When it comes to whether you should use sign language to communicate with your baby, there isn’t a definitive yes or no. Opinions are basically split down the middle between those who support using it and those who think it’s a fool’s errand. That’s why we thought it was important to offer both sides of the baby sign language debate to help you decide if it’s right for you.
What is Baby Sign Language?
Baby sign language is not the same form of sign language, such as ASL, that’s used by the hearing impaired community. Baby sign language is a collection of manual gestures intended to help babies communicate, express needs, and identify objects. It’s not meant to replace language, but offer a form of communication before infants are able to speak. Here’s a demonstration of common baby signs that can help you understand how it works.
Pros of Baby Sign Language
Here are a few significant points that support the use of baby sign language:
Babies learn gestures before verbal skills. Promoters of the use of baby sign language will suggest incorporating it between 4-6 months of age. This is a time when a baby will naturally be using gestures to express herself, making it easier to communicate before her verbal skills set in.
Signing can ease stress and frustration. For an infant or toddler, it can be very frustrating to want to express an idea or ask for something when you can’t use the words for it yet. Signing can ease a lot of the communication tension and offer feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment when her message is received.
Signing can help foster a stronger bond. It’s no secret that communication is a core of child development. Connecting through sign language can help strengthen your bond with your little one and build trust.
Cons of Baby Sign Language
While attempting to use baby sign language has a few drawbacks, it’s important to note that it’s not considered harmful. Some feel that baby sign language can delay speech or halt language development, but there’s no credible research that supports these claims. In fact, some studies show that it might increase language development, while other studies show no impact on language skills at all. At the end of the day, if you’re interested in baby sign language, remember that it can’t hurt to try.
Here’s what parents and caregivers report as common obstacles of baby sign language:
It’s not easy. When you’re juggling the daily tasks of a parent or caregiver, time and energy are both sacred. When attempting to teach a baby sign language, you need both. Plus a lot of patience! Mastering a sign between you and your baby will feel very satisfying, but the process can be challenging.
It’s limited. If you do have the time, energy, and patience to teach your baby sign language, it’s really only effective for the two of you. Grandparents, friends, or nannies that don’t understand the signs and gestures might have a hard time communicating with her.
It needs to be all or nothing. Anyone who has utilized baby sign language to communicate with a young child can tell you that you need to be fully committed in order for it to work. It’s not something that you can do halfway. Many parents and caregivers have reported that they began the process of signing, and then gave up due to its demanding process. Plus, it can be even more problematic if the rest of the family isn’t supportive.
If you do want to try to use baby sign language, it’s important to learn as much about the process as possible, be consistent, and try to get the whole family on board!