For other mothers (or caregivers of any kind) of tiny babies who find themselves in an endless (sleep-deprived) cycle of feeding, changing diapers, playing peekaboo, rocking, repeat, I have been brainstorming 12 things to do at home during the day with baby. These are especially for before your baby is mobile (and therefore totally dependent on you) and when you are very constrained by the eating and sleeping schedule.
|James at about 4 months.|
|James and me at about 1-and-a-half months|
|Meggles and me right after her daddy graduated Law School (early summer '11)|
Have fun bonding with your baby!
- Take walks in the stroller. It may just be to the mailbox or around the driveway, but weather permitting, we take a little walk every day. James loves all sounds and light and shadows outside. I took him out, well-bundled, during a snow storm and he absolutely loved watching the falling snow. If it's too wet, we try to at least go sit on the porch for a little while, because fresh air really helps me feel like I wasn't cooped up at home all day.
- Create stories. I start feeling like I haven't been able to create anything every few days since I no longer have the leisure time I used to have. I began making up stories even while I was still in the hospital, one of which we turned into a photo book and gave as gifts at Christmas time. I also write limericks for and about James. I talk through all of these with the baby, and he seems to really like the attention.
- Along the same line, sing songs. We change everything to be about James or the kitties (for example, "Izzy is too sexy for his shirt", "Irony makes my sad heart jump with joy", and James, aka "baby boo" is "boo bear little boy boo bear"). James loves it and the cats feel that at least we are referring to them so perhaps they are not forgotten after all. And you would be amazed how many inane pop songs are completely redeemable if you are singing them about a cat or a baby (almost anything by Justin Bieber, for example.)
- Teach baby to "help" with housework. James will "hold" clean laundry for me, supervise bedmaking, and help wipe counters (with me directing where he wipes). We also have a habit of cleaning our stuff up before we eat and before our bath so mommy doesn't spend precious naptime straightening and putting away toys.
- Go "baby fishing". This is perfect for the batting stage, when baby is just starting to grab at things. We have a plastic chain link toy that is very bright and we dangle it so we can "catch" the baby. There's a big celebration when we do, and his grabbing skills have improved drastically. Also, this can be done one-handed while, say, checking your email.
- Use those noisy flashing toys (sparingly). We have a few toys that can only be tolerated (by mommy) in small doses. Whenever I especially need to get stuff done, like set up for a dinner party, I bring those out, set baby on a rug wherever I'm working, and let him enjoy the novelty. Happy baby, productive mommy, and everyone in a good mood when company arrives.
- Plan out big projects in little doses and try to include baby. For example, I'm reorganizing our entire library and my former system of diving in and spending three days back-to-back to get it done simply isn't practical anymore. I bring him down and give him some of his chewy, fun baby books to drool on and work on one shelf (or half a shelf) at a time. We also put on rambunctious music to keep everyone amped up. This way he'll be used to being involved in whatever I'm doing and feel like he has a role in it (with his books, in this case).
- Take pictures, especially with a computer so baby can see himself. This is also one of my favorite things to do with my toddler niece.
- Put baby in front of a mirror. James used to get mad and jealous of the baby in the mirror, but now he loves to look at himself and me making faces.
- Nap...together. I know co-sleeping is controversial, but with the proper precautions it's really been a godsend for us, with one thing and another. And every new mommy can use a nap! James always, ALWAYS sleeps longer if I'm holding him, so if you aren't sleep training (or if you need a break from sleep training) it's a snuggly option. If you aren't comfortable falling asleep with baby (which I was not for the first three months) try feeding him while laying down and reading a magazine or skimming Pinterest after he gets settled. With a little practice you can both be super comfy and relax together.
- Work out. If you are anything like me, you can't wait to lose that baby weight! There are tons of exercises you can do at home, many using your "free weight" baby. Obviously, be careful with floppy necks and to not overly jostle him, and don't overdo with your body, either. I have found James is highly entertained (for a few minutes at a time) by watching me do push-ups, sit-ups, and dancing with our x-box. When he doesn't want to watch anymore, I hold him while I do squats and lunges, or lift him to work my arms, or even just let him sit on my tummy while I do crunches. I'm down from my initial post-baby weight by 35 lbs...and hoping to get even fitter than I was pre-baby. :)
- Utilize tummy time. I have trouble keeping any kind of consistent schedule when I'm not at home, especially since James's sleeping schedule varies wildly, so I started implementing a sequence to our activities, which is a little more flexible for this season. In that vein, I start James immediately on tummy time after his first feeding/diaper change. During this tummy time, which is usually the longest tummy time of the day, I get to drink my coffee and read my Bible in relative peace while he is entertained on the floor with toys. After every nap we have a tummy time, and I use those for some of the working out mentioned above, and I try to get through a nice variety throughout the day.Without using tummy time as a trigger, I always manage to find an excuse to not work out.