Am I Doing Enough With My Newborn?

Feel bad about not entertaining baby every moment that they're awake? Let the mom-guilt go. Here's how—and how much—to interact with your newborn.
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ByBonnie Vengrow
Contributing Writer
Updated
May 2020
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Photo: Rob & Julia Campbell

Baby’s mind and body are constantly developing in the most amazing ways right now, and we get your enthusiasm about maximizing every moment of this key period. But the truth is, you don’t need to do a heck of a lot to entertain a newborn.

Forget “mommy-and-me” French lessons—right now, baby can benefit most from a few simple activities, says Lisa M. Asta, MD, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. So if you’re doing the following, then you’re definitely doing enough:

Have Tummy Time

While baby should sleep on their back, when they’re awake, baby should have (supervised) time on their tummy. “Tummy time helps with gross motor skills and keeps the head from flattening,” says Asta. “Babies should be on their tummies multiple times a day.” If baby hates tummy time (it happens), sweeten the deal by lying on the floor next to them and encouraging your little one to lift their head up. Put items with different colors and textures (like a soft towel) underneath baby during the exercise sessions, or even move the workouts to a shaded spot in the backyard.

Get Talking

Having a one-sided convo might feel a little silly at first, but hearing you speak does wonders for baby’s language development. “Look at all the ‘teach-yourself-a-new-language’ programs. They make their money by letting you hear language out loud,” Asta says. It’s okay to leave the witty banter for cocktail parties—right now, your newborn will find even the most mundane topics fascinating. So explain how you’re slicing vegetables for tonight’s dinner. Tell baby what you’re doing during their bath. Point out how the leaves outside are changing color. It may seem boring to you, but trust us, baby is listening.

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Sing a Song

Belting out “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” isn’t just fun, it also boosts baby’s language skills. Don’t have Beyonce’s pipes? Don’t worry—your infant won’t judge you on whether you hit all the high notes. And don’t feel like your soundtrack has to stick to Wonder Pets! or Elmo’s World. “It doesn’t have to be kiddie music that makes you feel like your brain will rot,” Asta says.

Read a Book

Reserve time throughout the day to snuggle up and read a book together. Besides the excuse to bond, reading is an ideal way for baby to hear your voice (it’s one of their favorite sounds). Look for board books with pictures of faces or high-contrast patterns in black and white or bright colors.

Go Outside

Given the current concerns surrounding COVID-19, parents of newborns are being advised to limit trips outside of the home. Still, experts say it’s perfectly fine to take a walk with baby for some fresh air and vitamin D. Not only is important for your own sanity, it’s also fun for babies. Just make sure to practice social distancing and consider pulling the stroller canopy down or snuggling baby close to your body in a baby carrier.

Slow Down

Turn your phone on silent every now and then. Focus on baby and slow down to their pace. “Babies change so quickly; every day seems to last a lifetime,” Asta says. “They also operate at so much of a slower pace, and that’s okay. This is a more mellow time. Relax and enjoy it.”

About the expert:

Lisa M. Asta, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrican at Casa Verde Pediatrics in Walnut Creek, California, and a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco. She is also a fellow of and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. She earned her medical degree from Temple University School of Medicine.

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