My daughter is in labor half way across the nation this very minute. She has so many blessings and so many people that are cheering her on. She is so excited to become a mother. I hope Sky fills her heart with joy and love, just like she filled mine. I was flooded with emotions that I never had before as my heart seemed like it was going to burst as the nurse put her in my arms for the first time. And it's amazing how easily they become the focus in every decision we make after they are born.
But not all parents hearts are filled with joy as they become parents. Not all babies are born into families that are financially or emotionally ready to take care of them. This generation of babies, born into my family, are so lucky to get both.
However, I can't tell you all the emotions that I felt when I met a mom that literally hated being a mom. I was just stunned, when I heard her say that outload. I literally went to the bathroom to vomit. So, even if you are struggling with being a parent of a new baby, I hope to be a cheerleader for you to find moments of joy in your day and to give you resources to smooth out some of the bumbs in your parenting journey.
Now I will share some enlightening internet articles of encouragement for parents who want to be a fun parent. I am writing this booklet in hopes that I can inspire you to enjoy parenting more. It is so fun to get to play and nurture a baby. I waited a long time to be a mom. I thought every minute that I spent at home with babies and children was a gift and a job to raise into loving human being. There is no magical schedule, set of tips, list of milestones that fit every child. So when you read articles about them, use them as a guide as you start on your adventure of raising little ones. Your responsibilities and goals are unique and different than anyone else's.
21 TIPS FOR THE FIRST 21 DAYS WITH BABY
THE BEST TIPS AND TRICKS TO HELP YOU SURVIVE THE NEWBORN STAGE
Even though this is my second time having a newborn, I’ve still been shocked and surprised at how much work they are. It’s amazing how quickly you forget the early days as your child grows. Luckily, you only tend to remember the good things. Those first few weeks of baby’s life can be tough, but there are some easy ways you can simplify life with a newborn. Here are 21 tips for the first 21 days with baby.
1. BREASTFEED DURING THE GOLDEN HOUR
If you chose to breastfeed your baby, one of the best things you can do to set yourself up for success is to breastfeed during the golden hour. The golden hour is the time right after birth when your baby is calm and alert. It’s a great time to try to nurse and your baby’s natural instinct will be to find the nipple. You can find more great tips about breastfeeding your newborn here! If you’re still pregnant, check out Milkology, the Ultimate Breastfeeding Course. It teaches you everything you need to know about breastfeeding your baby, all from the comfort of your own home. I can’t tell you how many times I got back into the course after my son was born to learn more about latching, and engorgement, and all things breastfeeding.
2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE HOSPITAL NURSERY
I know it’s hard to let your newborn leave your sight after you just waited nine long months to meet them, but you need to take advantage of the hospital nursery. This could be your last chance to get uninterrupted sleep for a very long time. After an exhausting labor and delivery, it’s so important to get as much sleep as you possibly can before it’s time to bring your baby home and start your new life.
3.TAKE HOME EVERYTHING FROM THE HOSPITAL
Don’t be afraid to take all the disposable postpartum products and baby products from the hospital before you leave. I’m talking about diapers, wipes, maxi pads, postpartum underwear, ice packs, etc. In my opinion, you can never have enough of these things. Once you get that hospital bill, you’ll be glad you got your money’s worth.
4.INTRODUCING AN OLDER SIBLING
I was a nervous wreck about introducing Weston to his new little brother. I didn’t want him to be jealous or feel like he had been replaced when he came to the hospital to meet him. My doctor gave us great advice on how to introduce them and I think it worked out beautifully. Before Weston got to our hospital room, we wheeled the baby down to the nursery. Once Weston arrived, we spent a few minutes giving hugs and kisses and answering questions about my IV (he was very concerned). Then we walked down to the nursery as a family to pick up his new baby brother. He was so excited to see him through the window and helped me push the bassinet back to our room. Picking the baby up from the nursery together seemed like a much gentler way to introduce them than to just have a new baby on mommy’s lap as soon as he walked through the door. If you’re concerned about how your big sibling will react to your new baby, check out this awesome new sibling printable kit! It has tips for parents, games and coloring pages to help prepare them for baby, fun activities, a countdown to baby, and more! It’s such a sweet way to slowly introduce the new baby to your older kiddos.
5. BE PREPARED TO CLUSTER FEED
If you’re breastfeeding, be prepared to cluster feed. While it can be extremely exhausting and even frustrating at times, it’s nature’s way of getting your milk supply up and running. It’s also nature’s way of helping your baby prepare to sleep for longer stretches at night. Most newborns will cluster feed in the evenings. Cluster feeding is basically nursing on and off for hours at a time, with very little time in between nursing sessions. Remember, cluster feeding is not a sign that your baby isn’t getting enough milk. My best advice is to get comfortable, find something to binge watch, and remember that it doesn’t last forever.
6. TAKE A BREASTFEEDING COURSE
While I think it’s great to take a breastfeeding course while you’re still pregnant, it can also be extremely helpful after you’ve had your baby. I took Milkology, an online breastfeeding course, before having Elliott, but I’ve actually found it more helpful since I’ve had him. We had some latching issues in the beginning and I immediately logged in to the course and replayed the lesson on latching and positioning. I also replayed the lesson on what to expect in the first month. I love that I have lifetime access to the course and can go back to it whenever I need to.
7. GET A HAAKAA
If there is one product I’d tell a breastfeeding mom to get, it would be a Haakaa. A Haakaa is a silicone breast “pump” that suctions on to your second breast when you’re nursing. I put pump in parenthesis because it’s not actually making a pumping or sucking motion. It’s more or less pulling and catching milk from your other breast that would otherwise go to waste in a nursing pad. I have saved so much milk using this thing and already started to build a freezer stash. It’s also helped me when I’m feeling really engorged and don’t want to use my actual breast pump. I absolutely love it and highly recommend it to any breastfeeding mom (especially because it’s extremely affordable). Note: I didn’t get the one with the stopper and I regret it. It’s top heavy and can tip over easily.
I have another post titled “8 Genius Ways to Prepare your Home for Baby” and I share this tip there too. If you have room, set up your pack n’ play in your main living space. Most new pack n’ plays come with bonus features like a changing table and bassinet. It’s a great to have a space to change your baby, let your baby sleep, and keep all your random baby stuff.
9. GET A BABY BUM BRUSH
Newborn’s skin is super sensitive. Speaking only from my own experience with two babies, diaper rash is likely to be an issue in the first few weeks. Those sweet little booties are trying to adjust to diapers, and pooping, and the outside world. The Baby Bum Brush is a genius product to help you cut down on the diaper cream mess and keep your fingers out of your baby’s butt (just keeping it real here).
10. ONLY USE ZIP-UP PAJAMAS AT NIGHT
I forgot how many diapers newborn babies go through. Every time Elliott wakes up to eat, I change his diaper as well. Simplify late night diaper changes by only using zip-up pajamas when changing your baby for bed. The last thing you want to do at 3AMis fuss around with a bunch of buttons.
11. KEEP BABY BY YOUR BEDSIDE
Obviously, this is a personal matter, but I’ve found that keeping my baby by my bedside is the easiest way to maximize sleep for the entire family. First, it coincides with safe sleep guidelines. Second, if you’re breastfeeding, it’s so much easier to just reach over and scoop up your baby rather than running to the nursery every few hours. Lastly, if you have other children you don’t want to wake, having your baby right next to you is the easiest way to cut down on the crying and get your newborn back to sleep as soon as possible (without waking up the entire house).
12. GET VELCRO SWADDLES
Many babies love to be swaddled when they first come home from the hospital. It comforts them and reminds them of being in the womb. Using a velcro swaddle is so much easier than rewrapping your newborn every few hours, and I find them to be a lot safer as well. Both of my babies have been able to break free of regular swaddles and wind up with part of the blanket covering their face. The Velcro swaddles stay put and keep your baby safe and snug.
My favorite nighttime trick is to put together a diaper caddy and keep it by your bed. When Weston was a baby, I took him to the nursery for every changing in the middle of the night. This time, I decided I didn’t want to leave my bed. All I do is lay out a towel and change him right there. Our diaper caddy includes:
I absolutely love the Glow Baby app. We’ve used it for both babies and it has been so helpful. The app allows you to track feedings, wet and dirty diapers, and baby’s sleep patterns. Since I breastfeed, it’s so important to keep track to which side he nursed, how long he nursed, and how many wet and dirty diapers he produced in a day. The app is easy to use and helps you keep track of everything when you’re too tired to do it on your own. If you’d rather not download another app, you can grab my newborn care log here! It’s an instant download that you can print and track feedings and diaper changes.
15. DOWNLOAD THE WONDER WEEKS APP
Another app I live by is the Wonder Weeks app. The Wonder Weeks app allows you to see when your child is going through a developmental leap and gives you an idea of what they’re behavior might be like during that leap. As a mom who always wants an answer for why my baby is fussy, this app is a lifesaver. We had it for Weston and it was eerily accurate. It’s a must have in my book.
16. TRY GRIPE WATER
Gripe water is a natural over the counter remedy for gas, colic, fussiness, and hiccups. It’s safe to use with newborns and starts working almost instantly. Both of my babies have had problems passing gas and are not a fan of the hiccups. When they get overly fussy and start pulling their knees to their bellies, I can usually blame it on gas. Gripe water has been a lifesaver, especially with Elliott who seems to be a little fussier than his older brother.
17. KEEP YOUR DIAPER BAG PACKED
Always keep your diaper bag packed and ready to go. Stock it up when you get home from an outing, rather than right before you leave. Leaving the house with a newborn takes forever (I had nearly forgotten how difficult it is). One way to cutdown on that time is to make sure you’re diaper bag is fully stocked with diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, and all the other essentials ahead of time.
18. MAKE YOURSELF A POSTPARTUM CARE KIT
So much of our energy is focused on the baby in those first weeks home from the hospital. But, on top of learning how to breastfeed, being sleep deprived, and trying to manage life with a newborn, you’re also going through some major changes. When I had Weston, I was in no way prepared for the fourth trimester. I didn’t even have any maxi pads (please don’t ask me what I was thinking). This time around, I made a fully stocked postpartum care kit that stays in the bathroom and has everything I need to survive the first six weeks postpartum. You can also make postpartum padsicles to help relieve pain and speed up recovery.
Having a toddler and a newborn is hard work. I’ll be honest, it’s a lot harder than I expected it to be. One thing that has simplified my life is wearing baby Elliott. I have a Boba Wrap and a structured carrier (like this one) that give me the ability to carry my baby hands free. That means I can make lunch, clean the kitchen, and help Weston with potty training while carrying Elliott. I’ve even managed to nurse him while he’s in the carrier a few times which made me feel like nothing short of a superhero.
20. ACCEPT HELP AND LET YOUR PARTNER PICK UP THE SLACK
When people offer to help you with the baby, or the house, or a meal, accept it. There’s nothing wrong with accepting help from people who truly want to help you. It’s also okay to let your partner pick up the slack for the first few weeks. Send your partner to the grocery store, have them cook dinner, tell them to pick up a broom and get to work. You’ve been through a lot and it takes time to recover. Your only job during those first few weeks is to cuddle and care for your baby.
21. ENJOY IT
This time with your newborn is so tough, but I promise, one day very soon, you’re going to miss it. The way your baby smells, the way they’re still curled up in a little ball, the way they lay on your chest and fall asleep… all of that will change in just a few weeks. Before you know it, you’ll be looking back at old photos wondering where your tiny newborn went. It’s okay to not enjoy every single moment, but try your best to slow down and soak up this time with your baby.
Help your baby’s development be the best it can! Track your child’s speech, play, and physical development with the Assure the Best brochure, which includes milestones and signs to watch for, from birth to 15 months of age. Available in more than 15 languages, this is the ultimate baby development guide all parents and healthcare providers should have on hand.
Play is more than just fun—it’s an important part of a child’s development! Play helps children build valuable life skills, such as problem solving, socializing, and more. Using our Play Brochure, discover the benefits of play, get playtime tips, and learn how to help your child meet milestones from birth to 6 years of age.
Babies need Tummy Time! This activity plays a pivotal role in baby’s core, motor, and sensory development, helping to achieve crucial milestones. This brochure gives you access to everything you always wanted to know about Tummy Time, from how to help baby enjoy it to the different types of Tummy Time methods you can try with baby from birth to 6 months.
We make sense of the world through our senses—which is why sensory integration is so important for your baby! The sensory brochure will help parents learn about sensory integration and processing, and understand the signs associated with sensory issues.
How many ounces of breast milk or formula should baby have per day? When can baby start on solids? Get a breakdown of baby’s feeding development from 0 to 12+ months with this comprehensive feeding brochure. Learn about feeding milestones, appropriate foods, warning signs associated with feeding issues, and get age-appropriate tips approved by experts.
Promote speech and language development from day one! Whether parents have a newborn or toddler, promoting early communication skills is essential to supporting a child’s brain and cognitive development. Help set the foundation for your child’s development by tracking their communication milestones and using our speech and language tips.
Executive function skills are important to a child’s learning and development, helping them to pay attention, plan, problem solve, regulate their emotions, and much more! These are skills used every day by children and adults to reach goals at home, school, and work. Learn how parents can provide opportunities to develop executive functions skills in their children.
Communicating emotions. Making friends and maintaining friendships. Children are developing social-emotional skills from birth through interactions with parents, family members, and caregivers. Check out this brochure to see how social-emotional skills develop by age, and what parents can do to nurture these skills.
Looking for ways to improve baby’s development and health? Try a simple, quick and powerful activity called Massage+ 30, 10, 5! Ideal for premature and full-term babies, this 15-minute massage involves gentle talking, massaging, and rocking.
Bonding with your sweetie is intuitive—and a joy. “Attachment isn’t about acting the ‘correct’ way,” says Daniel Messinger, Ph.D., a child-psychology professor at the University of Miami. “It’s really about watching her and responding sensitively.” So if you’re both having fun, you’re doing it right! Need a few pointers? Read on for 30 ways to bond with your baby.
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1. Breastfeed your baby. It's not just about nutrition—when your little one snuggles up against you to nurse, he hears your heartbeat, smells your scent, is reassured by skin-to-skin contact
2. Look into baby's eyes during bottle time. You want to get credit for all those feedings, right?! Keeping eye contact will help your baby remember who you are and what you mean to her.
3. Give her a massage. The benefits of baby massage are staggering, and you'll feel like a superhero as she giggles and coos in delight.
4. Put your phone away. Right now, your family, friends, and co-workers will understand if it takes you a few hours to respond to a text. Take advantage by giving all that extra time to your little one.
5. Look in the mirror together. He doesn't yet understand the concept of a reflection, but that's OK. Babies love looking at human faces and this is a great way to get him up close and personal with his own.
6. Listen to her heartbeat. Remember how excited you got to hear that sweet sound during sonograms? It can now be music to your ears whenever you want.
7. Sleep when he sleeps. Do not—we repeat, do not—feel guilty for hitting the sack at 7 p.m. A well-rested parent is a happy parent, and your baby will benefit most from that.
8. Do something sweet for your partner. Whether you realize it or not, your baby is picking up on the bond his parents share. Strengthen it by making a special dinner or taking the time to watch a movie together...just like old times!
9. Don't stress the milestones. It's tempting to scour the internet for info on when certain things will happen, but all babies develop at their own pace. If you keep looking ahead to the future, you'll miss out on the now!
10. Go skin-to-skin. You may have carried her in your belly for nine months, and chances are you're both missing that constant physical connection. Kangaroo care is a sweet—and practical—activity since it helps regulate baby's breathing and heart rate.
11. Respond to her cries. Especially for the first three months of her life, your baby needs to know you're there for her—and picking her up when she cries helps build that trust. No, you won't be spoiling her!
12. Become a superstar at swaddling. Proper swaddling can equal better sleep for baby. Need we say more? Follow this guide.
13. Take in his smell. Sadly, no one has yet figured out a way to bottle baby smell, so since you've got the good stuff right under your nose, sniff away. You'll find that your little one's scent is even more intoxicating than any other baby's. Ever. In the history of the world.
14. Spend extra time in the glider. So she just fell asleep and you're feeling pretty confident that you can use your ninja moves to transfer her to the bassinet without waking her. Before putting her down, rock back and forth together in the quiet, dark room. These are the moments you'll miss, so soak them in.
15. Play dress-up. Let's face it, your heart melts a little every time you see your baby in a new outfit, right? No one will judge you if you put on a baby fashion show for your eyes only!
16. Keep a journal. Your baby's first year will whiz by in a blur, so record all the sweet memories you're making together. Feel free to unearth the diary in 16 years when he brings his first date over the house!
17. Have a stuffed animal meet and greet. You'll have a blast watching your baby touch, smell, and even taste his little furry friends. Take notice as he picks a favorite—you'll want to have that one on hand at bedtime.
18. Make an appointment with Dr. Seuss. It's never too early to tap into her inner bookworm! Bonus points if you can put on a different voice for each character.
19. Breathe through a crying fit. That impossibly-put-together mom at Pilates is a liar...all babies cry. But when you tense up and get frustrated, your baby will wail even more.
20. Set a schedule. Babies are creatures of habit, so if you stick to a program your little one will feel more at ease. It'll also help her realize that you're the one making all the magic happen as you anticipate her feeding needs.
21. Go on a mommy-and-me date. Feeling adventurous? Hit up the zoo! Not so adventurous? The coffee shop around the corner works. Getting out with baby will remind you that the world is still spinning outside your little cocoon.
22. Come up with a pet name for him. You're his mom, so you can call him anything you want. Plus, the nickname you give him will be like a little secret only you two share.
23. Make a playlist and channel your inner Beyonce. Pick five of your favorite tunes, play them for baby regularly, and sing along. You'll get a kick out of it when she starts to bop along eventually, and it's always good for her to hear your voice.
24. Whip out your old baby photos. Maybe she has your eyes, your smile, or your ringlets. Whatever resemblance you find will make you feel instantly connected to her.
25. Relish feeding time. When it's time to start solids (around 6 months), don't worry about the mess. Instead, focus on your baby's sweet enjoyment and exploration of the new tastes, textures, and smells she's being exposed to.
26. Get your silly on. Have a blast wiggling your eyebrows and sticking out your tongue, and prepare for your heart to explode when you finally get baby to smile.
27. Leave the mess. Every day you'll have a choice: Tidy the house or cuddle with baby on the couch. We say cuddle time is more important than a clean house!
28. Feeling stressed? Talk to her. Those early days of motherhood can be isolating, so feel free to talk it all out with your new little BFF. She'll love hearing the sound of your voice, and you'll feel like a weight was lifted. Can you say win/win?
29. Take pleasure in the poop. Yeah, we said it. The diaper change gets a bad rap, but you can make it fun by singing a happy song while you wipe, marveling at how cute your baby's bottom is, or coming up with a million different words for poop.
30. Kiss him, kiss him, kiss him.
In a few years he's going to wipe off your smooches and give you "that look." But right now? He's adorably helpless, so pucker up!
23+ Simple Tips for Healthy Newborn Development
In the first few weeks with your newborn, supporting her developing senses (aka interacting or playing with baby) probably won’t be top on your to-do-list.
If you’ve got the hang of breastfeeding, kept up with the laundry, fed yourself anything other than toast and chocolate and managed to sleep more than 3 hours straight then really, give yourself a pat on the back! Is there really more you should be doing?
Well, yes and no….
Your baby does need plenty of stimulation and of the right kind too… But panic not, chances are your baby is getting all the stimulation he or she needs in the mundane madness that is involved in looking after the little blighter, sorry, darling. (Apologies to all you US folk, I think blighter is British slang but I can’t think of a better alternative!)
But if you’re a little curious or have an urgent need to check your baby is getting the appropriate level of stimulation (yup, that was me) then you’ve come to the right place.
Or maybe you’re sitting at home twiddling your thumbs wondering – what the hell am I supposed to do with her all day?
As my dad asked (repeatedly, because he’s soooo funny like that), “When’s he going to do something?!” Hold onto your horses, dad, Alton Towers is a few years away yet…(4 years later it still is…)
(But I do kind of know where’s coming from…other than poop, scream, demand food… and very occasionally give you a giggle and a gurgle – just to remind you that’s all worth it – things do seem to move very slowly when it comes to your baby’s ability to actually ‘do’ something fun or interesting…I digress…)
This post covers your baby’s developing senses and tips to ensure he or she is getting the right kind of stimulation/activities/interaction (call it ‘baby play’ if you will) during the first 3 months of baby’s life – aka the newborn phase or 4th trimester.
Most are easy to try at home, free or cheap. Many you will be doing anyway.
What to do to stimulate & interact with your newborn
In the first few weeks, your newborn will be sleeping such a lot of the time, that there really is no need to actively look to stimulate your baby. As you’ll see, your baby will be getting plenty of stimulation from being fed, carried about, bathed, cuddled and fed…
But as baby has a few longer awake periods (hopefully in the day) this is when you may want to try a few new and different ways to stimulate and interact with her.
Awake times will still be short though, so watch closely for signs that baby is getting tired and reduce stimulation and/or switch simulation for the calming types as appropriate.
Wondering what to look for when baby is starting to tire and become overstimulate? Check out this baby cues post here.
Look for signs that your baby wants to engage with you before actively stimulating and interacting her
The sense of touch
In the close confines of the womb, an unborn baby receives plenty of touch stimulation, so this sense is well developed at birth. For this reason, plenty of deep pressure touch stimulation is exactly what your newborn will crave in order to feel secure.
So deep pressure touch stimulation, such as swaddling, a close hold during feeding and babywearing will calm and soothe baby. So just by doing these things, you’re providing plenty of touch stimulation.
While these types of touch sensation may irritate
rough textures (unstitched seam on babygrow, fussy fabrics)
soft touches (light tickles)
a light breeze (blowing air)
hot and cold touches (hot or cold hands, cool air)*
unfamiliar touches (new people handling your baby)
*I think it goes without saying to watch the intensity of hot sensations for your baby and not to have baby in direct sunshine but just in case…
The importance of touch stimulation
Touch is the foundation block for movement (since baby first needs to develop awareness of her own body, which comes through touch) but is also important for bonding and other higher cognitive functions.
But touch stimulation isn’t just important, it’s a necessity; without it, development is severely compromised.
Research has found that, even with adequate nutrition, a lack of touch can lead to stunted physical development as well as inhibited emotional and intellectual capabilities (source).
Stimulating your newborn’s sense of touch will come naturally
Tips for using TOUCH to support and encourage healthy newborn development
1 – Don’t save deep pressure touch for when baby needs soothing
Deep pressure touch is very effective when it comes to calming and pacifying your baby, so things like:
holding baby close when feeding etc.
But there’s no need to limit these types of touch sensation to when baby is upset or needs calming; these also provide plenty of healthy stimulation.
For example, your newborn will love the naked cuddles of skin-to-skin and it’s a fantastic way for the two of you to bond. Not only that, there are a whole host of well-researched benefits of skin-to-skin to baby, from helping to regulate temperature to a stronger immune system.
2 – Try a baby massage to stimulate in a calming way
Massage is another form of deep pressure touch that is both calming and stimulating, but unlike things like swaddling mentioned at #1 it cannot be used when baby is particularly fractious, overtired or overstimulated; baby needs to be fairly relaxed.
It’s another lovely way to bond with baby and, in terms of development, it can help baby develop body awareness which is necessary for the development of spatial perception.
Here’s a great video with some pointers on getting started with baby massage…
NB: Don’t massage baby if in extreme discomfort, overstimulated or overtired – check this baby cues post to understand what behaviors your baby may show you if any of these are the case.
3 – Bathtime water fun
If baby enjoys bathing, gently pour water over her tummy. Be led by your baby on this – some babies enjoy water more than others.
You can also massage and stretch out your newborns arms and legs, with or without soap. (Don’t use soap on tiny babies as their skin is too sensitive.)
This is for the slightly older newborn who is content to lie in a bath chair.
Expose your newborn to different textures to stimulate the sense of touch
4 – Lie baby on different textures
This is best done with baby just in a nappy in the warmer weather or after a bath in a warm room. Find different sheets and blankets with textures for baby to lie on.
The sense of movement (vestibular)
Like touch, this sense develops rapidly before birth due to the constant rocking motion of mom’s body which provides a lot of stimulation.
By the end of pregnancy, the vestibular system has developed to a point where it helps baby get into position for birth (clever, huh?!)
Gentle, rhythmical movements will calm and soothe your newborn, while irregular, quick and jerky movements will alert or even irritate.
The importance of movement stimulation to your newborn
As a newborn, movement stimulation is firstly about experiencing being moved. So for healthy development, you want to expose baby to movement as well as allow baby the chance to move. With this comes muscle tone, balance and coordination until baby becomes in control of her own movement.
So movement stimulation is necessary for the development of every single motor skill but it’s also important in the development of emotional skills and higher cognitive functions.
Give baby freedom to move her legs and arms every day so she can start to develop coordination and muscle tone
Tips for using MOVEMENT to support and encourage healthy newborn development
5 – Give baby freedom to move naturally every day
Lie her on her back so she can kick her legs about and stretch her arms.
6 – Try a few minutes of tummy time every day
Tummy time is crucial for your newborn’s physical development. It helps strengthen the muscles in the neck, shoulders, arms, and core. By lifting their head and pushing up with their arms during tummy time, babies develop the necessary strength for holding their head up, sitting, and eventually crawling.
Start with just a few minutes at a time and, if your baby doesn’t like it, I’ve found the best position to start is with them lying on your chest, with you lying down. That way you’re close to them for support and encouragement.
7 – Minimise use of car seats (and other contraptions) that inhibit movement
This is related to the last one; your baby needs to move! Car seats and some other baby accessories do not allow and certainly don’t encourage any movement. The advice is to limit time in the car seat to 2 hours a day.
8 – Stimulate your baby’s sense of movement with full-body maneuvers
When baby is just a few weeks old this can be as simple as turning around slowly when you’re holding baby. Babywearing has this one covered too.
As baby gets a little older you can extend this to moving her from lying on her back to sitting up by holding her hands.
Lifting baby from a lying down position to sitting up stimulates the sense of movement
A much older baby may enjoy a bit of rough play (my son loved the feeling of almost being thrown up in the air (in reality, he didn’t even leave my husband’s hands….)
The sense of taste
From the second trimester, when swallowing starts, baby starts to experience the different flavors of whatever you’re eating (albeit very diluted).
At birth, a newborn’s sense of taste is thought to be better than an adults and memory for tastes is also good. Research has shown that babies exposed to certain flavors in the womb and while breastfeeding, show preference to these flavors at weaning (source).
The importance of taste
Taste is important for reflexes related to feeding (e.g. saliva secretion and the swallow reflex) but taste is also closely linked to emotion. For this reason, the sweet taste of breast or formula milk will soothe and pacify.
Tips for using TASTE to support and encourage healthy newborn development
9 – Expose your baby to different tastes
Obviously baby can only drink breastmilk, but exposing them to different flavors, both while in the womb and while breastfeeding will stimulate this sense.
In addition, babies have a good memory for tastes, so this exposure to flavor may influence their preference to certain foods on weaning.
Another reason to eat a wide, varied, healthy diet while pregnant and breastfeeding.
If you’re worried about certain foods making your baby gassy, fear not – there are actually very few that do.
You can stimulate your baby’s sense of taste by eating a wide and varied diet if breastfeeding
The sense of smell
The development of smell
Like taste, a newborn’s sense of smell is incredibly acute, better than ours. It’s so good that research has shown that a newborn will show preference to mom’s milk over someone else’s just a few days after birth (source).
Even though baby is exposed to the different flavors and smells of the amniotic fluid while in the womb, this will be nothing compared to the hugely varied smells of the outside world, which will come as quite a shock to your little one’s system.
So your newborn will find familiar smells the most calming, so mom, mom’s milk, other regular caregivers, as well as their own smell.
New and different smells will stimulate your baby but can easily irritate. A particularly strong or unpleasant smell or too many new smells at once may cause your baby to suck, cry, or breathe more rapidly.
The importance of smell to your developing newborn
Smell has a direct connection to the emotional centers of the brain and so is very important in bonding and sexual attraction.
It’s the emotional link that gives smell the power to calm your baby.
Tips for using SMELL to support and encourage healthy newborn development
Your baby will be exposed to a huge variety of smells in the outside world without anything extra needed at this age. If anything you will want to keep new and overpowering smells to a minimum in order to ease the transition from the relatively neutral smells of the womb.
The sense of hearing
Baby sill start to detect sounds during the second trimester and may even start to recognize them during the third – by shifting positions, moving faster or slower in reaction to certain sounds.
A newborn’s hearing is as good as an adult’s and memory for sounds is good. At birth, your newborn will quickly recognize your voice and other sounds she heard while in the womb.
At around 3 months your baby will start to try and mimic sounds and coo; the first step in language development.
Gentle, rhythmical sounds help calm baby as does the dull consistency of white noise, while irregular sounds and loud noises may stimulate and irritate.
The importance of hearing stimulation
Hearing is intricately linked to language as well as higher brain functions, such as emotion.
For language development, regular exposure to the mother tongue is necessary during the first year
Babies are born with an acute sensitivity towards different sounds, allowing them to distinguish sounds that adults can’t. This allows a newborn to distinguish the huge variety of complex sounds that exist across all the different languages of the world.
During the first year, this sensitivity is lost as the brain tunes in to language heard on a regular basis, i.e. language spoken by parents and other regular caregivers.
At a year old, your baby will no longer be able to hear the unique sounds of other languages and without being able to distinguish them, won’t be able to vocalize them. (Source)
So hearing the mother tongue regularly is vital for optimal language development.
Good exposure to language enhances the development of language
The more words your baby and growing toddler hears, the more his understanding and therefore language will develop, but it needs to be in a social context, not the TV (source).
Music is thought to have a powerful effect on brain development
This is due to the rhythm of music, which may help develop simple patterns of thinking into more complex ones.
You can stimulate your unborn baby’s hearing by playing music to her. This may provide reassurance as a newborn
Supporting healthy development during pregnancy
Your unborn baby will hear your voice when in the womb so will already be getting exposure to language (so try not to make it too colorful!)
But if you want to go one step further you can play music to her by listening to it yourself and holding the speaker close to your belly (music recommendations coming up in the next section) or putting headphones over your bump, as in the photo above.
Not only does this stimulate her sense of hearing but using the same music in her first weeks and months of life will be very calming and reassuring to your newborn.
Tips for using SOUND to support and encourage healthy newborn development
10 – Bring on the baby talk
Firstly, talking to your baby is completely normal and a good thing. I had no problem with this having always talked to the dog etc but I know this doesn’t always come easily to everyone. But it’s a good thing!
As is the higher pitch you will find yourself using. This baby talk or ‘parantese’ might make you feel a little bit silly but it’s totally natural.
It’s this type of language that helps language to develop as it encourages your newborn to listen.
Your baby will also find your voice very soothing so use it to calm her at times of stress, such as new experiences for example, doctors appointments.
11 – Don’t go OTT on baby lingo…
Yes, use baby talk/parentese, but don’t go completely mad with cutesy language. Good language development comes from exposure to good language!
12 – Ensure regular exposure to the mother tongue throughout the first year
As mentioned above, hearing the intricate sounds of the mother tongue is necessary in order to develop good linguistic skills later. So if your baby’s regular caregivers speak your language there is no issue here.
This tip really only applies if your baby is in the care of a foreign speaker. If this is the case try to ensure regular exposure to the mother tongue when baby is back in your care.
13 – Try classical music to calm and stimulate
For calm and relaxation, music from the baroque period is said to be best due (Bach or Handel). This is due to the slow tempo and rhythm similar which is though to be similar to the Alpha rhythm of the brain.
I’ve enjoyed listening to classical music mixes at bedtime with all my babies. Or simply when we need to bring a bit of calm to the house (so on a daily basis with a 3 and 4 year-old!)
You can buy classical music for sleep or check out some of youtube’s free compilations.
Some classical music (e.g. Mozart) is more stimulating due to it’s fast paced nature. Try these when your baby is awake and alert to stimulate their hearing.
14 – Read, recite nursery rhymes and sing to your baby
This helps expose your baby to different vocabulalry and hear the rhyme and rhythm of poems/nursery rhymes.
15 – Imitate
When your baby starts to gurgle, coo, grunt and even squeal, imitate your baby and encourage ‘conversation’. This is the beginning of your baby’s speech.
16 – Help baby practice locating a sound with new sounds
You can do this with a baby rattle by shaking it close by, but slightly out of sight. Or use anthing that you can make a noise with, like teaspoons in a tupperware.
All you’re aiming to do is give your newborn a sound to turn towards.
The sense of vision
The development of vision
With almost zero light exposure in the womb, at birth, vision is poor and blurry and in shades of grey. Despite this a newborn will be able to recognize her mom’s face after just a few hours.
Focus is best at the distance between her face and yours while feeding (8-10 inches or 20-25 cm). Crossed-eyes are normal as baby tries to focus at different distances.
At first, vision is reactive – so baby will move her eyes in reaction to what’s happening around her.
At around 2 months baby will start to consciously move her eyes to follow objects or people within her field of vision.
Color recognition starts at about 4 months and by 6 months baby should be able to focus at any distance.
The importance of visual stimulation
There’s been a lot of research into the effects of visual deprivation; without adequate visual stimulation, the development of vision can be severely compromised.
But no need to panic, providing visual stimulation is very straightforward.
VISUALS that calm & VISUALS that stimulate
Soft pastels, muted colors and low lighting are calming, while bright colors and bright lights are stimulating.
Your newborn will love studying your face. This is great visual stimulation and good practice for focusing at different distances
Tips for using VISUALS to support and encourage healthy newborn development
17 – Let your baby study your face
Your baby will love studying your face, particularly when they’re feeding. A newborn’s focus is best at around 23cm, the distance between your baby’s face and yours when breastfeeding. (If bottle feeding try to stick to this distance in the early days.)
S0 encourage focus by make funny facial expressions. Sounds odd and a little bit silly, but give it a go!
As she gets older you can encourage her to focus at different distances by moving closer or further away.
18 – Find a picture of a familiar face and put it where baby can look at it
You could put it next to the changing mat or hang it from the buggy so that baby can try to focus on it.
19 – Show your baby black & white images
To encourage focus, the higher contrast the image, the better. Hence the black and white picture books you may have seen, which are specially designed for babies.
However, you can easily draw some black shapes and patterns on white paper.
20 – Move objects slowly within her field of vision
In the first few weeks move objects from side to side 8-10 inches or 20-25 cm in front of her face. This encourages your baby to follow the object and helps develop eye muscles and therefore eye control.
As baby learns to focus at different distances you can do the same at different distances.
21 – Pin a bright color to your clothing when you’re feeding
As your baby’s ability to focus develops at different distances develops you can encourage this by giving her a focus point.
22 – Regularly change up mobile or other toys
Alternate the toys hanging from your baby’s mobile, play gym or pram or DIY some new toys. (Kitchen utensils can make an interesting alternative, especially metal ones that reflect light – just make sure they’re tied properly!)
Play copycat tongue talk or other ‘mirroring’ form of conversation (while your husband is ‘watching’ the baby 🙂 )
23 – Copycat tongue talk (or other visual ‘conversations’)
My son just loved to stick his tongue out from just a few weeks old so, naturally, I stuck my tongue back out at him. This quickly became a regular in our play repertoire.
It seems all babies love this “mirroring” conversation and from this develop the ability to imitate our facial expressions (source). So start adding in other expressions and noises and see how your baby responds.
24 – Sit baby up in a position to watch the world
When baby is old enough to lie in a more upright position she will get plenty of visual stimulation from watching the world around her. So prop baby up and let your baby watch as you go about your day-to-day chores.
I hope that’s shone a light on your newborn’s developing senses and the importance of the appropriate stimulation.
But stimulating these senses doesn’t need to be difficult or complicated. Just by feeding your newborn, holding her close, carrying her, bathing her, talking to her and settling her ready for sleep you will be giving her plenty of stimulation. And if you want to do a little more then hopefully you now have plenty more ideas to try.
Mama still knows best, but technology knows second best. Baby tech has been moving right along since we were in diapers and now you can be fully prepped to take on whatever comes up with your little one. Prepare yourself with all the best gadgets and gear to handle those infant years with ease.
1. Bellabeat Connected System ($129): Get your baby gadget-ing while he or she is still in the womb. Bellabeat allows you to monitor your baby’s heartbeats and kicks. Think of it as an activity tracker for the little bean.
2. Mimo Onesie ($199): Needless to say, this is the most expensive onesie that you’ll be buying for your baby. While the organic cotton is nice, what makes this wee wearable even cooler is that it monitors pulse, breathing rate, heart rate and even body position. Then it sends all of that information to mom’s or dad’s phone, meaning parentals can always rest easy that their baby is doing a-okay.
4. Nuvo Ritmo Pregnancy Sound System ($70): Want your babe to know all about Mozart and Beethoven (or Rihanna and Prince) before he or she even exits the womb? No need to put headphones on your belly. Play your favorite tunes for them through their very own sound system.
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