Q: My 1-year-old baby always starts fussing for my attention as soon as I answer the phone. What can I do?
A: Babies bask in our attention; they light up at the sight of our face and are comforted by our voice. But the tough part of being No. 1 on baby's list is that when something distracts you from her, she naturally sees it as competition. And, as you've noticed, your baby is dead set on winning you back from this annoying rival! Here are some strategies to help her handle a few minutes on her own and make your life less stressful.• Set aside a basket of telephone toys. These are goodies your child gets to play with only when you're on the phone. When the phone rings, you can say: "Let's get your special toys!" Rotate the items often to keep the basket new and exciting.• Let her play telephone. As you answer your phone, give your child a toy telephone to press the buttons on, talk into, bang, and even chew on.• Make it snack time. Set your child up with a healthy snack while you talk. Offer finger foods, such as fruit with yogurt dip or pea pods that can be squeezed. To make this work, choose two or three times a day when you return your calls. (Don't spend all day on the phone or your baby will be grazing constantly.)• Use the speakerphone. Your child may not be as bothered if she can hear both ends of the conversation and if her plastic nemesis isn't nestled by your ear.• Establish certain times of the day when the phone is off-limits. Consider when your child is most alert and playful. Try to keep at least an hour of that time free of phone calls, chores, and other distractions. Knowing that she can count on having you all to herself for an extended period every day will help your baby cope better with brief telephone separations.• Resist using the phone when you're out with your child. Think of all the parents you see yakking on their cells at the playground while their child plays alone. Everybody gets important calls or has to remind a spouse to pick up the dry cleaning. But if you spend a lot of your time with your child chatting on the phone with someone else, you both lose out -- and this is sure to make the phone a real enemy.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, August 2006. Updated 2009