I consider myself a mix between a crunchy and silky mom. For those of you who don’t know… a crunchy mom believes in home births, cloth diapering, baby wearing, co-sleeping, breast feeding and organic eating. A silky mom believes in hospital birth, bottle feeding, disposable diapers, crib sleeping and so on. A scrunchy mom is a mix of the two.
I had a hospital birth with medication but delivered naturally, I breastfeed my little one, feed her natural or organic solid foods, use disposable diapers (although I have some cloth diapers), I babywear but also have Baby P. in a stroller (I let her decide what she wants) and I did co-sleep for the first two months, but since 4 months old Baby P. has been sleeping in her crib.
Why am I telling you this? Because many silky and crunchy moms alike don’t know where to start or what to do when it comes to teaching a child independence and dealing with separation anxiety.
Here are a few things I did to teach my baby some independence which results in an hour at a time of her playing by herself independently!
1. Start with a routine
I started a routine with Baby P. at a relatively young age. At about 2 or 3 months, I started to get baby girl up at a certain time every morning. After she was changed and ate, I put her in her pack n’ play with a passel of soft toys (no less than 6 toys) and would make myself breakfast/coffee. Since she was still waking up, she loved this time of independent play from the get-go. Granted she couldn’t sit up, so I usually would prop her up in a boppy pillow and give her a soft toy or do some tummy time. She really started finding independent play time very fun as she was able to sit up easier on her own.
2. Try independent play time in small time slots
Don’t push the independent play time time for too long of a stretch, especially when your baby is younger. As Baby P. started to sit-up unassisted, I was able to start stretching her play times in the morning.
3. Delayed response
As Baby P. got older, I was able to stretch her play time in the pack n’ play. Typically as a baby gets older, he or she starts to realize that they are not a part of you and so sometimes separation anxiety can set-in. Usually you can tell when this is occurring because as soon as you put your little one down, they start crying. What I did to move past this is I put baby girl in her play area, gave her a toy and I immediately walked away. I usually waited about 5 minutes to see if she would entertain herself or not. I literally timed 5 minutes on the clock, because when your baby is crying, 5 minutes can feel like an eternity! If my baby was still crying after 5 minutes, I’d come back, comfort her and try again. We did this a few times, and if after a few attempts she still didn’t want to play, I’d hold her and move on. However, after a few days/weeks of consistency, baby girl realized what a fun area this was and she started to play on her own for sometimes over an hour at a time!
4. Create several play areas
We have a very small house, so our family room has become Baby P.’s play area. I have a pack n’ play for her to do morning play time, a walker and play saucer/bouncer for afternoon play time, and at night I put down a blanket/put up a gate and she plays on the floor. I have found that these different stations mix things up, that way I can rotate her toys so that there is something new and exciting (yet familiar) about these play zones. Baby P typically loves these areas and will play on her own in each of them for over 40 minutes at time.
5. We still have tons of snuggle time
I have heard many of my mom friends talk about how they do not want to do independent play time because “my baby needs to be held,” or “my baby is only going to want to snuggle for so long, so I need to get the most out of that time now” and so on… I want to assure you that you still have many hours in the day to snuggle and hold your baby in spite of the independent play time. At the most, Baby P. plays on her own maybe 2 hours out of the day (which gives me a much needed break). But the rest of the day I’m nursing her, rocking her to sleep, playing with her in these play zones, or just holding her. Let’s say we are awake from 7 am to 8:30 pm, Baby P. is playing on her own only 2 hours out of that 13 hour span. Meaning she has time with me for 10 to 11 hours. It doesn’t hurt her to learn some independence. Besides, I’m always nearby within ear shot of her.
What are your thoughts on this subject? Have you tried independent play time with your little one?