When you look at your new twin babies sleeping in their crib, you feel blessed—times two! However, double the bliss often equals twice the tiredness for new parents. Feeding, bathing and dressing two newborns at once can be a nightmare without the proper planning. While all new parents feel overwhelmed, parents with two little ones are especially in need of solid strategies for coping with twins, particularly in the first few months of life.
Having a schedule right from the start is crucial, says Jennifer Walker, an experienced pediatric nurse and mother of twins herself. "With a routine everyone knows what to expect," she explains. "It gives the day structure, which helps give us those illusive moments to actually enjoy the intense beauty that is infancy...without it, you are simply too exhausted to enjoy the babies."
Setting and sticking to a schedule isn't optional for parents of twins—it's a matter of survival. Have your game plan set right from the start, even before the babies are born. Talk over tactics with your partner, and try these simple tips to prepare:
- "Sync "or Sink. Keeping yourself together mentally and emotionally can mean keeping the twins together—literally. Walker advises that parents put both babies down for bed and naps at the same time, even if one of them doesn't seem sleepy. Coordinate the twins' sleeping schedules as soon as possible, and the babies' schedules will eventually sync up. First, put them down together in the same room—or even the same crib, since many twins sleep easier with their sibling by their side. If one baby's so fussy that he wakes up the other, keep their schedule the same, but put them down in separate rooms. Keeping them on the same schedule is key to ensure that you'll get enough sleep!
- Mealtime Madness. Feedings operate on the same principle as the sleep schedule—both twins should be fed at the same time. Breastfeeding both at once is possible, but tricky. Instead, nursing one baby and feeding his twin with bottled breast milk is fine—and two bottles at once are easy to handle. Have your spouse bottle-feed one infant while you breastfeed the other, but be sure to switch off to ensure both babies have an opportunity to bond with mom and dad.
- Bath Buddies. When twins feed and sleep together, bathing and dressing can be done on the same schedule too. Make it easier on yourself by putting one of the twins in a bath chair or bouncy seat while you wash and dress the other. This way, both children are in your sight and together at all times. The sooner your pair get used to being together, the better. Eventually, this closeness will mean entertaining each other—and giving you a break during playtime.
- Coordination is Key. Twins are a team effort. Talk to your partner and make sure that you agree on major issues—such as sleeping, feeding and bathing routines—well ahead of time. Create a schedule, and stick to it. Working out who does what, and when, will help alleviate stress before you have double demands on your attention.
- Expect to be Exhausted. This seems like commonplace advice—after all, most new parents are weary and worn out. The terrible truth is that twins aren't just double the work—they can be triple or quadruple the effort. In the first few months, concentrate on syncing schedules, and plan on having zero time for anything else. Lay in a good supply of diapers, food and other essentials—simple tasks will be difficult, and leaving the house downright impossible. Go easy on yourself when it comes to non-essential matters like a sparkling house or clean laundry. It's ok to let some of that go—the babies are the priority.
- The Help. One baby is enough work—two requires the aid of some reinforcements! Before giving birth, set up a schedule to make sure you have outside help in the months after your twins arrive—you'll need it. Talk to friends and family and ask how much assistance and support they're able and willing to give, and make a list of numbers you can call when you're feeling overwhelmed. If you can afford it, try hiring a nurse or caregiver for a few weeks. A break, even once a week, can make a big difference. If that's not possible, or if relatives can't give enough practical help, try contacting a local "mother of twins" group. Your doctor or local clinic can also put you in touch with a support group, or direct you to other resources. Never feel bad or guilty about asking for help—with twins it's tough to go it alone.
Always keep this in mind—it gets better. As your babies grow, the cost—both emotional and physical—of coordinating care for your twin treasures will lessen. There will be hiccups along the way, but raising twins provides double the pleasures of parenting.