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How to entertain newborns (0-3 months)?

Are you very excited about your newborn and at the same time not sure how to handle him? Don't worry. You are not alone. As I always quote, babies don't come with a manual and we too learn and grow along with them as parents. 

Parents, especially first-timers somehow manage to take care of the basic needs of baby like feeding, bathing and diapering, but will have a lot of questions on how to engage the infant 24hrs or are we adequately entertaining him or going overboard and so on. I definitely had these. In this post, I am sharing simple, but effective ideas to entertain 0-3 months old. These activities will also help him learn about himself, his surroundings, develop physical and mental skills and a great way of bonding with parents. 

What to expect from a newborn (0-3 months)?

  • Spends majority of its time sleeping
  • Can hear sounds and respond to voices/noises by smiling, cooing or crying
  • Grasp fingers/clothes and gradually try to grasp objects 
  • Vision is not fully developed at birth. Can see objects at a distance of 8 - 10 inches. Eye sight improves gradually and will be able to spot familiar faces and track objects by the time he completes 3 months.
  • Can turn his head sideways and slightly lift head when he is on his tummy, but will not be able to hold his head straight.
How to engage newborns?

Talk.... Talk... and Talk...
Though this might be silly, it is important to talk to your baby as often as possible. Newborns are tuned to their mother's voice. They may not be able to respond, but they will learn a great deal through your conversations. Speak gently, but with different expressions in voice and face. It helps to inculcate the idea of language and expression in your child.

Make funny sounds
Try whistling or sound like parrot, cow or make honking sounds or say short repetitive words like ma-ma, boo-boo, la-la etc. These sounds attract babies and they will start giggling and eventually try to make these sounds themselves. This helps in their auditory development. Wind chimes, rattles and bells are few other good options to stimulate hearing in newborns. Try making the sounds from side to side, above and below the baby. This encourages baby to search where the sound is coming from.

Keep funny faces
Human faces are baby's favorite to look at. Make funny faces like twitching your nose or blink your eyes at varying speeds or simply imitate/ repeat your baby's expressions. I am sure it will bring smiles to your little one's face. Stick out your tongue and see if your baby copies you. This helps to develop attention, listening, responding and copying actions in your child.

Make physical contact
Skin-to-skin contact makes the baby feel comfortable and secured. It is a wonderful way to connect with the child at an emotional level. 
  • Cuddle and hug your child as much as possible. This releases a hormone called oxytocin which is essential for building a strong parent-child bonding. It also provides greater comfort and relaxation for the baby. 
  • Stroke those tiny palms and enjoy them holding your finger in reflex. 
  • Hold your little ones in your arms and gently sway them side to side or up and down. They will enjoy this slight motion and may drowse into sleep.
  • When your baby is unrest or crying, gently pat him on his back. This helps to relieve him of gas and assures him that you are there for him.
Look into the eyes
Hold the baby in your arms or on lap and ensure your face is at least 8-10 inches far from him, so that he can look at you better. Talk or sing gently to him. He will try to make sounds, imitate you or open his mouth in response. While talking, always look into his eyes. Slowly move bright color toys or clothes in front of him. With time, they will try to grasp the objects. This will help strengthen their eyes muscles and develop eye-hand coordination

Smile often
Happy mothers raise happy children. While we are recovering from post partum, it is important to keep our stress away while attending to kids. Smile often at your little one. This subtle, but powerful expression, tells him he means the world to you and builds confidence and trust. 

Greet everyday
Greet your baby with a cheerful good morning followed by your baby's name, everyday when he wakes up and put him to bed by saying good night with a gentle kiss. Baby learns about human emotions from elders. You can teach how to interact with people through this gesture. In addition, it lifts up your mood to see the child smile back when you say a simple 'hello'. This is something which I swear by. 

Massage and exercise
Place the baby on a changing mat and gently rub slightly warmed oil like olive or almond oil on the baby's body.  Then carefully massage the hands, legs and tummy of the baby. Massaging helps the digestive and circulatory systems develop apart from relaxing the baby. While massaging, stretch out baby's arms and legs and slowly straighten them up. Move your baby's legs in a cyclic motion to strengthen the abdominal muscles. Enjoy playing with your baby during these sessions and remember to be gentle always and stop if your baby isn't enjoying the massage or exercises.

Go for a walk
Carry baby in your arms or in a pram and take a walk outdoors either in the morning or evening. Even a short walk on your terrace for 10 minutes will be sufficient to leave you both refreshed. The cool and fresh breeze, the sound of the wind, the movement of clouds, the sight and chirping of birds, will be very pleasant and improve infant's vision and ability to identify sounds.

Amuse with dangling toys
Dangling toys, ribbons and pinwheels mesmerize little ones and keep them occupied for longer durations. Fasten them to their crib or hang them at a place within their sight. All these bright and colorful items fascinates them and sooner they will try to reach and touch them with their tiny hands and legs. 

Play on mat
You can start giving tummy time once the umbilical cord has fallen. Place the baby on its tummy for a minute or two (to begin with and gradually increase the time) while it is awake. Ensure the child is not unattended. Tummy time helps to prevent flat spots on head, gives them time to flutter their arms and legs and thereby develop motor skills and may enable them to quickly crawl.

Swinging and rocking
Swinging helps your baby relax while teaching him to sense movement through space and balance his body accordingly. Ensure the swing is safe and comfortable for the child and don't leave them alone in it. 
Alternatively you can sit in the rocking chair with your baby lying on you, when you sing or softly talk. While resting on you, your little one can feel your warmth, hear you and your heart beat. 
Both these ways are very effective to put the baby to sleep.

Sing lullaby
Singing lullabies is an age old and popular technique to soothe a crying baby or lull the child to sleep. Any song or rhyme which is slow and rhythmic can be sung as a lullaby. Sing the same song every time you put a baby to sleep. This sets a routine and signals the baby to sleep whenever the song is sung.

In the initial 3 months, your time, your gentle touch and your unmatched presence is what your baby needs the most. You wouldn't need a nursery full of toys to entertain a newborn. Just few rattles or soothing musical toys would do. 

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