Wow. Twins! You hit the baby jackpot with your tiny genetic mutations. The rest of your days will be filled with twice as many smiles, cuddles, and giggles. Those days will also be filled with double the trials, the exhaustion, and the workload. Raising newborn twins and beyond is not for the faint of heart. If you are going to survive and slay, you need tips, tricks, hacks, advice, and a side of Jesus.
The Name of the Game Is Survival
If you have spent nine months reading up on everything there is to know about raising twins, then you will indeed be set once the delivery day arrives, right? Wrong. Nothing can truly prepare you for those initial newborn days, especially when there are multiple babies involved. Learning and preparation are crucial, but once those little lambs arrive, the name of the game is: survive.
Schedules Will Save You
When you find yourself running on empty and juggling the constant needs of two brand new babies, schedules will save you. They might not be foolproof, and plenty of schedules end up crashing and burning, but having a rough outline of life will likely help sort you out and keep you and your offspring better organized. It takes a bit of time for babies to learn how to adjust to schedules, but trust that they will get the hang of the process, and you will have some sort of consistency in your life once more. Twins can acclimate to several schedules that will help everyone manage life in these early days.
Feeding and Diapering Schedules
If you encourage your twins to eat at the same times each day, then their bodies will learn to expel waste around the same time as well. This is like a buy one get one free life-saver of a schedule! Feeding your twins at the same time intervals is still going to take twice as long as feeding a single baby, but keeping those feedings on the same schedule will mean small spaces in the day where you are NOT feeding humans. The same goes for diapering. When twins eat at the same time, number twos often come pretty close together as well.
When babies nap, it is your time to shine...or sleep...or solve all the problems of the universe. The point is, their snooze sessions are tiny slices of silent heaven. When twins have different sleep schedules, those slivers of solitude evaporate. You need those moments of peace, do not let your itty bitty dictators try to tell you what's up when it comes to sleepy time. You set the schedule, and they will learn to follow suit.
Arm Yourself With the Essentials
Know what you need to survive the days of parenting twin babies. Some newborn items are ones that you can live without (generations of human beings managed without having their baby wipes warmed up.) Other items are necessary, and you do not want to find yourself missing them. Make sure that you always have the following items on hand:
- Lots of clean baby bottles or a double nursing pillow if you go that feeding route.
- Diapers and wipes - More than you can imagine
- A double stroller and two car seats. You have to get mobile at some point.
- Two cribs - Yes, two! Consider convertible cribs that will follow the babies throughout various developmental stages. This will save you money in the long run.
- A large diaper bag - Forget trendy and cute; you are now a sherpa and will be lugging massive loads of baby necessities everywhere you go, so think big and functional.
- Two Boppy pillows- Because someone will always be getting set down.
Set Up Stations Galore
Moving two little ones from room to room all day long will leave you tired, like sweat dripping down your back tired! Babies need diapers and food every few hours, so make sure those things are somewhere on every floor of your home. Set up a changing station or a diapering basket of supplies in a finished basement, on the main floor, and in the upper floor or your house. Make sure there is a diapering supply bin or bag in your car as well. Life will be so much easier when you aren't running from floor to floor with two babies every time one of them leaves you a fecal gift.
The same goes for feeding. The main floor of a home often contains a kitchen with a fridge, great for milk storage, but consider setting up a mini-fridge in your bedroom while your twins are tiny. You probably still have your mini-fridge from the college days somewhere in the garage. Juice her up! Gone will be the multiple middle-of-the-night treks to the kitchen to make two bottles while babies wail away for food. Stock a bedroom fridge with bottles before hitting the hay and rack up precious sleeping seconds in no time flat.
Accept All Help That Comes Your Way
Think you can go this alone? That's cute. Yes, many parents raise twins independently, but many of them would GLADLY accept some help if they had it. Don't be a hero here. No one gets a parenting trophy for doing all the twin duties solo. If people are extending a helping hand, GRAB IT. Grab it and hold on to it as tightly as you would a life raft in the middle of turbulent ocean waters. Let friends and family snug the twins so that you can shower or nap. Accept meals that people are kind enough to cook for your family. If you have other children, and neighbors offer to take them to school for you, push those kids out of the door. These people want to make your life easier, and they will if you let them.
When All Else Fails, Wear Your Humans
Parenting twins will strengthen you in ways you never dreamed of. You will become indestructible. Nothing can break you. You are a parent of multiples! You will grow strong, your determination and mental stamina will expand, but your arms will tire. Carrying around two growing babies can cause serious muscle soreness. Invest in a baby carrier and wear one (or both) babies for some hands-free moments. There are a few twin carriers on the market, but both kids slung over your body will still create some strain. Put one twin in a bouncy chair or a pack and play and pop the other in a front carrier or baby-wearing mechanism. Recognize all that you can accomplish with both of your hands suddenly free! You can now rule the world!
Make sure that each twin gets their fair share of time in the carrier. Think of this as times for serious productivity and as times to be close to one twin at a time. Look at you, building bonds while getting things done. You're such a baddie!
Like Elsa Says: Let It Go!
If Disney ever gave a twin parent a solid piece of advice to live by, it was this: Let it go. When you are raising multiples, some things will have to fall to the wayside. There will be days where the twins scream their heads off, and you do nothing but lie on the couch and count the minutes down until naptime, bedtime, or until the other parent returns from work time. This is fine. You kept everyone alive, so you won the day!
There will be times (a lot of them) where your home is far from Pinterest perfect, your kids are nowhere near Instagram ready, and you resemble a swamp monster. Let it go. You can clean the house when they go to kindergarten, and you aren't supposed to wash your hair every day anyway, so there.
When you feel like you are doing nothing right, and start to wonder if these days are here to stay, let that go too. You are doing something incredible, challenging, and unique. Feel confident and capable and continue putting one leaky breast in front of the other. No one said that this would be a graceful, picture-perfect walk in the park. Raising twins is a grueling marathon. Think of what you are doing as the Iditarod of parenthood, not a stroll through Central Park.
Find Your Twin Mom Friends
Mom friends will change your life. Find them. Hunt them down and never let them go. Twin support groups, other parents of multiples or parents with many kids in general, and family and friends who have raised kids are who you want to surround yourself with. They know the beauty and the blessings that this stage of life brings, but they also know that raising kids is really just a string of hot messes all put together. They will lift you, make you smile and laugh and validate everything that you feel. With them, you are never alone, even in your darkest moments.
Take Care of You
You know what they say, you can not take care of others if you don't take care of yourself first. It's true. Carve out time to decompress, wash your face, cry it out and continue on. Find moments to catch a quick nap or even ten minutes of deep breathing, walk in the fresh air, shower, or chat with a trusted friend. "Me" time is any time where you are putting your needs first for once and doing what feels right and good to you. Everyone benefits from this.
Concerns and Woes With Twins
Bringing two humans into the world is an amazing ride that only a select few humans are privileged enough to experience. That experience comes with a steady stream of incredible, but it also comes with concerns and woes as twin births and beyond are sometimes anything but typical.
Delivery Plans on Pause
One of the first hurdles a mother of twin newborns might face is the reality that many sets of multiples are via cesarean section. At the very beginning of your pregnancy, you might have been planning a natural birth or even a relaxing home birth, but then the ultrasound revealed twins, and delivery hopes and dreams likely took at sharp left. It's not to say that twins cannot be safely delivered via home birth or naturally; plenty of women deliver just as planned, but the chances of delivering by other means are more common with multiples. Multiple pregnancies pose far higher risks to both the mother and babies, so many midwives will encourage your birth to take place in a birthing center or at least close to a hospital. Furthermore, some 75% of twins are delivered via cesarean section.
Probability of Prematurity
Because multiple pregnancies tend to labor as much as five weeks earlier than singletons' pregnancies, a mother needs to have her hospital bag packed several weeks ahead of time. The rate of prematurity in a twin pregnancy hovers around 54%, meaning 54% of twin pregnancies are delivered before 38 weeks gestation. Compare this to the low prematurity rate (9.6%) of singleton births.
Prematurity in any birth has the potential to pose a problem. Babies who are born prematurely are at a higher risk for developing both short-term and long-term complications.
- Short-term complications may include breathing problems, blood pressure issues, brain bleeds, temperature control difficulties, jaundice, decreased immune system, increased susceptibility to infection, and feeding issues.
- Long-term complications may include learning and behavioral impairments, vision and hearing problems, increased risk of cerebral palsy, chronic health woes, increased risk of SIDS.
This is no Lindsay Lohan Disney movie. This is your life! You do not want to be forgetting which twin is which if they are indeed identical. It can be tricky to tell identical twins apart at birth, but there are a few strategies that twin parents have used to manage who's who in the house.
- Look for the tiniest details, like a birthmark, a crooked toe, a crinkle earlobe, or a hair cowlick. Find anything that will serve as a clue to which baby is which.
- Dress them differently. This will undoubtedly help caregivers discern who is who.
- Paint a pinkie. Nail polish wears off, so do not solely rely on this, but a dot of polish on one baby's pinkie toe might assist you in learning who is who in those early days.
- Pay attention to personality particulars. As infants develop, they grow apart in personality. One might have a deeper cry or high-pitched tone. Varied personalities often help parents learn their little ones.
Difficulties in Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is now heavily promoted by American pediatricians. The advantages of breast milk are scientifically documented and energetically touted by many obstetricians and lactation consultants. So, of course, many new mothers are very excited about the prospect of breastfeeding; but with twin newborns, breastfeeding can involve an intense juggling act.
It is possible to breastfeed twins, though it can often be very stressful. Nursing should be a peaceful bonding experience for both mother and child, but with a second twin wailing in the crib, it is no wonder that many mothers of multiples end up supplementing with formula or eventually bottle-feeding their twins completely. Breastfeeding can keep mothers up for several hours during the night; however, where twins are concerned, a mother attempting to nurse can end up awake the entire night as each twin may choose a different feeding schedule. Twins born prematurely might have a double whammy of a time learning to breastfeed as latching and feeding don't always come quickly or naturally.
Here is the lowdown on feeding twins: get them nutrients however you can. Whether you choose to breastfeed, pump, supplement, or formula feed is up to you. Simply put: fed is best. Don't fixate on what you can't do or can't control; concentrate on what you can. In parenting, multiples or otherwise, things rarely go according to plan. Be flexible with your feeding expectations and do what works for the babies and or you.
The Days Are Long, But the Years Are Short
You will be a twin parent forever, so your work will never be done. Those initial twin baby years, though hard as they may be, really do go by in the blink of an eye. It might be because twin parents are the busiest people on the planet, they just never have time to stop and think about the sands of time running at warp speed, but the experience ends up over before you know it. Whoever coined the term, the days are long, but the years are short summed up the twin baby experience perfectly.