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What to do with a baby all day?

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I hear it all the time.

“What am I supposed to do with this baby all day?”

“If I sing itsy bitsy spider one more time I’m going to scream!”

“What can I do to enhance my child’s development?”

“Am I a bad parent for being so bored?”

What the heck am I supposed to do with a baby all day?

You are an adult. Nobody expects you to suddenly be entertained by books with one word on each page and talking all day to someone who just stares back at you! The good thing about babies is that they aren’t awake for very long! Depending on your baby’s age they are likely taking between 4[1-5months] and 2 [8-16months] naps a day. This leaves you with 3-5 awake periods to fill.

Morning Nap:

The morning stretch is almost an extension of night for your baby. Keep it calm, keep it snuggly. This is a great time to bring baby into your bed and roll around, give snuggles and tickles and giggles. Sing songs and read books. We know you may be half awake at this time too. It’s totally fine to grab a coffee and a book and sit near your baby and read. Better yet, read aloud. Listening to the pace and inflection of your voice can actually make your baby a stronger reader later on. And I promise they won’t understand that steamy love scene.

Midday Nap:

One of those times, try to get out of the house. Aim for the midday period. Even if you drive to get a coffee, take a walk, or sit in the baby area of your local library; it’s breaking up the day. Humans are social creatures and being stuck at home with a baby [especially in the winter] can feel really isolating. So that’s one stretch out of the way!

Okay so only 1-3 stretches left.

Other Naps:

Here’s my standard prescribed routine for babies [and toddlers, and even kids]. Baby wakes up from nap, eats while you talk/sing to her, and then plays in your arms for a few while she digests. Then you lay or sit her in a safe space surrounded by accessible developmentally appropriate items.

And you go away.

You do your dishes, you make your phone call, you live your life. Depending on the age of the baby and how long you have been implementing this for, this may last only a few minutes. However, some babies will play happily for an hour or more. They play better with open ended, age appropriate toys. We love lovevery.

Eventually your baby will get bored or lonely and call for you. Go over, offer some new stimuli if necessary, and sit by them. Just observe, and maybe narrate some of their play if they look to you for interaction. “Wow Noah, I see that you reached far for that ball. You really had to stretch.”

Eventually they may ask for more interaction. That is your cue to step into the play. This is the time for the songs and the silly voices. Your baby has emptied their tank of their independence and now needs some caregiver attention. This may also coincide with beginning to getting sleepy, and you can transition into naptime.

Know that it’s okay to not like to do a certain thing.

My daughter LOVES baby dolls, always has. I do not like playing baby dolls. I’d rather do a manipulative, or have a dance party. Ever since she was a baby she knew it wasn’t my favorite thing. I would either say, no thank you. Or I would play for a certain amount of time [usually 5-10 minutes]. Everyone has your preferences and it’s healthy for your baby to see an appropriate way to assert limitations.

So the main takeaways on how to handle the “what to do with your baby all day” debacle:

  • Have a flexible routine that you can look forward to
  • Compartmentalize your “on” time so you don’t feel so tapped
  • Know that it’s normal to feel bored or lonely
  • You got this!

Karina McCarthy

A Rhode Island native who has babies in her blood. A mom to a beautiful daughter and a lover of yoga and long naps.