Spending time with your babySee all parts of this guide Hide guide parts
Spending time with your baby and talking and singing to them helps them feel safe and secure. They also learn how to communicate.
Cuddling up with a story, song or rhyme is a great way for you to bond, especially if you add tickling and making eye contact.
Even before they’re born, hearing your voice is important.
If you can talk to them often about what you’re doing or what you can see around you, it will help their language and communication skills to develop.
Playing with your baby
Play is really important for your baby too, even at this early age. As they grow it will become a great way for them to stay healthy and develop physically and emotionally.
Play can help your baby develop their:
- speech, language and social skills
- physical strength and coordination
It’s a great way for any brothers and sisters to get to know your baby too, though they may need you to guide them.
Your baby’s best and favourite plaything is you. You and the world around you are all they need right now, so don’t worry if you haven’t got a box full of toys ready.
Talking and singing to your baby
Your baby loves the sound of your voice and watching your face. Sharing songs and rhymes will be one of their first experiences of play and most really enjoy it.
Songs, rhymes and stories can suit different times of day. They can:
- comfort and soothe your baby if they’re crying or sleepy
- be a way to play together, using tickling or action songs or rhymes
Talk directly to them and make eye contact, but also slow your speech down and use a higher pitch. A 'sing-song' voice works well.
Try and have some quiet time every day without any distractions where you can really focus on your baby.
Look for times when they seem alert and make sure there are no distractions or background noise, such as TV or mobile phones. This helps them to focus on your voice.
Respond to your baby
Your baby will be trying to connect with you too. At first this might be:
- huge cries
- very small attempts to communicate
- little movements
- a sense they’re looking at you differently
If you spot some of these, respond to your baby and then wait for a while. It might take more than 10 seconds while your baby gets a response together, but it will come.
If they turn their head away don’t worry, it usually means they just need a quick break to make sense of what is happening.
Gentle touch and massage
Gentle touch and baby massage have benefits for you and your baby. Having this kind of skin-to-skin contact with your baby can help them thrive and help you be more confident as a parent.
You can start baby massage from birth, but:
- don’t do anything your baby doesn’t like
- stop if they’re getting distressed in any way
- only use natural oils such as grapeseed or almond oil, as essential oils can cause allergic reactions and irritated skin
There may be a local baby massage group near you, so ask your midwife, health visitor or family nurse if you’d like to try it.
Reading to your baby
If you read or share books with your baby, even from a very young age, you’ll be helping them to develop the skills they need later in life.
Just a few minutes a day will help their language skills and development. It doesn’t matter if you’re not sure about reading aloud – your baby loves hearing your voice so just talk about the pictures.
It’s free to get books for your baby if you join your local library. Ask the librarian if any other activities and events for parents and babies happen at the library too.
Your Baby Box will include books to read to your baby while you're pregnant and after they're born.
Bookbug gives every child in Scotland 4 free bags of books and resources such as a booklet of songs and rhymes, between birth and the age of 5.
Bookbug also runs free Bookbug sessions in partnership with libraries and community groups across Scotland. These are fun sessions of stories, songs and rhymes to enjoy with your baby, and a great way to meet other families near you.
Your first bag of books
You’ll get your first Bookbug bag from your health visitor or family nurse when your baby is between 3 and 5 weeks old.
The bags come in English and Gaelic versions and there are also tactile books available if your baby has additional needs.
The Scottish Book Trust has more about Bookbug
BBC Tiny Happy People
BBC Tiny Happy People Online resource to help you develop your child’s language and communication skills.
Videos on chat and play from pre-birth through to 5 years old.
TV, tablets and phones are a big part of our lives now. But they can be distracting, so you might miss out on one-to-one time with your baby.
Think about how much time you spend talking and playing with your baby and whether you might be missing some of those chances because of the TV or phone.
Even a TV that’s on in the background can be distracting for your baby:
- If the sound's on they can’t tune in to your voice
- If the sound's off the changing pictures can distract them
Just be aware of how much time you’re spending on your phone or tablet. Make sure it’s not getting in the way of talking and playing with your baby, spending time with your family and friends or being active.
Can't put the phone down?
Everyone finds it hard to put their phone down sometimes.
To help you focus on your baby, try to:
- set aside special times for talk and play, even if they’re short
- put the phone in another room on silent when you talk with your baby
- use the times when your baby's asleep for social media catch-up.
You can also try an app that helps you manage your screen time.
Try and find time every day when you’re away from screens so you can focus on playing and talking with your baby.
You could do that when:
- they’re just awake and interested
- you’re feeding
- you're out and about
If you’re feeling stressed or lonely, sometimes chatting with your baby can help you feel better.
Screens at bedtime can be bad for your sleep.
If you’re as tired as most parents are, try to:
- have an hour or so before bed without your phone or tablet
- set your phone to flight mode or put it a few feet away from your bed when you go to sleep
Social media and apps can be great for sharing news about life with your baby with your family and friends. It can also help you to keep in touch and feel less isolated or cut off from friends or work.
Think carefully about whether to share photos of your baby through social media. Photos are online for a long time and as your child gets older and becomes an adult, they may not want other people to see them.
Translations and alternative formats of this information are available from Public Health Scotland.
12 August 2021
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