My mother-in-law really wants us to do sign language with Camilla. She bought us a book/DVD set about signing with your baby, as encouragement. We watched the DVD and I thought the idea seemed cool, but wasn't sure we'd actually do it, because we're too lazy.
I kid. While it's true that Bryan and I (especially I) are somewhat lazy as people, Camilla is a pretty good motivator. We'd do something if it was for her good even if it took enormous amounts of effort. (See: hours spent holding her and bouncing her rather than just sticking her in a crib while she cried, even though it sometimes seemed to make little difference, because we wanted her to know that we were there.)
We still weren't sure we were going to do sign language, though, mostly because it didn't seem necessary to us. The video emphasized that sign language gives older babies and toddlers who can't communicate verbally a way to communicate and ease their frustration. But frankly, I never expected to have a toddler who couldn't communicate verbally. All of my siblings and I communicated verbally from an early age. My sister Maggie, like I mentioned in another post, started talking at 6.5 months and there's an oft-repeated family story about the time she, at 14 months, toddled up to my mom and said, "Pick me up," thus rendering speechless the neighbor lady with whom Mom was having a conversation.
I do realize that the fact that my siblings and I talked early doesn't mean my own child will. And watching the video about the sign language, I could see how it could be very useful for a child who wasn't talking early. But I waffled about the need to do it with Camilla, and as she hit 6 months old and then 7 months (the recommended time for starting to teach sign language) we still hadn't made a firm decision, although we didn't start teaching signs either.
Milla's always been a huge babbler; she "talks" at me all day long, and has for many months. But a couple weeks ago something changed; I swear that she started using her random sounds to communicate. Not often, for sure; most of it is still babble. However. Bryan went to DC for two days and on the evening he got back, the three of us had gone to bed. Milla was lying in her usual spot between us, wide awake (I'd stupidly had chocolate earlier in the evening), but I wanted to be a little closer to Bryan, so I moved her to my other side. She immediately started saying, "Dada dadada dada" in this hugely aggrieved voice, and continued until I put her back in the middle of the bed, whereupon she reached out to touch Bryan's face, then happily started babbling about something else. Surely a coincidence, right? But this happened several times in a row, and every time I moved her away from Bryan she would get so loud and upset with the "dada"s that I eventually gave up and left her in the middle of the bed. I'd been pretty sure that she was referring to Bryan as "dada" before that - and there have been numerous times since then that she's done it - but that was the first time we were sure she was making the connection.
Milla has also started started saying "Nananana" when she is hungry and/or wants to nurse. I've been saying "nurse" to her right before feeding her pretty consistently since she was born, and I think she's made the connection now. Needless to say, her being able to communicate a desire to eat is awesome and very helpful, and I think there's good reason to expect that she'll soon be able to communicate other desires verbally, even if not with actual English words. No need to spend time teaching her signs when she can use syllables, right?
So we'd already pretty much decided to skip the baby sign language thing when we had an interesting conversation with Bryan's aunt, who is a speech therapist who teaches hearing-impaired kids how to speak. I'd done some cursory research and found no evidence that signing with your baby will hinder his verbal development, but Bryan's aunt feels strongly, based on her own experience, that signing with a hearing child can remove the motivation to speak and is therefore not a good idea. Also, I've asked every mom I know who's signed with her baby, and pretty much without exception - whether they thought they'd do sign language again or not - they all said that they did observe that their kids, even after they knew the words, would sometimes continue to use the signs because it was easier. And yes, I know that the plural of "anecdote" is not "data," and yes, I know that kids not using words they know because signing is easier does not necessarily denote delayed language development, but still. Food for thought.
I'm curious about what all you have observed, as parents or other caretakers of children. When do kids generally start communicating verbally? When do they start using actual English words? Have you ever used signs with your kids? What was your experience?