A lot of new parents have a picture of what they expect parenthood to be like, but it doesn’t always turn out to be the idealistic dream of cuddling and smooches. Although there is of course, lots of this too.
But there are going to be times where you are tired, covered in milk, sick of changing nappies and rocking your baby to sleep for the hundredth time… and it’s only 11 am.
A lot of new parents often feel the need to stay on top of housework, so in between the laundry, cooking and managing visitors, there isn’t much time for anything else.
But it’s so important to understand that playing and interacting with your newborn is fundamental for both you and your baby. Not only is it forced time for your tired self to stop, and appreciate the little person you have in your arms… it is important for your baby’s development.
Your newborn will feel safe when they get what they need from you, whether this is something as simple as a cuddle or smile. Creating a bond and attachment with you will help them to learn and explore their world.
Interacting with your newborn might not come so naturally in the beginning – and that’s ok. It can be difficult to know what to do with such a tiny little person, especially if it’s your first time at it.
More than dangling toys and games, playing with your newborn is simply about the interactions between the primary caregiver and baby. This is such an important time that goes extremely fast and you don’t get back, so don’t feel bad if you catch yourself, wasting the day away staring at each other.
There will be plenty of opportunities for toys and games in the future – when feeds become less frequent, playtime increases and you find yourself swapping ‘baby babble’ sooner than you can blink.
Why ‘playing’ with your newborn is important
Playing and interacting with your newborn will allow you to get to know each other, and also help your baby learn about their place in the world. By playing with your baby, they will learn to trust you, feel loved and secure.
Newborn play is very simple – singing and talking, pulling faces, smiling and blowing raspberries are perfect ways to be together. You will begin to understand your baby’s personality as a parent, whether it is silly or quiet play, you’ll soon know what your baby likes.
Activities for bonding with your baby
Here are some of our favourite simple activities to help nurture your bond with your newborn:
1. Baby massage
Massage is the perfect way to bond with your baby. When your baby is very young, begin by placing them on their front and massaging their back using lotion or a moisturiser for delicate skin. Make sure the temperature of the room is warm, and take time to gently massage your baby with baby cream or oil from head to toe.
Be sure to stop if your baby gets distressed or is overtired, as you can always try again another day. Once your baby is calm and relaxed, you can gently dress and wrap them for bed.
2. Have a chat
Talking around your baby is important for their language development and starts from the very beginning of their life. Hold your baby in front of you and talk to them in a soothing, reassuring voice. Use facial expressions as you tell a story or make sounds so that they start to learn the connection between the two.
3. Tummy time
This is an important exercise to help them develop upper body strength in preparation for rolling over, sitting up, crawling and eventually those precious first steps. Start with short periods of 1-2 minutes, 2-3 times a day in the early weeks. Increase the timing as your baby gets stronger and more comfortable. You may feel like your newborn doesn’t enjoy tummy time at first, and it will take time to slowly build up their timings. This is a great opportunity for you to relax and lay down with them.
4. Singing & dancing
This is a nice way for both you and your baby, to relax and enjoy some precious cuddle time. Put on your favourite music and then sing and dance like nobody is watching. They will love to hear the sound of your voice (even if you don’t) and it’s a great way for you to get in touch with your body and start moving those hips again. You will be surprised what a little sing-a-long and dance can do for the mood!
5. House tours
Take the time to slowly move through the house, look out through each window. Click on the lights and marvel at any artwork you have. Make sure you talk to your baby as you go, as language development starts from a very early age. The great thing is, you can do this activity wherever you are, whether it be outside, or simply in a different environment to usual.
6. Sensory play
Babies are born with the natural ability to grasp but it isn’t until around 3 months that they truly develop this skill. Whilst your baby may not yet be grasping at toys and rattles, you can start to stimulate their sense of touch by rubbing fabric gently over their skin when they are laying down or during nappy changes. As with any activity, be sure to talk to your baby through the process… you can ask them, does that feel soft?
7. Baby Aeroplane
This is a fun activity for when your baby gets a little older and stronger! Start by making sure you have a comfortable surface, and sit with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your baby’s tummy on your lower legs and hold onto their torso as you lie back on the ground. Then raise them up into the air like an aeroplane!
Knowing when to stop…
If you notice your baby is tense, unsettled, looking or pulling away, then they might be trying to tell you they have had enough. You can either try a more calm approach or may have simply exceeded their ‘awake time’ window and it’s time to settle them for sleep.
Remember not to forget about you!
You’ll be flooded with advice on activities and suggestions on how to nurture the bond with your newborn, and not necessarily all will work for your family. If you need a break (which everyone does at some stage), seek help from your friends, family or support network so you can take some time for yourself – even if it’s for an hour! That way you will have the energy you need to happily interact with your little family.
These early weeks with your newborn are such a special, fulfilling time to marvel at the beautiful little person you have created. Be sure to follow your baby’s lead, and take the time to simply ‘be’ together.