Interacting With Your New Baby: How to Play With a Newborn

Wondering how to play with a newborn? You’re in the right place! When it comes to tiny newborns, I get asked all the time, “What on earth do I do during wake windows?!” The good news is that hanging out with your newborn can be super easy, and even beneficial for sleep!


In this blog, I’m going to talk about:


Building Early Attachment


How Long to Play With Your Baby


How to Play With a Newborn: 7 Ways to Interact and Entertain 


Let’s jump right in!



Building Early Attachment


Let’s talk about attachment for a minute. Attachment is built over thousands of interactions that start on day one, including baby play. These interactions (or playtime) can be very simple…in fact, you’re probably playing with your baby without even knowing it. 


Each of these interactions builds attachment! Fun fact: Newborns respond to how we respond to them. So, the next time you’re just sitting there, chilling with your baby, try maintaining eye contact and talking to them in a loving way.


Our babies feel secure and attached when they know and are reinforced by how much we love them!


How to Play With a Newborn | The Peaceful Sleeper

Click here to watch more about building early attachment with your baby on Instagram.



How Long to Play With Your Baby


While it can be so so fun to spend that awake time with your new baby, remember that they still need plenty of sleep! 


How to Play With a Newborn | The Peaceful Sleeper

Click here to watch a video about how much daytime sleep your baby needs on Instagram.


If we spend a little too much awake time with them, they can become overstimulated. Overstimulation can lead to overtiredness…which is NOT fun. 


Some signs of overtiredness include:

  • Fussing
  • Rubbing their eyes
  • Tugging on their ears
  • Arching their backs
  • Flailing about


So how long can you play with your baby? Newborns generally do best when they are awake no longer than 45-90 minutes. Following your baby’s age-appropriate wake windows and paying attention to your baby’s sleepy cues will help you know when it’s time to wind down.


How to Play With a Newborn | The Peaceful Sleeper

Click here to view the age-appropriate wake windows on Instagram.



How to Play With a Newborn: 7 Ways to Interact and Entertain


1. Talk to them!


It might feel a bit like a one-way conversation at first, but it really isn’t! As I mentioned earlier, newborns respond to how we respond to them (especially around the 6 week mark when some babies start smiling!). 


Just talk to them, sing little songs, play with their hands and feet to increase their awareness, and tell them how much you love them…this is all great for their development and for fostering a healthy attachment.


How to Play With a Newborn | The Peaceful Sleeper

Click here to watch a video about interacting with your newborn.



2. Tummy time


Tummy time is super important for a few reasons. Besides counting as good awake time, it also helps strengthen your baby’s neck muscles and helps them practice rolling over. You can start tummy time with your newborn right away! 


If we’re calling it like it is, most babies don’t love the traditional tummy time. The good news is, there are a few ways to hopefully make it more enjoyable for them:


  • Use a nursing pillow to elevate their chest
  • Include their favorite toys or something new and exciting for them to look at
  • Try this tummy time alternative: sit with your knees bent and lay your baby on your thighs facing away from you. It’s almost the same exercise for them, but many babies are more comfortable like this!


How to Play With a Newborn | The Peaceful Sleeper

Click here to watch a video with more tummy time tips on Instagram.



3. Baby massage 


Massaging your baby is a great way to foster connection during the day AND help them sleep better!


There are lots of ways to make it enjoyable and relaxing for your little one, such as lightly scented lotion/oil, dim lighting, warm towels/environment, etc. 


How to Play With a Newborn | The Peaceful Sleeper

Click here to watch one of my favorite baby massage techniques on Instagram.



4. Newborn stretches


Doing stretches with your newborn during their awake time is great for their physical development, can help with fussiness, and helps them relax. And, I think we all want a baby who is less fussy and more likely to get to sleep!


I recommend talking to a specialist when it comes to trying different newborn stretches. Check out this pelvic stretch linked below! This particular stretch was recommended to one of our Master Consultants by her baby’s chiropractor.


How to Play With a Newborn | The Peaceful Sleeper

Click here to watch the chiropractor-recommended newborn pelvic stretch on Instagram.



5. Try hanging out in different positions


There are SO many different ways to hold, sit with, and hang out with your newborn. The position I have linked below is one of my FAVORITES! All you need to do is sit somewhere comfortable with your legs bent in front of you. Have your baby lying on their belly facing away from you, with their legs tucked underneath.


Here’s why it’s one of the best positions:

  • It can help release tricky gas
  • Gently builds up their leg strength
  • Acts as an alternative to tummy time (as I mentioned before, this is a GREAT position for babies who aren’t the biggest fans of traditional, on-the-floor tummy time…as well as babies with reflux!)
  • Fantastic position for baby massages
  • Gives you great contact time with them, but you can be more hands-free!


In the newborn stage, babies are just getting to know their new world! This position keeps them close to mama AND lets them look around and explore their environment. 


How to Play With a Newborn | The Peaceful Sleeper

Click here to see this position in action on Instagram.



6. Get outside


One of the BEST things you can do for your baby’s overall sleep is to get some time in natural sunlight. Taking in the sun (the best is low-angle sunlight in the morning and at dusk) helps increase early-day cortisol. This early-day cortisol is what prepares our bodies for sleep later at night.


Getting some fresh air and sunshine during your baby’s wake windows is so good for our little ones (and for us!).


How to Play With a Newborn | The Peaceful Sleeper

Click here to watch a video on Instagram about why getting outside with your little one is so important.



7. Soak up the cuddles


Remember, you can’t spoil a newborn! The first few months after your baby is born are often referred to as the “fourth trimester”. During this time, do NOT worry about nursing your newborn to sleep, too much baby-wearing, contact naps, etc. I talk more about this in my FREE Newborn Sleep Guide!


All of this to say, spend time holding and cuddling with your baby! It’s such a great way to bond with them as you get used to life with your newest addition.


How to Play With a Newborn | The Peaceful Sleeper

Click here to watch this reel about how you can’t spoil newborns.



Recap on How to Play With a Newborn


I hope this blog post was able to answer some of your questions regarding how to play with a newborn. The newborn stage is such an exciting time. Know that playing with your new baby doesn’t have to be difficult…you’re probably already doing so well without even noticing!


If you have more questions or want to troubleshoot with a baby sleep expert, grab a consultation. I have a team of the most AMAZING certified sleep consultants who are ready to give you the help you need and at whatever support level that works for you.


If you’re wanting to set the stage for optimal sleep learning once your baby is old enough, check out my 0-4 Months Content Library. It has guides and video courses to teach you the fundamentals of healthy sleep and how to decipher your baby’s cues to meet their needs before diving into the sleep learning process!

Chrissy Lawler

Chrissy Lawler

LMFT, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant

Hi! I’m so glad you’re here! I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, practicing for over 13 years.  I’ve set out to do ALL of the research and I created a method to optimize baby sleep that is tuned in, empowering and WORKS. There absolutely should be joy in motherhood, and I have learned that every baby CAN get better sleep!

Read more about my team here.

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