One of the more exciting parts of being pregnant is getting your home ready for your babies. Sometimes when a couple learns that they are expecting twins the excitement turns to tension. There is concern about space and expense, there is confusion about what to buy (especially if none of you family or friends have twins), and sometimes there is a general sense that you just know nothing and don’t know where to start! I wanted to address those things in today’s post.
What to do first?
Getting a sense of where your new babies are going to live would be the first thing to tackle. Most people move into a home with the thought that they will have space for one baby. We were living in a small apartment when we found out we were expecting twins. It was hard to no longer live by the beach, but we knew we needed more space. If you are considering moving I recommend arming yourself with some information about schools before you do. I know, it sounds crazy to think about schools when your kids aren’t even born but if you move to a beautiful home where the local public schools are less than wonderful, consider the fact that private school currently costs between $18,000 and $25,000 per year. PER CHILD. Move to a good school district if you can.
Once you know where you’re living, you need to consider how to fit all of the baby furniture into the nursery. Obviously, you can make these yourself (which is what I did when I was pregnant) using craft paper from Pearl or another such art supply store, but for those of you who don’t have the time or inclination, it’s pretty handy. Although the nursery seemed large, we quickly realized we didn’t have space for a changing table once two cribs were in the nursery! Luckily, we were doing some renovations in our house already and were able to turn the closet of the babies’ room into a built in dresser/bookcase/changing table. if you don’t have this luxury, don’t get caught up in having every item listed in magazines or books. You don’t need a changing table for example. You just need something padded (like a towel on top of a rug or an inflatable pad like this) and you can change the babies on the floor or a bed.
Are there books I should read to prepare for having twins?
There are tons of books out there about giving birth to and raising twins. I never found any that I loved. In my opinion, some of them are, frankly, full of really scary information or are simply too clinical in nature to relate to. I read the standard “What To Expect When You Are Expecting” style of books and found them helpful, but the ones that really stood out and which we liked most are listed here. Hopefully you will like them too:
- “The Birth Partner“ by Penny Simkin. This was the only “dad” book my husband gives his stamp of approval on. It is especially great for the non-pregnant partner, as it gives them very practical information on what the birth mother is going through while pregnant. It also allows them to see what role they can play throughout pregnancy and during labor. It’s actually subtitled: “A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions”.
- “The Happiest Baby on the Block“ by Dr. Harvey Karp for excellent tips on understanding and soothing your newborn. We loved his “5 S’s” solutions to getting through the first month (or what Dr. Karp refers to as the “Fourth Trimester”).
- I was fortunate enough to not have a lot of difficulty breastfeeding. In addition, the doulas we had for the first month were a phenomenal help in that department. There are two books that have been recommended to me so I will post them with the caveat that I haven’t yet read them and the comments made (in italics) are by friends/clients who I respect: “Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More!“ by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada. I will say, right off the bat, that I hesitated suggesting this book. I am not a La Leche League person. I breastfed my children for as long as my body would allow and supplemented with formula when necessary. In general, I find LLL’s way of thinking too dogmatic. If you are conflicted about introducing the bottle or formula, do not read this as it may make you feel that your child is doomed should you ever try it. However, this is one of the few books I found with useful information about breastfeeding multiples. Try to ignore the fact that she spends a great deal of time discussing the benefits of breast milk over formula and you will get a lot of information about how to take care of yourself and your twins.
- As an alternative, I suggest “The Nursing Mother’s Companion“by Kathleen Huggins. Although this is not a book specifically about multiples, it has been recommended to me numerous times by other mothers of twins as the best book on breastfeeding out there. Again, I will tell you to not be terrified by the author’s insinuation that breast feeding is the only way to go if you wish to be a good mother. Put that aside and use her tips and information because they truly can be life savers.
- Not exactly a book, but KellyMom.com has excerpts of books, articles and links to just about everything regarding breastfeeding multiples.
- “Siblings Without Rivalry“ by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Not specifically about twins, but it will give you a real working knowledge of the ins and outs of the sibling relationship.
- “The Sleepeasy Solution: The Exhausted Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Child to Sleep from Birth to Age 5“ by Jennifer Waldberger and Jill Spivack. This has been our “sleep bible” from the minute we picked it up. We used it to teach our children to sleep through the night, we constantly refer to it as they have grown and have new sleep disturbances and we have consulted often with Jill Spivack, one of the authors and a “twin sleep expert”.
What do I actually need right away?
The bare minimum of baby gear you should have when you bring your babies home is:
A good car seat
I love the Britax ones as they are very well made and have the highest safety ratings. Be sure to have them installed in your car BEFORE your babies are born as you will not be allowed to take them home otherwise. Also, it would be a good idea to learn how to use it before you are faced with putting your tiny baby in one! I learned that the hard way! If you need someone to do this for you, many people I know, including us, have used Steve The Car Seat Guy. He will come to your home and show you how to install it yourself should you ever need to. Steve can be reached at (805)-223-3425. Also, some people love having a double Snap N Go which allows you to transfer your babies directly from car to stroller without removing them from the car seat (great if they’re sleeping). Our kids were very laid back about being transferred to the stroller so I never used one, but others swear by it! Be sure that the brand of car seat you buy will work with the type of Snap N Go you purchase.
A place for the baby to sleep
Most twins are so small that even a single, sturdy bassinet should do the trick if you haven’t yet bought cribs. Twins can sleep side by side happily until they begin to roll over (3 – 4 months old). If you plan on having a family bed, it is a bit more difficult than with a singleton and most people opt to use a co-sleeper. Be sure to check out the weight restrictions if you want to keep both babies in one co-sleeper. Co-sleepers also double as a play pen, but they are quite small when you have two babies. Also, as I mentioned in my last post on the cost of having twins, you can use the Graco Twin Pack N Play with double bassinets.
Our twins were a pretty decent size when we brought them home, having been delivered at just past 37 weeks. Although they weighed 6 lbs, 5 ounces and 6 lbs 2 ounces, the newborn clothes I had was all gigantic on them! A few preemie outfits are not a bad idea to have on hand. Our kids were still swimming in the Gap 0-3 clothes at 2 or 3 weeks! Some brands tend to run a bit small (generally, it’s a similar rule to “grown up clothes”: the more expensive it is, the smaller it is!) and many offer preemie styles. Check consignment shops and your local Mothers of Multiples clubs as I mentioned in my post about the cost of having twins. Onsies, footed pajamas (even if it’s Summer as babies don’t keep themselves warm the way we do) and blankets if you plan to swaddle. I am a proponent of swaddling (one of the first thing you will be taught in the hospital is how to do it) and suggest reading Dr. Harvey Karp’s book as I mentioned earlier. Your swaddling blanket choices will depend on the time of year, how long you plan to swaddle and how large your babies are. Many people love the Aiden + Anais muslin baby wraps. They’re lightweight, very large and have attractive, subtle patterns on them. They double nicely as a sun shade if your stroller doesn’t have one that covers your baby enough. Ours are Winter babies so we used these flannel blankets which we loved.
Even if you plan to breastfeed, and are successful with it, my belief is that you should introduce a bottle early on (even one feedings a day will do) so that your babies are familiar with it. Ask your pediatrician about when you should do this. Acceptance of the bottle allows your partner, or other family members (that’s my dad in the picture to the right), to join in the wonderful bonding time that feeding a baby brings. It also will simplify things should you choose to not breastfeed in public or if you leave your child with a caregiver and are not able to get back in time for a feeding. Thus, bottles are important. The scare over BPA was in full force a few months after our children were born so I threw out all of my Avent, Medela and Doctor Brown’s bottles and switched to Born Free. However, now all the brands have followed suit and make BPA-free bottles. We used Medela bottles in the very beginning along with Born Free bottles which we loved and continued to use until we transitioned from bottles to sippy cups at 11 months. I had no complaints at all (other than the expense). I have found that you need to try different bottles and different nipple types to see which your babies are comfortable with; thus, don’t get a huge amount of anything until you are certain they are working for you. As for a breast pump, unless you plan to breastfeed for an extended period, I recommend renting one. We got ours through The Pump Station but your birth hospital should have them for rent as well. I breastfed and pumped for almost 7 months and it was still cheaper than buying one (and then I didn’t have a pump taking up space in my house)!
Double Nursing Pillow
This isn’t an absolute necessity either, but it is so unbelievably helpful that I would be remiss in not suggesting it. It will make nursing your babies at the same time so much easier. I used one from Twin Z that worked great for me.
You didn’t think I’d forget that, did you? Diapers are a bit like bottles; everyone will have their preferences and you have to try them out to see what works best for you. I would have loved to try cloth diapers or even G-diapers, but once we learned we were having twins that seemed too daunting. Now that the kids are older, I have learned more about them and will post in the future some ideas for getting past the hurdle of trying them out. Anyway, what I found was that Pampers Swaddlers worked best when my kids were newborns as they were just over 6 lbs. If your babies are preemies, look into diapers made specifically for their size. As the babies grew, I switched to Huggies as I liked the fit better. Look into Diapers.com which will deliver just about anything baby related overnight! particularly if you have had preemies or a c-section, the last thing you want to worry about is running out of diapers.
Now that the babies are home and we’ve settled in a little, what toys, gear, equipment do we need to have?
We had our kids in a crib from day one, but didn’t buy the second crib for a few months as it wasn’t needed until they started rolling over. The latest news out is that there may be a recall on drop side cribs. Drop sides are used to allow the parents easier access to their babies. If you are on the shorter side, I recommend being prepared with a stool as you will drop your crib mattress once your babies learn to pull themselves up and changing a crib sheet when you can’t reach the mattress is no fun! Another thing to consider is the fact that some cribs convert to toddler beds. This is something to consider especially if your home is small. A toddler bed is much smaller than a twin bed (it is just the size of crib without the side rails) and will allow you to put off the expense of transitioning to two “big kid” beds for a little longer.
These are not in the least necessary, but we loved having it. I have videos of our kids happily watching them circle overhead. The one thing I would tell you to look out for is a mobile whose music turns off; there is nothing more annoying than two out-of-sync mobiles playing in the same room!
There’s always a debate over which type of double stroller is best. Some will love the tandem, some will love the side by side. There are even double decker one! We’ve had three types, two side by side and one tandem (a used one that I got at a very low cost). Personally, I hated the tandem. I didn’t like the idea that one baby would be looking at the back of the other’s head all day and it was so hard to maneuver! The side by side fits everywhere I want to go (stores have to allow for wheelchair access and a double stroller is no wider), and both kids got the same view of the world. We had a Combi Twin Savvy first and liked it a lot. UNTIL I tried my Citi Mini Double Stroller! Love it. The shade canopy extends so far you can cover the whole baby, it’s so easy to maneuver and practically glides along the street, reclines completely so your infants can sleep in it, SUPER easy to open and close…I could go on and on. The only draw backs are that there you have to purchase snack trays separately (we liked having that a lot when the kids were little. Once they were over 2 or so it mattered less). Also, it folds flat so it takes up a bit of space if you plan to bring it in the house. Other than that, love it! Whatever stroller you get, I strongly recommend one with a single handle bar. We have a pair of McLaren single strollers which I really like, but they are impossible to steer with one hand – something that you will find you need often! And speaking of those McLaren strollers. I urge you to spend the money on at least one, but preferably two, single strollers. I have written often about the importance of getting one on one time with your babies; it is good for your bonding, it is good for their individuation and it is good for your partner to have time alone with them. It doesn’t have to be a fancy one, but do try to get a pair.
I know that sounds bit weird. But I swear, it was the greatest thing we ever got. Many babies are soothed by being bounced. It is exhausting to walk around with a baby all day trying to bounce your body up and down. Sitting on a ball & bouncing is so much easier. Our doulas taught us this great head bobble trick where you basically are gently rolling the baby’s head in your palm while you bounce….worked like a charm! Definitely get a ball!
I wore our babies in slings from the very beginning and up until they were over 2 years old (and got too heavy to carry around). Not only did the babies seem to love it, but it allowed me to have at least one hand free to grocery shop, make lunch, push a stroller etc. Slings have been in the news as of late because if used improperly they can cause your baby to suffocate. It is EXTREMELY important to know how to use them the right way.
Books and Toys
This is a category that is way too big for this blog post. Suffice it to say that you should have as many best baby books as you can fit in your nursery and read to your children from day one. Hearing the sound of your voice and, over time, hearing the inflections you make when reading are an enormous part to their love of books as they get older. There are many websites to learn about great new books. One of the ones I really like is Chronicle Books. When the kids were really little I did my best to keep the plastic out. Its arrival is inevitable – just like the invasion of Disney into your house – but in the beginning I was optimistic and the kids were happy to play with the beautifully made (and beautiful to look at) toys from websites like Moolka and Oompa.
Most parents I know find at least one, if not all, of these three items to be Godsends. Swings can be a wonderful way to get an otherwise cranky child to nap. Exersaucers and Bouncers, used in moderation, give mom a chance to take a break while her children are happily engaged and safe. Our son loved it so much, and looked so hilarious when he bounced in it, that we jokingly referred to him as “Lord of the Dance”.
White Noise Machine
Many sleep experts and experienced parents will tell you that these machines work great. The noise supposedly replicates what the babies hear in utero, thus soothing them to sleep. For twins, it acts a bit as a noise barrier between cribs when one baby is crying and the other is sleeping. We had two different ones, but the basic one from Brookstone worked great. As the children got older they requested the “noise” be replaced with the “lullaby” music the machine plays. At over 3 years this item is still going strong.