By Lisa Fields
Twice as many diapers to change; two babies wailing at once; double the laundry. As soon as you’re handed two—or more!—bundles of joy at the hospital, you’ll realize you’re about to have a very different experience from the other moms you know. To create some order in your new life, parents of multiples say it’s best to follow a plan from day one.
“A good routine helps twins start sleeping through the night, helps mom have some much-needed down time, and gives new parents time to hang out,” says Christina Boyle Cush, co-author of Twin Set: Moms of Multiples Share Survive and Thrive Secrets. Easier said than done. Here’s how.
You’ll probably feed your newborns every three hours but may find that the task takes an hour or two. To stay afloat, feed them at the same time. “This is paramount, even if you have to wake them up,” says Rebecca Moskwinski, M.D., spokesperson for the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, who is trained in family practice.
Extra hands are a lifesaver. “When the babies are tiny and it’s not so easy to bottle or breast feed them simultaneously, getting help will make a huge difference in your energy level and positive attitude,” Cush says. Ask husbands, friends, relatives, babysitters, and even older siblings for support with the babies and the housekeeping.
If you’re on your own, you’ll likely have to feed just one baby at a time. Many moms opt for bottle-feeding to speed up this process, whether they choose breast milk or formula, says Elizabeth Lyons, author of Ready or Not…Here We Come!, a guide to the first year with twins. “Bottle-feeding can be easier than breastfeeding, especially since it’s often not as easy to breastfeed twins together, at first,” she says.
Once the babies can support their own heads, try the football hold and nurse them simultaneously, switching sides every feeding, recommends Christa Reed, editor in chief of Twins Magazine.
Baths and Diapering
There’s no need to bathe newborn multiples every day, but when you do, back-to-back baths save precious minutes. “Bathe them with the assembly-line approach,” Cush says. “Keep the other baby nearby in a bouncy seat.”
Heat the room so naked babies will be comfortable. “Put the first bathed baby, dry and wrapped in a towel, in a seat while bathing the second one,” Moskwinski says, “then diaper and dress them together.”
You’ll change them dozens of times a day, so diapering everyone at once is easiest, whether they’re wet or not. “Otherwise, it becomes very confusing,” Lyons says. “A diaper log is also important: Who pooped and who didn’t.”
For help, look for a formatted book like Baby’s Eat, Sleep and Poop Journal; the back-to-back pages mean you can open the book and designate the left-hand page for one baby, the right-hand for the other.
Caring for All of You
There’s no way around it: More babies means more work—and less sleep—for you. Expect lots of tears from everyone. Many new parents have the most trouble getting multiples’ sleep schedules synchronized, but feeding them at the same time encourages simultaneous sleep. And newborn multiples often sleep better when they’re together.
“If they’re fussy and colicky, they’ll find comfort being in the same crib,” Reed says. “They can stay together for four or five months, until they start rolling over.”
On your end, watch for signs of postpartum depression, which include inability to sleep (and not because of crying babies). “Tell your ob/gyn about any crying jags you have, especially if you constantly feel overwhelmed, anxious, or are having a hard time eating or sleeping,” Cush says.
Regular breaks can help. “Sometimes you have to walk away and close the door to calm your nerves, or get someone to watch them for an hour or two,” Moskwinski says. “Don’t feel guilty!”
Yep, mothering multiples can be overwhelming, but it’s also really rewarding: You get to watch twice as many babies smiling in their sleep.
Lisa Fields is currently pregnant with her second baby. She’s also written for Prevention, Woman’s Day, and Self.