Keeping babies engaged can be exhausting. Sometimes you’ve got to have a little break — but how?
Recently I had the pleasure of spending two hours with a delicious 1-year-old baby. I’ve known the mommy since she was a child, and the GiGi (grandma) is an old friend of mine. Some of my friends are Grandma, Nana, GiGi, Lulu — you name it, there is a name for the beloved who enjoys a grandchild.
This precious little girl was busy — all movement, all the time! GiGi said she doesn’t remember our kids being so active.
“Do you have an ‘exersaucer’?” I inquired. “I think I’d be dead without that thing! I owned two of them, and I used to drag them into the bathroom and pop the twins in each one so that I could take a shower. And if you put the toddler in it and choose a Baby Songs video, you can put your feet up for 20 minutes and look at a magazine, or even close your eyes for a few seconds.”
“No screen time until age 2!” exclaimed GiGi.
“Really?” I asked. I had been singing songs to the baby the last hour that I remember from Baby Songs videos from 25 years ago.
“She’s an expert, so she knows,” GiGi said, referring to her daughter.
GiGi has kept up with developmental guidelines that recommend no screen time for babies younger than two, and so has her daughter.
“Unstructured playtime is more valuable for a young child’s developing brain than is electronic media,” notes the Mayo clinic. “By age 2 children may benefit from some types of screen time, such as programming with music, movement, and stories.
“By watching together, you can help your child understand what he or he is seeing and apply it in real life. However, passive screen time shouldn’t replace reading, playing, or problem-solving.”
The only time babies from birth to 18 months should be on screens is video chatting with a close relative, such as a parent away on a trip, Screen Time Labs recommends. From 18 to 24 months, they approve of a few hours of educational programming a week, “with a parent watching and playing along.”
“The screen should be a supplement to an activity, not the focus of the activity.”
There are lots of great ideas for non-screen educational activities to do with your baby. (Screen-Free Parenting has 45 here.) They all involve mom or another caregiver. Great for baby, but what if mom is exhausted or overwhelmed?
Sometimes you need a few moments to shower, drag a comb through your hair, brush your teeth, read, or meditate. The old-school “exersaucer” can help!
I pulled up Amazon Prime and showed the newest iteration of this wonderful invention, with all its fanciful bells and whistles — parrots, ducks, blocks, mobiles, you name it — to GiGi, her daughter, and baby. Then I promptly ordered one for them.
Before I left, I looked the tired new mom in the eyes and said, “I’m sure you are correct about no screen time until age 2. But you matter, too. Your health and well-being matter. If you are fried because you have no down time, perhaps a 20-minute break here and there wouldn’t be too damaging to the baby.”
It’s all about balance. I can understand not trusting anyone to watch my baby, which is how this mom feels, so she hasn’t had any childcare. The pandemic certainly didn’t make that any easier. But if you are IT, perhaps relaxing some of your rules to nurture yourself is in order.