Baby Food Signs
There is little that excites a young baby more than a good meal. Whether it consists simply of milk or involves a bit of food, most little ones love to eat. That passion for nourishment will help encourage your baby to use the following signs. The fact that babies eat and drink multiple times throughout the day provides you with many opportunities to demonstrate the signs.
After your baby comprehends the meaning of these signs, he will use them not only during the act of eating and drinking but also to signify his hunger or thirst.
The time will come when your baby will need signs beyond EAT and DRINK to express his desire for food. A child who wants applesauce, for example, will not be satisfied if he is offered cheese instead.
As the variety of your baby’s diet grows and his ability to sign improves, you can introduce him to specific food signs. In Chapter 12, you will find the signs for many of baby’s favorite foods, such as BANANAS, MACARONI, and CRACKERS.
Although every baby is different, “ba ba” (for bottle) is frequently a third or fourth word in a baby’s vocabulary. Which words typically rank higher? It should come as no surprise that “da da” (Daddy) and “ma ma” (Mommy) generally take the lead.
MILK is commonly one of the first signs used with babies. It resembles the act of milking a cow, and it will likely be exciting to your baby. After all, what preverbal baby would not want to communicate his desire for milk?
1. Bring your hand in front of your body and form it into a fist.
2. Open and close your fist demonstrating a squeezing motion.
3. You can also alternate an up-and-down motion to imitate the milking of a cow if you desire.
As you will have many opportunities throughout the day to demonstrate this sign, be sure to do so at every feeding — even in the middle of the night. You may be amazed at how quickly your baby picks up this sign. If you are unsure that your baby is actually signing, simply offer him a bottle or the opportunity to nurse. If he feeds eagerly, chances are he was trying to tell you something.
For babies who have graduated to baby food, EAT, as shown in Figure 8–1, is another highly motivating sign. It may not be the easiest one for your baby to sign perfectly, but he will likely adapt it to work for him.
1. Draw the tips of all of your fingers and thumb together as if operating a hand puppet with its mouth closed.
2. Bring your hand up to your mouth and touch your fingertips twice to your lips.
You may notice that your baby begins to point to his mouth with one or two fingers at mealtimes. If so, congratulations! He is signing! Give it time, and continue to model the actual ASL sign (unless you are practicing modified ASL). Eventually he will form it correctly.
When your baby begins to use a cup, you may want to introduce the sign for DRINK, as shown in Figure 8–2. This sign should be fairly simple for your baby to sign.
1. Cup your hand as if holding a glass.
2. Raise it up to your mouth as if drinking.
Alternately, you can also introduce the sign for CUP (as described in Chapter 11) at this stage. If your child has already learned the sign for MILK, you may find that he uses MILK and DRINK interchangeably. MILK may become his sign of choice for juice, water, and any other beverage.
Conversely, he may also use the sign for DRINK when requesting MILK. If you are able to understand what he is signing, respond to his request, but continue to model the correct sign. In time, your baby will be able to differentiate between the two signs.
Because infants still get the majority of their calories and nutrition from milk or formula, that is what they typically want when they are hungry. Do not be surprised if your baby only signs EAT while he is actually eating and MILK when he is hungry. In time, this will change.