Managing time with a baby
December 8, 2016 8:45 PM   Subscribe

My baby can stay awake now! Help me fill my time with him optimally.

Baby is six weeks old and starting to stay awake for longer stretches. I'm at a loss what to do with him. I'm a type A researchaholic so before he came I did tons of research. And the things I planned...don't take nearly as much time as I thought. I mean, looking at a book, time on the playmat and walk around the house and show him stuff is maybe 15 minutes, cumulative. And I think it's okay for him to have some time to just be left alone to bask in the sensory input without me entertaining him (and also so that I can, example, eat food, use the washroom, prepare food for him and so on.) But I'm not sure what the ratio should be of time spent entertaining him to time he is in a swing/chair/bassinet just experiencing life while I putter around.

Complicating factor: I don't drive and it's getting cold, so the 'put him in a stroller and go out' option is limited. We will be doing baby groups at the library and traveling by bus, but not until after he gets his shots in January.
posted by ficbot to Human Relations (27 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Are you into babywearing at all? When my girl was wee, I remember strapping her to my chest and carrying along with my day, pointing stuff out to her as I puttered around the house. I also spent a lot of time reading to her -- sometimes her books, sometimes books I was reading (she mostly just liked to hear my voice, I think).
posted by Cat Face at 9:00 PM on December 8, 2016 [9 favorites]

Ugh, yeah, I remember the awkwardness and boredom of that in-between stage. My daughter started demanding a lot more face time around eight weeks, and while I was happy to oblige, I was fresh out of ideas once the allure of "sitting together on the playmat" and "walking around looking at stuff" wore off. I actually signed up for an infant massage class during that time, to give us another activity we could do together that would be enjoyable for both of us. She loved it.
posted by anderjen at 9:09 PM on December 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Step 1: Strap baby to chest
Step 2: Live your life - baby will be fascinated by everything you do. For added engagement, tell baby what you are doing: "Now mummy/daddy is putting on mummy/daddy is putting away the dishes"
Step 3: Change because the baby just poop-sploded on you.

Rinse and repeat.

Also, taking baby out in the cold is ok - and advisable for your sanity - just bundle.
posted by Toddles at 9:14 PM on December 8, 2016 [24 favorites]

I second baby wearing. I would put Baby Kitty in his carrier and putter around the house with him and just keep up a stream of conscious monologue for what we were doing together. He got to be close to mommy and see the world around him, and I got tolineto do laundry and dishes and what not.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 9:14 PM on December 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

"I'm at a loss what to do with him."

BABIES ARE BORING. Make plans with your regular friends and maybe find some mommy and me classes which have no point for the baby but just keep the parent from going insane.

Also you can read aloud whatever you're reading, this works until they start repeating words and you have to curtail stuff with obscenities.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:30 PM on December 8, 2016 [20 favorites]

I walked an hour per day through the winter with the baby, as long as it was over 5 F. How many days with highs below 0 F where you live?
Of course watch wind conditions too.
You'll both be plenty warm, don't let fear of winter keep you inside. The only part that was hard is I really wanted a ski on the front of the stroller to get over the snowbanks that had built up where the roads met the sidewalks.
If you can babywear, (I could not), walking is much easier. Get a jacket to go over the sling.
You could also ski while babywearing and get around a bit faster.
The daily hour walk really was the highlight of the infant period.
posted by littlewater at 9:48 PM on December 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Agree that babywearing is key and is how babies learn and bond throughout the world. Since that's been covered here, a couple more that worked for me when not doing that:
1. Finger games. This is a great age for finger games, which you can make up yourself or google for ideas. At 7 weeks my nephew even did "eensy weensy spider" hand movements (in his way) back to his mother.
2. Gentle dancing to music
3. Singing -- hold baby while you're sitting, sway gently or put baby down on his back and gently move his legs while you sing. This is a great excuse to sing along to your favorite music, or to make up nonsense songs as you go along.
posted by flourpot at 10:58 PM on December 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Rule Number One: sleep when your baby is sleeping. Do not do housework, etc. Get some much-needed rest.
Hovering is not necessary. Be chill, like Lit'l Ficbot is a very lazy, sleepy kitten. He went through a lot six weeks ago, too.
Seconding baby wearing, if that's your thing. Also, having designated spots in several rooms for L.F. to lie down and hear and watch you do what you do.
It's okay to give L.F. his own free time in another room. You do not need to entertain him constantly, and vice versa. A baby monitor is helpful, if you need it.

This is the time to crawl around every room, getting a baby view of potential problems, particularly the bathroom and kitchen.

Lie down together on a blanket and have face time. Mimic smiles and frowns, hand and feet waving. I have pictures of my husband on his belly, showing our oldest how to lift up her head. Same smiles.
Then it's rolling over... and over... and crying while tangled around a chair. Switch him around and roll with him.
Then it's scooting, crawling, then cruising the couch while hanging on... then teaching him how to drive.
Take lots of photos and videos.

I spent many happy afternoons with my daughters at the nearby park, but don't feel obligated to fill every moment. Kids truly can enjoy an empty box as much as the toy that it came in.
I think kids need more empty boxes.
posted by TrishaU at 12:09 AM on December 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I never found a sling/carrier I liked so baby wearing wasn't for me.

At that age, my son and I just walked and walked and walked. Is it that cold where you are that you couldn't pop them in a snowsuit in the pram?

Otherwise, as long as he's happy and contended, you really don't need to be playing parent entertainer at all times.
posted by threetwentytwo at 12:52 AM on December 9, 2016

Not sure where you live, but this is an awesome age to actually go to local museums and take your time there. Show baby anything interesting and describe what you see. And later, when baby is a kid you have to drag to anything cultural, you can tell him he used to love going when he was a baby. It's totally cheating, but sometimes it works to curb the whining.
posted by Mchelly at 2:41 AM on December 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

Don't let the cold keep you home!

You can get a sort of sleeping bag for the stroller if it's really cold and the snowsuit/bunting alone isn't enough. Blankets fall off but the sleeping bag thing usually stays on. You can also get a down hand muff thing for you, which I never did but still am envious of when I see moms of stroller-age kids who have one.

All that said, baby wearing is awesome in the winter, out on walks and on the bus/train. You keep each other warm and entertained. All the baby really needs is the bunting, if it's the kind with integrated mittens, booties, and hood. And then you wrap your (slightly oversized) coat around the two of you.

Moms' groups, museums, lots of long coffees with friends of any similarly aged babies, running errands in tiny fits and starts (go to Target, buy one thing), all of these are possible destinations. It's good for both of you to get out some.
posted by chocotaco at 3:40 AM on December 9, 2016

This is the prime age for those fancy mobiles with moving parts and lights and sounds. We had this one and would periodically put the baby in his crib and turn it on for him, and he loved it (I admit I frequently got entranced by it too). He also had a little crib accessory that played various non-annoying tunes and had colored lights that would blink in time to the music, and he enjoyed that a lot too.

He also loved looking at Christmas lights when he was tiny, so that might be a good free outdoor activity for the next couple weeks anyway.

I agree that going outside with an infant in winter is easier than you think, especially if you wear them - we walked a mile twice a day with our guy in the Boston Snowpocalypse (and we will lord this over him when he's older and doesn't want to walk to the corner to catch the bus). However, I don't like going outside during winter, and in a couple years your kid will get antsy and annoying if he doesn't get out of the house regularly - not to mention harder to dress for snow - so if you just don't want to leave the house that much this winter, you are free to stay home as much as you please and use the baby as an excuse.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:48 AM on December 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I addition to all the practical suggestions for things to do with Baby, I think the "type A researchaholic" in you needs to come to terms with the fact that babies/toddlers/small children can take all of your time and attention, but engage just a fraction of your brain. You will need other ways to take care of your inner-researchaholic.
posted by she's not there at 5:03 AM on December 9, 2016 [8 favorites]

babies/toddlers/small children can take all of your time and attention, but engage just a fraction of your brain.

Quoted for so much truth. Young babies most of all. I found that phase to be simultaneously intense and boring in the most vexing way. Definitely get out of the house as much as possible (this gets harder the older they get, enjoy it now). Get memberships to local museums, gardens or zoos. And honestly? When the weather if frightful and you're just not feelin it? Face baby away from the tv in a Rock n Play, dangle some toys and bingewatch. It's okay. Baby will never know.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:16 AM on December 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

The best investment for my baby I made around that age was join some moms/baby/playgroups. It took a few tries but one of the groups is now a close circle of friends...and my son is 11. We've been able to share info, support each other, and watch our kids grow (even when we've parented differently! The latewalkers are soccer stars! The late talkers are doing fine with book reports!)

I also loved galleries and museums.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:19 AM on December 9, 2016

Oh one winter tip is put Petroleum jelly on baby's cheeks...if any cold does get there, it keeps the skin from getting chapped. But it's unlikely it will at that age. It works for older kids too. :)
posted by warriorqueen at 6:23 AM on December 9, 2016

This is a great time for one of those baby play mats with the toys dangling down from the arches. My kids used to go nuts for them. Get the kind that has rivets, and a set of plastic links so that you can dangle random crap and change it up. If you have resale stores or freecycle or something you should be able to get one fairly inexpensively.

Other than that, agreed with those who say go out as much as possible (that gets WAY harder later), and "involve" baby in your chores as much as possible. If baby isn't too barfy, plop them in the laundry basket and tickle their nose with a sock between pulling t-shirts out from under them.
posted by telepanda at 6:28 AM on December 9, 2016

The time I spent baby wearing (ugh that term) my son was, honestly, wonderful. I'd strap him on and go about my business, both at home and outside, and he was as happy as a clam. I was able to do light chores around the house with a minimum of fuss.. I think he liked the constant movement.

He was born in October, so I definitely took him out when it was cold, but we bundled up and it was fine. At 6 weeks, I was using a Moby wrap. I honestly miss those days, having his cute face keeping me company was nice, and I really do think being so close to me was calming for him.

And honestly? When the weather if frightful and you're just not feelin it? Face baby away from the tv in a Rock n Play, dangle some toys and bingewatch. It's okay. Baby will never know.

Yep. I did this too and regret nothing!
posted by DrGirlfriend at 6:56 AM on December 9, 2016

Sounds like you've got face-to-face interaction, tummy time, and books covered. If your baby is amenable, I'd do whatever you please with the rest of your time. Wear your baby/stroll and go for walks or visit museums, visit cafes, visit with friends, watch TV, whatever you'd like to do. So much of this is going to be dictated by your kid, honestly. Although mine didn't really cry all that much, he was a chronically unsatisfied baby and needed a change of scenery and a new activity every 3-5 minutes, plus he slept horribly and never just lay anywhere looking around. (He liked being "worn" while I walked, but FORGET about ever standing still or sitting down, and even then, he was only good for 1 hour or so before he needed to wiggle.) So 90% of my time was trying to keep him occupied and happy. If your baby's chill, I don't think you need to worry about "programmatic content" aside from accompanying you as you do whatever. When your baby is ready to do things slightly more independently, you will know :)
posted by Cygnet at 7:25 AM on December 9, 2016

Letting him hang out nearby and experience life while you putter around is great! Keep him close to you - if you are in the kitchen for a few minutes, drag his bouncy chair in there too and let him watch you. Talk to him as much as possible - the more words that babies hear in a day, the better. No need for baby talk, just chat to him about what you're doing and why, what you think about it, whatever.

Once my baby was that age, I made a rule to get out of the house with him at least once per day. It was good for my mental health and really built up my confidence. Library, coffee shop, stroll around the grocery store, wherever you can get to, even if it's just for half an hour.

I feel for you! Those days can feel so long.
posted by beandip at 7:53 AM on December 9, 2016

N-th-ing baby wearing. If you don't already have a carrier, I liked the Beco Gemini that I used from about your son's age until... well, my daughter's 2.5 years old and we still use it occasionally. It's a soft structured carrier rather than a wrap. You can either get an extra big jacket to zip over it, or there are waterproof insulated covers you can use to go out in cold weather. Get out of the house regularly! I feel like if you don't let people touch him, the risk of going out pre-vaccination is pretty low since it's not like he's going to be touching random surfaces.

I think it's fine to spend not that much time actively entertaining him. He will let you know when he's bored!
posted by Kriesa at 9:18 AM on December 9, 2016

Totally agree that babies can be entertained by almost anything and your priority should be spending time together, but entertaining yourself as well. Having said that, I remember my baby being fascinated by an aquatic pet store at that age. The water sounds, the lights and interesting fish captivated him. Plus these places are usually humid, which can be really nice on a winter day.
posted by areaperson at 9:44 AM on December 9, 2016

I read a lot of Janet Lansbury/RIE articles while I was pregnant, and I found her perspective on this topic really helpful. E.g. link and link. The gist is that it's great to let babies play on their own where they have free range of movement (so ideally on their backs on a flat surface) - they'll be practicing the movements they need for development of gross motor skills, getting to know their body, exploring the world around them, etc. I'd read a lot about the Montessori approach to baby care too, so we used some simple interesting mobiles, high-contrast images, and the Ikea baby gym when she started discovering her hands. Baby can play independently while you get things done or while you're there with them observing. But you don't need to be actively doing anything during most of their playtime. This perspective helped me feel a lot more relaxed during maternity leave (I'm an anxious researchaholic type too), and now I've got a 10.5-month-old who is snuggly and social and also will happily play independently with her toys for up to an hour at a time. I should add that babywearing was really useful for us at that age too, especially when she was feeling more tired/cranky and not in the mood to be laid down.
posted by omnie at 12:14 PM on December 9, 2016

If you are shopping for babywearing carriers, I found the Ergo just didn't work well until my kid was larger. When he was a tiny newborn, we used a K'tan wrap and that was very snuggly but kind of felt like a hassle. The carrier I loved when he was small was the Baby Bjorn. Easy to put on, easy to put a baby into.
posted by beandip at 12:16 PM on December 9, 2016

Just a thought from personal experience - to a child there is no such thing as quality time. The more time you spend with them young the less time you will worry about them old. I definitely say wear the baby and talk talk talk. If you have a 2nd language, now is the time to talk that talk because the baby will pick it up along with everything else.
posted by ptm at 8:50 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

With my oldest, I really felt the need to be engaging with him and doing activities etc, (first time mother reading too many guilt inducing parenting blogs). Then my second child came along. Because there was two kids and she was a baby and happy to just hang out in a rocker while the now moving toddler still took up a lot of my time, she got less one on one attention.

So now they are five and three. Guess which one still needs an audience for absolutely everything he does (it's exhausting) and which one will very happily play by themselves? Now neither child is neglected at all but I really wish that with my oldest son, even as a baby, I had taken just a little step back and allowed him to develop the ability to be alone and not require constant interaction. It's a skill he will need for life.
posted by Jubey at 2:59 PM on December 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

So now they are five and three. Guess which one still needs an audience for absolutely everything he does (it's exhausting) and which one will very happily play by themselves? posted by Jubey
Yeah, I was thinking that with my earlier post.
We did the "Is she alright? Should I sneak into the nursery and look?" thing with the first baby. By the time the second came along, it was "I don't hear anything -- one of them is into something."

Each child rewrites the book. The lessons learned with the first are valuable, but the second child will need a different set of skills, which you will learn. And all phases pass with time, and are replaced with new ones.
Be good to yourself. My husband's sweetest gift to me was sending me out the door for a few hours each Saturday for guilt-free walks, shopping, gym-time, etc. while he bonded with the baby and toddler. Or taking them out to the park while I slept in.
posted by TrishaU at 8:25 PM on December 11, 2016

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