The first few weeks after giving birth are full of changes and adjustments both for a new mommy and her newborn. Although it is quite easy to be caught up in the seemingly endless routine of diaper changing, breastfeeding, and putting your little one to sleep, the first few weeks is a great opportunity to get to know your baby and bond with her.
Since newborns usually only sleep, nurse, and poop/pee, most new moms are at a loss on how else to interact with their baby especially since exhaustion can make every mom want to just sleep every chance she gets. While it is true that you cannot expect a lot of engagement from babies during the first few weeks, you will be surprised how enjoyable and fun it can be when you maximize your baby’s alert time. Here are a few ideas:
1. Give your baby a massage. If you are one of those who are wary of giving your baby a massage, fret not! Although your baby may seem tiny and fragile, it is perfectly okay to give him a massage. In fact, if you have not started doing this to your baby, it’s about time to do so.
A study done between June 2008 and February 2010 showed that baby massage is effective in increasing the attachment between a mother and her infant. Various other studies have also shown that massage can lower stress in babies and help them sleep more and cry less. The great thing is you don’t need to be a trained massage therapist to give your baby a massage. Simply put a few drops of your baby’s favorite oil on your palm, rub your hands together, and then gently rub it onto your baby’s skin. There is no need for deep pressure here – only gentle rubbing and light squeezing.
Put some variety in your massage sessions by alternately using your palm and then just your fingers on your baby’s body. Count his toes and fingers and make gentle movements with his arms and legs. You can try being more playful by trying out various ways of touching him, but make sure to be mindful and sensitive to your baby’s reaction. Do more of the movements that your baby seems to like and less of those that he is not reacting well to. As your baby gets bigger, you can move on to light tickles and you just might get to hear your baby’s first giggles.
2. Sing to your baby. Bring out the inner videoke queen in you, because there is no sound that a baby loves more than the sound of her mother’s voice. From the time your baby can hear sounds from inside the womb, yours is a constant and reassuring voice for her. Although a great singing voice will be appreciated by people around you, your baby will not mind some off-key notes from you.
Feel free to belt-out some well-loved nursery rhymes and songs, but don’t be afraid to move beyond this genre. Again, watch your baby’s reaction and you will be able to get a better grasp of specific songs and types of music that she prefers. Sing to your baby often and she just might surprise you during one of your singing sessions by cooing along with you.
3. Go face to face with your baby. Unlike the sense of touch and sense of sound, your baby’s sense of sight is not fully developed at birth. It will, however, gradually improve during the first few weeks. Even if your newborn baby cannot see clearly yet, stimulate his vision by going face to face with him. Your face is one of the most beautiful and fascinating sights for your baby and he will love looking at it. Point at and name the parts of your face, then do the same thing to your baby’s face. Provide added stimulation by making different faces and expressions. You might even want to go for the full ensemble by talking to him to engage his sense of sound as well and you’ll eventually be rewarded with a showcase of your baby’s own expressions.
4. Dance with your baby. Almost all babies love to be held and holding her while dancing can be a very enjoyable activity for both of you. There’s no need for fancy movements -- even a simple swaying movement will do. Turn up the tempo for morning dances to energize both of you and then go for slow and languid movements to get your little one ready for sleeping.
5. Get down on the floor with your baby. Who would not get bored just lying down on a crib without a change in setting and sights? Entertain your baby by placing a soft and safe mat on the floor and then letting your little one have his tummy time. Not only will your baby get to practice those muscles he will need for staying upright, sitting up, and crawling, your baby will also get to have a look around from a different perspective.
6. Allow your baby to touch things. Although baby toys are great for this activity, do not be limited to these. For as long as what you let him touch is safe for handling and you keep a close eye on your baby, then you can simply look around your house for something he can touch and feel. This activity targets your baby’s sense of touch so go for a variety of textures. Some items you can try aside from your baby’s toys are different fabrics such as a silky blouse, a pair of rough denim pants, a soft cotton shirt, and a flannel towel.
7. Read to your baby. Numerous materials assert the benefits of reading aloud to babies. Aside from the benefits it provides, reading a story to your little one is a great bonding activity for the two of you. Do not expect your baby to respond or even appear to be listening –- it does not reflect on your storytelling skills. Rest assured that your baby is taking in the stimuli and the activity is serving as a great foundation for a lifelong practice that your child will benefit from having.
There are countless other ways you can play and interact with your newborn baby. The key is to go for activities that will stimulate his senses, strengthen your bond, and allow you to enjoy each other.