Inside: Wondering how to get things done with a baby or a newborn? This list of activities and ideas from a seasoned mom can help! I used every single one of these ideas to work from home and homeschool when I had five kids under 10. You CAN get be productive with a baby – promise.
We had just added our fifth baby to the mix. Now I had five kids under ten.
I was homeschooling and working from home for the first time around with a newborn (I’d stayed home full-time when my first four were babies).
So now I had dinner and housework and homeschool and work. And I was OVERWHELMED.
But I dug back into my veteran mom toolkit. I thought of all the ways I’d gotten anything done with a baby in the past.
It turns out I could still get things done with a baby, but I had to use ALL my options more than ever before.
That baby is now four-years-old. I managed to survive another baby with work on top of everything else.
I’m sharing all the things I did to keep afloat during that first year.
Somehow, the family stayed fed, the house stayed somewhat clean, and I kept right on homeschooling and working.
Especially if you only have one baby, I want to reassure you: you can absolutely get stuff done with a baby.
(Make sure to read to the end for the tip that has helped me the MOST as an over-achieving, recovering perfectionist mom.)
First: A Little Validation. Getting Things Done With a Baby Is HARD.
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Before I dive into the tips, I do want to validate you. I remember feeling so completely overwhelmed with my first baby.
I was exhausted all the time, and just when I felt like I could catch a breath, she’d start taking only 45 minute naps – after spending THIRTY trying to get her to sleep.
You expect motherhood to change your world, yes: the crying, diaper changes, and constant feeding. But you just don’t realize you’ll have THIS little time to get things done.
Especially if you have a colicky and needy baby who needs to stay in motion at.all.times or they scream their little lungs out, and you live in the US, where our support systems are pretty much non-existent, it’s easy to despair.
The world expects you to keep on keepin’ on, with twice the weight.
Moms often still have to earn a paycheck, feed themselves, a baby, and possibly a partner, and figure out things like bills and housework.
It’s a lot. Really, it is.
But hang in there! You’re going to get through this. One day at a time.
I’m excited to share with you what has worked best for me throughout the years to get things (mostly) done with a baby.
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How to Get Things Done with a Baby: 13 Tips & Tricks
Here are my very best tricks that I’ve used throughout the years to get things done with a baby on my hands at the same time.
Some might work great for your unique baby, while others might not work for you at all.
They might work great on some days, and others, your baby says, “NOT TODAY.”
That’s why I’m sharing ALL the tricks and tips I’ve used over the years! 13 different ones to be exact.
Do if you’re thinking, “How do you get anything done with a baby?”, this is the post for you.
1. Baby wear.
This has got to be one of my favorite tricks to getting things done with a baby, especially if you have a super clingy baby.
For you, this will give you two mostly free arms to do whatever you need to. Pay bills? Vacuum? Pick up the house? You can do it all while babywearing.
Your baby might prefer one to the other – try borrowing to make this experiment cheaper.
This won’t be the right solution for you if you need to do a lot of heavy lifting or bending, like moving boxes or furniture. Washing dishes is doable, but a little tricky.
Light tidying up and bending (like picking up toys or blankets or clothes) is just fine, just squat low to grab things.
But avoid picking up giant heavy things in front of you or bending and squishing your little one too much, or baby-wearing won’t work for long.
2. Use a baby swing.
This is another one of my favorite ways to get some things done with a baby. It works especially during the newborn stage.
You can’t keep them in a swing for too many hours of the day because it can encourage their heads to develop a flat spot.
However, it’s a great place to let baby rest and play and watch for 15-30 minutes at a time or even hang out for a quick nap while mommy is super productive around the house.
3. Use a pack n’ play.
Keeping baby safe and entertained so that you can get things done is key. You can use a playpen for short periods of time (or maybe longer if you’re lucky).
I like using the pack n’ play when I’m cooking or meal-prepping in the kitchen.
Babywearing when cooking on the stove is dangerous, so it’s times like those when a playpen or swing is a great choice.
Many babies don’t like the “trapped” feeling of a playpen but others enjoy the safe feeling space.
Put some baby-safe toys in there and you can even rotate the toys every 15 minutes or so to keep baby entertained.
If your baby isn’t rolling or sitting up yet the playpen can be a pretty boring place, so if they don’t seem to like it yet, try again when they are a bit more mobile.
4. Make the most of nap time.
Everyone says nap when the baby naps, which is actually great advice, though not the most realistic a lot of the time.
If your baby had you up all night and you are blurry-eyed exhausted by all means NAP WHEN BABY NAPS! Taking care of yourself is important too.
But babies nap a lot.
So there will be more naps when you can get things done, even if you use one of the naps to take a nap yourself.
Use nap time for cleaning that’s not baby wear friendly (like bathrooms), work that requires your complete focus. Things that are tough with a baby in tow.
5. Go for a drive (or a walk).
While you can’t get anything done around the house if you go for a drive or a walk, that in no way means you can’t use this method to get things done with a baby in tow.
Which one you choose will depend on your baby’s temperament.
If car trips produce screams that rival people watching a horror film, the car might not be the best idea.
But if your baby conks right out and actually sleeps longer in the car than in the crib at home (some really like motion), you could drive for 10-15 minutes until they fall asleep.
Then you have some parking lot time to accomplish stuff. Use that hotspot, mama!
If your baby prefers walks and you need the exercise, by all means, walk. You can either babywear or use the stroller.
You’ll get less done with the walk option because, speaking from experience, pushing a stroller with one hand is tricky business.
But you could try your best to accomplish things like making appointments, paying bills, catching up with a friend, or chatting with a client or employee. Anything that you can do on your phone, really.
If the baby falls asleep during the walk, sit on a bench, and you’ll get more done.
6. Use a play mat, and later on, an exersaucer.
Use play mats until your baby has more back and head strength. You can transition to exersaucers when they can support themselves better (around 5 or 6 months).
Another great thing about play mats and exersaucers is that they both tend to be light and portable.
You can take it outside (don’t forget to provide adquate shade for baby), or you can lay it in the living room while you keep a close eye while working in the kitchen.
You could even place a play mat INSIDE a playpen once your baby becomes mobile if it’s one of those soft popup types.
7. Rotate activities.
What if you have a lot to accomplish in one day? Time to focus on rotating activities.
Each of the activities listed will give you about 15 minutes of entertained baby time. More if you’re lucky.
If you have a lot to accomplish then try rotating activities from this list as well as rotating locations to keep baby happy.
- You can start with 15 minutes in the swing.
- Then scoop baby up and lay them down in their activity center.
- After that strap on your babywearing device and walk your baby around the house while you pick up, clean and/or make a phone call.
- Next you can lay baby down in their playpen with a few toys while you get some work done in the kitchen.
- Finally, put baby back in their swing (which at this point might lull them right to sleep) then you can get even more done!
Somewhere in the middle of all that you probably will need to feed them, but you can get things done then, too.
8. Get things done while breastfeeding.
This is probably TMI, but my left breast shows the effects of far more nursing because I could use my right hand to type while I nursed! (Sorry, left breast – it was necessary.)
You can get work done while you breastfeed. Grab a boppy pillow if it makes it easier to keep baby supported and work at the same time.
You can accomplish anything that can be done on your phone (can be done nursing on either side):
- Order online groceries.
- Schedule appointments.
- Pay bills.
- Order just about anything else.
Maximize your productivity with a newborn or a baby by using that feeding time. Because especially when they’re newborns, if feelings like they’re nursing all.the.time.
9. Rotate toys.
You can rotate the toys that your little one is playing with while lying down or crawling of course, but you can also rotate the toys they have available every week.
Switch out the rattly, holding toys with soft fabric books. Switch out the balls for the soft blocks.
Novelty is your best friend. Rotating toys accomplishes that without tons of toys.
10. Use that high chair.
While your baby is still a baby but in the sitting up phase, there are a lot of activities that you can set them up with for a break to get things done.
Pinterest is a really great resource for things like this.
Some activities I’ve set up for my babies that have kept them entertained (somewhere after 6 months and often after introducing some solids too) are:
- DIY baby safe finger paint
- painting with pudding
- painting with condiments
- rainbow spaghetti
- DIY squishy sensory bags (tape them to the floor for a baby)
11. Bring the car seat (or specific portable chair) into the bathroom to shower.
This one is task specific: sometimes you just can’t take a shower knowing that your baby might start screaming from the crib. The anxiety is too much.
The solution? Get a portable chair that you can carry into the bathroom, OR just use the car seat.
When my baby was small, I used the car seat or THIS upright chair.
As she got bigger and could sit up (4-5 months), I purchased THIS seat, which made her a bit happier. I could peek at her while I was showering.
Our bathroom was pretty small, so I had to carry the seat in and out. But if your bathroom is larger, you can keep a chair in there permanently (for showering or going to the bathroom).
Sometimes a mom’s gotta do what you gotta do.
12. Recruit help.
There is no shame in asking for help when caring for a baby so you can get things done! Even if that means baby is still technically with you.
Ask your partner, grandparents, a neighborhood kid you know and trust (younger “mother’s helpers” cost less), or a friend to entertain the baby for you for an hour, so you can actually be productive in getting everything you done!
Baby can still be nearby, in the next if not the same room, but you can keep your eyes elsewhere for a bit and get some things done.
You might also consider a working session with a mom friend who also has a baby. You could take turns having dedicated work time while the other mom handles the babies.
13. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Maybe work is the priority right now. You’ve gotta keep working to pay the bills, right?
Buy paper plates and skip dishes.
Eat super simple meals because cooking is just too much right now.
Cut dusting from your cleaning routine because it’s just not that important.
Letting things go and lowering your standards for a while (or for years) is sometime what motherhood requires.
Which brings me to my last tip….
One Last Piece of Advice: Accept Your Limitations (Sometimes, Things Won’t Get Done with a Baby)
Accepting our limitations is HARD. Especially when we want to do all the things, when we’re achievers to the max.
But sometimes, something’s gotta give. There has to be some room for self-care or you’ll burn out – fast.
A few years ago, I started cutting things from my to-do list.
I didn’t need a perfectly clean house or neatly folded clothes or a business that earned millions. I stopped doing things that moms “should” do (says: society).
It made me a happier, more patient mom.
So when you’ve tried all of these tips and you’re still having a hard time getting things done with a baby, consider maybe NOT doing all the things.
It’s a really hard adjustment if you love crossing things off to-do lists. But trust me: learning it with baby #1 (or #2) is easier than with #5.
Sure, you can get things done with a baby. You just might not be able to get everything done with a baby.
And that’s o.k.
June could talk to you all day about homeschooling, parenting, and minimalism. When she’s not homeschooling, decluttering, or blogging, she loves to enjoy perfect silence while sipping a hot cup of coffee and thinking uninterrupted thoughts—which, of course, with five kids, doesn’t happen very often.