Josh and I started signing to Elora when she was a few months old. We would sign "more" and "all done" the most, but anything that really sparked her interest at the time we would learn the sign for that too. She had this bouncer chair that had a pink and blue bird that she just couldn't get enough of, so we learn how to sign "pink bird" and "blue bird". Same with a few toys, like her elephant, or the dog. Of course her interests change so we did not stick with the random signs and she never ended up learning them, but I'm still glad we did it for the time being. Elora started to sign "more" and "all done" around the time she was 7 months old. But just so you don't get frustrated, this still took a bit of encouragement for a couple months before she really got the hang of when and how to use the signs appropriately.
Around Elora's first birthday is when she really started to grasp more signs and you could tell she was so happy she could communicate what she wanted. This also makes our lives easier, because how many parents have said "I don't know what you want?" or "I wish I could know what she is saying or thinking." Of course it doesn't completely eliminate the guessing game, but it helps. Right now Elora's go to sign is "please". If she wants anything she always signs please then points to what she wants. And yes we do encourage this, even if we know she wants it, we ask her "what do you say if you want something" and now she is even starting to say "peas" when she signs it! Our only downfall is she is starting to realize that she may not get everything she wants, even if she asks nicely, and this, to a toddler, is very, very upsetting. We also work on "Thank you" but this sign is a harder one for a child to grasp, simply because they don't get anything for using this sign. Elora knows it but won't do this sign unless asked.
There are so many benefits to doing this with your baby! If you are thinking about doing this, know that nothing but good things will come with the effort you put into it. But like anything you teach your children, you must be consistent in order for them to pick it up and understand it. I recommend starting with one or two basic words that will be often used, once baby has them down, go for more. I also would recommend always saying the sign when you do it as well as when baby does it, even if it is something they understand and have been doing for awhile, the more often you say it the more likely they are to start trying to say the words when signing them too! Also, encourage those who are around baby most to do the signs you are working on too, to help with being consistent.
My personal favorite thing about doing this with Elora, is communication. I have worked with many babies that can get so frustrated because they want or need something but don't know how to communicate that, which is understandable, I would be upset too if I had no way of telling my husband to get me something sweet! ;)
Note, if you didn't do sign language with your baby, well that is fine too! Do what works best for you, we are all Mommies and Daddies, supporting one another in this wild world of raising children! I only write about my experience, and this has been a good one.
I will leave you with a few pictures of signs, if this doesn't make sense, just youtube them! Or ask me and I can send you a video ;) Good luck!
"Eat / Food"