This post is authored by our special guest, Karen Holland. Karen is a Newborn Care Specialist, Postpartum Doula, and New Parent Educator, a Red Cross CPR/First Aid/AED Instructor, and holds her SNNEB from Scotland, where she was born and raised. With more than 30 years experience working with families and newborns, Karen provides exceptional, non-judgmental Postpartum Doula, Newborn Care Specialist, and New Parent Educator services to the Greater Washington, D.C., area through her firm, All Baby Concierge. You are invited to follow Karen on Facebook.
I have worked with families who have welcomed multiples into their families for years. What follows is a list of tips for managing the process without frustration and burnout.
- Ask for, and accept offers of help; this can include:
- Family members – grandparents can be a godsend, siblings of parents, best friends, etc.
- Neighbors – they can assist with simple tasks like bringing your trash and recycling bins to the curb and back, bring in packages and mail, carpooling with older siblings, etc.
- Other twin parents - join a local Mothers of Twins/Multiples Club for support and education. You can search for local chapters on one of these websites, and also check Facebook for local groups:
- Consider hiring a Postpartum Doula or Newborn Care Specialist with multiples training and experience; they’ll help get the babies settled into a routine and allow you to rest
- Assign a “gatekeeper” to monitor visitors – everyone is going to want to see the babies, multiples are such marvels! Schedule visits around the babies nap schedules, so the parents can rest while their babies are resting.
- Before babies arrive, switch to online grocery shopping and delivery, dry cleaning pick-up/delivery, mail order prescriptions. Anything you can do online and have delivered will be well worth the extra few dollars you have to spend, especially if you’re recovering from a C-section. Juggling a grocery cart, multiple babies, with a healing wound is no picnic.
- Accept offers of pre-made meals, and if your budget allows, sign-up up for a pre-made meal service that delivers to your home; plan on having your freezer and pantry well-stocked with nutritious meals.
- Most multiples arrive early, and are often smaller than singletons, so plan on your babies wearing preemie outfits at first, and keep this in mind when planning photo shoots – most newborn clothes are big on average-size babies
- Because multiples tend to arrive early, they may also spend more time in hospital, and come home at different times. Try to get them on the same routine as early on as possible, feeding them at the same time, changing them, and syncing their sleep schedules.
- Routine and scheduling are key – feed the babies in tandem whenever possible, using twin nursing pillows for breast or bottle-feeding is helpful, so are pillows to help prop the person feeding up.
- Breast-feeding parents may want to enlist the help of a specialist – a CLE, CLC, or IBCLC; search https://www.llli.org/ for your local La Leche League group.
- Practice baby-wearing techniques before babies arrive. Soft wraps are perfect for practicing kangaroo and skin-to-skin care, and keeping the babes upright after feedings, while keeping your hands free. And yes, you can wear both babies at once! There are wrapping methods and products designed specifically for twin-wearing – this website has a good list to check out: https://www.lucieslist.com/twin-baby-carriers/.
- You don’t need 2 of everything, but some items, like a twin boppy or feeding pillow are very helpful for feeding babies at the same time; many multiples groups have swaps or sell gently used items.
- Have “satellite” stations on each floor or the main rooms you use with your babies – those handy little baskets with dividers in them are smashing for keeping diapers, wipes, extra clothes, bibs, nose bulbs – anything you use on a regular basis, that way you never have to leave the room or floor you are on when someone needs a change or spits up.
- Invest in a really good twin stroller! One that folds easily, can be pushed with one hand, has cup holders, and ample storage space.
- Schedule one-on-one time with your older children; having one baby steal the attention from siblings is bad enough, but twins and higher order multiples are doubly fascinating, which can leave siblings feeling extremely left out. Encourage family members and visitors to spread the love too.
Self-Care - Because you cannot pour from an empty cup!
- Self-care – so important, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed. A couple of hour’s uninterrupted sleep or a hot shower can be the tipping point of retaining your sanity. Sleep deprivation is used as a means of torture for good reason!
- Spousal/partner care – don’t forget to make time for your adult relationships too. Recruit helpers to watch the babies so you can spend time with one another, even if that time is spent cuddling in bed, catching up on your Zzz’s.
- Safe sleep – make sure you are following the AAP’s guidelines for safe sleep; Rock n’Play’s and similar products, while very popular, are NOT designed or intended for babies to sleep in. Info on Safe Sleep can be found here: https://www1.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/Documents/NICHD_Safe_to_Sleep_brochure.pdf
- If your twins are identical, there is no need to paint their nails, use magic markers or any other toxins to tell them apart – here are some tips:
- Get in the habit of always having baby A on the left, baby B on the right, or ABC, ABCD…ABCDEF if you have sextuplets!
- Assign specific colors to each baby – it’s sometimes easier to have one baby only dressed in green, and the other can wear anything but green
- Their belly buttons will be different, and they may have differently shaped ears and hairlines – you’ll learn subtle differences that will help tell them apart, but others won’t, so it’s good to have a system in place
- Write their names on their onesies with fabric pens – I like to add flair, like “Terrific Tommy” or “I Am Sam – Sam I Am”
- Keep a log book of feedings, diaper changes, sleep schedules, and make sure all caregivers are using it – amazon.com has dozens to choose from, and some include a place for medical records.
- Write down any questions or concerns you have for the pediatrician, and take the notes with you to doctor visits; take your log books along with you as well, so Doc can see how the babies are eat/sleep/pooping.
- If you have high order multiples, they can be quite different in size, as can some twins – having labelled containers like cheap, plastic basins are super handy for storing different sizes of diapers and clothing near changing stations, or use drawer organizers to separate them.
- Use a small slow cooker to heat multiple bottles at a time, just add water and pop the bottles in, works great!
- Bathe babies one at a time – they are slippery little suckers when wet; make sure you have everything you’ll need to bathe and dress the babies out and within reach before starting to bathe.
- Realize that despite all your planning and preparedness, everything will go to heck in a handbasket from time to time, both babies will need changed, fed, burped, and be screaming their lungs out, and that’s okay. You are not an octopus and it’s perfectly okay to take a deep breath and attend the babies one at a time.
You are not an octopus and it's perfectly okay to take a deep breath and attend the babies one at a time.