Friday, January 15, 2010

Entertaining Your Baby Without Breaking the Bank

Each one of us here at the Human Lactation Center knows what it is like to be a new mom. In fact, 3 of us have kids under 4 years old! We know how it feels to never have a minute to ourselves and to struggle to get everything done. In our last post, we talked about the time and expense involved in buying products designed to entertain babies and we shared some of the reasons why baby videos are not good babysitters. Now, it's time to share some ideas about ways to keep your baby happy while you're trying to get things done without buying any fancy baby "gear."

  • As we mentioned in a previous post, young babies get exercise just by being able to move their arms and legs. If you need a few minutes to make a phone call, let your baby spend some time laying on her back in her crib, even if she is awake. If you will be close by, you might want to put her down on her tummy on a mat or blanket on the floor (in a safe place where you can see her) so she has a chance to move around. You may think this sounds boring, but babies are easily entertained by simple things, even watching their own feet. If you want to make sure she isn't bored, you can put on some music.

  • While cooking dinner, place a few unbreakable bowls, spoons and utensils on the floor for your baby to play with. Or, designate a few drawers that are out of baby's reach in the kitchen where you can store safe playthings like kitchen towels, small pots and pans, or plastic/wooden bowls to keep your baby busy. Rotate these items by taking them out of the drawers and putting them back when your baby gets tired of them. Remember to vary their size, color, and shape to keep baby's interest.

  • Need a few moments in the bathroom? Pull a playpen into the bathroom or up to the open doorway. Fill it with a few fun, safe toys & books, place baby in, and you might get about 5 uninterrupted minutes to take a quick shower. Singing a few songs to your baby while you shower may entertain her enough to buy you 5 more minutes!

  • Wear your baby in a sling or front pack. You'll be surprised what you can get accomplished with both of your hands free! Also, your baby will love being close to you and watching (and learning from) everything you do. You can straighten up the house, throw together a quick lunch (just don't use the stove), gather laundry, or do other chores.

  • Share the fun! Ask your partner, friend, or family member to play simple games with your baby so that you can take a break. I know this seems obvious, but sometimes parents forget to ask for help! If you have older children, they can be wonderful "entertainers" for your baby. Just be sure to supervise their play in case they get a little too enthusiastic!

  • Plan 1 or 2 chores around baby's nap time. Don't go overboard on this one. Don't try to get everything done while baby sleeps. Your rest is more important than most household chores.

  • If you are trying to get a break from a crying baby, remember it is best to use repetitive sounds (like singing) and movements (like rocking) to calm your baby. It may be tempting to use a video to quiet your baby. Your baby may even stop crying for a few moments to stare at the screen, but all the noises and flashing images on the video won't calm your baby, so the quiet won't last long.

  • Some babies need "entertaining" because they are getting either too little or too much stimulation. If your baby spends too much time in the car seat or looking at the same wall, don't be surprised if she demands some attention. Watch for her cues that she is ready to play and rather than fighting it, give in and play for a little while. Babies get tired easily and you'll get your break. Alternatively, make sure that your baby doesn't get too much stimulation (for example, at dinner time) so that you end up having to spend an hour calming her down. A little goes a long way when it comes to playtime with your baby.

Now it's your turn. Tell us how you keep your baby entertained without spending money or using videos.

Next time: We'll share some ideas about dealing with overly enthusiastic friends and family.

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