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The short answer is as much as you can. But the deciding factors will still come down to what works best for you and your family, your babies’ health, how you feel physically and emotionally, your financial circumstances, and your workplace environment.
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On the other hand, with no strict guidelines imposed by law, you may be able to work out your own informal arrangement. “The plus side for those people working for smaller employers is that there may be more room to negotiate,” says Jennifer Kosko, who took 10 weeks’ maternity leave from her job as vice president of meetings and trade shows for an association. She then worked full-time until her twins were 3 years old and now does part-time consulting.
How do moms with multiples do it? Follow this family on an outing to see what it’s like to breastfeed twins while chasing a toddler. See all videos
Finally, swap stories and advice about twins and multiples and being pregnant with multiples with others in the BabyCenter Community
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Geri Martin Wilson of Palo Alto, California, breastfed her twins until they were 2 years old. She used a twin nursing pillow with each twin’s head cradled in a hand. If you can make it work, simultaneous nursing saves time and has other benefits as well. “Nursing at the same time helped put them on the same nap schedule,” says Martin Wilson. “If one woke up at night, 95 percent of the time we woke the other up and I nursed him or her, too.”
“Make sure you have family or friends on call if you need them,” advises Emma of New Zealand, the mother of identical girls, Charlotte and Alaina. “You have to let people know exactly what you want. Tell them politely to go away if you don’t want them there, but don’t be too proud to ask for help if you need it.”
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Meet other mums! In your Birth Club, you can meet other mums and mums-to-be whose due date, or baby’s birth date, is the same as yours. It’s the perfect place to share advice, support and friendship with others who know what you’re going through, because they are too! Find your Birth Club
If no club is near you, another option is communicating via email or Facebook group – especially when you have a question in the middle of the night. “It’s fantastic to have contact with other parents of multiples, as some baby advice doesn’t always prove useful when you are coping with more than one,” Emma says. “It’s nice to know that someone out there has been through it all, too.”
As for maternity leave, the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after you give birth. Companies with fewer than 50 employees – the vast majority – are exempt, although they may have their own policies. If you work in a three-person office and you’re indispensable, you may find it tough to take time off.
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Parents of multiples will empathize with your situation like no one else can. Kosko, the part-time consultant, began attending Multiples of America club meetings when she was pregnant. “There are a lot of things that can make your life easier, and it’s worth investigating, even if you’re not a joiner,” she says.
Your concern is perfectly understandable. After all, caring for one child is daunting enough for many new parents, and the prospect of having two (or more) at the same time can be a real jolt. Remember that no parents get all the support they need – every new parent could use more time, help, training, money, and emotional backing.
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Emma says she coped by relaxing her standards. “You have to come to terms with the fact that there are not enough hours in the day to keep the house spanking clean,” she says. “And if you just concentrate on the babies for at least the first three months, you will be a lot less stressed about everything.” She was lucky enough to have a mother who dropped in every day for weeks and did the dishes – then disappeared. “That type of help you really need.”
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With twins, these needs double, and more. You’ll require much more support than just your partner can give, so to avoid blaming each other – or yourself – when stress starts to build, plan ahead and line up additional help for after the birth. Find out whether your insurance plan will pay for a home visit from a nurse, or consider hiring a doula to help during the first days or weeks at home. (Doulas are best known as labor and delivery help, but many are willing to work as nurses – even night nurses! – for newborns.)
You may also be surprised to learn that when you’re pregnant with twins or more, your employer isn’t obligated by law to allow you any more time off than if you were having one baby. Many mothers of multiples, however, find getting back into the swing of things more difficult.
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If you feel you need more time off, consider discussing the matter with your company’s human resources department, or talk to your boss about taking an extended leave or making part-time or work-from-home arrangements. If you can afford it, you may also decide to take a break from your career. Remember, whatever you decide will work for you is the right answer to this question.
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Case in point: Many mothers of twins find the gawking and comments that people can make insensitive and inappropriate. “With multiples, you feel you’re on display, and it’s nice to come home to this group and not feel that way,” says Kosko. “Here, when you’ve got one baby on one knee and you’re burping the other, nobody bats an eye.”
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“My local twins club morning coffee has been fantastic for establishing contact with other mothers of multiples,” says Emma. “I started going when I was pregnant to get a feel for it – a bit scary at first, but it is better than being thrown in the deep end,” she says.
But for Teresa Edgington of Cincinnati, things weren’t so simple. In the beginning, she tried nursing both twins, but her boy, Christian, didn’t nurse well and required lots of bottles, so Edgington switched her strategy. “It became easier to nurse one and bottle-feed the other,” she says. “Emi is predominantly breastfed, and Christian nurses for comfort.”