What Sign Should I Use for Breastfeeding?
Babies and toddlers can quickly pick up sign language. Signing is a wonderful way to communicate with your pre-verbal child, and it is useful as a second language for children who can speak. Read more about signing with your little ones at “Learning Sign Language with Babies and Children” at Natural Parents Network.
If your little one breastfeeds, one of their most essential (and the sweetest) signs will surely be “nurse.” There are many ways that mamas and little ones choose to sign “nurse,” here are a few of them.
Many people just use the sign MILK to mean breastfeeding, and then later they use it to mean cow’s milk. There is not much confusion between the two, because the timing often doesn’t overlap in our culture – breastfeeding ends and then cow’s milk begins, and there is no need for the child to have to differentiate between the two with different signs, because she is not experiencing both at the same time.
In this video, a pre-crawling baby practices the “milk” sign.
But for those of us who nurse into toddlerhood, there can be confusion if you want your child to be able to differentiate between nursing and cow’s milk when signing. In our house, we just use the sign MILK to mean any milk at first, but as she gets older, we add MOMMY-MILK or COW-MILK to differentiate. There are other ways to sign nursing when you want to differentiate from milk in a cup too.
In this video, a toddler signs “milk” as she nurses.
Below are some examples of other ways you and your child can sign milk (breastmilk or cow’s milk). If you are unfamiliar with ASL, you can find a video dictionary at ASLPro.com. If you need clarification, try ASL University or a Basic Guide to ASL.
1. Use one of the ASL signs for BREASTFEED
2. Use just the sign BREAST for nursing, and the sign MILK for cow’s milk
The baby in this video is tapping her chest to show “nurse,” much like the ASL sign for breast.
3. Make a sign like FEED but start the motion just below your breast and extend it down toward the baby for nursing
4. Use the bent O hand shape (like EAT) and tap above each breast for nursing
5. Use the sign MILK for nursing, and the signs CUP-MILK for cow’s milk
6. Use the sign MILK once for any kind of milk, but sign twice (MILK-MILK) for nursing
7. Sign MILK near the breast for nursing, and sign MILK out in front of you for milk in a cup
8. Make up your own sign for breastfeeding!
This mama and baby pat their lips to show “nurse.”
This very young infant waves his fist up and down to show his mama he wants to nurse.
What sign did you (or your little one) use to mean “nurse”?
To read more about learning sign language with little ones, please head over to Natural Parents Network, where Alicia has written about the many benefits. Alicia wrote the bulk of this post too.
Alicia is a breastfeeding mother to two girls whom her husband nicknamed “Munchkin” (2006) and “Sweets” (2009). She has breastfed them both while working full-time as a bench scientist in immunology. She writes about breastfeeding at Lactation Narration, and she is particularly interested in extended breastfeeding, tandem nursing, pumping at work, nursing in public, the science of lactation, and breastfeeding advocacy.
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"What Sign Should I Use for Breastfeeding?"
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