Bonding with Baby: Baby Sign Language Builds Early Connections

By Andrea Ploehn

sign-languageIn today’s society, children spend so much time watching TV, playing video and computer games, and are plugged into their phones and other electronic devices. Parents who want to connect with their kids need to start early to build strong bonds that will last, no matter what technological distractions tomorrow brings!

Fortunately, there’s a great way that parents can engage their children at the earliest ages, and strengthen the parent-child bond. It’s a method I have used with my own children and have seen amazing results in their communication and social skills: baby sign language.

In working with my children as babies, and with many other infants, I have found that their ability to learn and understand often goes far beyond their ability to communicate with words. This is supported by research. Joseph Garcia (sign 2 me), explains that babies are able to learn long before the development of verbal language skills. “As infants learn signs, they can begin the foundation for mutual understanding,” Garcia states. “This manual communication can contribute greatly to the bonding process.”

Signing with babies also helps build their socialization skills. Babies who learn sign language are able to communicate their needs long before they can verbalize them. This reduces their frustration, builds their confidence, and helps create stronger bonds with their parents.

I remember one time when my daughter Annie was little and we were waiting for daddy to come home. We heard someone at the door, but it wasn’t dad. She started crying and signing “dad, dad, dad.” My daughter couldn’t verbally say dad yet, so if she hadn’t used the sign for dad, I wouldn’t have understood why she was crying. Instead of being clueless, I was able to reassure her that her dad was on the way.

Using sign language with babies not only boosts the parent/child connection, it’s also a great way for babies to interact with their older siblings and other family members. The bond that my kids have with each other because of sign language is amazing. I’ve been able to replace the jealously that older siblings often feel when a new baby comes, with confidence and pride in helping teach their new sibling how to do baby sign language.

Among our children, Annie helped teach her brother Brandon to sign when he was a baby. Then Ben came along and Annie and Brandon both worked together to teach him to sign. Now the three of them are teaching my youngest, Emily, all the signs she needs to know. Along the way all my kids have experienced years of benefits because of the positive interaction made possible by learning sign language as babies.

Communication and connection are the keys. In today’s disruptive, technology-driven society, these are critical factors for healthy child development. I’m so glad that doing something as simple as signing with my children has so many amazing benefits.

About the Author: Andrea Ploehn (SAY Plone as in “hone”) is an expert on nonverbal communication and teaching babies sign language. A native and resident of Salt Lake City, Utah, she holds a communications degree with an emphasis in interpersonal communication from Idaho State University. She and her husband, a physical therapist, have four children, ages 16 months through 9-years-old. For more information, visit her public website at http://www.Signing4Baby.com. Contact Andrea at AndreaPloehn@hotmail.com.

Breastfeeding: The First 6 Weeks

Breastfeeding: The First 6 WeeksBreastfeeding: Surviving the First 6 Weeks

Breastfeeding resources always tell you stick it out for 6 weeks. To a new mother, the first six weeks are so difficult and if you are having a hard time with breastfeeding 6 weeks can seem like an eternity. So what’s up with continuing to try it through the whole six weeks even if it is not going well? A lot of things actually…

Your Body Is Healing

Delivering a baby, either vaginally or by c-section is a big deal! Your body takes a while to fully heal from it. Any time your body is healing it takes a lot out of you physically and emotionally. If you can stick it out, nursing your baby with a fully recovered body could change the experience dramatically. You will feel better and surely have more patience for anything breastfeeding brings.

Hormones are Changing

Those darn hormones cause all kinds of problems in a woman’s life. After delivering a baby they change yet again and we all know what kind of effect raging hormones have on us. They cause us to be extra emotional….a bad combination with all of the other things you are getting adjusted to. By waiting until your hormone levels have balanced themselves back out, you are giving yourself a real mental chance at handling breastfeeding. Once hormone levels are stable you might also enjoy breastfeeding on a deeper level and find it easier to bond and connect with your baby.

Exhaustion Has Set In

By the time you have delivered your beautiful baby, chances are you are exhausted. Definitely by the end of day two with your new bundle of joy sleep takes on a whole new meaning. Waking up multiple times a night with a crying baby and never getting time to catch up on sleep is extremely taxing….possibly one of the hardest parts about having a newborn. You do get used to running on no sleep, but it takes a while (especially when your body is requiring extra energy to heal). Lack of sleep can surely put you in a bad mood, limit your patience and cause every little thing to make you cry. Any complication with breastfeeding can feel like a huge mountain, when in reality it can be a tiny something, or even nothing at all!

Some women, desperate for sleep, understandably want their husbands to pitch in and handle some of the night feedings and may feel as though they have to carry all of the burden because they are breastfeeding. While it is important for a mother to nurse often in the beginning, by the time your baby is 4 weeks old, you can (and should) pump and introduce your baby to a bottle. Hang in there until that 4 week mark and you can share the feeding responsibility with dad (or anyone else who wants to help).

You and Your Baby are Learning

Although completely natural and something God designed us for, breastfeeding isn’t a piece of cake. It takes a lot of learning and practice for both you and your baby to get the hang of it. Many women complain of pain and discomfort and the only reason for that would be an improper latch. With tweaking, practice and help any mother can figure it out, though and find the secret to pain-free breastfeeding. And, luckily, this is something that should not take 6 weeks to figure out. If the first few days are awful, keep seeking help from a lactation consultant until you determine what is wrong with your latch and you will soon have it mastered. A baby knows how to suck, but she doesn’t know the best ways to latch on either. It takes time and patience and teaching her how to do it, too. Give it a little time and you with both have a grasp on how to achieve the perfect latch.

You Might Be a Basket Case and Filled With Worry

Bringing a new baby home is stressful! It is natural to worry about every little thing, and many breastfeeding mothers are convinced that their baby is not getting enough to eat. They fear they have an issue with their milk supply and that they cannot provide all of what their baby needs to survive. While there can be some instances where this is true, in fact only about 5% of women have a true issue with milk supply. The reality is that babies don’t require much at first and your body is wired to perfectly provide your baby with all that she needs, throughout the entire time you breastfeed. The amount of milk you produce and even the breakdown of your milk’s components will change to match what your baby needs (this is why breastfed babies do not have to keep on increasing the number of ounces they consume…the milk matches their caloric/fat needs). If you have a proper latch and feed your baby when she is hungry, she IS getting enough. More than likely, by the time you reach the six week mark you will have gotten used to having a newborn around and you won’t be worrying quite as much.

The Magic of the 6 Week Mark

I was dead set on breastfeeding from the beginning. I had a hard time picturing myself nursing before my baby was born, but because of the health benefits, bonding and cost my husband and I both felt strongly that breastfeeding was something we would do for the first year. I told myself early on that no issue or struggle would cause me to quit. Even with this passion for breastfeeding, I got very annoyed with nursing my baby in those first 6 weeks. I would be annoyed with the latch and overthink they way everything needed to be. I never had any major problems or even sore nipples, but I was not able to enjoy breastfeeding during those first six weeks. Since I was so committed to breastfeeding I thought for sure I would like it from the start, but I truly didn’t! It was like a light switch, though, when I reached that six week mark. Out of nowhere, breastfeeding became a great experience and all of my annoyances ceased.

When I think about mothers who don’t have a good support system or who go into breastfeeding timidly I get worried. It is so hard to go into it thinking that you will try it and do it if you like it, because chances are you won’t….unless you stick it out and give it a try once you have gotten through the battles of the first six weeks. Six weeks is kind of a long time, especially when you are physically and mentally drained. But, the best thing you can do for you and your baby is hang in there!! If you are having problems and struggling to make it through to the six week mark get support. Not enough can be said for the value of a support system. Whether it is family, friends or a nursing support group (which can be found through local hospitals, doctors or La Leche League), being able to talk with people that can understand what you are going through, offer you advice and/or be your cheerleader, can do amazing things to get you through to the end.

I am so sure of the magic of the six week mark, that if you are struggling to get through it and you need some support, give me a shout. I will do everything I can to help you through it so you can get to the prize and have a successful, happy experience as a proud, nursing mother!