Advice, information, and tips for parents of twins, higher multiples, adopted children, and children with special needs
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You’ll use your double stroller for everything. Even getting the twins to the car required a double stroller when I was alone. Not just for a leisurely stroll, your double stroller serves as your extra arms. You’ll need something to carry both babies when needed.
If you have twins or triplets, chances are you’re delighted but also wondering how you’re going to juggle the needs of your instant family. After all, most new parents have their hands full with just one baby! The reality is that raising multiples is hard. You have double or triple the feeding, diapering, and laundry and, as a result, less time to spend cuddling and getting to know each baby. To be sure, there will be days when you feel as if you’re walking up a down escalator. Recovering from a c-section or visiting premature babies in an intensive-care nursery (events you are more likely to experience when you have multiples) will only add to the difficulty. Fortunately, there are ways to make it work so that you can not only survive but — yes — enjoy your babies’ first year.
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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.
Mothers in her group share tips on how to deal with well-meaning relatives and friends, shop for the right baby products and equipment, save money, and stay sane while juggling two or more infants – information you’re not going to get from ordinary parenting classes.
Find the best gear for your baby. See the 2018 Moms’ Picks winners.
Pushing them in a stroller Wearing one in a baby carrier Putting one in a swing Swaddling them in their cribs Placing them in their bassinets Laying them on a blanket on the floor Using an infant cushion
Worried that your babies will fuss if you’re not holding them? Alternate holding and floor time with both twins. Sit on the floor near a play area where you can set one twin down on a blanket, infant seat, or mat while you hold the other one. Once the baby on the floor starts to fuss, put the one in your arms down and carry the crying baby.
Being alone with twins means you don’t have another adult carrying one of them. The next best alternative to getting around? Using your double stroller.
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.
The day is looming. With dad going back to work, you’re wondering how to handle twins alone. Or maybe your mom’s extended stay has come to an end, and she’s headed for home. Just as you were getting used to caring for newborn twins, you now need to learn how to handle twins alone.
Finally, be sure to enlist the help of friends and relatives. “Do not turn down any offers of help!” says Maria, of Pelham, New York, whose mother-in-law helped out for two months and whose parents visited regularly as well. “You have no idea how crazy it’s going to be with two newborns. You’ll really appreciate an extra set of hands.” If there’s no one available, consider hiring a baby nurse (pricey, but many say it’s worth it), a sitter who can come for a few hours a day, and/or a cleaning service.
Of course! In terms of supply, feeding two is no harder than feeding one because increased demand increases milk production. But finding a method that works will take practice and patience. The trick is to find a comfortable position that works for you.
Make a list of all the safe places your twins have fallen asleep for easy reference and when you’re low on ideas.
With a singleton, you can get by with following your baby’s cues much more than with twins. Two babies means putting them on the same schedule as much as possible, because if you don’t then you will never get a break. Be prepared that it will take you a while to get them synched up, but the point is to keep trying and eventually a pattern will emerge.
Nina Garcia is a mom to three boys—a six-year-old and two-year-old twins. She blogs about parenting at Sleeping Should Be Easy, where she writes everything she’s learning about being mom and raising twins. For more tips on how to sleep train twins, get her guide, How to Sleep Train Twins.
Wondering what the babies can share and what you need to double (or triple) up on?
Be sure to check with your pediatrician before starting any sleep training plan to determine if your babies are old enough (no earlier than 3 months old) and have gained enough weight.
How can I make caring for twins easier? Can I still breastfeed with twins? How long a maternity leave should I plan on taking? How can I find other parents of multiples to talk to?
Tending to the needs of two newborns may mean that you don’t fall in love as instantly as you’d expected, but this is completely normal. “The more you get to know your babies as individuals, the closer and more connected you will feel to each of them,” says family and child therapist Eileen Pearlman, PhD, coauthor of Raising Twins (Simply Collins). Try to notice what’s unique about each one, like the way your daughter curls her lip before she cries or the way your son startles when he hears a loud noise.
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.”
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.”
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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Just as learning to take care of your babies takes time, so does getting to know who they are. In fact, it may take a few days to master the most basic information: which one is which! To avoid confusion, don’t remove your babies’ hospital ID bands until you’re sure you can tell who’s who. Julie, the Chicago mom, wrote the names of her twins on their wristbands in indelible ink. After a day or two she could tell them apart by the shape of their head. “Michael’s was round like a softball, and Henry’s was like a flattened circle,” she says. Finding a freckle or birthmark on one baby, dressing them in different colors, or painting one toenail can help with identification too.
Early on, you’ll need to shop for baby equipment (many baby stores offer a twins discount if you buy two of the same thing), find a pediatrician, and prep your house. When organizing your home, don’t focus just on the nursery. If you have more than one floor, set up a changing station on each level; include diapers, wipes, and extra baby clothes. That way you can avoid running up and down the stairs every time one of the babies spits up or needs to be changed. Also, “set up a portable crib or playpen in the area where you will be spending most of your time with the babies, so that you have a safe place to leave one baby in case you need to attend to the other,” says Carline, of Los Angeles, the mother of 21-month-old twins Jay and Ava.
Jodi, the West Bloomfield mom, says she thinks of her twins as two children who just happen to be the same age. “They look different, they act different, and they are going through different stages at different times,” she says. “We call Ellie the girl with a thousand faces because she changes her expressions all the time, whereas Jenna always has a smile on her face. When people want to know who’s happier, stronger, or funnier, I just tell them it depends when you ask!”
“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.”
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.
Nurse both at the same time. Using a nursing pillow for twins (I used the My Brest Friend Twin Deluxe), tandem feeding becomes much easier. First, place both twins on your bed, leaving space for you to sit in between.
Then, attach your nursing pillow to your waist and sit cross-legged in between the babies. Next, place one baby on the pillow football style and latch him on, then do the same for the other baby on the other side.
When your twins need to burp, carry one baby over your shoulder or even sit him on the pillow as he burps. When he’s done, set him down on the bed and do the same with the other baby. Twiniversity Tip: Another option, if you’re having difficulty with tandem feeding, is to breastfeed one baby on a single nursing pillow while bottle feeding the other at the same time.
Then at the next feeding switch who gets to breastfeed. Just make sure you’re alternating boobs for each baby so your breasts don’t become uneven. Bottle-feed both at the same time. My twins were both breastfed and bottle-fed.
During bottle-feeding, I’d put the twins in their infant seats. Then I’d hold the bottles up for them while they drank. As they got older, I encouraged them to hold their own bottles. Put them to sleep at the same time.
Keep your twins’ napping and sleeping schedules the same. Naps can be a juggle, especially when you try to find different ways to put the babies to sleep. Sometimes they’ll sleep together on a blanket on the floor.
Other times, you need to put one in the swing while the other is in the bassinet. Regardless, try your best to keep bedtimes and nap times the same for both babies.
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Thankfully, it all worked out. I somehow managed to survive those months alone with the twins (plus a three-year-old!) using these tips.
My life went back to normal once my twins knew how to put themselves to sleep. No more rocking, nursing or shushing to sleep for each baby and for each nap. I sleep trained my twins once they were old enough. I could finally put them down awake, knowing they’d fall asleep on their own without crying. They’d sleep 12 hours straight at night, and an hour and a half to two hours for each nap. Bliss!
Your newborns can sleep side by side in the same crib for the first few months, but if you’re keeping them in your room in bassinets, each baby will need his own. When the babies start wiggling around, move them to separate cribs, but keep them in the same room, where they can see and hear each other. Triplets can sleep crosswise in the same crib.
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.
Other mothers decide that formula is the best option for them. With formula, more people can help with feeding — and Mom can get some relief during middle-of-the-night sessions. Some mothers of multiples combine nursing and bottle-feeding so that their babies get the benefit of breast milk but others can help with the feeding. “Our son had a difficult time latching on, and there were nights when we’d both wind up in tears — him out of hunger and me out of frustration,” says Rhonda, of Richton Park, Illinois, the mother of 2-year-old twins. So she frequently nursed her daughter while her husband gave their son a bottle.
Finally, swap stories and advice about twins and multiples and being pregnant with multiples with others in the BabyCenter Community
While raising multiples can make you feel as if you’re at the center of a three-ring circus, you will adjust to them more with each passing day, and they will reach milestones that will make life easier — like sleeping through the night and holding their own bottle. “At 6 months, Jay and Ava were smiling and entertaining each other. It didn’t take long for us to realize how lucky we are to have them and how lucky they are to have each other,” Carline says. “They’re double the work, but also double the love, kisses, and hugs.”
It’s also a good idea to hook up with other parents of multiples. They can tell you what to expect, weigh in on the merits of side-by-side versus front-to-back double strollers, and help you feel as though you’re not alone. If you don’t know anyone, you might join a support group. The National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (nomotc.org) has more than 475 local support groups and an active bulletin board on its Web site. Also check out tripletconnection.org and twinslist.org.
Find out why certified pediatric nurse practitioner Dr. Maureen Keefe says not to worry about it.
changing tableplaypen or portable cribbaby bathtubnursing pillowbreast pumpbaby monitordouble or triple strollerstationary activity centeractivity mat
Continue to challenge yourself. You may not think you can take your twins out alone without another adult to help you. Maybe you don’t think you’re cut out to put two babies to nap multiple times a day. Whatever obstacle you face, meet it head on. You’ll come out of it feeling much more empowered and stronger than you ever thought.
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.
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.)
Nursing two infants at once is tricky — you’ll want to experiment with different positions to find what works best for you. One strategy is to rest one baby’s head in each palm or on pillows with their legs stretched out behind you. Or hold one baby in the football hold and cradle the other in front of you. A U-shaped nursing pillow fits comfortably around your waist and keeps both babies at the breast, leaving your hands free to adjust each baby’s mouth. Mothers of triplets often nurse two babies at a time and place the third next to them in an infant seat.
If you need to hold one baby, alternate so they both get “independent” play and arm time as well. This is also a good opportunity to practice tummy time on the floor.
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.
car seatlayetteinfant seatbassinetcribmobileswingdiaper bag (so you can take them out individually)high chairfront carrier
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During the first few months, it may seem as if you seldom have a moment to catch your breath. But things will get better. Maria, the Pelham mom, says she turned a major corner when she got her twins on a regular nap schedule. “When Bayden and Helena were 5 months old, I started putting them down for a morning nap every day at 9:30 and an afternoon nap at 1:30,” she says. Maria used the morning naptime to shower, pump milk, prep bottles, empty the dishwasher, and plan the day. She used the afternoon naptime to make phone calls and pay bills.
Learn the ins and outs of your stroller and how to fold and unfold it before you venture out on your own (I speak from experience!) A baby carrier or two will also be a huge help.
You should alternate breasts each feeding to make sure they produce equal amounts of milk and to lessen the chance of blocked ducts. “Henry always ate less than Michael, so the breast that Henry last nursed from would become engorged before the next feeding,” says Julie, of Chicago, a mother of four boys, including identical twins.
Jeannette, of Greenwood, Indiana, mastered the art of nursing her twin sons, Chance and Campbell, before she left the hospital. “I always paged a lactation consultant for help when it was time for a feeding,” she says. “By the time I got home, I could sit on the couch and nurse them while I ate dinner.”
That was me after my twins’ arrival. I considered myself lucky—my husband used all his paternity leave so he was home a few weeks when the twins were born. Still, he had to go back to work while my maternity leave continued. My mom stayed with us soon after, but after a while, even she had to go home as well. The many visitors that came when the twins were born were now dwindling down.
Learning how to handle twins alone has been one of my biggest challenges to date. I felt exhausted and sleep-deprived from caring for two babies. Still, managing two babies alone has also been one of the most rewarding experiences. Just when I thought I couldn’t do it, circumstances forced me to do so and, to my surprise, I was able to do so with success.
Jodi was thrilled when she found out she was pregnant with twins. She and her husband, Matt, had always wanted two children, and this way they would do it with just one pregnancy. But when the twins arrived, the demands of caring for two babies caught the couple off guard. “We didn’t have a clue what we were doing. They needed to be fed every few hours around the clock. Even when they were napping, we had to prepare bottles and do the laundry, so we hardly got any sleep,” the West Bloomfield, Michigan, mom recalls. “We were totally overwhelmed.”
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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.”
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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.”
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When you’re the mother of multiples, you may feel like you do little else but feed your babies. By the time the second (or third) baby has been fed, burped, and changed, the first one’s often hungry — and the cycle begins all over again. This phase is grueling, but it lasts only a few months, and most say it passes in a blur. First, you’ll have to decide whether to breast or bottle-feed. Breastfeeding is the healthier choice, plus you can nurse two babies at one time once you get the hang of it. But be prepared for the fact that preemies often don’t suck as well as full-term infants, so you may need a lactation consultant’s help to get your babies to latch on correctly.
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It’s important to treat your babies as individuals so that they begin to see themselves that way too. Refer to them by name rather than as “the twins,” and as they get older, make sure they have their own clothes and special toys. Kathy, of Atlanta, says that her 8-month-old daughter, Abigail, is outgoing and never tires of social interaction, whereas Abigail’s twin, Virginia, is quieter and will reach a point where she’s had enough. “So at the end of the day, we’ll continue playing with Abigail and just do more snuggling with Virginia,” says Kathy.
Of course, you may not have this problem if one of your multiples is still in an intensive-care nursery. In that case, dividing your time between hospital visits and home can make life more stressful and bonding harder. “One of my twins came home two weeks earlier than the other,” says Maria. “No matter where I was or which twin I was with, I felt torn — and guilty that I wasn’t with the other one. Once they were both home, things got a lot better.”
What should we do if one of our twins cries while the other is sleeping?
When one of the babies wakes up to be fed in the middle of the night, wake up the other one after you’re done if it’s within half an hour of her normal feeding time. “It’s hard to wake a sleeping baby, but if you don’t, you will be constantly tending to babies and not getting any sleep,” says Sheila Laut, coauthor, with her husband, William Laut, of Raising Multiple Birth Children (Chandler House Press).
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Learn how to deal with the challenges of nursing more than one baby at a time.
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.”
Before my twins could put themselves to sleep, I was a ping-pong ball bouncing between putting the both of them to nap. Experiment with different ways for your twins to nap, including: