Sometimes it's hard to see the forest through the trees. I find that's what happened to me with this article as I was eager to publish something that would highlight some of the favorite tools that I am using with my little one to help me accomplish more & stress less while working from home or bringing the baby to work. So, I've examined this piece under a different light and have completely over-hauled this article to help you keep that scale balanced between work, life, and baby!
The following will not only go over some of the basics of working with baby from 0-6 months, but will also go over some of the solutions I've found to my every-day struggles, so be sure to look for the TIP*s as well.
Twice as Nice- If you plan to work from an office at least 40% of the time, I would highly recommend considering a double-down on at least a rocking chair/glider and some kind of hands-free standing apparatus (we use and would recommend the Exersaucer and Jump-n-go). Also, it won't be long before baby-proofing will be required at work as well as at home and a baby gate, portable crib, and other safety devices will have to be purchased for your office as well as at home! TIP* Start looking WELL in advance and collect coupons so that you can aim to buy the equipment when you can take advantage of those 15%+ off deals in stores. Otherwise if you are willing to accept gently used equipment (and have checked for any recall information) you can try yard sales and classified ads for what you need. Think Boy Scouts and "Be Prepared"!
Infants 0-3 months - Don't be fooled into thinking that this is the hardest time because your little one needs you so often (say every other hour), but in reality this is the easiest part - there is no guesswork, the baby either needs food, sleep, a change, a burp, or a snuggle!
•· Routines Welcome - children need and crave boundaries and routines and you should help them by creating one that works for your schedule and theirs. Most of the time you will have to work around their time clock but you can gently urge them to stay awake a little longer or ease them to sleep a little earlier based on both of your needs. By setting good routines now you will not have to work so hard later to break bad habits and set good ones. PLUS, as you get more settled into a routine you can take relief in knowing that naptime IS coming and you WILL be able to get to the work in your inbox rather than hoping & stressing.
•· Hands-free Heaven - Invest in the equipment that will help you get more done but don't exceed recommended time or safety limits - it will save your sanity to have as many devices that you can afford that will keep baby happy. The short list I would recommend are:
•1. Swing - with forward and back and side to side motion as well as at least 4 music selections with at least one being nature/heartbeat sounds.
•2. Portable crib - buy one with a bassinet insert as well as music and keep it near you for quick soothing so long as using the crib part won't interfere with your sleep training.
•3. Stationary seat - this gives the baby a safe place and a different perspective for awake time that you can sit near you to provide more hands-free time
•4. Front Carrier - I personally did not use the slings but the result should be the same. Use something you are comfortable with and can get baby in and out of easily - again think hands-free time
•5. Rocking Chair/Glider - probably the single most important parent-aid you can buy!
•6. Boppy - I never even used this as a nursing pillow but instead as a seating positioner for baby - on tummy they can use both hands to play and on back with an infant gym dangling above them, and later as a seating positioner while learning to sit up, it's the best $30 you could spend. TIP* Buy two pillow cases so one is always clean.
•1. Earpiece - As soon as you start talking to that all-important client, you can bet that baby will cry! But if you aren't tied down with wires you can either hold baby and walk around (the motion may help to soothe) or you can act like your talking to baby while they are laying and playing in front of you.
•2. Currier Service - Try using a document currier to deliver offers (and then conference call with your client to discuss) or any other time-sensitive documents, especially in winter months when taking baby anywhere is more like an expedition than a trip!
•3. Hands-free Typing Software - I haven't used this myself but have wanted to try the Dragon Naturally Speaking and if you can walk/play AND type I think the investment is worth it, so long as it actually works.
Infants 3-6 Months - This is the time when life really starts heating up, perhaps trying solids for the first time, early teething, possibly their first cold bug - not to mention the fact that babies this age are discovering something new every day, it's hard not to be distracted!
•· Getting Ready - typically loosing the morning nap can trigger difficulties getting ready in the morning for the parents. TIP* I have come to use a Johnny Jump-up (see below) device in the bathroom with me while I shower. I can stick my head out and talk-or just check in- every couple of minutes. If baby is fussy, tired, or otherwise not interested there are only a couple other options - shower the night before when you have help watching baby; place baby in crib safely with a toy (awake), mobile, and other distractions with monitor on, or wash your hair in the sink with baby in his Exersaucer (see below) next to you. If you are especially brave you could shower or bathe with your child however this could be very unsafe without extra help (and hands) and is NOT recommended. If you do it, follow ALL safety guidelines recommended by a trusted pediatrician, parent coach, or other professional. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER leave baby unattended- even for just a second- in the bath, bath seat, or anywhere near water!!!!
•· Getting Out - Again travel with a little one in tote is difficult, with a schedule it can be easier but sometimes you have to be somewhere regardless of your baby's schedule. Sometimes this will mean listening to your baby cry but there are a couple things you can try TIP* By now your baby should have a (loose) schedule so you can try to plan to drive around naptime and you can encourage your baby to sleep either by feeding, rocking, patting, walking or your method of choice before going into the carseat. If there's nothin' doin' you can try bringing along a toy that had been out of rotation for a little while (they discover new things all the time so rotating toys is best, cleanest, and you'll get the most bang for your buck) or a new toy that is easily held. Parent will ALWAYS want to keep a loud rattle or something up front as well that can catch a melting down baby's attention or can just be passed back if baby's toy falls. Another option is to ask someone to ride along and keep baby company. If all else fails, you can try soothing music or earplugs (lol!)
•· Stimulation and Supervision - At this age they need more than to eat and sleep, they need interaction, socialization, and free play! If you know what to expect you won't be disappointed when they take you away from your work. Don't get discouraged, get help. TIP* In the summertime enlist a school-aged neighbor or older children that can stay and entertain the baby while you are working. If you are needed, you are there but they can for the most part hold, play with, and entertain the baby. In the wintertime or during school months, try to recruit a family member (grandparents are ideal as they want time with baby too) when possible or hire a sitter from a service so that you can get work done & save your sanity.
•· More Toys - Bigger and better equipment is needed starting around 4 months IF your baby is ready and eager for it - check all manufacturing guidelines and make sure to watch your child for tired signs or loss of interest, if your baby tells you they've had enough, make sure to relieve them right away!
•1. Exersaucer or other stationary walker (as mentioned) - use only for 1/2 hour at a time 2-3 times per day with plenty of rest periods in between. These devices can hinder walking if they are overused or if the child is understimulated in other ways.
•2. Jump-n-go or other Johnny Jump Up device (as mentioned) - this is only good for use in doorways so although they like to stretch their legs, this view can get old quick, especially if they can't see you while playing in it so use only under supervision
•3. Portable Crib - your baby has probably exceeded the weight limit on a regular bassinet so you will likely want to invest in a portable crib, even if only used as a playpen where you can safely set the baby to play once mobility strikes!
And those are some tips that I've picked up these last six months, I hope you find them helpful if you are expecting, or have just had a young one yourself. We also invite you to share any tips or advice that you've gleaned from your experiences working & parenting!
Here is a more recent photo of my little love bug on his Boppy for all you out there!