I want you to imagine yourself as the perfect parent to your newborn twins. Think about some qualities that an ideal parent would have. Okay, now ask yourself, would you be able to possess these when you are exhausted and mentally drained? Chances are, the answer is no. Here lies the first lesson in being a parent of multiples: In order to be the best parent that you can be, you absolutely MUST take care of yourself. This is especially crucial during those first few weeks home with your little ones.
Below are some tips to help get your over that newborn hump while taking care of yourself so that you can be the fantastic parent that you know you are.
Allow people to help you and be clear about what you need
This one sounds obvious, but for many of us, it’s the hardest thing to do. Even if you’ve always had the role of caretaker and are great at juggling lots of responsibilities at once, being a parent to newborn twins is going to wipe you out. The only way to get through this time and keep your sanity is to allow people to help you, even if you’re gut is telling you to try to brave it yourself. Be clear with friends and family about exactly what you need. Having someone come over to hold a sleeping baby will probably be a lot less helpful than having them straighten up the house or run to the store for you. People truly want to be helpful so don’t feel bad being clear. Just make sure to thank them and to let them know how grateful you are.
Don’t let anyone stay over who is going to be unhelpful or stress you out
Building from the last tip, if someone isn’t helpful, don’t let them stay over for long periods of time. It will only stress you out and make things more difficult. Of course there will be family who want to come over and meet the babies, but limit this time. You can even use your pediatrician as an excuse. Tell them that the doctor doesn’t want the babies to be exposed to too many germs or too much chaos in the first few weeks. It’s easiest to outline some expectations before the babies actually arrive. For instance, tell your opinionated and bossy aunt that you’d love to have her come meet the babies, but that you aren’t having any visitors stay over at the house. She can stay elsewhere for a few days and then head back home so that other family members have a chance to meet the littles.
One of the best things that I did in the first few days (and weeks) of my twins coming home from the hospital was to take them on long stroller walks. I was able to get outside in the fresh air, walk without the extra weight of two babies, and have some uninterrupted chats with my partner. As a bonus, most newborns sleep really well in their strollers.
Take time away from the babies
Being home with two infants kind of makes you feel like you’re living in some kind of surreal time warp where there is no night and day and clothing is always optional. In order to feel a taste of the pre-twins you, make sure to step away from the babies for a bit every day or so. If you have an older child already, take him or her to the park or out to eat. If not, sit in a cafe and read or wander the aisles of Target. Any time with just you will feel so good. Also, this will get you and the babies in the habit of being away from each other for brief periods of time and will allow your partner to be the primary caregiver and to experience the challenges that that entails!
Are you a new or expecting parent of Twins? Join our renowned Expecting Twins class or Breastfeeding Twins and Newborn Care with Twins class local to you or webinar online!
Stick to a schedule
I remember going to a class for new parents with my oldest singleton daughter when she was about 3 weeks old. The instructor was a nurse who had been leading these classes for over 10 years. On the first day, she touched upon scheduling and said that trying to put a newborn on a strict schedule isn’t a good idea. Then she added, “…unless you have twins. Then you should definitely have them on a schedule.” Little did I know that less than two years later, I myself would have twins!
Keeping your littles on a schedule for feeding and especially for sleeping will give you a moment to breath. With two babies eating and sleeping at will, parents will never ever get a break. The good news is that if you put your babies on a schedule, it’s easily possible to have little pockets of free time. I even managed to put my oldest on a schedule so that there was one point in the day where all 3 would be napping.
Luckily, you don’t have to invent the wheel here. If one or both of your babies have NICU time, you can keep the same schedule that the hospital used once you are home. If not, there are some great books out there (and even some apps) that help parents to make a schedule that works for their family. Look into Moms on Call: Basic Baby Care 0-6 Months and Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. Both have pre-made schedules for specific ages of babies and toddlers.
Connect with other parents of multiples
No one really understands the ups and downs of being a parent of two newborns unless they have actually experienced it. When my babies were tiny, I desperately needed someone (who knew) to tell me that my life would go back to normal. I also needed someone to vent to and to share ideas with. One of the best things that I did was to join my local Parents of Multiples (POM) chapter and to organize a weekly stroller walk with other new moms in the group. The babies (generally) slept during the walks and we could chat about what was going on with our littles. The best part was that our twins were all around the same age. Two years later, I’m still close with these women. In addition to joining your local POM chapter, it’s also nice to join a Facebook group with other parents of multiples that you may not know in person. Somehow the anonymity of an online group makes it easier to reach out when you’re experiencing a trickier challenge.
Recognize the signs of PPD
Last, but certainly not least, make sure that you and your partner are both familiar with the signs up Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety. Mothers of multiples are more likely to experience these than mothers of singletons. I encourage you to check out the website http://www.postpartum.net/. Even if you’re waffling back and forth about whether you have PPD or are just tired, it’s worth talking to a doctor. Being treated can be a game changer.
Hopefully these tips will help you to be a bit more clear-headed so that you can enjoy those magical newborn moments with your babies. And I promise that a year from now you’ll look back on this time and only see a blurry haze. Hang in there. You’ve got this!
About the author
Allison Merriman MA, TLC’s San Francisco Associate, is a licensed Literacy Specialist as well as mother to 3.5 year old Evelyn and 1.5 year old twins, Abby and Jack. Her passion has always been working to support young children, beginning as a camp counselor and nanny (to identical twin boys!) and continuing on to become an elementary school teacher and Literacy Specialist, coaching parents and educators on how to best teach children to develop a love for reading, writing and language. You can contact Alli at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about our services in San Francisco.