When baby is brand new, it seems like all they do is eat, sleep and poo! But as they transition from a newborn to a baby, they need stimulation as they get to know their new world. I was kind of at a loss when it came to this concept, I was not sure what to do with a 4 week old baby when they were awake besides feeding/snuggling. How do I stimulate baby's mind and body without OVER stimulating?
There are a few things I started doing around 4 weeks when Hunter's awake times grew longer. As a newborn he was only really awake/alert long enough for his feedings/diaper change (that is when he was sleeping and not fighting it!). But as he became more aware of his little world, it gave me an opportunity to actually "play" with him.
"Wake Time" activities we did from weeks 4 - 12
1) Daily exposure to natural light.
This is a necessity so that baby learns the difference between night and day. Taking baby out in the direct sunlight to get some vitamin D is a bad idea (especially in AZ in the summer, YUCK) unless there is shade. So I opted for indoor, natural light. First thing in the morning once baby wakes up and is ready for the first feeding, I bring him to a bright room filled with natural light. He has his first feeding, then I burp him, and prop him up in front of a window. He loves looking out the window, and he gets exposure to the natural light (just make sure the sun isn't shining directly on baby). Believe it or not, that is stimulation for baby! Its the perfect way for them to observe their surroundings without getting overwhelmed. I use this time to read a devotion to him, he obviously doesn't understand but he loves the sound of mommy's voice so this is a great opportunity for that.
2) Tummy Time
Hunter HATES tummy time! He lasts about 2-3 minutes before he gets fussy and wants to be done. So I have to break up tummy time in little short segments. We do this on a blanket on the floor (it should be a hard surface so baby can push up). I will put him on his tummy for 2-3 minutes, trying to distract him if possible with a toy, or laying down so he can see my face, or a mirror. Then I flip him back to his back to get some rest. We repeat this a few times until I can tell Hunter is getting tired. This is a great wake time activity and is really required in order for baby to get the strength to hold up his little head, and eventually be able to roll over and crawl.
We LOVE our walks/jogs. Hunter hated his carseat for awhile but he is fine with it now, and the walks/jogs are great for both of us (especially when trying to loose that stubborn baby weight we get from our little ones... #worthit) Just make sure baby is not in the direct sun during walks, a blanket to cover the stroller is perfect. I love the muslin swaddle blankets for this since its so lightweight and airy…they come in cute prints, find them HERE!
4) Activity Mat
This is one of Hunters FAVORITE things! My mother in law bought it for us and at 4 weeks she mentioned I should start using it, but I was doubtful that he would even like it at such a young age. But she was so right, Hunter LOVED it, and STILL loves it! He kicks and bats at the dangling toys. (This is the one she got us: CLICK HERE) Its the perfect thing for him to get his wiggles out!
Once baby's umbilical falls off, bath times can (and should) become a daily routine! (sometimes we have to go every other day if Hunter's skin is dry) but usually every day works. Hunter loves bath time! We talk and sing, and he loves the running water. This is honestly what I used to bathe Hunter until he was 6 months old, just propped up in the sink so you don't have to bend over a tub! OUCH! View the sling HERE! Its the best $12 to save your back!
Hunter did not like the swing until he was about 6 weeks old, but some baby's LOVE them! He still only can do about 20 minutes in it until he gets bored. I love to prop him up in the sing in the kitchen so that I can do some cleaning/cooking and he can watch.
7) Errands/Mommy musts
Of course we cannot always be in the house for the awake times with baby, so errands are another wake time activity. Car rides (if baby doesn't fall asleep), and stroller time out and about in the world can be stimulating for baby! Just be sure it does not drag on so baby misses naps regularly...I know Hunter gets overtired very easily so I have to be mindful of how long our outings last. If I am desperate I will put Hunter in my Ergo baby carrier while I am doing my big grocery shop of the week or something that is going to take longer, that way he can nap while I am shopping. I'm sure some baby's nap fine in the cart in their carseat, but my guy is way to easily distracted for that, so the Ergo is a MUST!
8) Independent Play
Don't freak out, I don't mean leave the baby alone in the other room to play. I like to think of independent play as something that is monitored at a distance. Meaning you are still with baby, but you are not entertaining baby. Baby is left to kick, squirm, coo, and learn by himself. I started this with Hunter at 4 weeks, I really did not want to have a kid who needs to constantly be entertained by me, or feel insecure if he was alone. So this was one thing I implemented to give him confidence. He loves his independent play time. We usually do this with him before his last nap of the day, when mommy and daddy are eating dinner, he is right next to us on his activity mat so we can watch him play but still have mommy/daddy time!
Here are some signs that baby is done "playing", which means its time to stop so that they do not get overstimulated.
You can continue these activities (we have) as baby grows older, just know that they can handle a longer time awake so enjoy the longer play time with baby!
Let me know of any other fun activities you come up with to entertain your little one!