Using Baby Sign Language to Help Your Baby Overcome Nocturnal Fears



Nocturnal separation anxiety is real. Throughout human history having companionship, particularly the companionship of an adult has been associated with safety. After all, our ancestors were mostly nocturnal hunters often leaving children alone and exposed to predators. Nocturnal fears are not exclusive to children sleeping alone. Many parents that co-sleep report babies and toddlers waking up in tears after a nightmare.  The types of fears experienced by babies and toddlers vary widely, but the main themes are pretty much consistent across cultures:

  • Fear of separation
  • Fear of darkness
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Fear of sounds
  • Fear of intruders
  • Fear of monsters or imaginary creatures

Knowing how to cope with these fears is essential and will set the stage for a healthy and happy life by facilitating restful sleep. Let’s explore how you can incorporate baby signing to your bedtime and nocturnal crisis management routines:

Transforming Bedtime into a Positive Affair

Creating a positive bedtime routine is essential to avoiding nocturnal fears. Babies and toddlers thrive in settings and rituals that are familiar. Begin from birth choose words and signs that communicate what is about to happen and be consistent in providing visual and verbal queues. Do this even when you co-sleep, this way you will have some ritual that you can transfer once your baby is ready for their own room or their own bed. Even if your baby does not fully understand the sign and word associated to the sign, he or she will have a sense of continuity and familiarity if you stick to the same habits every single night. In our home we included the sign for sleep as the first clue that bedtime was near. We tucked baby in bed, read a small book and said a short prayer always incorporating a couple of familiar signs. Before leaving the room we made sure to sign good night and I love you.

Equipping Your Toddler to Communicate Their Fears & Needs

There is a certain universality to the types of fears babies and toddlers are likely to experience. Try teaching your little ones signs that are relevant to experiences that may trigger fear or a sense of discomfort as well as the potential solution. When we made our own list of signs to help alleviate nocturnal issues we included the following: Light, cold, scary, blanket, hungry, hug.

Using Quiet Conveyance to Calm Your Child

If you have more than one baby quiet conveyance may be essential to a restful night for all. Teach your little ones to use baby sign language first to explain their concern. If you have a baby monitor and you have been consistent in teaching signs don’t be surprised if your baby signs specific things just before he or she wakes up from a nightmare. Make it a point to intentionally observe their sleeping behaviors to better address nocturnal concerns.

Associating Calming Songs to Signs

There is something inherently calming about music. To help your child in developing a sense of security teach him songs or rhymes that include comforting words or sounds. If taught correctly you may find that your child comforts him or herself by singing their favorite songs and signing along.

Teaching Your Child to Interpret Signs of Security, Protection & Affection

One of the most essential needs of humans is the need for acceptance and protection. Be consistent in signing basic signs that convey love and security. We always find it delightful when our child relaxes in response to the sign for love or the sign for pick up. We also allowed our little one to associate the sign for blanket with access to their comfort blanket.


Here are some facts to keep in mind:

  • Are children more afraid when they sleep alone? It would be surprising if co-sleeping with parents didn’t reduce a child’s separation anxiety — a panic response arising from a primitive part of brain that also processes information about physical pain (Panskepp 2000).
  • We should be mindful of the fact that almost always humans  tend to overreact to emotional stimuli at the end of the day. Experiments suggest that the amygdala — a brain region that processes emotional events — becomes overactive when you are tired (Yoo et al 2007; Maski and Kothar 2013). Negative emotions may come naturally to us at night.


Our baby sign language kits contain all of the signs to help your baby overcome nocturnal fears and anxieties. Volume III of the Baby Signing Time collection available in our Premium and Ultra Kits comes with songs appropriate for bedtime routines.


baby sign language kit

The Standard Baby Sign Language Kit, bundles together everything you need to get started with signing in one box, at a steep discount. The kit includes: (1) Baby Sign Language Guide Book; (2) Baby Sign Language Dictionary: (3) Baby Sign Language Flash Cards; and (4) Baby Sign Language Wall Chart.

Baby Sign Language Guide Book shows you how to teach your child how to sign. The book begins with a Quick Start Guide that will teach you your first signs and having you ready to sign in 30 minutes. As your baby progresses, you can delve into more advanced topics like combining signs to make phrases, using props, and transitioning to speech. (Regularly $19.95)

Baby Sign Language Dictionary contains over 600 signs including the most common words, the alphabet and numbers. The dictionary helps you expand your child’s vocabulary, and has the breadth of coverage that lets you follow any child’s natural interests. Each sign is illustrated with two or more diagrams, showing you the starting position, the ending position, and intermediate motion. This makes learning new signs easy.  (Regularly $19.95)

Baby Sign Language Flash Cards include 52 sturdy board (4×6 inches) flash cards, covering a variety of basic signs. The flash cards allow you to teach words, such as animal names, that Baby is not exposed to in everyday life. The face of the flash cards shows the word and image for the child. The back of the flash cards show how the sign is performed, a handy reminder for the adult.  (Regularly $24.95)

Baby Sign Language Wall Chart includes 22 basic signs, and makes a handy reminder for caregivers. The Baby Sign Language Wall Chart covers basic signs, like eat, drink, and sleep. Hang the poster in Baby’s Nursery to help babysitters, or other occasional caregivers learn and decode the most commonly used baby signs.  (Regularly $9.95)

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Baby Sign Language Guide Book

Learn the best techniques for effectively teaching baby sign language. Including:

•  Quick Start Guide – learn the first 10 signs and the basic principles required to start teaching your baby to sign (Chapter 1).

•  Advanced Teaching Methods – use teaching aids like books, flash cards, and toys to keep lessons interesting and challenging (Chapter 5).

•  Phrases – teach your baby to combine signs and communicate more complex thoughts (Chapter 6).

•  Taming the Terrible Twos – reduce frustration and tantrums by enabling your toddler to communicate (Chapter 7).

•  Transitioning to Speech – use sign language to expedite and improve speech development (Chapter 8).

baby sign language kit

Sarah learned her first 10 signs at six month and it made our lives much easier. Instead of screaming, she could tell us when she was hungry, thirsty, or tired. She learned another 50 signs by nine months and that was a blast. Now she is talking much earlier than the other children in her preschool and we think it is because of her signing.

We can’t imagine missing out on all the little things she shared with baby sign language. Thank You!


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