Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Baby Sign Language

Experts encourage parents to use simple sign language with their babies as a way to communicate until they learn to SAY real words.  I think its a great idea.  I even have Baby Sign Language for Dummies, or whatever its called.  But, I don't use it.  I'm sure its been successful for many parents and I tried to start with Cora, but just didn't get into it.  I wasn't committed, I confess.  I learned the sign for "More" to use with her as she ate, but having to put the spoon down every time I needed to say "more" became rather frustrating for me AND for Cora.  That girl eats FAST!  My mom tried to use that sign with Cora once after we'd long given up on using it.  We quickly developed a running joke that the sign for "more" actually meant "Granny" in our house. 
Cora's been a happy baby without sign language and has been able to communicate her needs by routine.  I would say that I never set a routine for her, but learned to go by her cues.  Her cries were very distinct from early on.  If she was hungry, we'd get a kind of "laaa laaa" sound.  If she was in pain, her cry was piercing.  And if she were wet or dirty, we could tell by the smell. (Ha!)  Her 'schedule' for her meals and naps became predictable.  She'd wake up and want to eat first, play for two hours, have a snack bottle, take a nap, eat lunch, take a nap, have a snack, play a few hours, eat supper, play a few hours, have a bedtime bottle and go to sleep, all about the same time every day. 
Now, Cora is able to give us more definite signs of her needs, and my favorite is her "I'm sleepy" sign.  Around 9 / 9:15 she starts to rub her eyes and cry for a cup.  I give her milk and hold her as she drinks it.  Then, she looks around for her paci.  I give it to her and she pops it in her mouth.  She tries to lay down and snuggle in my arms, but can't seem to get comfortable, so I sit her on the floor.  If she goes after a toy, then she's not quite ready for bed--this is obviously not the part I would call my favorite.  What I LOVE is when she finishes the cup, I sit her on the floor, and she lays down on her belly with her bottom up in the air and her legs pulled up underneath her.  This says "I'm sleepy, Mommy.  Please take me to bed."  I pick her up, we go to her room, and turn off all the lights.  I turn her lullabies on and push the ocean sounds button on her alarm clock.  We snuggle just a few moments and I lay her in her crib.  She falls asleep almost instantly as I pray over her.   I turn on her humidifier before leaving the room.  The whole routine takes about 5 minutes.  By the time I walk out and close her door, she's sound asleep.  Sometimes I linger just to watch her sleep. She is so precious. 
So, its not that actual sign language didn't work for us.  We just weren't committed to seeing it through.  Cora is a happy and sweet little girl who understands our commands and is learning to obey pretty well.  Her giggles, waves, cries, and laying down in the middle of the floor communicate to us what she needs.  And we are more than happy to give her all the GOOD things she desires!