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One Day Without TV

Before Babe was born I had this idyllic plan to have a TV-free baby. We’d had the house set up to accommodate the company we frequently entertain so in one great room was a sitting area next to a dining area (we called this the formal room) and in the other great room was a TV area and a glass-top dinette table that overlooked both the TV area and the kitchen (we called this the family room). As we prepared the house for the baby we ditched the glass-top table and put toys in the family room. Of course I also planned not to use a floor seat or activity jumper because most experts say those, along with walkers, are not good for the developing baby.

Sitting area in formal room.

Dining area in formal room.

Family room before baby.

Family room after baby.

Then I birthed a high-needs baby who wanted to be held nearly all hours of the day.

I cradled her in my lap whenever she was not having tummy or back time on her activity mat. While she napped in my lap, I did all my work with one free hand, first on my iPhone then finally on my laptop. I laid her down on the soft bathroom rug whenever I needed to use the facilities. As she developed the ability to play more, I lay on the floor with her as we played with all her toys.

And I missed having free time to just veg out on Facebook, not to mention time to get work done with two hands!

Thank goodness husband does all the cooking and cleaning but he has Daddy responsibilities too and the pile of clean laundry, which we had always folded together (my single contribution to household chores), grew and grew and grew.

So we gave in and let her watch Baby First TV, a commercial-free educational channel. She loved every minute of it, especially when her favorite show Squeak! was on. (Just our luck, the channel aired for years as commercial-free but added commercials when Babe was a few months old.)

At first it was just a minute in a floor seat while I went to the bathroom or a few minutes in the swing in the (futile) hopes that she would nap without being in my lap. Of course, I was watching TV whenever she was asleep and I quickly realized my TV addiction would mean the TV would be on all the time so we re-arranged the common areas altogether when Babe was almost seven months old. We moved the TV from one room to the other and dropped our notion of having a formal room in favor of an all-purpose living room. With the TV out of the other great room we re-arranged the future and decided the entire room would now be a play room. But that didn’t stop us from setting Babe in front of the TV.

New living room layout, angle one.

New living room layout, angle two.

Babe’s playroom.

In the beginning, aside from resting my arms, the TV provided a much needed opportunity for me to single-task (recent studies suggest that multi-tasking can actually have a negative impact on your brain) but it was a crutch that both husband and I began to lean on far too much.

Several times a week Babe will wake in the middle of the night and refuse to go back to sleep for about two hours. Husband usually takes advantage of this opportunity to spend quality time with her in the playroom but, it being the middle of the night and all, he often runs out of steam and resorts to watching baby TV with her. And I can’t really complain about that since, one, he’s letting me get some much-needed sleep and of course, two, I usually give in and take a break by letting her watch TV a few times a week.

So what’s wrong with letting a baby watch a little tv?

In 1999 the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement about media and children which said:

“Pediatricians should urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of 2 years. Although certain television programs may be promoted to this age group, research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant caregivers (eg, child care providers) for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Therefore, exposing such young children to television programs should be discouraged.”

With her newfound ability to crawl, Babe has started becoming independent. She’ll crawl around to explore or play but she still looks over to make sure either Mom or Dad is in safe distance. She still comes to the bathroom with me and only naps in my lap. However, since I am able to get a little work done on my laptop while she’s crawling around, I realized there was no longer any excuse to use the TV to distract her.

So, yesterday I told husband that I wanted us to kick the crutch. I told him I wasn’t going to let her watch TV during the day and I asked him not to let her watch it at when I’m sleeping either. She didn’t wake up at night but Husband did take the morning shift while I slept in today. When I woke up two hours later they were playing with her toys and he said they hadn’t watched any TV. We watched her crawl and play as we did chores all morning and now they’re at the store. We’re half-finished with our first TV-free day and hopefully Babe won’t even notice. She’ll be ten months old next week. The thought of keeping the TV off in her presence for the next 14 months is extremely daunting but we’re going to take it one day at a time.

How do you handle TV time with your little ones?