What a difference a year makes! Last May, I was still recovering from the delivery that brought my twin boys into the world. I was also working full-time, pumping around the clock, and scrambling daily to get to the NICU at the hospital to visit my boys at least once a day – not an easy feat with two older children (ages five and three) at home – and other responsibilities.
I won’t bore you with the details, but early on in my pregnancy, I was ordered on bed rest. Our goal was to make it to at least twenty-eight weeks, and we did just that, plus four days. Our boys came into this world weighing about two-and-a-half pounds each. Though tiny, we were so fortunate that our little champs simply needed time to grow. They spent ten weeks in the NICU, coming home in June about two weeks before their original due date. We’ve learned a lot along the way!
Navigating the NICU
Fortunately, it’s not always the case, but NICU stays are common for multiples because they tend to make an early entrance. If there is any indication that your little ones may spend some time in the NICU, ask if you can tour it at the hospital where you’ll be delivering. I was able to do this, and it gave me great peace of mind.
If you do spend time in the NICU, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and make sure you understand everything that’s going on. You’ll have a variety of doctors and nurses, so if one isn’t explaining something in a way you understand, ask someone else. I won’t lie. It’s very difficult to see your little ones hooked up to lots of tubes, and needing IVs or other forms of medical care, so understanding why those things are necessary is important.
I also had a NICU bag that was easy for me to grab and take with me when I was heading out the door to the hospital. Pack the essentials, including a snack, as you will spend some long hours there. My other must-haves were an extra phone charger and a notebook and pen to write down questions I wanted to ask a doctor, or record notes about my babies’ milestones. And don’t forget your individual breast pump supplies (check with the NICU first, but most have pumps in the rooms, so no need to bring yours).
Introducing and Including Siblings
If you think a new baby will take up a lot of time, then imagine how much time twins will take! I wouldn’t say it’s double, but it’s definitely time-and-a-half. So, it’s very important to ensure you are still making time for your other children.
Figure out the best, age-appropriate ways for them to help. For mine, fetching diapers, getting Mommy a cup of water, or helping entertain the babies were simple, yet helpful, tasks that made them feel included.
Sticking to a Schedule
A schedule is a must with twins, especially when it comes to feeding, which will influence the rest of your day.
First, I would be remiss not to say that whether nursing, supplementing, or feeding formula, feeding twins will feel like a full-time job, especially at first. My twins ate eight times a day when they first came home. At about a half hour each, times two, it was a time-consuming task. Hang in there! It gets better, I promise.
While it may feel counterintuitive to wake a sleeping baby, if one baby wakes up and needs to eat, it’s crucial that you wake up the other to feed him at the same time (if someone can help you), or slightly staggered (if by yourself). If you let them get too far off schedule, you’ll never have a chance for a respite, and even a small one can mean the world to you.
Even now, at one year old, we try to keep their sleeping and eating schedules as closely timed as possible. That’s not to say that we don’t allow a bit more flexibility if one or the other just isn’t interested in napping one day, but we have found that the family is happier and able to enjoy a trip to the zoo or going out to eat if the twins are mostly synchronized.
I imagine as they get older, we’ll have to adapt and let their own personalities and development dictate schedules. Looking ahead, I wonder if they’ll be potty training at the same time, and how that will work out. Will it be their first big sibling competition?
Essentials for Two, and When You Only Need One
Generally, when you’re pregnant, and especially with twins, you’ll get lots of unsolicited advice. People will want to weigh in on the many things you’ll need, and suggest where you might be able to cut corners.
I had several folks suggest that one crib would be plenty, especially at first before the babies could roll over. I found that was not the case. We purchased an additional crib shortly after the twins came home. My twins really needed to sleep in their own spaces for safety reasons, plus, they just seemed more comfortable.
Two car seats are non-negotiable for legal and safety reasons, and two high chairs will also be a must. I know they are bulky, and you may think you just can feed one right after the other in the same chair, but they want to eat at the same time, and it’s much easier that way. If you are tight on space, consider the chairs that strap into a larger chair.
I would suggest getting one double stroller, but you should test the different types in the store to see what will work best for you. We have a side-by-side we love.
You’ll want two things they can sit, stand, or relax in (for example an exer-saucer, a walker, a swing, a doorway jumper, or a sit-and-spin), but these do not have to be the same, and you don’t need two of each thing. Our twins are perfectly happy to sit in either an exer-saucer or a walker, and if they seem to be getting grumpy or tired of one, we just switch! Plus, there’s a chance one baby won’t even like the swing or the jumper, so there’s no sense in having two lined up until you determine what they’ll tolerate.
I would also recommend having only one pack-n-play, unless that’s what you are using for a crib. They are bulky, and most people would only have room for one. It’s perfectly fine for both babies to play together in one.
Why It’s Okay (for You and the Babies) to Cry
Okay – truth time! As a parent, it’s not always easy to keep your cool. With twins, there are times when you will feel helpless. You just won’t have enough arms or sanity to address every need of both babies at the same time. It’s an impossible feat. Don’t feel like a failure if you need to let one or both of your babies cry for a bit in their cribs or car seats when you need a few minutes to gather yourself and take a few calming breaths. Scream into a pillow. Go to another room and just stand or sit quietly. Stand on your front porch and breath some fresh air. Whether your babies fall asleep, calm down, or are still crying when you return, you’ll be calmer and better-prepared to deal with their needs.
Asking for Help
I was very lucky. My husband, mom, and mother-in-law were all 100 percent available and incredibly helpful after the twins came home. If you don’t have a similar situation, ask (beg if you have to) a friend, sister, or parent to stay with you for a night or two. You’ll need the extra arms. Too bad we can’t train an octopus to be a nanny!
And Another Thing!
If you are reading this article as a friend or family member of someone having twins, there are many ways you can support families who are blessed with multiple babies. Consider coordinating a meal train, leave a box of diapers (they’ll never have too many) by the front door as an exciting surprise, or if you do visit, offer to help with a household chore in addition to gushing over the babies. Sweep the kitchen or make the beds, whatever is appropriate for the nature of your relationship.
For the families reading this who have new twins now, or have them on the way – buckle up for an amazing, exhausting, wonderful adventure!