Tips for Raising Multiples
Disclaimer: I’m an inexpert expert. Let me explain why. I’m a pediatrician. I studied YEARS to get my medical degree, graduated at the top of my class, chose pediatrics because I loved kids, but when I found out I was having twins, I did what any self-respecting person would do: I panicked! I had NO experience raising twins… just medical knowledge and advice from good ol’ friends. I devoured books, surfed the web and asked around. So I’m paying it forward.
Many books recommend hiring a night nurse, a live-in nanny, a doula and everything in between. Being in the “I can’t afford those luxuries” boat, I quickly pushed those books aside.
Pregnancy & Preparing for Their Arrival
The majority of multiples are born before their due date, so I recommend preparing for twins in the second trimester, rather than waiting until the third. Preparing for twins can put a hole in your wallet, so being practical is a must.
- Most newborns need 8-10 diapers a day, so with twins, that works out to about 600 diapers a month! Save yourself a bleary-eyed trip to the store at midnight by stocking up early before their arrival. If you are not sure what size they need, order a size bigger (you can always use them later, and often they fit anyway). I put a diaper “station” (a glorified box) with diapers, cream and wipes in 3 of the rooms of my home, so I didn’t have to run between rooms each time I had to change them. You never want to leave infants alone in a room, even for a few minutes. Safety trumps everything else!
- Car seats and strollers are the most important investment, so this is where you may not want to scrimp. Twins often use their strollers longer than parents of singletons. Then you have to make decisions that other parents may never have to make: side-by-side or front-back stroller. Did you know that many side-by-side strollers fit through every door? I’ve never had a door I couldn’t get through.
- Be practical. If you are having a boy and a girl, buy some clothes that are interchangeable. They outgrow them so fast, and there is very little time to dress girls in princess outfits. You won’t care about the little giraffe on the outfit, and will just be happy you have clean clothes to put them in, especially if they spit up a lot. I got a lot of hand me down clothes and went to twin clothing swaps to stay on budget.
- Try everything you can to breastfeed. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t provide enough breast milk for both babies, but even a little breast milk is healthier than no breast milk. Twins are often premature, so breast milk is an important part of getting them on their way to being healthy and strong.
- Baby blues and postpartum depression are more common for moms of multiples. It makes sense – more responsibility, more hormones, less sleep. Know this and prepare for it. It may not happen, but it’s always good to know about it beforehand.
- Consider joining the Columbus Mothers of Twins Club, the largest and oldest twins club in Ohio. These women have earned their mom badges, and they love to share resources, support and activities.
Sleeping & Feeding: Getting Twins in Sync
No one functions well without sleep, so rather than investing in an espresso maker or learning how to fall asleep standing up, try to establish a routine early so everyone can get some rest. Find a schedule that works and stick to it. The consistency is more important than the schedule itself. Twins need to be on the same schedule so you can coordinate feeds, sleeping patterns and get some much needed rest for yourself. By 2 months, twins will typically settle into a fairly consistent routine. I had one very difficult sleeper, but by 7 months they were both sleeping through the night, with 2 consistent naps during the day.
- Some of the best advice I learned was “eat-wake-sleep” (not “eat-sleep-wake”). Repeat this cycle in 2-4 hour increments. Try to encourage the babies to eat a full feed and stay awake for a short time after the feed. This helps them learn to stay awake during the day and not fall asleep with a bottle or a feeding. If you have a night-owl infant who wants to stay asleep all day and then party all night, this will also help that infant start sleeping at night.
- The most important aspect of the schedule is having a consistent wake time and bedtime and keeping the bedtime routine the same (the same room, the same level of lighting, the same sounds, the same pre-bedtime rituals, etc.).
- Writing down feedings and naps (at least in the first few weeks) can be really helpful in seeing a pattern emerge and tweaking the schedule to get the twins in sync. One of my twins liked to veer off schedule frequently in the first couple months. If that one woke up for a feed in the middle of the night unexpectedly, I would wake the other one and feed her as well.
- Don’t let twins sleep in your bed or in the same crib. They can be in the same room, but they need to sleep on their backs in separate cribs to be safe, and co-sleeping has been associated with SIDS. It’s simply not worth the risk. Learn more about Safe Sleep here.
- Babies need to learn how to soothe themselves to sleep. Try to put them in their cribs when they are drowsy but not sound asleep. When an awake infant in a crib learns to fall asleep on his own, you have achieved a huge milestone and a learning lesson that your child will carry forward for years.
- I recommend reading Harvey Karp’s book Happiest Baby on the Block before the twin’s arrival. This book will arm you will some excellent advice on how to calm a crying baby (5 S’s: swaddling, side position while awake, shushing sounds, swinging, sucking). I recorded my voice saying “shush” (which is similar to a white noise but better because infants recognize and respond to a parent’s voice very early on). I played this sound every night at bedtime to calm and soothe the twins. It also cued them that it was time for bedtime, and helped the twins stay asleep and not hear each other stirring.
- Ask your pediatrician for advice. We love sharing stories and helping parents find their strengths. Each infant is unique, and sometimes you just need to talk to someone who has the perspective of helping many parents over many years.
Raising multiples may seem scary, but don’t doubt that you can do this! Being a parent is hard work, but believe in yourself – raising multiples is an unbelievably rewarding experience.