If you’ve ever looked into the sweet face of your sleeping child and thought ‘I have no idea what I am doing’ then girl, same. The biggest secret of new motherhood, in fact, is that none of us have the slightest clue what is going on half the time, so know that you are not alone. And fear not, for today I bring to you two simple – and developmentally sound – ideas for interacting with your newborn: doing tummy time, and reading black and white books.
IDEA #1: DO TUMMY TIME
Tummy time, the act of placing a newborn onto its stomach and watching while it tries to lift its head, is one of those developmental must-haves often first mentioned by a well meaning health visitor. It’s also one that can feel more than a little bewildering as, at first, your precious baby will most likely just lie face down, struggling to move, and possibly crying.
As time goes on, however, the benefits will start to become clear. And you will feel less of an urge to rush in and ‘save’ your offspring when they become disgruntled by this most pointless (in their eyes – they’re not cuddling you, and they’re not eating, so really what is the meaning of this torture) of activities.
To partake in tummy time, you simply need to place your little one on their stomach on a clean, dry surface,* and supervise. Start with 30 seconds – 1 minute per day as they adjust, gradually increasing to around an hour a day by three months.
(*Start your first tummy time sessions by placing baby on your chest, gradually moving them to another surface when you are comfortable to do so. Please speak to your health visitor if you have any concerns about your baby’s behaviour during this activity. And please try not to worry too much if they simply refuse to co-operate. I know a little girl that would scream blue murder whenever her parents tried tummy time, to the point that they gave up. She walked at nine months, and has had no developmental setbacks as a result. You have not failed if your child hates tummy time. They have more say in these things than we care to admit)
The benefits of tummy time include:
- Tummy time helps babies develop their neck, upper back, shoulder and arm muscles. Which, in turn, helps them become more able to hold up their own head. A very important thing when visitors come by and want a cuddle – it really eases the ‘DON’T FORGET TO SUPPORT THEIR HEAD’ stress that accompanies a new person holding your precious cargo, when said cargo is able to do it themselves
- Which helps them to develop motor skills, and meet developmental milestones such as rolling, crawling and walking. Decreasing your worries in the long term ❤️
- Tummy time can help relieve gas and bloating. A dad I know once said to me ‘I didn’t know half as much about the human body as I do since having a baby.’ One example being how extremely painful gas can apparently be. And honestly, I have to agree with him. Nothing lets you know that trapped wind is a bother like a shrieking infant. Tummy time helps to stretch baby out, stimulating normal bowel functions, and encouraging gas relief. Baby massage also helps with this, as does a pouch of prunes once baby is old enough for solids
- And it helps to prevent issues such as flat head syndrome, and twisted neck. Again, reducing the number of worries a newborn parent already carries around with them
It’s good practice to do tummy time until baby is old enough to start moving on their own, at which point they’ll keep up the good work all by themselves. And remember to always place them on their backs should they fall to sleep during tummy time. More on that, here.
IDEA #2: EXPLORE BLACK AND WHITE BOOKS TOGETHER
There are a lot of conflicting opinions on whether or not newborns see only in black and white (just as there are with dogs, I assume because although we can ask them, neither will give us a sensible/reliable answer.) What the majority of researchers appear to agree on, however, is that newborns see only in high contrast and, at first, the world around them is more than a little blurred.
I first discovered the ‘newborns love looking at things that are black and white’ theory in a baby class, at around 8 weeks postpartum and, having looked into it, I can now confidently say that black and white pictures really are great for newborns – for a myriad of reasons.
The benefits of looking at black and white books with your newborn include:
- Looking at black and white images helps in the development of your newborn’s optic nerves. Eye development is paramount, and can be helped along by the introduction of the correct stimuli. Due to newborns being able to focus on black and white imagery, showing them such pictures helps to train their eye muscles, even teaching said muscles to work in line with the brain
- Co-ordination between the eye muscles and the brain can only be a good thing. And although your newborn’s eyes will most likely make this connection in time without the use of additional visual aids, exploring black and white pictures together will help the process along
- And it improves their focus, too. Which is great for healthy cognitive development. As newborns can only see a short distance away, stimulation that holds their attention can be hard to find. Black and white images are perfect for this, helping them to develop longer attention spans
- They can be used to prolong tummy time. A lot of infants have trouble with tummy time, often finding it frustrating. Distract them with pictures that capture their imagination, however, and they’re much more likely to stay in place
- And are stimulating without overstimulating. Because no mother wants to hear the dreaded words ‘could he be a bit overstimulated?’ when their newborn starts to shriek
Looking at black and white images together is a brilliant way to while away a few minutes between naps and nappies. Don’t feel you have to spend money on books, either, if you’re working to a budget. A computer print out of a simple monochrome pattern does the job just as well