During the first few months of a baby’s life, there is a seemingly endless cycle of caregiving. Between the diapers, feeds, and naps, how do you interact with a tiny baby? Babies don’t come with instructions and many parents worry that they don’t know how to spend time with their baby. Here are a few tips:
Narrate. It doesn’t have to be a separate activity that you stop and do. You can describe your baby’s surroundings as you move around your house, cook, clean, do laundry, or go for a walk outside. Every single thing in the world is new to them so nothing is off limits; talk about the pretty flowers or the colorful curtains. Talk about sorting the laundry. Talk about the bird you see out the window.
Read simple baby books. Sit them in a supported position on your lap or lay down on a blanket together. Hold a high contrast book with simple pictures and words about 8-10 inches away from their face. Slowly look at the pages together and read about what you see.
Give your baby a massage. Use an edible, unscented oil and give them a very light rub down while you sing or name their body parts. This can be a nice addition to bath time.
Short periods of tummy time are recommended to build strength in the head, neck, and core. Some babies enjoy it more than others so remember that it is tummy time and not torture time! Even 1-2 minutes if they feel grounded and safe on their bellies is tummy time. Tummy time also happens in upright positions when we are holding our babies on our chests, slightly reclined. Your baby may prefer their tummy time to be in close contact with you but they still get the benefits of lifting their heads and building strength. If you are comfortable on the ground, you can try lying down in front of your baby so that when they raise their head, they see your face. Smile, stick out your tongue, sing, make nonsense words and raspberries!
Down time is important too
Listen to relaxing music periodically throughout the day. Regulating our nervous systems can make everyone calmer and more relaxed, including exhausted new parents.
Most humans appreciate quiet periods. It is okay to place your baby on a play mat or in a crib/bassinet on their back for a few minutes at a time. High contrast pictures or toys for them to focus on can hold their attention briefly. The younger the baby, the shorter these little down times may be.
Put your little one in a baby carrier or stroller and head outside. You may not make it very far–that’s okay! You can talk to the trees and the flowers, the cars going by, the wind and the sun and the rain. The movement often lulls them to sleep, the change of scenery can be inviting and you are both getting some fresh air.