Why I Learned Baby Sign & Massage

Hearing your child's first words is probably the most dearly held milestone. We spend months wondering what it will be, "mama", "dada" or "shit". We spend even longer looking like loons repeating the same word over and over again hoping your baby will say your name before your partner's. My child's first word: da-da. To be fair, everything is dada, it's just a syllable they learn first. Now everything is mama, and soon she'll start peppering in swear words at inopportune times. But until then it's a chorus of random sounds that you're supposed to devine meaning out of. 

Enter baby sign language.

ASL (American Sign Language) has been adapted to teach parents a way to communicate with their child non verbally. The benefits of baby sign are basically a giant list that unfurls across the floor in a grand display. For me though, the decision to teach it to Delilah came down to a couple things. One being that I'd like her to stop her damn screeching. Seriously, this child just yells all day like she's the banshee Energizer Bunny. Babies only learn about 10 words by 18 months, which makes communication more difficult for both of you. With baby sign they learn signs like "eat", "milk", "poop" etc earlier on, and while they may not be able to replicate them right away they can understand them. 

The second reason is that Delilah has a best friend who is deaf. I hadn't thought a lot about who my daughter would grow up with, but I want to make sure she feels confident in her ability to communicate with them. Baby sign sets up a great foundation for her to learn and communicate non verbally. 

All of this lead to the discovery of a local business: Mellow Baby. It's run by a mom named Jenni who is an amazingly sweet human being. She's been teaching baby sign and baby massage for years, and got into it when her son was born. She's curated these classes to be mom and baby friendly. I got the chance to take both her baby massage and baby sign classes virtually this past month. During the quarantine she's doing a special where you get both classes for the price of one, which is a steal. Jenni invited me to review her classes, so I can give all of you an honest opinion. So here's what I learned:

  • Baby massage really is good for all ages. D was too mobile to sit for the classes most of the time, but I was able to use the moved during the day when she needed more comfort and touch. It was a great bonding experience. 
  • Jenni teaches her baby sign through music designed for the class.
  • D loves the music, and you will find yourself singing about diapers in the middle of the day because children's music gets stuck like slime in shag carpeting.
  • By the third week D could understand the signs for all done, milk, and diaper change. She started mimicking them, but really she's just doing the same gesture for everything. Soon child, soon. 
  • Jenni records the sessions and sends them out after if you missed a class. This right here is the best benefit of all. Wrangling your child to be on time is a hassle, especially if the class falls squarely during naps like mine did. 
  • She also sends out resource sheets with signs, if you're an eager beaver and like to learn on your own. 

All in all you learn something like 200 signs in 5 weeks. Which is crazy considering the average two year old only knows about 50 spoken words. Unsurprisingly, Delilahs friend spoke early and already knows upwards of a hundred words in sign (that he actually uses) at 14 months. So weather you're in it to "nurture your child's growth" or just to stop some of the screaming, it's well worth your time. 

Mellow Baby classes can be found at: Mellow Baby or on IG @mellowbabyottawa. Pre covid her classes would be throughout the city, but currently they're online via zoom.