Exploring infant signing to enhance responsive parenting: Findings from the INSIGHT study

Ian M. Paul, Emily E. Hohman, Leann L. Birch, Amy Shelly, Claire D. Vallotton, Jennifer S. Savage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Responsive parenting is a promising framework for obesity prevention, yet attempts to date have largely relied on parents accurately interpreting their child's cues. Infant signing or “baby sign language” could enhance these interventions by improving bidirectional parent–child communication during the preverbal and emerging language years. In a clinical trial testing, a responsive parenting intervention designed for obesity prevention, we pilot tested a brief intervention at age 40 weeks with a subset of participating dyads that taught the signing gesture of “all done” to improve parental recognition of satiety. In addition, we surveyed all participating mothers at child age 18 months on the use of infant signing gestures in the prior year. Two hundred twenty-eight mothers completed the survey including 72 responsive parenting group mothers that received the signing instructions. A majority of mothers, 63.6%, reported teaching their infant signs in the prior year, and 61.4% of infants were using signs to communicate at 18 months (median signs = 2). The signs for “more” and “all done” were used by over half of study participants and were the most common signs used. Other signs related to eating or drinking were commonly used. Signing intervention group infants were more likely to use the sign for “all done” than controls (63.9% vs. 45.5%; P = 0.01), but there was no difference between groups with regard to the use of the sign for “more” (56.9% vs. 51.3%; P = 0.43). Signing is commonly used by parents of young children and holds potential to improve parental responsiveness and obesity prevention efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12800
JournalMaternal and Child Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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