We’ve all seen the pictures, a parent lovingly gazing into the eyes of their peaceful newborn, basking in the glow of
breast/chest/bottle feeding this tiny, perfect creature. Unfortunately, what the images don’t show you are the frustrated tears over trying to get two babies to latch simultaneously, the sense of victory you feel when you discover that you can in fact balance a bottle with your foot, and the exhausted monotony of feeding two, three, or more hungry bellies every 2-3 hours, 24 hours a day, for eternity (just kidding, it only feels like that sometimes). Many parents of multiples discover early on that feeding isn’t quite the bonding experience they’d hoped it would be. When your primary focus is getting everyone to eat around the same time, so that hopefully everyone will sleep around the same time, it can be hard to hold that meaningful eye contact four ways. So here is a list of five ways to bond with your babies that don’t involve nipples or wet burps and that are accessible to any caregiver.
1. Baby Wearing
While it is possible to wear multiple babies at once, and there are some great carriers designed for just that purpose, wearing your newborns individually can be a great way to get some one-on-one time. Wearing your baby in a wrap, sling, or carrier can seem a bit daunting at first, but with a little guidance and practice can become second nature. Having your baby cradled against your chest, particularly skin-to-skin, has well-documented benefits for both premature and full-term newborns. This contact promotes infant brain development, assists in regulating your baby’s heart rate and breathing, and triggers the release of hormones in the parents that encourages bonding. By wearing your baby skin-to-skin, you can accomplish all this with keeping your hands free to change another baby’s diaper or grab yourself a quick snack.
2. Bath Time
Bath time can be another great opportunity for one-on-one bonding. Whether you’re doing sponge baths because your babies’ still have their umbilical stumps or full baths, bathing provides parents with a chance to connect with your (hopefully) calm little one- sing songs, marvel at each delicate feature, and soak up that unhurried eye contact. Having an extra set of hands can be helpful in case your non-bathing beauties need some attention, but not essential. It’s also recommended that babies only get full baths two or three times a week (provided their diaper area is cleaned regularly), you can take your time and either bath a different baby each day or dedicate one or two days a week as bath days. And to really kick the bonding into high gear, combine tub time with skin-to-skin care and a bit of parental relaxation for good measure by drawing a warm bath for you and your baby.
3. Infant Massage
Of all of a baby’s senses, touch is the most developed at birth so infant massage makes the perfect bonding tool. A warm room, gentle touch, and a calm, alert baby are all you need to have some relaxing one-on-one time. Oil isn’t necessary but if you do choose to use some, make sure it is edible and that you do a small test patch first to monitor your baby for an adverse reaction. In addition to providing a lovely bonding experience, infant massage may also provide additional benefits such as relieving gas, promoting sleep, and lowering levels of stress hormones.
4. Play Time Rotation
For the first few weeks, your babies may do little more than eat, sleep, and fill their diaper. As they get older, and their quiet alert time increases you may want to start a little play time routine. For multiples, it can be particularly helpful to set up a few stations for your babies to rotate through. From a practical standpoint this can help to ensure that there’s always something new and engaging without there being a million toys in your living room. When looking for bonding opportunities, you can simply have an adult be one of the stations. Whether you read a book with your little one, do some tummy time, or have a little chat about the laundry that you’re folding, you can engage with one of your babies knowing that the others are safe and entertained at their other stations. It should be noted however, as soon as your babies become mobile, this lovely small stations set-up goes out the window and the “million toys in your living room” stage takes over.
5. Nap Cuddles
Any parent knows that a sleeping baby is a temporary luxury and with multiples it can feel unattainable. Getting two, three, or more individual people to acquire the same sleep habits requires consistency and dedication to the routine. But as important as it is to build healthy sleep habits from the beginning, some days you just want to cuddle a sleeping baby. You want to take a break from all the chaos and just focus on the way their eyelashes so delicately lie on their chubby cheeks and how those small hands can grip your finger so tightly. It’s ok to let the routine slide, the dirty dishes sit for a little longer, and inhale that new-baby smell. Or better yet, call a doula. We can take care of everything else and let you snuggle away to your hearts content.