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Bonnie Vengrow
Contributing Writer

Am I Doing Enough With My Newborn?

Whenever baby’s awake and I’m not entertaining him, I feel guilty. How—and how much—should I be interacting with him?

Baby’s mind and body are constantly developing in the most amazing ways right now, and we get your enthusiasm to maximize 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.

So forget baby soccer classes and “mommy-and-me” French lessons — right now, baby can benefit most from a few simple activities, says Lisa M. Asta, MD, 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 his back, when he’s awake, he should have (supervised) time on his 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 him and encouraging him to lift his head up. Put items with different colors and textures (like a soft towel) underneath him 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 his bath. Point out how the leaves outside are changing color. It may seem boring to you but trust us, he’s listening.

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 her favorite sounds). Look for board books with pictures of faces or high-contrast patterns in black and white or bright colors.

Go outside
Besides the health benefits (fresh air and vitamin D), being outdoors is fun for babies. “Kids should be outside,” Asta says. “They should toddle around and explore nooks and crannies.” Join a “mommy-and-me” group that meets in an outside space, like a park, and you’ll have extra motivation to get out on a regular basis.

Slow down
Turn your phone on silent every now and then. Focus on baby and slow down to his pace. “Babies change so quickly; every day seems to last a lifetime,” she 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.”

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Photo: Rob & Julia Campbell