Quality Time With Your Baby
I’ve noticed something that seems to be common among parents of small babies. A lot of parents (I’m sorry if this sounds sexist but it seems more common with dads) have the idea that they will start spending time with their baby “when he/she is big enough”. I’ve heard different dads say things like, “It will be nice when my baby is big enough so we can go outside and play catch or something. That’s when we will really connect”. I understand where they’re coming from with this, but I disagree with that mentality.
I feel very strongly about parents bonding and spending quality time with their children, regardless of age. Yes, infants can’t do much but they are constantly learning. They watch us, study us, listen to us and are fascinated by us. The world is brand new to them. It’s vital that babies know they are loved, but they also need to know they are liked.
Many parents think it’s just plain boring “hanging out” with their baby, if the baby isn’t able to interact much. I personally think it’s selfish to wait, especially when basing it on what’s fun and what isn’t. Babies enjoy the bonding, love, and attention from mommy and daddy. Holding, cuddling, singing or just talking to your baby is very special and important, even if it seems insignificant. It’s never too early to start connecting with your baby.
When my son was born, I was exhausted. I wanted so much to spend a great deal of time with him, bonding with him. I realized it was difficult to connect much in a playful way, because he was so small and didn’t know much yet. All he really understood was crying, drinking milk from his bottle, diaper changes, being held and sleeping. I don’t think he even understood who his parents were. Everything was new. I tried to sleep when he slept, because I had to be awake when he was. It bothered me, though, because it seemed like during his waking hours I spent a lot of time cleaning, washing dishes, etc., just trying to catch up on things. I expressed these feelings to others and was told, “Well, you shouldn’t feel bad. He won’t remember if you spend much time with him or not. He can’t do much anyway, he’s just a baby. Don’t worry about it.” I started thinking a lot about this, and began to wonder about the psychological part of my baby’s development. I wondered, if he doesn’t technically “remember” spending (what I call) quality time with him as an infant, will he not recognize a very early connection and have the understanding that he is truly loved and appreciated?
I’m not a doctor, and these are just personal thoughts on the topic, but I do think they make sense.
When your baby cries and is picked up, held and softly spoken to, it means something to your baby. There are many cases where babies are left in cribs a lot of the time, or when they’re a little bit bigger, put in playpens with some toys, having to remain in there quite a bit of the time. In such cases, they aren’t given much attention. Some parents think it’s enough to “keep them entertained” if they have toys to play with. I believe that parental involvement is way more important to a baby than having toys to play with. I definitely think toys are important and can help with their creativity, but it just cannot replace parental interaction.
Just because your baby can’t interact much physically with you, doesn’t mean you can’t interact with them on their level. They would carry on a conversation with you, if possible. They just can’t express what’s on the inside right away, but the burden shouldn’t be placed on them because of it.
Babies can tell if they’re being brought into things instead of placed in a crib or bouncy seat to occupy their time while mom and dad do other things. This is one reason why baby wearing is a great idea. Even if you’re “busy” doing other things, your baby gets to feel involved, even if it’s just watching, because he or she is with you.
The whole idea of waiting until your baby is big enough and old enough to start spending real time with that doesn’t revolve around the necessary things like feeding and diaper changes is, in my opinion, a bad idea. Your baby is ready now for that personal interaction. When you make your baby wait until you are ready, precious time is passing by that he/she is left having solitary moments, just watching or listening. I believe that as parents we need to consider that from the moment our babies are born, we should start showing them our interest in them. I can speak from personal experience on this, as I’ve seen what that interaction can do.
Even as an infant, as my son lay in his baby bed in the livingroom while his educational programs play on the tv, I would talk to him about various things. I’d just talk to him, kiss his forehead a lot, tell him frequently throughout each day just how awesome he was and how much I love him. He couldn’t speak, but I could see the happiness in his eyes. When he was able to make facial expressions (around 6-7 weeks of age) he would look at me and smile a lot while I spoke to him. In a way, it felt kind of like I was talking to myself, especially when it was just my son and me at home, but I knew that he knew I was talking to him. I could see it meant something special to him. I loved to hold him and cuddle with him, and I believe that he recognized early on what love and affection is.
I just want to encourage other parents to not underestimate the quality of time spent with your babies, regardless of what they can do for you. Babies need to know they are seen as important. I think parents can get so caught up in trying to avoid being bored themselves (by waiting until their babies are “older”) and don’t realize this makes their babies experience boredom while waiting. Don’t miss out on the early opportunities!