Ever since experts determined that laying an infant flat on its back to go to sleep is safer than snoozing on their little bellies, babies everywhere have had to endure the terrible (at least for most) “Tummy Time”. While sleeping belly up has been proven far safer when it comes to SIDS, there are minimal side effects, such as flat spots on your baby’s head from spending so much time in the same position, as well as a prolonged journey to milestones such as lifting up and holding their heads on their own (which many believe, is the first step towards other physical milestones, such as sitting, crawling and taking real steps). Those side effects, however, have a solution. Enter: tummy time, in which new parents who are already frazzled by the weight of their new roles are forced to make their precious little wards cry seemingly unnecessarily. Not ALL babies despise tummy time, but considering it puts them in an unfamiliar position that they are temporarily unable to remove themselves from, it often comes with some tears. But there are ways to ease the unhappiness when trying to help your newborns develop the muscles they need to not only pick up their heads, but find ways to enjoy being belly down.
How to Jazz Up Tummy Time with Twins
Distraction, as you will soon learn, is every parent’s secret weapon in the early years. Regardless of the reason for a baby’s tears, if you can master the art of distraction you can master the art of assuaging that sadness. Lucky for you, with twins, you have a built-in distraction! One of our favorite ways to jazz up tummy time in the early days was to lay the twins down on their bellies side-by-side. While they are always aware of the other one’s nearby presence, being able to actually SEE their “wombmate” out in the world is extremely exciting and intriguing. And bonus points for parents, you get to stand above and watch as they slowly start to recognize one another, coo back and forth, and share their first smiles.
It won’t take long for them to start trying to pick those heads up with their teeny tiny neck muscles, at which point you can also have them laying down facing each other head-to-head, so when they do find that super strength they are rewarded with the image of their buddy! Similarly, many toys (shiny, noisy, anything attention-grabbing) can be used in this same manner. Many baby play mats today also have built in “tummy time” accessories that encourage little ones to lift their heads to get a peek.
Next to their twin, your newborn’s favorite person interact with is likely you! An easy way to promote the use of those muscles is to do tummy time right on your own tummy. Lay your baby flat on your chest while you lean back on some pillows or a couch and sing, chat or make silly faces to encourage your little one to look up and see where it’s all coming from. The one-on-one time (however brief it winds up being) will be extra special for you and each of your twins.
Yes, your newborn loves video chatting with their siblings and parents, but one of the most exciting things for a baby to look at is…themselves! Play into their vanity by propping up mirrors on the floor while they lay on their bellies. They will figure out how to pick their little heads up to glimpse their adorable reflection in no time flat. Similarly, as your babies grow, more intricate views can peak their interest, such as high contrast board books.
At the end of the day, your babies are going to want to explore the world all on their own and will eventually learn to love tummy time, which will eventually lead to sitting and crawling, which they will really love. But in those early days of sleepless nights and double the cries, a few minutes of tummy time here and there can feel endless (for you and your little ones), so having a few tricks up your sleeve to make it more enjoyable and more memorable for everyone certainly can’t hurt!
Katelyn Heindel is a communications manager-turned stay-at-home mom two 18-month-old twins. She lives in Richmond, Va with her husband, two monkeys (err, toddlers) and the world’s weirdest cat.