No one has more influence on your newborn’s development than you. All of your interactions, even those that may seem ordinary, have the power to impact your baby in important ways. Along with providing good nutrition, here are some simple things you can do to encourage how she grows and learns.
Time activities right.
Note the times of the day when your baby is awake and alert. That’s when she’s most receptive to looking at things and paying attention to your voice, so it’s the best time for interaction.
Make frequent eye contact.
This should be easy, as your baby sees best at a distance of 8 to 12 inches—just about the space between her face and yours when she’s in your arms. And at this age, faces are her favorite thing to look at.
Hang a mobile.
Choose one with interesting shapes and strong contrasts (for example, black, white, and red). Your baby’s ability to see patterns is growing, making this great stimulation about now.
Calm her startles.
If your baby seems to startle easily, try swaddling her in a blanket. The snugness and warmth will calm her with the feeling of the womb and make her feel secure.
You can bond with your baby through her reflexes. Realize, however, that these reflexes are just automatic responses. So, although the stepping reflex will cause her to lift her legs as if walking when you hold her upright against a firm surface, it in no way makes her more ready to walk. It’s just a fun way to interact and learn about the reflexes your baby came into the world with.
Come when she calls.
It may sound like simple advice to respond quickly when your baby cries and to check for possible causes: Is she hungry? Is she wet? Is she cold? Your responsiveness teaches her that what she communicates matters to you. That said, there may be some occasions when you’ve made sure your baby is fed and comfortable but she is still crying. Don’t stress. Have someone else hold or rock her, or place her safely in her crib for a few minutes if you need a break.
Talk to your baby often.
About what? Whatever you like: tell her about your day, make up stories, or sing her songs. Be sure to look at her while you’re talking so she can watch your face. You are laying the groundwork in her language development.
Watch for signs of overstimulation.
If you notice your baby turning away when you talk or play with her, back off a bit. This may be her way of expressing that she’s feeling overwhelmed.
Hold your newborn often.
It helps build emotional security, and despite what some people believe, you’re not spoiling her. Over time she’ll learn to regulate her emotions, but for now it’s important that she knows you can comfort her.
Walk and talk.
Walk (or even waltz) around with your baby and talk to her while holding her close in a carrier. The movement and body heat are comforting. Swaddling her in a blanket and rocking her work in the same way.
Make some simple expressions and see if your baby tries to imitate you: stick out your tongue, smile, or produce a silly sound.
Set up a support network.
Relatives, friends, neighbors, your baby’s doctor, and so on are people you can count on; knowing they are there to help you will make you feel more calm and secure, which will undoubtedly benefit your baby.