A Guest Post by Emily Murray
Because there are so many caregiving tasks as a new parent, you may find that they become a little transactional. You do the task to get it done because you have 8 million other things that need to get done, too. But, these moments of caregiving; like feeding or diapering or bathing or getting dressed, can become connection-boost moments with your baby.
Connecting With your Baby Every day: Turn Caregiving into Connecting
You probably won’t have the resources to manage this level of connection and attention during every caregiving moment, but you might be able to swing once a day. Use these times to really tune in and watch for ways that your baby is communicating and cooperating with you.
Getting Dressed: Sometimes it seems that babies are experts at avoiding your attempts to get them clothed but there are some ways to make this task a cooperative event! If you scrunch a sleeve or pant leg up and slide it on, your baby will likely punch through and slide their arm or leg in on their own.
If you see that your baby’s attention is on something else while you’re taking care of their body, pause and wait until their attention comes back to you before continuing. These pauses can be as brief as 30 seconds, but they are a powerful way to communicate with and team up with your little one.
If you don’t have the extra time or energy to wait out their cooperation, even narrating what is about to happen can more deeply include your little one in the process. “here comes your shirt over your head – peek a boo! Next comes your sweater, I’ll have to roll you a bit for this one…”
Diaper Changes: If you notice your baby is really enjoying a clothes-free moment at the changing table, take the laundry risk and go with it every now and then to watch them delight in their body’s abilities to kick and move in this unencumbered state.
Go at their pace: Every once in a while, slow things down and go at their pace. If your baby is content where they are in their bed or on a floor mat, let them be rather than moving them for your convenience. Again, this probably isn’t something any of us can do all the time, but it goes a long way toward balancing out the many times we must go at our pace or when our agenda trumps theirs.
Start Special Time
Special Time with babies?!? Yep. You will have to do a little adapting since they can’t tell you how they want to spend their time, but you absolutely can begin using this Tool from Day 1. (If you haven’t yet heard about Special Time, you can read up about it here)
Name it and time it even though it might feel weird. Just like you talk up a diaper change or a bath, tell your baby that Special Time is about to happen. Because the purpose of Special Time is to turn your connection and attention dial up to 100%, it really can happen any time, but you might start by noticing when your baby is particularly relaxed or interested in the space around them.
At these times, simply sit with them where they can see you and delight in who they are at that moment. Follow their gaze to see what has captured their interest. Trust that they have everything they need to figure out life as a baby. Let any of your own worries or thoughts about past experiences, current struggles or the future wait until the timer goes off.
That’s it! Pour this “Vitamin C (for connection)” in whenever you can and maybe even work it into a daily routine.
Don’t Forget About YOU!
This list may sound fun and reasonable but it’s worth mentioning that most families are chronically under-supported. Becoming a parent can be disorienting, and sleep deprivation can sap your joy. Even if these burdens have you weighed down, I see the good parent in there (you’re reading this article so I’m 100% sure it’s true). This is where the Hand in Hand tool of Listening Partnerships can really help.
If you find that the gap between reading about these ideas and doing these things is too wide, then start with Listening Time and drain away some of those feelings until you can find your playful self.
If you feel stuck or want more, Hand in Hand Parenting has resources and support every step of the way.
More on Parenting Babies
Baby not napping? Try Some Success with Naps Using Staylistening