Five Mindfulness Exercises You Can Do With A Baby

By Gina Baird, MSW, LICSW (Estimated reading time: 4 minutes)

A mom smiling and pressing her cheek against her baby’s face. Image credit: Laura Garcia via Pexels.

The transition to parenthood is often filled with many intense emotions ranging from love, joy, worry, sadness, awe, exhaustion, and more. As a new parent, when experiencing these various emotions (sometimes all within a five-minute timespan!), it can be helpful to have tools to feel more present and less reactive or overwhelmed by what is happening. Practicing mindfulness is one tool that can help parents regulate their own emotional state, while also helping attune to their baby’s emotional state, and can increase parental confidence[i] and decrease parental stress.[ii]

What is mindfulness?

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, an American professor and creator of the ‘Stress Reduction Clinic’ and the ‘Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society. Mindfulness[iii] is bringing an awareness to our current thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and environment through a nurturing lens.

Why practice mindfulness?

Practicing mindfulness may sound like adding another task to your already hectic day. However, the good news is that practicing mindfulness is not just another item for your to do list; rather, practicing mindfulness is a shift in how you are tuned in to the present moment, whatever your daily routine may be.

Numerous studies demonstrate the many potential benefits to practicing mindfulness, including reduced rumination, reduced stress, decreased anxiety and depression, less emotional reactivity, and enhanced self-insight. Practicing mindfulness can also help to not be overly reactive[iv] or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us and can significantly reduce parenting stress.[v]

How can I practice mindfulness with a baby?

Given the many benefits that mindfulness can provide parents, let’s explore five mindfulness practices you can do with a baby:

  1. Five Senses
    Take a moment to really notice each of your five senses: what do you hear, see, touch, smell, and taste? You can say any of these aloud to your baby, or quietly just to yourself. You might then choose to spend the next minute or two focusing on just one or two of these senses. Maybe you notice the weight of your baby’s body in your arms as you hold them, or the rise and fall of their chest as they breathe. Maybe you choose to really taste one bite of food, becoming aware of how that one bite tastes, even when the rest of the food may be eaten while standing or bouncing a baby. Become aware of this moment with your baby through your senses.
  2. Mindful Breathing
    Take three slow, deep breaths, counting to three as you inhale and counting to four as you exhale. Feel free to play around with the counts to find a rhythm that works well for you and feels soothing to your body. You can even include a slight pause between your inhale and exhale, if it feels comfortable. The good thing about using this practice is that your breath is with you wherever you are, and is not another thing you need to remember to pack into the diaper bag.
  3. Baby as Teacher
    Allow your baby to be your mindfulness teacher. Babies are naturally incredibly mindful. They are not thinking about what their plans are for tomorrow or who they’ll be hanging out with later in the day; they are living in the moment, feeling their feelings (sometimes rather loudly!) and curiously exploring the world through their senses. Take a moment to tune in to what your baby is experiencing. What are they seeing, what are they touching, what are they hearing at this moment? If you change one of those sensory experiences, maybe turning on music or introducing a new texture, what do you notice?
  4. Name It to Tame It
    Notice and label emotions as they are happening. This practice can help us to become more aware of our present experience, and help strengthen our capacity to be with big emotions, rather than be overwhelmed by them. Examples of this may include: “this is a challenging moment,” “this is a hard moment,” “this is a lonely moment.” You can also try this practice with a range of emotions and notice how your experience may shift when naming the moment: “this is a happy moment,” “this is a joyful moment,” “this is a calm moment.”
  5. Mindful Self-Compassion
    Offer yourself mindful self-compassion. Mindful self-compassion combines mindfulness (noticing your thoughts, feelings and sensations in the present moment), with self-compassion (bringing loving awareness towards yourself and your experience). One way to offer yourself mindful self-compassion is to consider what you might say to a good friend who was going through the same experience. Then try offering those same words to yourself.
About the Author
About the Author

Gina Baird, MSW, LICSW is a psychotherapist, specializing in perinatal mental health and the transition to parenthood. Gina has worked in both inpatient and outpatient hospital settings, and now focuses on her private practice and facilitating groups for parents. Gina has published two guided journals for parents. She lives in Seattle with her spouse and two kids.







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