Some programs will tell you to start with just a handful of signs and for most people this is good advice. So if you have any doubts about consistency, then just start with 5-6 signs and wait until your baby has started to use one before adding a new one. [Right: Toddler signing BIG with wide arms] We recommend starting with 5-10 signs then adding new signs once they are signed back by your baby. However, only use 10 signs if you can use all of them consistently. There are times when a baby just isn’t interested in your signs, so he doesn’t pick them up. If your baby shows interest for a new thing, or lack interest for things you already sign, there’s no reason you can’t add a new sign, or swap one sign out for another sign, or even keep both. If you can’t, or don’t think you can keep up with signing all the words you currently do, then just drop a few signs and continue. Consistency is one of the most important factors in teaching your baby to sign.
There’s no real reason to start at 5-10 or any other fictional number or signs, just use as many as you can continue to sign without being overwhelmed. In other words, you don’t have to shuffle out one word for another just to keep on the 5-10 sign benchmark – but you can if you want to. Just don’t expect that word, which you have eliminated, to suddenly find itself in your baby’s vocabulary. If you want your baby to sign a word, you’re going to have to pick it back up at some point, and teach it once again because your baby needs to hear the word and see the sign enough times that it becomes obvious to them what the “pattern” is. If you fail to do the sign once in a while, it’s not the end of the world and doesn’t mean you have to start again from the start. Your baby is smart and adaptable and will pick it up eventually.