Establishing a routine with your infant can help provide structure and answers during a very overwhelming time. The straightforward “Eat, Play, Sleep” routine, for example, is appropriate for the first several months of a newborn’s life. After starting this routine, you will better understand what your infant is communicating (e.g. a long discontented cry while playing means “Mom I’m tired!” since the step following “play” is “sleep.”). Your baby will also develop secure attachments to their caregivers as their needs are consistently and accurately being met. Additionally, implementing this routine can help your infant establish healthy nighttime rhythms so that everyone can get more sleep!
Get this routine started by feeding your infant. Feeding will occur at least 10 to12 times per day during the first few weeks of life, giving you plenty of opportunities to initiate this routine. Second, “play” with him or her. A very young infant may play for only 5 to 10 minutes, but over the next several months the “play” step will stretch out to a couple of hours. Examples of playtime activities for very young infants are suggested below. Finally, put your infant down to sleep. After your child wakes up, the cycle begins again. The only exception to these steps occurs during nighttime hours, when you will eliminate the “play” step and simply feed your child before putting him or her down to sleep. This will help your infant understand that daytime is for playing and nighttime is for sleeping.
When initially starting this routine, some detective work will be required to determine when your child is truly hungry and when he or she is simply tired. Look for the following cues to help decide.
Hungry Cues From Your Baby:
- Initiation of the “rooting reflex” – turning head to side and opening mouth
- Sucking on hands or other objects, e.g. the caregiver’s shoulder or arm
- Licking lips or smacking lips
- Opening or closing mouth
- General fussiness or crying after waking
- Decreased engagement – won’t look at you or favorite objects for very long
- Decreased movement
- Eyes that are barely open
- Rubbing eyes or pulling on ears
- General discontentedness and crying after playing
How can you play with a newborn or very young infant? Give your newborn sensory experiences, and remember that the world is a new and potentially overwhelming place.
Try not to do much too quickly or often, and try to stimulate only once sense at a time.
- Sing to him
- Play with her hands and feet
- Walk him around and tell him about his surroundings
- Simple black and white toys such as rattles are appropriate for young infants. See if your infant will turn towards the sound of the rattle or look in its direction.
- Play the “tongue game.” Mimic your baby’s tongue movements, and watch to your amazement as he repeats the same tongue movement! Many infants can play this game even after only a few weeks of life.
Enjoy this new and exciting time in your life!