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137. Baby Sign Language: The Secret To Successful Communication With Your Baby With Guest Mary Smith From Sign N' Grow

Believe it or not, babies can communicate before they can talk. I'm talking, around 6-12 months old. My guest Mary from Sign 'n Grow would like to teach you how! She'll cover if signing delays speech, when to start and how to start (including the easiest and most used signs to start with!)

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Say "hi" to Mary here: Sign 'n Grow Instagram
Sign 'n Grow YouTube Channel
"Baby Sign Language" book by Mary Smith
On-Demand Course


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Read the full transcript here:

Welcome to the Breezy Babies podcast. This is episode 137, baby Sign Language the secret to successful communication with your baby. Could you use more confidence as a parent? Welcome to the happy place for boobs and babies. You're in good hands, Breezy. Babies is where we ease your transition into parenthood because it's a bumpy road, am I right? I'm your host, Breezy IBCLC, and if you who'd like to make life as a parent more breezy, you're in the right place. I'm here to deliver small, bite sized tips and tricks so you can crush your parenting and lactation goals. I'm honored to be on this journey with you. Let's go. Hey there, friends. So good to be back with you for another week of the podcast episode. I was out of the office last week, and now I'm back and trying to get my brain back into work mode. Me and my family went on a cruise. Actually, we took all four kids, which was so fun and so exhausting the same time. Honestly, I think the most exhausting part was just getting there. We live in Utah. The cruise left out of Florida. We got good flights. We got to use points going there and coming back, but we had to have a layover to use those points, and, oh, my gosh. Can I just tell you how much I hate layovers? Especially with kids? It just adds on so much time. The kids were so tired. They really were troopers on the plane. The hardest was definitely the baby. The others, they just turned on their screens. They were good on the flight, but it's no small feat flying across the United States with kids. But, oh, man, was it worth it to just have a week off to relax, get some sunshine, and just disconnect? I think that's what I love most about cruises is you kind of just have to disconnect. And it was so excellent. After I got back, this is a message that I received, and I did ask permission to share this. It said hi, Brian. Okay, so super random and odd, but did you just get off a cruise on Oasis of the Seas? I'm pretty sure I saw you. If you did, I was on the same cruise, saw you a few times, and the last day in the Park Cafe with your family might have been to star Struck to say hi, but a big fan of yours, and thank you for all the help you've given me on my own nursing journey through your podcast. Isn't that so much fun? Which, by the way, I told this mom when she messaged me, I was like, oh, my gosh, please just come and say hi next time. I would have loved to get a picture with her, and I would love to get a picture with any of you, as well. I seriously love meeting you. The funny thing about a podcast is you feel like you're just talking to no one. So it's so fun to hear from people who are actually listening and loving this podcast. And seriously, what are the odds that there was someone who knew me clear across the country? There was so many cruise ships the day that we got back into port, there was six or seven other cruise ships that had also just ported and everyone was getting off. And what are the chances that actually knew someone who was on one of those cruises? So fun. And seriously, I love hearing from all of you. So please send me all the messages, just all the things. And of course, I love podcast reviews as well. That super. Helps me out a lot. I also wanted to tell you that I was reposting a reel today on Instagram and I reminded myself how much I love the Haakaa Ladybug. I did a reel that was all about combining milk, and I used my Haakaa Ladybug a lot in the beginning after Baby Mila was born. I don't use it at all now, but I seriously built up my entire freezer stash just by putting on my Haakaa Ladybug on the other side while I was nursing her. And I really didn't even pump at all this entire postpartum period. So this is not a sponsored post, but if you are interested in the Haakaa Ladybug, I did want to share my affiliate discount code with you because you can get 10% off if you want to try out the Haakaa Ladybug as well. Like I said, it just attaches to the other side while you're nursing. It catches the let down that you would normally just get lost in your breast pad you would throw away and that's milk that you can totally save in your freezer. Now, I kind of prefer the Ladybug personally to the classic Haakaa, even though that's the one that's a little bit more well known. The classic Haakaa had a little bit too much suction for me. It was a little uncomfortable, but the Ladybug bug I found was just enough suction but not too much. So that was a good middle ground for me. So if you would like to try the Ladybug Haakaa as well, you can use my affiliate discount code Breezy Ten. That's Breezy at I'll have that link and discount code in the show notes as well. All right, let's get into today's topic. Are you wondering about baby sign language? Probably, since you clicked to listen to this podcast episode, since that's what it's called. But if you're wondering some specific things like, well, does baby sign language delay speech? Well, listen, my podcast guest for you today, her name is Mary, and she's going to answer that question for you. If you're also wondering, well, when is the best time to even start baby sign language? Mary's going to answer that today as well. If you're not sure where to start to even teach your baby sign language again. Mary is going to teach you the easiest and most used signs to start with in today's podcast episode. She is an ASL interpreter and she's going to teach us how babies can communicate before they can even talk. I'm talking like six to twelve months now to give you a little background information of why I decided to have Mary as a guest on my podcast, Mila. She is now 15 months old. She's my baby. She's my fourth baby and she loves to sign. Seriously, she loves it. She's very good at signing and telling us what she wants. If you're wondering why we taught Mila sign language, honestly, we never even thought twice about whether or not we would teach her. That's just what we've done with all of our kids, all four of them. It's how we've communicated with them from a very young age. You might remember that my oldest is twelve years old. Yes, we even taught her baby sign language about eleven and a half years ago before she even had her first birthday. I actually find that kind of interesting that we did teach her baby sign language because there aren't a lot of things that we did the exact same with all four of our kids. Things in the baby world change a lot over the course of just a couple of years. So just imagine how much has changed in the eleven year gap between my youngest and my oldest. It's just, honestly, a completely different parenting experience. But one thing that stayed the same was baby sign language, which is why I'm so excited to share Mary with you today. If you know about baby sign language and don't want to do it, that's fine. But I'm guessing no one in that boat has made it this far into this podcast episode. I'm guessing, however, that there are some of you listening who never really considered teaching your baby sign language. Maybe you didn't even know it was an option for me. I watched some of my cousin's kids sign when they were very young. Then when it came time for me to have my first baby, my cousin actually let me borrow her baby Signing Time DVDs. That's all that existed eleven and a half years ago. In fact, I think the makers of that program are also from Utah, which is where I live. Anyway, I borrowed them and was so sad when it came time to return those DVDs to her that I went and checked them out from my local library because we were pretty poor at the time. Which PS. Have you ever checked out a DVD or a CD from the library before? You can only check it out for like five days at a time. I swear, it's like by the time you even get at home from the library and play it, it's time to turn around and take it back the very next day. So that got really annoying really fast to check those out from the library. So once I had the money set aside to buy my own Baby Signing Time DVDs, I did. I was 100% sold on Baby Sign Language and the benefits of my baby learning it. Now, I love what Mary is doing to update and bring a fresh new perspective on Baby Sign Language. She's doing that on her Instagram, her YouTube channel, on her website. When she reached out to be a podcast guest on my Breezy Baby's podcast, I didn't even need her to sell me on the Why behind Baby Sign Language. I was already sold on it eleven and a half years ago, and I continue to be a fan and a customer all these years later. So, yes, all four of my kids were very good at signing their wants and desires by one year of age. Currently, Mila Signs eat when she's hungry and water when she's thirsty, and milk when she wants to nurse. She signs. All done when she wants to get down from her high chair. She's learned quite a few more just recently, like fish and cold and hot. One cute thing, when we were just on our cruise with our kids, we had a room with a balcony over Central Park. Yes, our ship had a Central Park. It was amazing and beautiful, and I'll have to tell you more about that in a future episode. But basically, our balcony, when you looked out, you could see the water slides right above us. They were clear in some sections, so you could see the water flowing down the slide. They turned them on really early every morning, even though the water slides didn't open until 10:00 a.m.. So it was Mila's routine every morning to crawl over towards the balcony and just sign water over and over again. She looked up at the slides and pointed at the water. So that's just a small example of how fun it is to see your tiny little tumblers wheels turning inside their head and understanding before they can even communicate those things through speaking. Okay, so are you ready to hear from our guest? Let me introduce her to you. Mary Smith is the founder and instructor of Sign and Grow. That's a small business that helps parents teach their baby sign language for early communication. Mary has a degree in Deaf Studies with a concentration in Deaf Education. She has completed an ASL Interpreter training program and has been working as an ASL interpreter since 2011. Mary launched Sign and Grow in 2020 after using sign language with her own daughter to great success. Her online program, Baby Signs for Growing Minds, has now taught thousands of parents all over the world how to communicate early with their babies. To ease frustration. She also now has a book, Baby Sign Language by Mary Smith, that has over 100 signs that parents can use with their babies, plus singalongs games, strategies, and more. Okay, I'm sure you're so excited to hear from Mary, so without further ado, here she is. Hi, I'm Mary Smith. I'm the founder and instructor of Sign and Grow, and I am here to teach you a little bit about how to use sign language with your baby. I myself have a four year old girl who I have used sign language with when she was a baby for early communication, and it was so successful. I'm also an American Sign Language interpreter and I have the largest Instagram account for teaching baby's sign language as well as the Sign and Grow YouTube channel. And I'm the author of the new book Baby Sign Language a Fun and Simple Guide for Early Communication. Today I'll be talking to you about the benefits of signing to your baby. I'll be covering a few of the questions that I often hear from parents about signing, and I will give you some tips on how to get started. The reason that parents want to teach their babies to sign is because maybe you've seen a friend using some signs with their babies or a relative, and you've seen how cool it is that their baby is able to tell them when they're hungry, when they're sleepy, when they want more, when they're all done. And that's because signing gives your baby a chance to communicate with you before they start to talk. So there's this gap of time, usually between six to twelve months old, when babies are able to recognize what they want and need from us, but they're not able to say the words out loud yet. And even if they were, they wouldn't be able to say as much as we would hope to be able to fulfill their needs and get them to cry less and tell us what they need more. So that's where the signs come in during that crucial gap of time when you want to know what your baby needs from you, and your baby already knows what they need, but they're not able to say the words yet. Not to mention that sign language is a real language, which means that if you're teaching signs to your baby, then that sets your baby up for possibly building on that in the future and maybe adding multilingualism into your home. Signing does not delay speech. That's a question that I often get. Will this delay my child's speech? Absolutely not. Research has shown time and time again that signing with your child will not delay their speech. Another common question that I get is when should I start? When is the best time to start? Truly, the best time to start is when you feel ready. Some parents start around six months old because of a few developmental things that are going on at that time. Namely, your child is able to see you more clearly, so their vision is clearer. They're usually also learning how to sit up so that they're not just looking up at you from a laying position so they're able to meet your gaze more eye to eye and they're also starting to identify what it is that they want and need. So that's lending itself more to being able to make that connection faster. So those are some good reasons to start at six months old. However, if you are ready to start earlier, then you by no means need to wait. Definitely parents who have started before six months old have seen the biggest results. However, if your child is over six months old, I want you to know that it is never too late. Whether your child is twelve months old, 24 months old, whatever it is, learning an additional language is always beneficial for your child no matter what. And signing is oftentimes recommended by speech and language pathologists for children who are older just to reduce their frustration so that they're able to use the signs to get their needs met while supporting their speech development. So that is my first tip is to start whenever you are ready to start incorporating signs into your daily routine and your baby will be ready whenever you are. My second tip is to use signs that apply to your baby's everyday life. So these are signs most likely signs like Milk, Eat and then the sign for Sleep or bed. So if I had to recommend my top three signs for you to start with, I would recommend Milk, Eat and Bed, which is easier to make than the sign for sleep. And those three go for most babies and their daily routine. If you want to expand on that, you can add in the signs for Bath help and also if your baby is a little bit older, if they have a favorite toy, then you can add in signs for their favorite toy which can be very motivating for them as they grow. If you're looking for these signs, I do have a dictionary of over 100 signs that you can utilize. You can find it on Sign and Grow that's sign the letter dictionary and there you'll be able to see all of those signs. They're also on the Sign and Grow YouTube channel as well. My third tip for you is to say the word while you're signing as you're incorporating the sign into your baby's daily routine. So saying the word while you're signing is going to help your baby make that connection between the sign and the spoken word, so that eventually, when they start signing, then they'll get to a point where they're able to drop the sign and just say the word out loud, because they've already made the connection between the spoken word and the sign. So for example, if we're talking about the sign for milk, what you would do is each time that you are about to feed your baby milk, you would say, okay, here's your milk now and while you're doing that, you would use the sign for milk. So you're using the sign whenever you're saying the word, and it's coming up during every single feeding so that your baby is able to make that connection between being fed, seeing the sign, and hearing the word. Same thing goes for the sign for eat. So, okay, it's time to eat now, and you're using the sign saying the word, and it's actually time to eat so that your baby is seeing that sign in context. And then when it's time to put them to bed, it's time to go to bed. And you sign bed while saying the word bed as you're putting them to bed. And that's really going to help your baby's brain cognitively make those connections. By using signs consistently, your baby will start to pick up on the meanings of multiple signs and then they'll eventually get to the point where they're able to use the signs back to you to communicate whenever they want milk, or whenever they're hungry for food, or whenever they're sleepy and want to go to bed. And these things are so important because it's going to help to reduce frustration within your home, which is the biggest benefit of signing to your baby. Less frustration for them, less stress for you because you're not playing the guessing game of what does my baby want from me right now? Less tears within your home and more time to actually bond with your baby because you're getting more smiles and you're working with your baby as a team to get their needs met. So when parents start to sign with their children around six months old, if your baby is around that age, and that's when you're starting, we usually see babies start to sign back intentionally between nine to twelve months old. However, before your baby signs back intentionally, you might see that they'll start to comprehend the signs. So you might get some big reactions whenever you're using the sign, which means that your baby is understanding the sign. For example, the sign for milk is the one that comes up the most often and first for babies because it's connected to such a big source of life and frustration for their milk. You can also possibly see your baby babbling some signs. So for example, your baby might start babbling the sign for milk super early, especially if you started before six months old. And just like in spoken language, babies do babble in sign language, which is totally okay. Your baby is not asking for milk from you. 24/7 they will get through that babbling phase and then eventually it will become very obvious that they are using the sign whenever they actually want milk from you. So just to review our three tips, the first tip was to start whenever you feel ready and your baby is ready when you are. The second tip is to use signs that are applicable to your baby's everyday life. And the third tip is to say the word while you are signing whenever it applies in your baby's daily routine. To learn more about using signs with your baby, I would love for you to join me on Sign and Grow resources so that I can teach you and your baby some more. My biggest resource is the Sign and Grow Instagram page, which currently has over 200,000 followers. You can find Sign and Grow, or just search at Sign and Grow on Instagram that's sign the letter nrow. There's also the Sign and Grow YouTube channel which has over 100 signs and also has some videos on how to teach your baby some signs and covers some more frequently asked questions. My most popular video on there is the video specifically teaching how to teach your baby to sign milk and you can find that again, the YouTube channel is Sign and Grow. And then you can also if you're interested in taking online courses, I have several online courses for parents which you can find on courses Sign and Grow. And of course my huge new amazing resource is my book which is called Baby Sign Language a Fun and Simple Guide to Early Communication by Mary Smith, and it's available on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Thank you so much Brie, for having me on. I really enjoyed this and I hope that I get to meet some of your listeners on social media. Talk to you soon and happy signing. Yay. Isn't Mary so great? If you want to say hi to Mary, then hop on over to her Instagram page, Sign and Grow. That's a great place to go and say hi, see a little bit of her resources. I'll also have the links in the show notes for her On Demand course, her book, all of the good stuff that she is offering. I'm so grateful for her to come and be a guest today and introduce you to Baby Sign Language if you didn't already know, or maybe help nudge you, convince you that it might be a good option for you and your little one. I am so glad that you came to listen in today. I will be back next week for another podcast episode for you and of course I'm going to leave you with. You are strong, you are smart, you are beautiful, you're a good friend to all. Bye. If you would like more help, check us It's the happy place for boobs and babies where you can take an online workshop on topics from breastfeeding to baby gas, learn baby massage, get a pumping plan before returning to work, and even get one on one lactation help from our IBCLCs. We meet with families both in home and also all over the world via secure video. And guess what? These lactation consultations might even be covered by your insurance. Click the link in the show notes or visit to see if you also connect with us at Breezy Babies on Instagram and YouTube. And last, if you love what we do, please leave us a review on Google or Apple podcasts. Bye.

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