I want to give you ideas on bonding with your newborn at home. I’ll tell you how to enjoy the time better together, give you different ways to help bonding and how to kill time when you feel that every day is the same or time passes slowly.
The first months at home with a newborn baby is a beautiful time. But it can also be a challenging time, especially when you have limited help, limited space or little chance to leave the house.
While the majority of the first weeks or even months are spent on feeding, changing diapers and (hopefully) sleeping, it’s important to spend time on bonding and getting to know each other. Skin-to-skin, kangaroo care and feeding are all great ways for bonding and to spend time with your baby, but there are other ways to enjoy the time together and to make life easier with a small baby at home. Not to mention having fun!
As with all other people, remember to wash your hands (or at least use a hand sanitizer) before handling your baby. Newborn babies don’t have a strong immune system, so it’s important to make sure they don’t get in touch with germs.
Playing with a newborn
It might sound impossible to play with a newborn baby, but playing isn’t necessarily about toys or games, but enjoying the time together and the interaction between you and your baby. You might feel, especially as a new mother, that you don’t know what to do with your baby. That’s very normal, as you’re getting to know a new person. Nobody knows at first what kind of personality the baby has, not even you, and playing helps you get to know each other. Through play you’ll get to know a lot about your baby’s personality and what your baby likes. It also helps with your baby’s brain development and how to interact with the world. Last, but not least, playing will make your baby feel loved and secure.
These 10 ideas of games for a newborn are:
- Whisper a secret
- Play Peekaboo
- Light tickle
- Have a roll around
- Look in a mirror
- Shake some noise
- Dance the two-step
- Explore new smells
- Take a baby bike ride
- Go up & away (baby airplane)
Other ways to play with your baby is to smile, stick your tongue out, make expressions and sensory play. Give him/her new things to look at, for example by moving the baby seat at home to different directions or moving it between rooms. The baby will see your shadows, see different shapes and movement at first. With time the baby will see more colors and see further away from him/her.
Talk to your small baby
Your newborn baby will obviously not understand everything you say. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk to her/him though. Chatting about what’s going on, while you’re sorting the laundry, cooking dinner or doing exercises, will help your baby understand words and learn to talk. Babies understand a lot more than you might realize. According to Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 6 month old babies are already able to categorize words, which is an important skill when it comes to language development and future learning. And according to PNAS: “The more they hear labels for what they’re looking at and attending to, the stronger their overall comprehension.“
You will soon realize when talking to your baby that she/he knows your voice and can sense the tone of your voice also. Showing emotions through your tone of voice will also help them sensing other people’s feelings and giving them eye contact while talking to them can reinforce their visual development. According to the University of Cambridge: “making eye contact with an infant makes adults' and babies' brainwaves 'get in sync' with each other, which is likely to support communication and learning.”
Read for your baby
It’s never too early to start reading for your baby. In fact, research shows that reading to newborns at the NICU boosts bonding. Reading to your baby at the NiCU can help you develop the same feelings of intimacy that parents of healthy newborns experience in the first weeks of baby’s birth.
But not only babies at NICU benefit from hearing their parents reading for them. Reading for babies helps with their own talking skills and reading skills later on. Research shows that the more words babies are exposed to, the better they will be equipped when they start reading on their own. As with talking to your baby, reading will also support social and emotional development.
I know how hard it can be spending many hours of the day sitting in a chair and how tiresome it can be not having adult conversations for a long time. You can make these moments of reading even more enjoyable for you in the first months. If you don’t feel like reading children’s books all the time that doesn’t matter, as your newborn doesn’t understand the words yet. You can read whatever you feel like, such as your own books, the newspaper, magazine articles or even your friends’ social media posts. You can even do this while you are feeding and perhaps you’ll read for older siblings also. But what is most important: reading will make your baby happy, feeling the closeness of you and hearing your voice.
Reading should be a part of your regular family routine. That will help with bonding with your newborn and encourage your child to enjoy books and associate them with happiness, which makes it less likely that they’ll feel reading being a boring chore that needs to be done only for school. Reading together will be a nice shared activity you can continue for a long time.
Journal your baby’s milestones
When my boys were small I loved catching milestones on camera. Not only is it a great way to keep memories, helping with bonding with your newborn, but also a fun way to spend time with your baby. You can spend time on Pinterest for baby photography ideas, using your home as the studio.
There are many ways to journal your baby’s milestones. You can do this not only in photos, but also in words. A book to journal your baby’s first years can be a great guideline to catching fun memories and what might be interesting to you and your baby in the future.
If you like DIY you can also create your own baby (bullet) journal.
Photos can both be printed and used in a journal or photo album, but also to keep the memories online. A great way to do this is to purchase, or create, milestone cards. These are placed with the baby at certain moments in their lives, such as at certain ages and when specific skills are reached, and a photo snapped.
Create a schedule and take shifts
As with all other children, small babies like routine and it helps them both sleep better and be happier during waking hours. Make sure the schedule fits the baby, so discovering its natural sleep rhythm is the first step to creating the schedule. Make sure to follow our blog, as we’ll soon write more about sleep schedules for different ages.
You’ll soon see a pattern in when your baby is sleepy, how long the naps are and when he/she is hungry. Writing it down will help you build a foundation for the schedule. The schedule should then include all the things you know that both you and your baby need. These can for example be: playtime/interaction, naps, feeding, work and your own sleep. Don’t forget that after waking up many times during the night you’ll also want to catch up on some sleep during the day.
If you have a partner at home with you, whether it’s all day or only part of the day/night, make sure to get the partner involved as much as you can and take shifts. Weekends are also a great time for you to catch up on some sleep, if your partner doesn’t work during weekends. If you’re breastfeeding you’ll most likely have to wake up to feed during the night, but you could sleep in while your partner takes care of the baby in the morning after feeding. This also helps your partner bond with the baby. Dinner is also a good time to take shifts. While one of you cooks, the other one takes care of the baby, whether you like to be able to get alone time to cook or you like for someone else to take care of that for you.
If you have older children your partner can help a lot with taking care of them. There are many things to think about in regards to the siblings also: taking them to school, making sure they don’t disturb while the baby is drinking or sleeping, helping them with homework and taking care of their own sleep routine. You might want to be involved in some of these things, as it’s common for older siblings to feel jealous or left out, although your partner might become their main caregiver for some time.
Having some time together with and without the baby (and older siblings) is also important. These moments will help you keep your own bond and help you understand each other better as parents. Don’t forget that after having children you are not only parents, but also still the persons you were before. Make sure you take care of your most important hobbies, interests and relationships, although this could be hard at first. But make sure you don’t expect too much of yourself or your partner. This is a time of learning and loving, not the time of meeting unrealistic societal expectations <3
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