“Well,” I say, “double the fun!”
“You have your hands full!”
“My heart is full.” I smile in return.
“I don’t know how you do it!”
“Sometimes,” I say, “ I don’t know either, but I do my best.”
Parents of twins hear these comments way more than you think.
Congratulations, you have twins! Sometimes it is 10 times the workload, especially at night. Ask any parent of twins, and they will tell you. It’s a fact. You’ll have extra to juggle, but you’ll also have extra to snuggle with and thoroughly enjoy. I may be biased, but I happen to think that twins are the best thing ever! I knew what I was getting into, yet I still wanted to have them. Of course, nothing can fully prepare you for the workload, comments, and unwanted attention!
My Tips for Parenting Twins:
Accept (and ask for) help!
Please do yourself this favor. If somebody wants to help but doesn’t know how give them a rehearsed or written answer. I know it can be tough, especially if you’re someone -like me- that doesn’t like accepting help, let alone asking for it. But here’s the deal. You will regret it if you don’t. Believe me, your time will come to help others, and you will when you can. So go ahead. Set up that meal train or, better yet, ask a friend to do it for you. It’s an extremely useful way for people to help.
If you can budget for extra hands/support/advice in the early days, then do it! It’s also a great gift to receive from someone or a few people chipping in together! Check out your local listings for postpartum doulas with twin experience, newer trained doulas looking to certify, certified sleep coaches, or mother’s helpers.
Reach out to the local chapter of a multiples club. Hooray for the internet! With sites like Facebook, Meetup, and Moms Clubs, the ability to connect with other parents is at your fingertips. It really takes another parent of twins to understand the trials and tribulations of having multiples. Finding your community can be a lifesaver! Here is an example of a very friendly Facebook community group.
Take advantage of all the amazing products that are available today, especially products that are designed for twins. Amazon prime is now your friend! Remember you can create wish lists for specific items so that those well-meaning friends and family members can buy you exactly what you want and need. Also, pay extra attention to products that advertise as safe sleepers as they may seem like the answer to all of your worries, but might not be safe. (It’s recommended that babies should only sleep in a crib, bassinet, or play-yard/pack ‘n’ play.)
Try a schedule, take advantage of breaks, and get prepared.
The more predictable the routine becomes, the better you will get at reading their cues and following their lead. Try the EASY Method from Tracy Hogg’s book The Baby Whisperer EAT ACTIVITY SLEEP YOU – Enjoy that downtime, for whatever you choose to do! Sleep, social media, eat, shower, a chore. It’s your time!
Right from the beginning, if you can get them feeding and sleeping within a similar time frame, it will make things easier for you. Typical beginning feedings (nurse or bottle) can last approximately one hour for both babies or 30 mins each. Then you will change diapers, burp, and help them settle. In the very beginning, they may need a diaper change before feeding in order to help them wake up. I recommend a little time for burping and holding them upright (approximately 20 minutes) whether they show discomfort or not. In my own experience, (both personal and professional) twin babies tend to have some extra digestive issues, especially if they were born a little early.
When they’re done eating, hopefully, there is some time for you before the process starts up again. Example Twin A starts to feed at 1.00 pm and Twin B starts at 1:30 pm. After a feeding, burp, and diaper change they could be settled by 2:30 pm. The next feeding could be at 3.30/4.00 pm. This schedule will change (many times) but all of you will also become more efficient as time goes by.
During your break, always set up everything that you need in advance for the next feed so that you can be prepared as much as possible. Don’t forget to pack a nutritious snack and drink for yourself! Fill a basket with all of your necessities: your devices, remote controls, burp cloths, blankets, bottles, pacis, shields, cream, etc. It can be overwhelming in the beginning when both babies are crying at the same time, so the more you have planned in advance, the better.
I understand that tandem (nurse or bottle) feeding can seem overwhelming in the beginning. If you are nursing for the first time, get professional help. When you feel confident that the feedings are going well for you and your babies, try a supervised tandem feed. It’s better to practice it with support. Eventually, a time will come that you will need to feed them both at the same time.
Keep a log of feedings, periods of sleep, and diapers. This shouldn’t feel like another chore. It is a tried and true method that will help you. Everything will be a blur, especially at night. Your log will help you learn to decipher their cries. Are they hungry, gassy, tired? It can also be helpful when there are multiple caregivers.
It’s there and it’s real. You are simply outnumbered. I mentioned it previously in my Mom Guilt post and it is simply the worst. I’m not going to try and talk you out of it. Just accept that you will feel it, recognize it, wallow in it (hopefully not for too long,) and then move on. Treat it as a passing feeling. They are going to change so much; their needs will flip flop. One may have bad days, the other may have more needs. If you can, hold them both. If not, hold one and make eye contact with the other. Sing, speak, and/or touch whenever possible.
Fraternals or not. We have to remember that even though you have two babies, hands, and breasts they are individual… even though we call them pairs. One baby will have more needs, another may have more catching up to do, one boob may be a better performer, while the other boob slacks. One hand may be better at burping and the other at holding.
Attachment and getting to know these little people is the name of the game in the early months. Their jobs are to grow, learn to trust, and form bonds with their primary caregivers. Following safe sleep guidelines is a must, especially during these exhausting days. Nursing, rocking, and snuggling to sleep is as important for them as it is for you. If your goal is to help them learn to sleep independently when they’re older (six months + adjusted age) there are some healthy sleep techniques that you can apply, right from the beginning.
The million-dollar question “will they wake each other?”
The answer is yes, possibly. It’s going to seem like I’m contradicting myself a lot here but please hear me out. Twins (and siblings) have this amazing ability to sleep through each other’s cries and full force screams. How do they do it? I don’t know, but if I could bottle that power, I would. And I’d use it on myself first! I think it’s based on survival. They simply need sleep. It also has to do with what stage they’re at during the sleep cycle. If they are just falling asleep or just starting to wake up and the other is crying, it’s possible that it will be disturbing. If one is in a full deep sleep phase and the other starts crying, they can sleep through it.
My biggest suggestion is to not run to your baby in fear that they will wake the other. Sometimes, a few whimpers and cries here and there will do no harm and it is best to give your baby the option to settle back to sleep independently, rather than jumping to the rescue every single time.
Here’s where I contradict myself. I do suggest that if logistics allow, to separate them for naps. Daytime sleep is different from night sleep. As your babies grow, they will also fight day sleep more as they simply would rather play and hang with each other. So if you can give them the opportunity to have good quality independent sleep, for a nap, then do it.
When sleep coaching: If you have the option to separate them and have the help of a second person, that can be useful. However, separation is not necessary. You can keep them together and go back and forth. It will take a little longer, but they will get it. Right from the start, twins (whether they like it or not) start learning that they sometimes have to wait.
Last bit of advice. Enjoy the ride!