Can I Watch TV While Baby is Sleeping?

Most new parents have the same question: when will their baby finally go to sleep, and what will they do once that happens? Anyone who tells you to just sleep when your baby sleeps has likely never parented a newborn because this idea is more of a dream than a reality. 

More realistically, most new parents are just looking to spend their downtime with a new book or TV show, but can you even watch TV while your baby is sleeping? Keep reading for an in-depth look at if it’s okay to watch TV while your baby is sleeping and how to accomplish this. 

Can Parents Watch TV While a Baby Sleeps?

The short answer is that parents can watch TV while their baby sleeps, but since screen time can be bad for babies, new parents will need to be careful about how and when they watch television during naptime.

Is Watching TV Bad for Babies?

Picture it: you’ve just put your newborn down for a nap, and while you still need to stay in the same room or the next to monitor them, your favorite TV show is on. This may sound like an ideal scenario, but if you’re going to watch that football game or soap opera, new parents should know that watching TV in the same room as your baby isn’t always great for your infant – for a couple of reasons. 

It Can Be a Distraction

Plenty of parents may just be looking to decompress while their baby sleeps, but the second you turn that TV on, it can also become a distraction for your baby. Babies sensitive to sounds or colors may wake up if the television is on and start watching it with you. 

Or, if they know you like to turn the TV on at naptime, they may start refusing to sleep altogether so they can watch TV too. They may not know what’s happening, but even young infants can be enamored by the different shapes, colors, and sounds. 

Most parents want to use screen time as a distraction while their baby sleeps, but if your infant is in the same room, it usually becomes a distraction for them too. 

Television Can Impact Brain Development

Evidence has shown that TV or any screen media can have lasting, negative effects on a new baby’s reading skills, language development, and short-term memory. Your baby doesn’t necessarily need to be watching TV directly to be affected. If you’ve got in on in the background and they’re tuning in, that’s still enough to motivate some of these developmental issues. 

Babies and toddlers won’t know what they’re watching, but they can still see the changing shapes, colors, and sounds. Babies learn a language and other developmental skills from interacting with people and things, and parking them in front of a television screen brings their learning to a screeching halt. 

Infants also learn language skills from their parents, and they rely on listening to people speak. With TV screens playing, most family members are doing a lot less speaking, which means less language for infants to pick up on. 

Keep in mind that one afternoon of television shouldn’t have long-term negative impacts on your baby, but if you and your baby are tuning into the TV regularly, they could be affected. 

You May Not Hear the Baby Monitor

This may not be a problem if you’re hanging out in the same room, but if your baby is sleeping peacefully in their nursery while you blare the football game in the living room, you could miss the sound of the video baby monitor

No parent wants to miss their baby’s cries, and even the thought of it could cause some anxiety. Rather than enjoying some downtime while they sleep, you could end up hyper-fixated on every snore or groan your infant makes. 

When is it Okay to Watch TV With a Baby?

Since TV can negatively affect infants and serve as a distraction, is there an okay time for your child to tune into the television? Most experts agree that parents can begin introducing short, monitored screen time around eighteen months. 

When you introduce television to your toddler, you’ll want to watch it with them and make sure you’re picking out high-quality, educational programming for them to view. 

How to Watch TV With Your Baby in the Room

Watching TV may be bad for babies, but if you’re a new parent who needs time to relax during nap time, there are still a couple of ways to make sure you get your screen time – without making TV a distraction or a negative influence on your baby. 

Mute the Sound 

If your TV isn’t front and center with your baby’s eye line or they’re sleeping in the next room, you may be able to still use the actual television as long as you mute the sound. This can relieve some of the anxiety that new parents might face about not hearing the baby monitor or prevent your infant from waking up to the sound of the show. 

Fortunately, most streaming services, including YouTube, offer closed captions for their programming, so you won’t have to miss out on the plot of your TV show or movie. 

For live programs, you should check your TV remote for a Closed Captions button. If you don’t find the option on your remote, you may need to go into your TV settings and turn them on manually. 

Use Headphones 

If you don’t want to wake up the baby sleeping nearby, you can always use headphones to watch on your TV too. Paired with a headphone splitter, you should be able to connect your headphones to your television or remote – and if you’ve got wireless headphones and a smart TV that has Bluetooth, the process will become cord-free. 

Of course, if you’re still worried about missing the sound of the baby monitor, you can always just use one headphone and keep your monitor close by. 

Watch on a Smartphone or Tablet

Not everyone wants to mess with Bluetooth and long, tangled cords, and in that case, you can always watch on a phone, tablet, or laptop. If your baby is in the same room, this option is especially attractive. Since it’s not projected on TV, you won’t have to worry about the show becoming a distraction or negative influence on your baby. 

You can easily position yourself so that the screen is turned away from your newborn and kept at low volume, muted, or even just watched with headphones. 

If you’re trying to watch live TV, this tactic may not work as well – but if you just want to tune into Netflix, YouTube, or another streaming service, you should be fine streaming your media on these devices. 

Final Thoughts

New parents often feel guilty about trying to watch TV while their baby is sleeping. Still, there’s nothing wrong with relaxing during naptime – as long as you’re not letting television become a distraction for your baby too. 

You may not want to blare your favorite show on a big flat screen while your newborn sleeps five feet away, but there’s still plenty of other ways to catch some screen time. 

Keeping the TV on mute while turning on closed captions, using headphones, or even just watching on a smartphone or laptop are all viable options for catching up on your TV while your baby sleeps. 

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