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Q&A: playing with a newborn

You can never fully prepare for a newborn baby, especially if it’s your first! Once the wonder and amazement passes you can find yourself exhausted, caught up in the daily cycles and at a loss as to how best to fill your time.

Whilst it may appear that newborns don’t do anything (except sleep!), they actually learn a HUGE amount during their first few months, all of which they learn by interacting with you.

When should you start playing with your newborn baby?

You can start interacting with your baby during any awake time they have, including when they are moments old. Many experts say that even when your baby is hours old, they will copy you poking out your tongue at them- isn’t that amazing?! It is never too early to start interacting with your little one, don’t forget.. they will recognise your voice from pregnancy!

Should you play with a newborn to keep them awake?

No, this is not something we would advise at all. Newborn babies can get over stimulated and become unsettled incredibly quickly. We strongly suggest you being responsive to your little ones awake times but do not try to keep them awake as they will be come overtired and then potentially struggle to sleep. When a baby is young, the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) suggest they will sleep for around 16-18 hours in a 24 hour period.

How do you play with a newborn after feeding?

There are many ways you can interact with your little one when they are newborn, but most importantly, they like to feel safe and be close to you. There is a lot of research about this if you research the ‘fourth trimester’.

Some ideas to interact with them are:

· Sitting with your little one facing you on your lap with your knees up and looking at their face, echoing what they are doing with facing expressions and noises making sure you have eye to eye contact

  • Talking to them and loving them, ensuring you are offering lots of kisses- this is incredibly special and helps produce lots of oxytocin!

  • Tummy time (please see next point with more information about this)

  • Allowing your little one to look into a mirror

  • Making the room dark and turning on some fairy lights (this offers a lovely sensory experience for your little one!)

  • Playing some gentle and calm music

  • Laying them on a playmat or somewhere safe (please do not put your little one on a raised surface as some babies can roll over before they are 6 weeks!) under a mobile. This will offer them something to look at whilst having a stretch

  • Offering them black, white and red things to see (your baby will start to see colours around 2-3 months old)

  • Taking your little one out for a walk. Whether this is tucked up in the pram or in a sling. Being outside has so many benefits for you and your little one

When should I start tummy time?

It is never too early to start tummy time (unless you have been advised otherwise by a health professional)! Little ones often do not like being on their tummy, so ensure you do this little and often, even if it is after every nappy change. Ensure to time it right and not straight after a feeed! Tummy time counts as anytime your little one is not laid on their back. Some other ways to offer your little one tummy time can be: chest to chest with you, laid across your knees when you are sat down, and held up right. It is helpful to keep rotating them around as they will get bored quickly.

There are so many benefits to your little one having tummy time. As well as strengthening their core muscles for crawling, it also helps with their neck control and speech and language.

Newborn toys – are there any you would recommend?

I would encourage you to look for sensory items which include strong colours, remembering that newborn’s sight is limited in the early days and predominantly they will be able to see red, white and black for the first few weeks. Your face is the most invaluable activity for your newborn, but when you need a slight change of routine, mirrors, lights and other sensory lights and calm music are always good! I would reassure you that you really DO NOT need to spend a lot of money on toys for your little ones, however old they are! They are most happy when playing outdoors in puddles, and sat close with a loved one reading a story!

Any other advice you feel it’s worth adding?

The first few months of parenthood can be amazing but equally hard, especially if you do not have many family and friends around you. We would strongly encourage you to seek help for anything you need, ask questions and build up a network of people you feel you can turn to and trust. There is never a silly question and always trust your instinct with regards to your little one. Don’t forget you know them better than anyone else!

If you are feeling low, anxious or emotionally different to your norm, then please do seek help. This does not make you a ‘bad parent’ but just a ‘normal’ one! There are so many people to help and support you feel well again. Your health visitor, midwife and GP are there for you, as well as many other professionals, so please do not be alone.

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