We starting signing to our daughter when she was 4 months old. After reading wonderful reviews saying that their kids already knew 10 signs at 6 months, and 50 when they were a year, I was really optimistic. At first it did seem to work well. Our baby learned Sleep really quickly and it was wondrous! Our tiny infant could tell us she was tired and when we put her to bed she wouldn't cry at all! It was a parent's dream come true!
It was one part where we did not have to guess and so our baby was almost never cranky from lack of sleep :) It was a flying start... but not much more. At 8 months she hadn't learned any other sign and at 10 months with just the sign for Milk added, we stopped actively signing. But I did not want to give up.
I used Babysignlanguage.com to learn the signs and they have an overview of 10 starter signs. The site says Mommy and Daddy are some of the signs baby can learn most easily as she has most need of them. Sounded like logic to me so I signed Daddy for months when calling him when she went to sleep.
She never signed it, not once, and eventually she could say Daddy really well so I stopped signing. Why sign when she can talk? We still used the sign for Sleep everytime we put her to bed and Milk was a regular as well, though she didn't use it often. It had become such a habit to sign these that we couldn't have stopped even if we had wanted to but anything else I just used sporadically when I thought of it.
And then it happened: 6 months later our baby has a huge vocabulary. You can ask her questions and she can answer Yes or No and actually mean it... she can say things like baby, food, water, more, chair, belly, eye, head, that, this etc... she has been asking What is that? with a pointing finger to show what she means for months now which we always dutifully answer... AND she has started signing! One day she just starting picking them up. Now she will say food but also sign food, the same goes for more, done, cheese (which she loves). She loves learning new signs too. She will repeat them to herself when driving in the car and apparently having nothing better to do. It is so cute, and sooo useful! Toddlers learning to talk are hard to understand and signing is sometimes hard for them but put the two together and I know what she means.
When she is hungry she can easily tell me, no communication issues whatsoever and when she was sick and didn't want to eat anything, she signed milk everytime. It turned out it was the only thing she could hold down and she knew it! No barfing, no crying, sick but not sad. It was wonderful!
So if you think the ads and reviews are too good to be true or you have doubts your child is ever going to learn any sign at all. Take heart :) They all learn at their own pace and eventually they will catch on and it will be useful to you!
I am now learning baby signs like Be Careful, Stop, Quiet, Wait etc. I'm hoping that they will come in handy when she is older. My idea is that when she is too far away or it is too loud to say something I can sign it and she will still understand. Wouldn't that be great?!