By Laura A. Jana MD, FAAP and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP, HealthyChildren.org
The following is an excerpt from “Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality” (Second Edition):
Perhaps the most important message we hope to get across is that you don’t need to put undue pressure on yourself when considering what to do with your baby. The types of activities we’re talking about are simple, but to help make sure we’re all on the same page, we’ve put together a quick list to get you started.
- Time for a talk. Sound simple? That’s because it is. While some new parents feel a bit funny about talking to babies who can’t talk back, this isn’t the same as talking to yourself. Whenever you take the time to talk to your baby while changing his diaper, tell him about your plans for the day or just comment on whatever it is that comes to mind. The nuances may be lost on him for a while, but he’ll definitely be listening and learning.
- Take a walk. Not only does taking a walk get you both some fresh air and you some exercise, but it gives you plenty more interesting things to talk about and describe to your baby. We’re both fans of front-pouch carriers or slings, as they offer you the close contact that is even more conducive for carrying on a conversation.
- Sing, sing a song. One of the classic Sesame Street songs says it perfectly: Don’t worry if you’re not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing, sing a song! Your newborn will not only cut you some slack if you happen to sing off key, but will instantly become your biggest fan.
- Imitate. Start by sticking your tongue out and you may be surprised to find that your newborn copies you. Move on to making some exaggerated facial expressions and repeating sounds your baby makes, and before long you’ll find that she’ll imitate you as well!
- Stay in touch. Massage is a great way to stay in touch with your baby. Anyone who has ever had one will agree that it is relaxing. But beyond just relaxation, touch is a particularly important part of how young babies experience the world, and massage can be a true bonding experience — whether you make it up as you go along or buy a book on the art of baby massage.
- Read a book. The entire reading-with-your-baby experience is custom designed to foster both fun and learning, from the close contact of being held, to hearing the sound of your voice, to watching the pictures and pages go by. In your baby’s first months, however, don’t worry too much about pictures, because it’s the time you share and the sound of your voice that your baby will care about most. In fact, we suggest you take this opportunity to read aloud whatever you find to be the most interesting, since it will only be a matter of months before your baby will expect to have a say in which book(s) you read! As enthusiastic supporters of books for babies, we’ve also included an additional chapter on the subject for your reading pleasure.
In your quest to be the best parent you can be, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to (ie, shouldn’t) set up a jam-packed schedule of constant singing, reading, walking, and talking. The fact of the matter is that the simple activities of daily living — right down to the diapering, feeding, bathing, and changing of clothes — expose babies to lots of exciting and “educational” sights, sounds, and smells. All this new and interesting stimulation can really add up, so remember to give yourself, and your baby, a break. You both will need time each day to relax!
Pediatricians, moms and authors, Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP, and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP, offer a wealth of “parent-tested, pediatrician-approved” advice in “Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality,” Second Edition (American Academy of Pediatrics, September 2010). Available on the American Academy of Pediatrics official website for parents, HealthyChildren.org at www.healthychildren.org/heading-home. Also available in bookstores nationwide.