Or, what in the world to DO with that sweet little cherub
Congratulations! Your baby is here! (Now what?)
Today we're going to talk about how to PLAY with your baby.
The meal trains have ended. The relatives have left. Other than nursing, pottying, and napping what exactly are you supposed to do with your sweet little bundle all day?
If you are having these thoughts, or even feeling guilty for feeling a bit bored, you aren't alone! Today we're going to talk about ways to interact with and play with your baby.
You will learn:
- How changing the way you interact with your baby can help protect against postpartum depression
- How to incorporate your baby into your household routine
- Benefits of babywearing
- How to build EC around your life
- 9 ways to interact with your baby in “playtime”
- A few tips from our listeners!
Links and other resources mentioned today:
- The Go Diaper Free Book
- Free Observation Log
- Continuum Concept Book
- Ergo Baby Carrier
- The Beco Gemini Baby Carrier
- Moby Wrap Baby Carrier
- Woven Wrap Baby Carrier
- Homemade Play Book
- Tummy Time Mirror
- Baby Gym
- Mobile Toys on Etsy
- Montessori from the Start Book
- Kushies Waterproof Pad
- Bouncer/infant Seat
- The Baby Sleep Site
- How to Break Up with Your Phone Book
- Top Hat Potty at TinyUndies.com
- Mini Potty at TinyUndies.com
- Easy Start Guide for EC (Free Download)
Download the Transcript
If you can't listen to this episode right now (um, sleeping baby!?)...download and read the transcript here:
Welcome to the Go Diaper Free Podcast where we're all about helping you potty your baby as early as birth. I'm your host, Andrea Olson, author and mom of five EC babies. This is episode 51, How to play with a newborn baby, or what do I do with this sweet little thing all day anyway?
So I have had five babies and I will tell you what, there is nothing like having a new baby and it's exciting and wonderful and they're beautiful and then if you have more kids, it's just beautiful to see them all together. And then like a few weeks or months after you have this new baby and everybody stops visiting and stops bringing you food and stops coming to clean your toilet, then boredom sets in. And you're like, "What do I do with this sweet little baby anyway?" So our lives basically become whittled down to nursing the baby, pottying the baby if you do EC, and napping the baby and nothing really else going on, especially for a brand new first-time mom. I've been there, done that.
Now, we really don't want postpartum depression to sneak in. We know the baby blues usually show up a few days after baby's born in some people. I think the statistic right now is that 20% of women get PPD, and I actually had it undiagnosed for like four years with my first two. So one of the things that can cause postpartum depression is definitely just this change in your life from being your own independent person to being depended on 24/7. So when we're bored and when we're with our baby and we feel really guilty and we don't know what to do to play with them because we've never done this before. Like I've babysat before, but when I had my first baby 24/7, I did not know what to do with him to play with him. I think that we should all get equipped.
So that's what today's episode is about, and I'm going to integrate in here how to do EC while learning how to play with your baby, especially if you're a first-time mom. And if you're not a first time mom, no big deal. Or if you're a dad. We can use all of the tips in today's show to just give you some new ideas maybe. If you've just...you're kind of like out of ideas, no big deal. I've got some for you. And I've got them from a bunch of different references.
So I actually signed up to take a class. I'm a little bit embarrassed to say this. I signed up to take a class on tummy time in Berkeley back in 2010 when I had my first baby. And I signed up because I literally sat around just staring at him and I had no idea what to do. And I was good at EC with him and I was good at nursing and we always napped together because he wouldn't sleep alone. But I had no idea what to do. I couldn't remember any of the songs from my childhood. So I took a class, and in this class, I met Kim and Kim taught me so much about what to do with the baby that I still do with all five of mine. So I'm going to mention her a lot in this podcast.
You can get the show notes for this episode at godiaperfree.com/51 and you'll also see a link to Kim's book because she did publish a book since then or it's an ebook and it is available on Amazon.
Okay. So the biggest overarching thing with how to play with a newborn baby and how do we integrate EC with this also is to go back to the basics, to using common household stuff and to enjoying your baby. Because everybody who has already had a baby before you will tell you, "Oh, it passes so fast." And it might sound cliche, but it's true. It passes way too fast. And before you know it, you will have a teenager. So let's enjoy this baby time, but not bore ourselves out of our skulls in the meanwhile.
So I have whittled it down to about, let's see how many things I have here, nine things. So we'll go through these nine things, and there's a full transcript over on the show notes as well. If you get interrupted and you need to read the rest of this, no worries. So let's talk about play.
Number one, baby wearing. This isn't specifically playing with your baby, but it is providing them with something that they really, really need. If you have not read The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff, please read it. It is amazing and wonderful. She never intended for it to be a parenting manual, but it's sort of turned into one inadvertently. It basically says in that book that if you sit around and stare at your baby all day, your baby's going to get really frustrated with you about that. And it's just going to sort of bother them. They want to see what grownups do. They want to learn from seeing you do grownup things, and one of the best ways that you can engage your baby with the grownup world and what is it like to be a human because they're in training right now is to wear them in a baby carrier.
My favorite baby carrier is...well, I have a couple. The Ergo Baby and the Beco Gemini are really great for different reasons. The Beco Gemini can be used with a newborn and can be changed all different ways. I love it. And then the Ergo is really great because I love the hood. I love nursing in public in it and I can feel private with that hood. But anyway, baby wear with whatever you want. You can use a Moby wrap, you can use just a wrap like just this very long piece of cloth, a woven wrap—those are very popular. But I'm a little bit more of a let-me-click-it-on-and-go kind of a gal.
So baby wearing. While you’re baby wearing, your back could start hurting. Now I baby wore my first baby for two years. He really wouldn't nap unless I slept with him. And then we did a lot of naps walking around the house. And around the neighborhood. I probably could have done better for my back with a stroller at some points, but I was really like, I'm attachment parenting. I'm not doing any of that stroller business.
So anyway, if you are baby wearing a lot, great. It's very good. It helps your baby to settle. It's awesome. I want you to engage your core though and I want you to get pelvic floor therapy if you have no idea where your core is or how to engage it properly. It's not engaging your abs. It's different. Pelvic floor therapy is something I didn't do until after my fifth baby. And it is amazing. I think it should be required for every single, new mom. Go to a physical therapist and get some pelvic floor stuff checked out. Have them teach you how to engage your core, and while you're babywearing, be sure you engage your core so you don't throw your back out.
Okay, so what does this have to do with EC, Andrea? This is an EC podcast. Okay. This helps you detect EC signals. When you are babywearing, you are helping your baby to feel connected with the world. It's a form of play for them. They are very, very highly engaged and interested or they also fall asleep in there. But also when they start to feel like they need to go to the bathroom, they're going to let you know by trying to arch out of the baby carrier, by fussing if they're very small, by crying out, or you'll get a phantom pee where you feel like you've been wet but you couldn't have been because they're wearing a diaper backup, or if they're naked, you actually feel down there and you're not wet. That's called a phantom pee. And that can mean that the bladder is just filled and the baby is ready to go.
So you would take your baby out of the baby carrier and potty them. Or offer a pottytunity, change them if they're wet. Okay, so I have a resource on babywearing, again, is The Continuum Concept. Just talks about how babies were worn in slings. Slings, these days, are pretty controversial. I would recommend a baby carrier as they're a little bit safer and very comfortable. All right, so that's number one out of nine. How to play with a newborn baby. Just wear them and do what you do and get your stuff done and let them look at nature, from the vantage point of you.
Number two would be, talking about nature actually, getting out of the house. So another way to offer play to newborn baby is to change it up and they get pretty bored just like we do, just sitting around being at home all the time. And I don't mean to overschedule yourself with play dates and going out all the time, but when you start to feel down and you're bored out of your mind and you can't think of another baby game to do or another sensory bin to get out, which we'll talk about. When you feel like this, just get out of the house. Specifically into nature or around other people, which is another type of nature. People are part of nature.
You can go to the mall and just walk around and baby wear, or put your baby in a stroller, or have them in their car seat in a stroller. Whatever you want to do. But I would recommend that you integrate EC into your outings because it's often a lot easier and rewarding to do EC when out and about. Bring your top hat potty, which you can get at my other shop at tinyundies.com, and keep your baby comfortable by offering when you arrive somewhere and anytime they get really fussy during. It's a matter of keeping them comfortable by listening to their signals, which usually they'll signal more when they're out of the house too.
But this is one way to provide play to a new baby, not necessarily a newborn but all ages babies to vary it a little bit, get them out into nature and around other people. Very helpful.
The third way to play with a baby is actually more specifically oriented around things you can do with your baby. So now we're going to get into the nitty gritty of what Kim taught me a long time ago and her book is called Homemade Play. Number three is tummy time. So she just recommends doing a few minutes a day. If your baby hates being lied on their tummy, then fine, just one minute maybe, during, after you offer the potty and then you're changing their diaper and then you can flip them over and put their socks on or whatever. Something she recommends. So tummy time, we want to potty first because when they're on their tummy, they're usually going to need to go, especially if they're newborns. And when they fuss, like they're over it and they maybe have just eaten 10 minutes or five minutes before and they're newborns, we want to potty them, offer them the potty at that time.
Before we put them into tummy time and after we take them out of tummy time is a good time to potty. I just said time a million times. I just said it again. Okay. So some variations on tummy time. You can have your baby...you can get a shatter resistant mirror and hold that in front of the baby and you can have him or her look at it. You can do tummy time face to face, where your baby is laying down on their tummy and you're facing them and kind of encouraging that head movement up to strengthen the neck. You can turn off—and these are all from her book—you can turn off the lights and use a flashlight and point different things out. Just obviously don't shine it in your baby's face.
During tummy time, you can put fabrics—different types of fabrics—underneath your baby and have them...or they would just want to grab them and touch them so it's a little sensorial time. You can roll up a towel and put it underneath their chest and arms to sort of prop them up a little bit if they've got a lot of reflux and gas. By the way, if they have a lot of reflux and gas, you definitely want to rule out tongue tie and lip ties because sometimes that causes all of that. So that's just a little side note for you.
All right. We can also do, tummy time on a ball, like a small, small exercise ball and we put the baby on its tummy on the ball. We can do tummy time belly to belly. So you just lay your baby on your belly and you look at their face while they're on your belly. We can do tummy time on our legs. You just sit on your bottom, put your legs out, cross them a little bit, and then that gives your baby a little bit of a vantage point if they don't like being on the floor.
And you could also do this thing called flying, which I've actually always done with my kids because I saw a friend do it years before I ever had babies, where you put the baby on its belly on top of your legs. There's a picture of it in her book. It's kind of hard to explain, but basically they're laying on your legs and I always like to engage my core and do a few leg lifts with the baby as my weight. Obviously, be careful with that. But all that stuff is listed in Kim's book as variations on tummy time. Tummy time is really good, especially if you're having your baby sleep on its back like as recommended because this helps to prevent baby from being on their back all the time, which could cause a flat skull, I can't remember what it's called. There's a technical term for it.
Okay. Let's move on to play. I like to encourage independent play. I don't know about you, but when my babies get older, they're all super independent. I think a lot of it has to do with EC and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that they are given these chances to play in this Montessori-inspired way. So I have a baby gym, which is this arched thing. I'll link to one in the show notes at godiaperfree.com/51 and basically you hang things off of it and you lay the baby below it on their back and they can bat at them. It helps with hand-eye coordination, helps them with independent play. You can hang a bell or a wooden ring from it.
There's a lot of different supplies on Etsy. So the bell and the ring are really great. You can get them on Etsy and then we can also hang the bell or the ring off the ceiling or off of the gym. We want to have age appropriate mobiles with Montessori. Often we have a mat on the ground or a floor bed with a mirror alongside it and above is hanging a mobile that they don't touch, but they're looking at, and this could be like the gobbi or the dancers or the black and white ones. It depends on the age. And wooden and fabric toys, while they're on tummy time, they can grab and play and put them in their mouths and a pull up bar. So often people will install a bar along the side of the mat or the bed and in front of that mirror so that they can eventually start to pull up and practice that.
So these are all inspired by the resource, it's a book called Montessori from the Start, that I love, that has informed what I've given my kids to do and just preparing the environment, simplifying and decluttering it and having several Montessori inspired items that will encourage independent play. All right.
The fifth way to play. This is the biggest one. This is the one I really want you to grab Kim's book for, Homemade Play, if you are interested in any of these things. But basically play with stuff that is commonly found in your household already. You don't need to buy toys for your baby. We are going to be stimulating the senses, which is what your baby's engaged in learning right now anyway, with songs, sounds, instruments, being out in nature and listening to those sounds, dancing with your baby, exercising with your baby. Obviously, all this stuff with a lot of care. She covers that in her book too. How to be safe with all this.
We can bounce the baby in our lap, swing them in our arms, obviously carefully. But I've got some friends who are gymnasts and circus artists and it's pretty funny what they do with their babies, but they're very safe. They're very safe. We can introduce different textures. We love doing this with our babies, is lay them on their backs and parachute, kind of like wave a big sheet over top of their heads and lay it down and they can obviously breathe through it and we're bringing the sheet up into the air and then it billows down towards their face. They love the parachute game. It's also covered in her book.
You can read books to your baby at a very early age. It's always great for them to learn language. We can put in an old Kleenex box, we can stuff it with scarves and when they're sitting they can start to pull all those out and put them back in. You can buy expensive Montessori toys or you can use stuff from your households is the point. We can scatter about various things that they're not going to choke on obviously. We want to supervise our children when we do this. But when they start to sit, we can put these things and organize them by texture in treasure baskets and that's covered in Kim's book as well.
So we want to potty our baby at any fussy point during this play because if they're fussing, it usually means that they need to go when they're this young or if they're not mobile yet and they're not crawling or sitting much, or even if they are sitting, if they're not really moving about the room, then you can have them play naked-bottomed on a waterproof mat so that they can get some diaper free time during play.
If there is a poop signal, they start bearing down, please pause play to go to the bathroom and then resume. This is contrary to some things you'll hear about from parenting experts that say that you should never interrupt a baby's play. Well I, for one, if I need to go to the bathroom and I'm working, I pause and I go to the bathroom and then I come back. So I think it's a healthy thing to teach and model. So I definitely think you should EC during playtime. It will also prepare them for when they're a toddler and they have to leave play to go to the bathroom. It will become a normal part of the thing.
All right, the sixth topic today is massage, and this is, I'm not an expert on, but with songs and touch. Kim teaches it in a lovely way in her book, Handmade Play. You can do massage, you can do it naked on a waterproof mat and cue along. If they start to go during this play time, if they give you a poop signal, just pause, potty them and bring them back. You can play with using lotion on their body and when they get older they can play with that as well. And there's more details in her book. And as you're doing massage, you can talk about the body parts. So everybody's learning.
The seventh thing is when you need a break and no one's around and your back hurts, how do you play with your baby then? You're burned out. You need a break. I am a big fan, and Kim's book does not say to do this, but I think you should because I have five babies and this is what I do. Get a swing or a bouncer or a walker or a baby hammock, whatever one or two tools that you think would be helpful.
And this can be a surrogate auntie or uncle who can hold your baby while you get a break or get a meal or get a shower. Now obviously use the instructions for each of these things and use them at age appropriate times. But you obviously, I don't need to give you permission, but in case you're wanting it, you have full permission to have a break and have your baby in one of these things and where they can actually observe you doing something else like feeding yourself, taking care of yourself. Also good things to model. And then when you need a break also, you need to downgrade your EC to part time, you guys, part time.
You just bring it back to just the wakeups and just the poops for a few days. Use a backup for when you're feeling a little bit lazy because being a new mom is hard, you guys. And also learn how to provide your baby with naps that don't include being attached to your breast. Visit the Baby Sleep Site. I have a link to it on the show notes at godiaperfree.com/51 and check them out because I've gotten sleep plans from them before. I can highly recommend them. They will help you learn how to provide your baby with naps where they're not attached to your breast.
On the next episode of this podcast, I'm actually going to share the baby care cycle that I use and that might give you some more insight on how to integrate naps. And that gives you a break. If you're not getting breaks because your baby's not napping separately from you, you're going to have a really hard time, so just a little sisterly advice.
Number eight, ditch the smartphone during the times when you're with your baby. We can often feel a little bit on the depressed side, a little bit low, when we have a new baby and we've come out of that high. And smartphones are great quick fix. They're actually...they've been studied a lot and it's an addiction. It's proven to increase your anxiety if you have a smartphone and we're already anxious enough postpartum because that's how nature created us so that we'd be on point with our babies. There is a book called, How to Break Up with Your Smartphone. I highly recommend it. Link to it in the show notes. Please check it out if you're interested, but the point is just to be present with your baby. They deserve that. You deserve that.
Learn how to play so that you don't need to distract yourself with your phone. Learn how to play with your baby if you need to learn how. Get Kim's book if you need to. Be present because this time is going to fly by. And we've already talked about this, but go back to the basics. Simplify. And when you're in doubt, let Mother Nature nurture you both. Get outdoors, get into...just sit on your porch if that's all you can do. And that will help when you're at your wit's end and you don't know what to do with your baby.
And lastly, number nine, this has to do with play because it normalizes behavior. Potty train early. If EC's not working out or if you want to wrap up EC because you're tired of doing it, we can finish and complete potty training within the realm of 14-20 months, for sure, because in the '50s that's what everybody did. Early potty independence normalizes behavior and it frees up your child to learn other things and it actually makes playtime a lot smoother. So if you're in that stage of things or you're looking forward and you want to know what's to come, just take my advice on that. It's definitely going to help.
Now we have a tip from two of our readers real quick and then we'll end up this episode. Sorry, it's so long. I went way over my usual 12 minutes, but hey, I think you guys need some resources. So here they are.
Stephanie from Eugene, Oregon, says...her tip is "Learn your baby's poop face" and she laughs, but she's not kidding because she began EC at three months, baby's aged four and a half months when she shared this. And she just says, you know, if you know your baby's poop face, then you can pause and catch those and then it gets better and better from there. And she's catching a bunch now.
All right, Swantje from Canada says, “My tip: Relax! But don't get lazy. Relax, because this isn't a competition. All kids are different and you have needs too. A miss isn't the end of the world and it doesn't mean you're a failure or your child doesn't ‘get it,’ but don't use these things as excuses to stop paying attention or responding to your child's signals because that would be lazy. I don't know if this is helpful to newbies, but perhaps it is." And she started with her first child in 2012 at six weeks old with the helping hand of my previous book, EC Simplified, which is now Go Diaper Free.
With her second born, she had her seven weeks premature in 2014, she started at six weeks adjusted age. With her third in 2016, she started a few weeks in. Frankly, she doesn't remember when it was exactly and she's currently pregnant with her fourth and hopes to start EC from birth, but that will depend on the circumstances. So she's just really saying that just relax but don't get lazy. Start when you feel like starting and EC actually can be quite rewarding at whatever age you start. But she's definitely veering on the earlier side. Once you've done EC with one baby, you definitely want to start earlier the next time because it's so apparent that babies are totally born ready.
All right, so hopefully this episode has given you a lot of ideas on how to play with your baby, what to do with that sweet little thing all day, every day when you become bored out of your mind, which is totally normal. And I want to know from you what ideas have you gotten from today's episode? Please share them over at godiaperfree.com/51. Let us know if you've got any new ideas or if you've got some way of playing with your baby that I didn't cover today that you want to share. I would love to converse with you in the comments over there.
Meanwhile, we'll see you next week with the baby care cycle. Thank you so much for tuning in. I'm Andrea with Go Diaper Free Podcast at godiaperfree.com. I'll see you next time.
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About Andrea Olson
I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my husband and 5 children (newborn to 8 years old) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)