New parents are often overwhelmed with the amount of “stuff” that comes with having a baby. Without previous experience, it’s hard to know what you NEED and how to use all the contraptions you may get from baby showers. Here’s a quick look around your home and what you can use to stimulate your baby’s development.
Let’s start in the baby’s room. Sleep is important for a baby’s development (and crucial to parents’ sanity). Although a baby sleeps 17 hours a day, it may not feel that way to a new mom/dad. Establishing a good sleeping routine early impacts your child’s future sleeping and overall development. A baby’s sleep problems are not something they will “grow out of”. Good and healthy patterns need to be established early.
An infant coming out of the womb has been surrounded for 9 months by an environment that’s confined, warm, dark, stimulating in movement and sounds. This can be very different than how we expect our baby to go to sleep. Dr. Karp, author or “Happiest Baby”, suggests the “Five S’s”: Swaddle (wrap arms snug at side, but let hips be loose and flexed), Side/Stomach position (only put your child to sleep on his/her back), Shush (using a CD, white noise machine or simple making this sound near your baby’s ear), Swing (fast and tiny movements while supporting child’s head/neck), Suck (pacifiers may be necessary for self soothing until 6 months when it then becomes more “habit”). Families can find books, DVDs and local classes that teach this technique to help you and your child sleep better.
Bathtime is obviously a time to clean your baby, but also a great time to bond with him/her. The warmth and sensation of water, being wrapped tightly in a towel and often the input of the putting lotion on the baby can relax and make the baby feel safe, allowing them focus on and communicate with the caregiver. Any loving touch is good for babies, however, knowing infant massage techniques can empower families to more specifically touch their baby in a way that may stimulate relaxation, bonding, attention and learning, and relief from ailments that may make your baby uncomfortable (gas, colic, constipation, teething, etc.). A few general suggestions when massaging your baby include learning to “read” your baby’s cues and finding the optimal time for this input, limiting other sensory stimuli (e.g., bright lights, lots of sound), and talking to and engaging your baby while massaging him/her. Pediatric Interactions has therapists trained in infant massage.
Bath time, or more likely shower time for mom/dad, is a both a necessity and a luxury. Often these occur the few precious moments as your baby is sleeping. As your little one is awake more often, you will still need to shower. Place your child under a playmat with colorful objects hanging above them. Add more rings to the toys so they are closer to your child and they don’t have to initially reach so far away to move and explore the hanging toy.
As your child gets older and begins to roll, you will need to put them into something that will contain them better. These jumper seats are just that…CONTAINERS and “Container (or Bucket) Baby Syndrome” (CBS) is an epidemic that has increased in incidence due to the prolonged use of equipment like these. Babies should spend at least 50% of their waking time on their tummies. The result of CBS can be weakness, deformities, delayed development of skills, poor attention and other behaviors.
So use jumpers, walkers, car seats and other equipment that keeps your child off the floor sparingly for those times your need your child to be safe when you may not have your full attention on them.
Initially meals don’t occur in a specific location, as a baby is eating every two to three hours. However, your baby will start to anticipate feedings when they see the bottle or when placed in the position to feed. As your baby grows and his/her eating is on a more predictable schedule, include your child in mealtimes. Even early on, you will be exposing your child to new foods (even through sights, smells).
Drinking from a straw can be introduced as early as early as 6 months of age. Straws promote more mature mouth movements than a sippy cup (so skip the sippy). Give your child sips from an open cup you are holding or there are now many cups available at the store with recessed lids and other modifications of an “open cup”.
Another trend in infant/toddler feeding is “Baby Led Weaning”. Just as it sounds, it’s letting your child feed him/herself foods starting around 6 months of age. Historically, babies first introduction to solid foods has been pureed babyfoods. This approach encourages parents to introduce suitably-sized pieces of the foods that you have on your table for the rest of the family.
All those toys!
Playing with a variety of toys will stimulate all your child’s senses (indestructible toys, black and white, “Sophie” giraffe, textured rings, toys that light up or make sounds). While storing them all can be a challenge. While there are many “storage systems” available out there, often early on just a simple basket/bin can be used to have your baby’s toys easily accessible and out of the way. Have only a few toys out at a time and rotate these every few days to keep your child interested.