(Picture of my baby girl at 2.5 months)
You've got a baby...now what?!
That was the question I asked myself after I had my first child in 2018. As in, what does it mean to "play" with my new baby? They honestly don't do very much in the early days besides eat, sleep and poop. Oh, and cry. They can barely see farther than eight inches in front of them. They can't talk. They kind of just stare at you, albeit with their cute little face.
But everyone told me you need to "play" with your baby.
So here are the 5 easy things to do with a newborn. (FYI I'm not a pediatrician nor an expert of any kind. I am simply writing from my own experience as a Mom of two toddlers.)
1. Take baby for a walk. Okay I know this one sounds easier than it actually is. Putting on clothes, shoes, adjusting to the harsh rays of UV light after many days inside. But it's soooo good for you and baby. You don't have to walk far -- around the block is far enough. Take it easy especially those early days after giving birth and give yourself the time to heal and adjust to being a parent. On the walk, talk to baby. Tell them what you see. Narrate the colors, sounds, smells. Are there cars? Are people out and about? Did you walk by your favorite local coffee shop? What are you feeling? Tired, happy, overwhelmed, all of the above? It's okay to have and to talk about those feelings aloud with baby.
2. Read to baby, even if it's just for five minutes. And no it doesn't count if you're reading aloud on your phone. You actually need to be reading from a physical book, ideally one that has pictures that you can show to baby, like a board book. Yes you will learn what a board book is; I too had never heard of one before becoming a Mom. Not excited about the plot development in Llama Llama Red Pajama? Try a graphic novel instead! Baby just wants to hear the sound of your voice. They've been listening to it since in utero and they can't get enough of it.
3. Sing to baby. Whether it's nursery rhymes, classical music, church gospels, or pop, singing can be a fun release for you. Again, baby loves the sound of your voice so this is your chance to sing that Adele song that you only dream about singing for karaoke one day.
4. Show baby pictures of loved ones. Babies are fascinated with faces from a young age. They can't distinguish facial features too clearly at this stage but they are starting to recognize that faces are generally round, oval shapes. Fill a photo album with pictures of family, friends, pets, caretakers. You can also use the album as a "book" and narrate stories about the people and things in the photos. It's okay if you embellish; baby won't tell!
5. Tummy time. What the heck is this? This was another term I learned while I was pregnant and reading "What to Expect." Until then, this was a completely foreign concept to me and I had never heard those two words used together. Anyhow, don't worry about tummy time until your baby's umbilical cord stump falls out. Once it does, tummy time literally means putting baby on their tummy on a covered surface on the ground (e.g., on carpet, or on a blanket on the floor). From this position, baby will learn how to hold up their heavy little heads and eventually how to use their arms to push up off the floor. You will find that your baby might not like tummy time at first. They'll cry and complain, which is completely normal, so just start with a minute or two everyday. Keep them entertained during tummy time with a playmat, a baby-safe mirror (so they can see their adorable faces), singing, soft cloth or board books!