If you’re like me, when you were pregnant with your twins, you did a massive amount of preparation so that you could have the healthiest and least stressful childbirth experience and so that you would be as ready as possible for those first few weeks home with the new additions to your family. You read all of the books, bought all of the gear, took all of the classes and now you’re beginning to count the babies age in weeks or months instead of hours and days. You’ve made it this far, but now what? Here are some tips to help you have a smoother journey to that first birthday that feels far away now, but will approach faster than you can imagine!
The only “right” way to parent is the way that fits best with your family and the situation that you’re in.
This is probably the most important thing that parents of multiples (and really all parents) need to know during that first year with your babies. You will hear so many opinions about how to raise your children. Formula, breast milk from a bottle or breast milk from the breast? To sleep train or not? Have one parent stay home with the babies, daycare or a nanny? Baby-led weaning or purees? Screen time or not? The list goes on and on.
The one thing that you need to remember is that every family has its own unique mix of circumstances and beliefs so there is no “one size fits all” approach to parenting. A twin family with older siblings will have different needs than one without. A family who is able to hire a night nurse will have different needs than one who can’t. A family where both parents will be home for the first few months of the babies’ lives will have different needs than a family where one parent is frequently travelling for work.
In every parenting decision that you make, go with your gut. If you’re doing something that you’re not completely comfortable with or that stresses you out or prevents you from getting adequate rest, then you won’t be present for your babies in the way that they need you to be. Of course sometimes there are decisions that affect your child’s safety or long term health. In those cases, have a discussion with your pediatrician. He or she is trained to work with you and your family to come up with a plan that is safe and also meets your own unique needs.
As a parent of twins it’s easy to see other babies around you (most likely singletons) and compare your baby and your parenting choices. Try as hard as you can not to. If you’re doing things in a way that fits with your family, is okay with your pediatrician and keeps everyone happy most of the time, then you’re doing the right thing!
There are shortcuts and solutions to most of the challenges you’ll face. The quickest way to find them is by being a part of a community of other parents of multiples.
Although there is no “right” way to parent, there are plenty of different ideas and solutions out there. Any number of these might work for your family. This is why it’s crucial to be a part of a group of parents of multiples. If you tend to be more shy or feel like you don’t have time to go to tons of events, join a Facebook group. Not only will it feel great to celebrate and commiserate with other parents who understand what you’re going through, but you will get tons of advice that you can actually use!
Your twins will develop differently and at different times- even if they’re identical. Don’t worry if one twin seems to be “behind” in a skill.
Even if you’ve been told this hundreds of times, it can be very difficult not to worry when one twin picks up a skill and weeks later the other twin still hasn’t gotten it. Although these comparisons will be inevitable (despite being told hundreds of times not to compare), it’s important not to let yourself go down a rabbit hole of worry when one twin seems to be a bit slower in picking up a skill. The first time this happened to me, it was when my son began to do social smiles while my daughter did not- even after two weeks. I fully convinced myself that she was destined to be depressed for the rest of her life and that it was my fault for paying too much attention to her colicky brother during those first few weeks home. Needless to say, she smiled in her own time and both are perfectly happy kids now. If you really are concerned about development, consult your pediatrician to get his or her opinion. If the doctor isn’t worried, you shouldn’t be either!
Are you a new parent of twins? Join our renowned First Year with Twins class local to you or online to help prepare for the next stage of your babies’ lives!
Your children’s personalities will flip flop.
During the first year, your twins will not have fully developed their personalities yet and they will be going through different phases all of the time. This means that the “good sleeper” at two weeks old might be the “bad sleeper” at two months, and vice versa! The “difficult” baby that will never let you put her down can quickly become the “easy” one who can entertain herself forever. In my case, my colicky son morphed into the most smiley, easy-going little boy. Pretty much everything is a phase. Of course their personalities and differences will become more stable around the year mark, but because they will forever be going through various milestones and changes at different times, this flip-flopping of who takes up more of your time and attention will likely go on for the rest of their lives.
There will be times when both twins (and probably you) will be crying at the same time. It’s not fun, but it’s just a completely normal part of life with multiple babies.
If you’re reading this and both of your babies are already home from the hospital, you’ve probably had this experience at least once. This is possibly the hardest part of having multiples, especially during those first few months. It’s hard enough to have one baby crying and feel completely helpless, but having two crying can make you feel like you aren’t doing anything right. Please know that this happens to absolutely every twin parent. You aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s really just probability and statistics: Babies cry. Babies cry a certain amount of times per day. If you have two babies, there is bound to be at least some overlap of crying sessions. Of course it’s crushing when you’re in the moment, but try your best to take deep breaths, stay as calm as possible and help one baby at a time. Start with the baby who is likely to be the easiest to console (example, crying because of a dirty diaper or because she is hungry), then move onto the baby whose crying is more of a mystery. And I promise that…
Things will continue to get easier and easier. One day (not far from now) you’re going to look back on this first year and actually miss it!
Yes, it’s hard to believe but it’s true! I had a particularly difficult first year with my twins. My son had colic, my husband was only able to take one week of paternity leave and I have another daughter who’s only 23 months older than my twins. It was a trying time to say the least. Still, I look back at all of the baby pictures of them and my heart melts and I think about how great it would be to do it all over again knowing what I know now!
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.