What do I do with my baby all day!?!?!
Are you a new parent on maternity/paternity leave and suddenly you find yourself wondering what do I actually do with this child all day?
You are not alone! I was extremely fortunate to have my mom stay with me for two weeks shortly after I brought my daughter home from the hospital. Those first few weeks were a blur and mostly focused on figuring out the newest member of my family and a new routine. A few hours after my mom left, I found myself wondering the same question you might be wondering now if you are reading this - ok I think I know how to meet this baby's basic needs now, but how do I fill my days?
Don't get me wrong, I wasn't bored, it was PLENTY difficult to keep a baby alive all day and maybe manage to do a load of laundry and keep on top of the dishes! But at the same time as a life-long over-achiever I couldn't help but wonder what else I was "supposed" to be doing.
I'll cut to the chase since those of you reading this are probably sleep deprived. Some ideas:
- Cuddle with your baby. It's ok to not "do" something with your baby 24/7!
- Daily walks if the weather allowed for it. On warm days we had to do our walk at 6am, on cold days we bundled up, the only days we skipped were rainy days. We walked all around the neighborhood, usually I got myself some coffee, put on an audiobook, and we'd take to the neighborhood by stroller.
- Tummy time in the first few months is a fantastic answer to "what should we do now?" Talk to your pediatrician for specifics about when to start tummy time, how long, etc. I love this explainer on tummy time from Nationwide Children's Hospital on how to progress in tummy time as your child gets more used to the concept of tummy time. My daughter hated it at first but came to like it eventually!
- Toys can be a fun way to introduce your baby to new things. We started with black and white cards during tummy time and over time expanded the use of toys during tummy time, then introduced other toys. If you aren't sure which toys to buy, there are a lot of subscription kits available at different price points you can look into. We had two different subscription boxes which was probably overkill but allowed me to not have to think about which toy was right for which stage of her development! We did have a few toys my daughter didn't ever engage with, but overall our experience with both kits was great and I found it to be worth every penny!
- Books were a personal favorite of mine. I always dreamed of going to the library frequently with my future children from a young age. Unfortunately, due to covid, that plan didn't work for us. Instead, we bought some books, were fortunate enough to be gifted quite a few books, and eventually when I wanted to expand our collection further we did a book subscription service for the first year. Our local bookstore also put together a gift box for Christmas within our specified budget of their best book recommendations, so if you have an amazing local bookstore with a large children's section they may be able to help!
- Go about your daily life with baby in tow. I regret waiting until my daughter was napping to do dishes, laundry, and cleaning. It took me WAY too long to realize this was all new to her and interesting! You can wear your baby while doing your daily tasks, or just hold them with one hand while putting laundry in with the other. Sort laundry in front of your baby during tummy time, hold your baby while you're wiping off the counter, or wear your baby while you're de-cluttering. Anything safe* to do while holding baby they will find just as interesting as baby toys!
Those first few months with your baby are HARD. I wasn't getting a ton of sleep, and as a life-long learner I always felt like there was more I could & should be doing to teach my baby about the world. At the same time it took every ounce of energy to just get through the day, so I didn't have time or energy to figure out what we "should" be doing. If you're at that place, hopefully this list is somewhat helpful without being overwhelming.
One more thing - It's perfectly fine if you are reading this and have done none of these things, there were definitely days and weeks where I was focused on survival mode. You just had a baby, you're tired, give yourself some grace and know that all of these activities will be interesting to your baby whenever you get around to them!
*Please don't do dangerous things with baby in your arms. Cooking, using cleaning chemicals, and taking a shower are all things I would suggest safely doing away from your baby or with baby properly secured at a safe distance. Please speak to your pediatrician if you have questions around whether a specific activity is safe to do with baby in your arms.