Ever wondered what on earth you’re supposed to be doing with your baby ALL day?
New parents often talk about days flying by at an alarming rate when looking after a newborn baby.
It’s an endless cycle of nappy changes, feeding, desperate efforts to get them down for a nap, and tummy time.
Once you’re in a very vague routine, it’s like Groundhog Day on speed. Every three hours the cycle repeats itself once again: Feed, burp, play, sleep.
You may also like: 40 things to do with your baby
We all have days when we look at the clock and can’t believe it’s 4pm and we’re still in our PJs.
But what about the days that drag? Yes when you’re juggling visitors, cleaning, appointments and cooking it seems impossible to fit everything in.
Then the initial newborn buzz calms down and you’re kind of beginning to get a sense for what having a baby is all about, what happens next?
Of course there are the obvious things that need doing, like feeding and sleeping.The first six weeks are filled with thinking about and working towards getting these things “right”.
But once you have had a chance to draw breath and realise there are actually gaps in the day, what on earth do you do with them?
The baby just lies there, staring, then crying, then staring again. They’re too young to really play with toys. You can stick something in their hand for 10 seconds before they drop it but they don’t immediately start doing entertaining tricks with their rattle.
I remember getting the baby bouncer out for my little one and sitting her in it. I would tap the toys hanging in front of her to make them rattle or jingle. She would stare for a second and then look at something else, flapping her chubby little arms about occasionally.
Of course it is adorable, but get to day 30 of doing that activity and you’re likely to be, dare I say it, a little bit bored.
I don’t think we should feel guilty for admitting this. Newborns will not be winning the prize for the greatest showman – they just don’t do that much.
By the time you’ve tried a bit of tummy time (which probably ended in crying after 30 seconds), waved a few toys in their face and walked them around the kitchen showing them all the utensils, you’re probably out of ideas.
You can’t, and probably don’t want to, spend all day out at baby groups or meeting people for coffee. There’s only so many hours you can waste in Costa.
Baby groups can be lovely, but they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. If you don’t enjoy them, that’s fine. You haven’t failed a crucial mummy test.
But if you do love baby groups, those only go so far towards filling the hours in your day.
You might have friends that have had kids at a similar time. But can you spend ALL day every day with them?
The fact is, there are some afternoons, or entire days, when you’re at home and just do not know what you’re supposed to be doing.
You can’t sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star again. You’ve already sung it 40 times.
So all of this leads to question, is it acceptable to just (whispers) let them get on with it and ignore them?
The answer is yes, yes it absolutely is.
And please stick with me here, before you recoil in horror and think I’m suggesting you cut off all physical and eye contact with your baby.
Engage with your baby, play with them. Do that as much as you like. But you don’t have to fill their awake time all day every day with play and educational activities. It is totally acceptable to put them on their play mat to have a kick around while you sit back and watch Netflix.
This pressure that we put upon ourselves to entertain our baby and be the perfect mother throughout all of their waking hours is just exhausting.
No-one can be a cartoon character-come-to-life all of the time. And that is not the measure of a great mother.
The truth is that if you give your brain and body a little time to rest throughout the day, you will be a better and more enthusiastic parent for it.
I remember feeling guilty if I wasn’t by my firstborn’s side every second trying to fill her awake time with fun stuff. If only I had just relaxed a bit and let her entertain herself every now and then I think I would have been able to enjoy that phase of maternity leave a little more.
It felt wrong to ignore her, like it wasn’t what a “good” mother would do. But no one can be “on” 24/7.
When I say ignore, I do not mean you leave them in a room and walk away. I mean you get them set up on a play mat, or in a bouncy chair, in the same room as you.
Then you make sure they are happy, before picking up a book or turning on the TV so that you can switch off a little.
Attend to your baby when they need you to. But as long as they are happy, let them carry on playing while you relax and switch off for half an hour.
Now that my kids are older, I still leave them to it when we’re at home for spells of time. This encourages them to use their imagination.
They create games between them, have little conversations with themselves, make up their own little worlds and just use their imaginations.
Leaving your baby to entertain themselves does not make you a negligent parent. In fact you’re nurturing a skill and a part of themselves that’s so important, the part that’s OK to be on their own, in their own head, for a little while.
If your baby is crying, of course comfort them. But if they’re happy to kick and squeal on the floor for a bit, let them get on with it.
So if you are bored, a bit fed up and wondering whether it’s OK to switch on the telly for a couple of hours, I hereby give you permission to do so. No guilt required!
PS I have got a list of ideas for what to do with a newborn baby here if you’re looking for ideas!
You could also check out my list of 40 baby hacks.