Parents of Infants- How Long Do You Let Baby Play By Themselves?

Tinkleberry is almost 3 months old. He seems pretty content to hand out in his swing, bouncy chair, or on the floor with toys for periods of time (15 -30min). However, I feel guilty if I don’t play/sing/interact with him for that long. However, this means I can never get the house picked up or anything at all done until my husband comes home from work and is able to give the baby undivided attention.

I’d like to be able to say, wash the breakfast dishes. But when I leave my kid on the floor/in his swing/bouncy seat by himself for more than 5 min, I feel like a shmuck. I also worry that I’m creating one of those blank-eyed Romanian orphanage kids.

So, Doper parents of infants, how long do you leave your kid to play by himself at this age? Assume he is in the same room, isn’t complaining, and would be immediately picked up if he cried or showed discontent. What is reasonable here? :confused: I’d prefer not to save all the tidying up until the evening, when I am exhausted and no longer care.

Feh, I’d leave him in there (as I did with mine) for as long as it take to get your chores done. No reason to feel guilty about it. I hope this isn’t too Pig-ish of me to say, but could it be you may be experiencing post-pardom? Maybe just a little bit?

The only advice I can give is don’t under estimate the “ingenuity” of baby. I used to feel like I was safe leaving my son in his playpen while I took care of my stuff. Untill, one day, baby realized he could stack up his toys in the play pen and make a make-shift ladder out of them, then sling himself over his prison walls. (But that’s all part of the fun about having babies. :wink: )

I can’t remember exactly how long we’d let Abbie Jr. do her thing by herself; I imagine it was probably similar to what you’re doing now.

Short version of my answer: you’re doing fine, IMHO, and don’t need to change anything. You’ve just got a case of New Mommy Nerves.

Long version:

If you are in the kid’s face constantly, you will end up with a kid who can’t entertain himself when he gets older. Abbie Jr., now 4, can go either way. She’s happy to read a book with Mommy or color or go outside and play. If Mommy has to do homework, though, she’ll find something to do on her own until I’m done. It’s all about balance.

A three month old has no major concept of time. Also, almost everything he sees, every day, is new to him. While you’re doing the dishes, those little neurons or whatnots in his little head are firing away, even if he’s just laying in the floor with a toy or chewing on his toes (which is just too adorable).

Plus, and this is just MHO here, these little breaks from you are good for him because every time you come back in the room, it reinforces his view that if Mom leaves the room, she’ll be back, because she always comes back and so there’s no reason to flip out if she leaves the room. This may result in you being able to pee in privacy once he starts walking :smiley:

Another reason this is a good thing: overstimulation. Sometimes babies just need to chill out. Since they are learning every waking second, I think there are times where they just get overwhelmed if they’ve got too much going on around him. It’d be equivalent to, say, you and me trying to learn advanced physics or calculus every moment we’re awake. We’d go bezerk without little mini mental vacations, ya know?

If he’s not crying for you, he’s happy. He’ll let you know when he needs a change of scenery or another round of Pat the Bunny.

If by “a little bit” you mean “a whole bloody lot.” Yes, seeing therapist, meds, etc etc. It’s compounded by medical problems with my kid and a very, uh, weird upbringing that I’d prefer not to repeat for my kid. Hence, I’m not always sure what the norm is for things. I tend to be far more cautious (concerning my kid) then play it fast and loose (like I usually do with everything else) because I’m pretty invested in not fucking him up. Hence, the polling.

Thanks for your input. :slight_smile:

My first son - 30 seconds. By then he would be destroying something.

Second son - as long as he was happy doing whatever he was doing. We never used playpens or anything so he could always find someone if bored and not feeling like screaming/crying.

OH, and for the love of Og! Please never let your son know you once refered to him as Tinkleberry. :smiley:

I’m the parent of a former infant, and I left him to entertain himself often enough to shower everyday and keep my house inhabitable. You’re not a bad parent if you set your child down for more than 10 minutes, and life is nearly impossible if you don’t. You can also move his swing/bouncy chair/walker into the kitchen and sing or talk to him while you do the breakfast dishes.

Alternatively, you could just wait until he naps to try to get everything done, but that’s the road to insanity. :slight_smile:

Not a parent but a psych student.

It’s good for infant development to let them explore their environment on their own. As long as they’re someplace they’re not going to get hurt, and they’re not getting frustrated (crying), they’re cool.

My kids never really napped. Og, that sucked the big one. Well, if you had the terribly placid sort which I am assured exists who would hang out in their swing for 5+ hours you might have a problem but if they are happy and you are getting stuff done, then I don’t see the issue with 15-30 minute breaks.

And meeting their needs doesn’t create a kid incapable of self entertainment. M was the King of Come and Entertain Me Twentyfour Hours a Day and now he’s totally self contained and has been for several years.

Do you have a sling?

Jimmy’s just a bit older than Tinkleberry. He’s good for about 15-20 on his own, or maybe a little bit longer if I put him in his swing or boppy, and have the tv on for him to look at. He likes the Wiggles, Og help us all.

I feel guilty putting the tv on for him or leaving him in his swing or putting him in his baby gym, but he seems fine with it.

My little GypsyBaby is also almost three months old, and he’s quite content to sit around in his swing or baby seat for 20-30 minutes at a time. What I often do is just lug him and his seat along with me, and sing or chatter to him while I do the dishes or laundry or whatever. At first, I held him almost all day, and he got so used to it that he wouldn’t even sleep unless I was holding him. I broke that habit after a few weeks, when I was getting no sleep and the house was a pigsty.

I have my three-year-old GypsyTot to entertain him, but I can’t really leave those two in the same room alone for more than a minute, because I don’t trust the Tot yet. He loves the baby so much that he’s a little too affectionate, and I’m afraid he’ll tip him over somehow, or shove the pacifier halfway down the kid’s throat.

I tried using a sling, but it didn’t work for me. I felt like I was off-balance, and it was in the way.

And yeah, I use the TV to keep the Tot occupied for an hour or so. That’s what Sesame Street is for. :slight_smile:

When my brother was a baby my mom had two other kids old enough to get into serious mischief but not old enough to be in school all day–plus all the regular housework to do. She often ended up leaving my brother to his own devices for quite a while. Luckily, he was an easy-going baby, more than happy to sit in his swing or play with his toys or the dog (who doted on him) while she did other stuff in the room. He’s seventeen now, and seems to have turned out just fine.

I was gonna chime in, but Abbie said it best for me.

IMO, baby needs a lil independence, and even if s/he didn’t–you DO. If baby’s in no distress–by all means do those dishes, read the paper, fold laundry–whatever. This is a good age, b/c the kid is still stationary–crawling and climbing stages can get a bit rough. Let baby have that down time–s/he is still learning–about him/herself. I wish that I hadn’t been so nuts about stimulation etc–like was said, it can lead to kids who don’t know or want to entertain themselves.

I have 3 kids–and I wish now that I had read the paper more when they were tiny or did stuff for ME. You can get sucked into “is this enough? Am I a good mom?” stuff–and that is an abyss.

For every person who thinks you’re doing fine, there will be someone else who thinks you are not. It’s a brutal, stupid game and I loathed it when my kids were babies. There is a book, titled, I Wish Someone Had Told Me by Nina Barrett (it may be out of print; maybe the library has a copy) that I found immensley comforting re: normal (for moms, not babies).

There is an article in this week’s Newsweek all about this, if you’re interested.

As for not knowing normal–I was in the same boat. But I also think that all new moms are. With your first, you just don’t know–it’s all new, especially if you didn’t babysit babies in HS or whenever.

I think you’re fine. Good luck!

I haven’t got anything new to say, since everyone else has said it pretty well. Leaving him to play on his own is good for him. If Mom or Dad is constantly in Baby’s face, trying to teach/entertain/interact, it’s hard to relax and just soak up the world. Most babies like to have some down time to just look around and do their own thing for awhile.

Accept this now: No matter which you do, someone will blame you for it.

When ValleyGirl was tinkleberry’s age, she refused to be left alone at all. People would accuse me of spoiling her and not letting her develop the ability to entertain herself.

Now ValleyGirl is older and apparently lagging a bit in language development. People are blaming me for not talking to her and interacting with her enough.

Honestly, just follow your little one’s lead. For the most part, he knows what he needs.

Preach it, Lily!

I hear you!

Lady Chance and I both work at home. We let Baby Gwen (7 months old) roam around the home office a big part of the day. She can crawl and get around pretty well. She gets a chance to exercise and we get to work. One of us is always aware of where she is in the room.

One big thing about babies…they pretty much know what they need when they need it. If the baby isn’t fussing, then he’s fine. If he is, then pick him up and see to his needs. There’s not a thing wrong with having him in the room with you in a swing or playpen while you go about your day.

We let the kids tell us what they needed for time. If they want your undivided attention they aren’t shy about asking for it. If they are sick of us they are not shy about walking away (or crawling or wriggling or rolling.)

My husband and I had polar opposite upbringing and neither wanted to repeat them so we met in the middle and the kids are happy enough. We’ve also learned to let other things slide like toy roundup and sometimes the dishes or laundry too. Those things wait patiently. Enjoy the kids - as lily so wisely said - no matter what you do someone will not approve.

I have a little boy who eats (and poops) string. I had people tell me he did this because I didn’t give him enough attention. I had people tell me he did this because I had overprotected him into a neurosis. My pediatrician told me he did this because he can and he thinks it is fun. He checked him for physiological stuff and found nothing. We’re working on keeping him away from the string. I think at this point it is a war of wills. Anyway - find a good pediatrician with your same values about parenting and tell everyone else to jump in a lake. Do what works for you and your kids. If baby and mom are happy then all is good.

Ok I obviously need more coffee! That’s horribly incoherent.

Oh, sweetie, don’t fret. It’s okay to let him play by himself for a bit while you get some cleaning done.

If it makes you feel better, talk to him while you’re doing it. Tell him what you’re doing and what you need to do next. Sing him songs. Warn him the vacuum will be loud, but it’s just a noise and it can’t hurt him, that type of thing.

I remember one day at my MIL’s house I picked up my niece and held her and talked to her while I was helping to make dinner. I explained to her about the carrots and the celery and the chicken and the spoons and the pot and to be careful of the hot stove, and anything else that popped in my head.

My SIL told me later my niece was staring at me the whole time, rapt.