting for her to sign back. Unfortunately, this stage of the game requires a lot of patience on your part. Depending on when you begin using sign language with your baby, you may have weeks or months to wait before you see results. This delay can result in frustration for you and increased skepticism from others. If you feel yourself growing discouraged, just remember that babies everywhere are learning to sign. Your baby can, too. Don’t give up. When your baby finally does sign back to you, it will have been worth the wait.