your baby and early consent; building trust with the ‘ready’ sign
Little children are totally reliant on us to take care of them through their first year.
Feeding, toileting, sleeping, dressing, a safe and comforting space or place to be; these are all things that are currently outside their control.
For most babies, they only have their voice to let us know when something might be needed; if we don’t catch their first cues, this tends to escalate to unnecessary crying and distress.
There has, recently, been a lot of attention in parenting circles, and the news, about infant consent and whether it is possible to gain a response from your baby for things that need to be done for them. The discussion has got quite heated, with some experts contending that it is simply not possible.
I don’t have a degree – but I do have years and years and years of experience of working with parents and little ones and my own children.
And I have discovered that infant consent is not only possible, but that it goes on to create complete trust between you and your baby.
Infant consent is not only possible, but it goes on to create complete trust between you and your baby.
So where does baby signing fit in?
It’s pretty simple and it has the most remarkable effect, with your little one being far more co-operative in general.
Sign (with speech) before you undertake any transitions or intimate activities (like nappy changing) with your baby.
Their visual processing is much faster than their auditory processing (see our facebook post about ear dominance) so this gives your little one a vital, visual, clue to what is happening, before it happens, so that they have time to prepare themselves.
Wait for a response from your baby.
For very young babies this may be a wonderful smile, a babble, a raising of arms. On the other hand, it may be a turning away of the head, a refusal to meet eye contact or engage. But these are cues that are more eloquent than speech and will enable you to understand your little one so much better.
Sign (and say) ‘Ready?’ before you begin
Ensuring that your little one is ready – to have their face washed, their nappy changed or their little vest popped over their head – means that not only are they prepared, but that they might also help you along too.
These are cues that are more eloquent than speech and will enable you to understand your little one so much better
It is a standing joke in parenting circles that you need to be an octopus to contend with the struggle of nappy changing your baby or toddler. But if you look underneath the joking, it becomes very obvious that this is a distressing and stressful time for everyone.
But – there is a solution!
Not only does signing with your baby give them the ability to consent, it also makes nappy changing much calmer – with babies who are more co-operative when their nappy is changed, simply because they know what to expect.
That co-operation is, essentially, your baby’s very first experience of being asked for and giving their consent. Making sure that your baby is ready will reduce, dramatically, the frequency of tearful outbursts for them and stress and exasperation for you.
It also builds such trust – that you will go at their pace, that you have time, that care of an intimate nature is done with love and understanding.
I don’t know why signing makes such a difference, but I would definitely urge you to try it for yourself!
‘We tried it today, it worked so well.
Thank you for all these extra bits, they are so valuable.’
Baby signing Mama, Danielle
Shelley - Little Signers Club
Founder | Speaker | Author | Chief Bubble Tester | Mama of 3
Shelley is the founder of Little Signers Club and has been teaching little ones, and their grown ups, how to use sign language for accelerated communication and understanding since 2005.
Kindly regarded as an expert in her field, Shelley regularly contributes to Childcare Expo, has been featured on BBC1, BBC Radio, in Junior Magazine, Gurgle Magazine, and was a contributing author for ToddlerCalm; A Guide to Calmer Toddlers.
She has three children of her own and, when she is not sharing her love of baby signing with the world, can be regularly found toasting marshmallows over a campfire.