When I was pregnant I read a few books, went to a few classes and spoke to a few friends about what I would need to know when my twins were born. I didn’t know anyone with twins, I didn’t know anything about multiples clubs and I certainly didn’t know about blogs where I could find information! In some respects, it’s a miracle I knew anything!
One of my sisters-in-law is pregnant with twins right now and, although she is much more knowledgeable about babies in general than I was, I thought it would be helpful for her to get some of the sage advice from those who have gone before her. I asked the terrific parents in my multiples club (West LA Parents of Multiples) to send me their best tips and advice, the things they wished they had known and the things that they found the most helpful on their journey as new parents. I thought I would post the best of the best here.
Remember, this list isn’t made up of my own personal advice, it is a list from numerous mothers of twins and triplets who have been in the trenches and who offered to pass on their wisdom. I believe that their advice is just as applicable to parents of singletons as to parents of multiples. Obviously, what works for some families may not work for yours. These are merely suggestions and you should feel free to check with your doctor if you have questions. After reading it, if you’ve got advice to add or questions to ask, please post in the comment section at the end! So, without further ado…
- Be easy on yourself and the expectations you have of what kind of parent you will be. All the things you are going to do as a parent (e.g. vaginal birth, breastfeeding, etc.) may not work out as you had expected, or may not be as wonderful as you had thought.
- Make sure your relationship with your partner is strong and that you communicate well. Don’t take stuff too personally.
- Relax. Stay Calm.
- Hire a night nurse, especially in the beginning and especially if you are on bed rest or are having a c-section.
- Spend some one-on-one time with each baby.
- Help: ask for it and accept it! I’m horrible at both but the times I have done either have been huge. I also posted a list on my fridge with directions for some things so that if someone visits and asks how they can help I can direct them to the list (i.e. Wash bottles, make formula, throw a load of baby laundry in the wash/dryer). My days are so filled with all of this that I rarely get a moment for myself.
- Consider getting help, especially if family who is helpful is not available and/or you are a first-time parent. We had post-partum doulas during the day and night for the first six weeks and now have a live-in nanny and some help at night.
- I do want to add very quickly, which I have shared to numerous parents in our club, is get out of the house with the babies and join a playgroup no matter what in those first few moths. I didn’t and I regret it like you wouldn’t believe to this day! I was scared, I was overwhelmed, I was exhausted and I was frazzled…but I could have had an incredible network of other parents experiencing the same things and may not have felt so alone. It would have no doubt been hard to do, but it would have been so good for my sanity and good for them.
- My first piece of advice and something I wish I had done sooner, is to join a multiples group. Start with this website NOMOTC to see what’s available in your area. Ours has meetings once a month, but also had meetings once a month specifically for expectant parents of multiples. You’ll meet other moms/parents-to-be as well as get advice from the “pros”. It was also reassuring to meet moms whose kids were toddlers. I was always relieved to know we’d survive 3 or more years! Ha!! Plus, on the boards and emails that go back and forth I received great information/advice about products or pretty much anything! I still do and it’s worth the $35-45 I pay per year!
- Hell: we’ve heard from other parents of twins (and are living it right now) that the first 6 months are hell. I can attest to that, they were. We are finally in our 7th month and things are a little easier although there are still difficult times (I don’t think they understand sometimes when I am alone with them and tell them that “there are two babies and only one mommy”). We love these babies like you wouldn’t believe (never knew this kind of love existed) but I am exhausted, have shed lots of tears and sometimes just look like a crazy person (and feel like one too)! But we know there’s a light. It’s hard to just get out of the house to go for a simple walk, at least alone, but sometimes I manage.
- At the two week mark they definitely “woke up” and oh my goodness were we unprepared for that! I don’t want to burst anyone’s halcyon newborn bubble but man, do I wish I’d been told.
- Unsolicited Advice (which is what I am also giving): I think every new mother gets this but what people don’t understand is that advice from a singleton mother doesn’t always mean much to a mother of multiples. I’ve had people insist that they know more just b/c they are a mother, but believe me when I say it’s completely different being a mom to multiples! So take it with a grain of salt, but your best advice is going to come from other moms who’ve walked in your shoes! Having twins is a completely different experience than having one baby at a time. Actually, take this note from me with a grain of salt (speaking of unsolicited advice)!
- Attend Sue Darrison’s class for raising twins [Sue is Based in Sherman Oaks, CA. You can find her contact info on my Clubs And Classes page]
- No TV or screen time until they are three or older. No juice, No juice, No juice. Feed them healthy foods as long as you can.
- Research a company that will help deal with all the hospital bills and insurance forms – I had 3 feet of insurance forms that would come in the mail constantly and it took me a year to finally get every bill paid (due to inevitable problems when there are some many bills going back and forth). It was completely overwhelming.
- To find out if they are cold: Feel their hands (it’s a good proxy).
- Bed rest: it’s so common in mothers carrying multiples so just keep it in the back of your mind. I had a plan for when I was going to do certain things which was way earlier than most people. But it was for just in case. Not everyone goes on bedrest, just keep it in mind, though. Also, I was 10 weeks early, but I hear of so many people who make it a lot closer to 40 weeks. One thing I was kind of sad about, which is weird to some, is that I gave birth before my shower. I wish it had been a little earlier so that I could have been there while pregnant. Some people may not care, but I kind of did.
- Don’t travel somewhere at high elevation when you’re far along in your pregnancy. It is hard enough to breathe with all of your organs squashed up to make room for two babies in your uterus. Don’t add to the stress your body is already under by deciding to go on a snowy mountain get-away with your husband and end up in the hospital like me!
- See a perinatologist in addition to regular OB. They are specialists in fetal development, and her OB may not have the latest ultrasound equipment. This is especially important if they are identical twins, as there are more issues (twin-twin transfusion, for example).
- One thing I did that I feel SAVED me was getting everything ready for babies room, packing my hospital bag, and getting all necessary supplies for early days by my 28th week. I would say this is the BEST piece of advice I can give. I did this only because I am crazy early for everything in my life and like to be prepared. As it turned out, I had a completely UNEXPECTED emergency c-section at 31 weeks (there was NO indication before that day that I was going to deliver early at all…I was rushed into the hospital and my babies were out 2 hrs later as one of my placentas separated and my daughter’s heartrate plummeted). I don’t mean to be negative, but with twins I think it is best to be prepared early as you never know.
- Eat well. A nutritionist might be covered by insurance, so a visit or two would probably be just a copay. If you do go, it would be helpful to log your intake for a few days to get a baseline—don’t cheat and suddenly eat healthy. It needs to be an honest assessment
- Learn infant CPR now. We did not get a chance because of the bed rest and now I’m paranoid about what will happen if the babies stop breathing.
- Rock Stars: you and your babies will become this quickly! I can’t go anywhere with our kids without always being stopped. It’s nice, but sometimes hard b/c you’re just trying to get in and out of some place before it’s time to feed or one/both has a meltdown. Generally, when I take each out separately no one will even notice us, which can be a nice change of pace. I took them both out together on Sunday and I couldn’t tell you the number of people that spoke to me or asked if they were twins. The one nice thing is that other parents of twins will also stop you and offer encouragement. I got this much needed encouragement one afternoon when I was having a really difficult day after a couple of days of being cooped up in the house b/c of rain. The parents were so nice and had twin girls who were 6 — so once again I was reminded that we will survive this first year and may even survive the first 6 years!
Labor, Delivery and Immediately After
- Don’t get bent out of shape over delivery method. Whatever is best for your babies is what you’ll do in the end, anyway. My wife was not hell-bent on a v-birth, but was open to it if the babies were properly positioned, but then she went on bed rest, so never went to any birthing classes; it worked out anyway that our son was in such an odd position that it would have been a very difficult push.
- Research NICU’s in terms of what is most family friendly if you have to be there for weeks or months.
- Take the pain meds if you have a c-section. Also use an abdominal support after birth – the hospital will probably give you one. They help a ton!
- Before going to the hospital, go out and buy those inexpensive maxi pads. Soak them in a moderate amount of water and then freeze them. After birth, these will provide some soothing relief to your privates!
- Circumcisions suck.
- TAKE EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING the nurses at the hospital will give you. You can never get too much. I didn’t have to buy diapers for a whole month for my babies when they came home from the hospital as the nurses gave us so many.
- Also, if you end up using Emfamil formula, call them and tell them you had multiples. They will send one free case of formula. I didn’t even need to provide evidence. Pampers will also send coupons to moms of multiples so you should call them as well.
Feeding (Breast, Bottle, etc.)
- Hands-free pumping! I had to start breast pumping because my babies were preemies and I was very sick (due to pre-eclampsia). It was really hard and I didn’t know about hands free for a week or so and it made a huge difference. Also, if in this situation, buy a lot of extra pump pieces so you don’t have to wash the pump parts in the middle of the night and just use the steam sterilizer bag once a day.
- Give pumped breastmilk fresh whenever possible rather than freezing – it lasts a week in the fridge and if you freeze it, it KILLS the immunity of the milk (the nutritional aspects are still great).
- Buy a deep freeze – my frozen supply of breast milk went bad, so I had to throw a lot of it out
- TRY to enjoy night feedings when you are with the little ones – I miss those days despite the exhaustion – there is something very special about the bonding that happens at night if you can focus in on the moment and really bask in it.
- Get breastfeeding help early and often if you need it, so very key, I thought breastfeeding just happened!
- Breast feeding is HARD… if it will help your sanity, stop earlier.
- Don’t get bent out of shape on breastfeeding. You’ll get engorgement whenever you get it, and if you don’t, then there’s a few things you can try, but stressing out will not help. Our OB’s motto was always, “give them what you have, and then give them what they need,” which requires a fair degree of acceptance to whatever the situation is.
- Feedings, etc: keep a chart of when you feed each, how much they ate, what their diaper looked like, etc. You’re going to be sleep-deprived and time and everything else are going to run together. The hospital will give you one. Many sites have fancy ones you can buy. Or make your own.
- For food-related questions, check out the Wholesome Baby Food website (a great resource).
- Set up a bedtime routine even when they are waking every three hours. Then when they are physically ready to sleep through the night, the routine will already be in place. We did bath, bottle, bed.
- Put them down awake from the start!!!!!
- Sleep train your kids as soon as possible. I know many don’t believe in the “cry it out” method, but we did that and it took about 5 days with every night getting shorter and shorter. My kids are olympic sleepers and have been since 4 months and they still are at 4 years.
- Transitional object – More commonly called a lovey or blankie. this is an important aid for falling asleep and self-soothing. To develop an attachment to the “object,” keep it with you and your baby all the time until baby begins to finger, rub on face, clutch, etc. It especially helps to hold it between you and baby when you hold them, so it has your scent. Once they’ve attached, just give it to them for sleep. Now they have a special way to self soothe that makes getting into their bed pleasurable. It’s a good idea to have multiples on hand. It is typically a small (size of a cloth diaper) blanket or cloth, unstuffed animal, etc.
- Follow a strict schedule at all times for feeding and naps – don’t let social engagements interfere with the schedule. Work your life around the schedule.
- Sleep when your babies sleep. It’s so hard to do when you’re used to being a productive member of society, but the more rested you are the better your milk production, the better your mood, the better your relationship with your family. Sleep.
- Sleepy Planet rules!
Gear And Products:
- One of the best pieces of advice that I was given is “learn how to use your car seats before you have the babies”. I asked my husband to do it and then I gave birth early. We had quite a miserable time trying to figure out how to adjust the straps (had to call a friend). Maybe it’s just me (or my car seats), but it was a lot harder than I thought it would be!
- What do I wish I had done differently? Well, the main thing I can think of is that I wish I had not insisted on all of my equipment (i.e. high chairs, etc) be brand new. That’s what I’ve loved about this club is getting hand me downs a lot cheaper than buying them brand new, especially since you use a lot of this stuff for such short time period.
- Register for things that you need further down the road. I was so focused on what I needed immediately, that I didn’t think of future needs. Big mistake!
- Decide in advance what remedies you’d like to use for colic, fevers, gas or other ailments and have it on hand. There is nothing worse than your child being feverish or in pain from gas and having to take the time to run to the store to get anything that will help. Better to have it on hand and use the product that you want rather than the only thing the all night drugstore has on the shelf. Make no mistake, most of the time you will need some remedy at 11pm not the convenient 3pm.
- Motherlove nipple salve. The absolute best product ever. You can use it on your nipples, but you can also use it on the babies. If they get a little scratch or pimple or something you can put it on and the boo-boo heals up pretty quickly. It’s not petroleum based, so I feel safe putting it on their face.
- I should have signed up for Amazon Mom a lot sooner.
- Playtex Diaper Genie II. This diaper pail is very good at reducing odors; my husband has said to me about 100 times: “Who gave us this? This is great!”
- When you need a gate, this is a nice one: North States 3 in 1 Arched Superyard Metal, Matte Bronze Sold by: Amazon.com
- Ergo Baby (Or anything that will help you and your spouse wear your babies comfortably).
- Humidifier Air-O-Swiss AOS 7144 Ultrasonic is a nice one, but any humidifier in colder weather during cold season, will help. Use filtered water (Brita), which will help reduce mineral buildup.
- For safety gear, my favorite place to shop is One Step Ahead
- When they start eating solids, get a waterproof bib like the Bumpkins superbib. I wish I had known about these sooner.
- You don’t need two of everything—we have one bouncer and one swing. You don’t need two cribs right away either, but probably will within 3-4 months.
- Miracle Blankets for swaddling. They are the only way I was able to keep my babies arms in. They broke out of all other swaddles. They can be found online on the Miracle Blanket website. Love them!
- Breathable bumpers. They are safer than the big cushy bumpers and are made in many colors now. Babies R us sells them. Also, they are inexpensive. An added bonus.
- Small fan to keep in the room. There is new research that says circulating air helps to reduce SIDS. I learned this at Sue Darrison’s twin pregnancy preparedness night.
- I was just told by a friend of mine (with twins) to get the summer infant pan and tilt camera. Apparently, you can pan from crib to crib easily, up and down etc. You can also add another camera if you want two panning cameras.
- Make sure to get mattress pads that go over the baby mattress and also the one over the fitted sheet. That way, when there is a spill, drool, etc., you don’t have to wash the fitted sheet.
- Get the summer infant piddle pad for the car seat so you don’t have to clean the entire car seat when there is an overflow of poopy.
- A good activity mat is the best investment. My boys now use ours to pull up on 1 year later!
- Set up 2 changing stations within the house. Especially if you have two floors.
Other Posts To Check Out:
- Do Double Blessings Mean Double The Expense?
- Feathering The Nest
- Coping When Your Twins Are Premature
Wow! Are you still with me? I know, it’s an enormous list. But honestly, I found that there was so much more to having my twins than I ever would have expected. I wasn’t one of those people who had a ton of baby experience or a bunch of friends with children before I gave birth to my own. I hope that for those of you who are in the same shoes, this list serves as a place to check in and find some real answers. For those of you reading whose children are past the newborn stage, I’d love if you would add your own best tips and advice in the comment section. I am sure there are a lot of people reading this that would be so grateful for anything you have to share!