By: Pamela Brill
Congratulations—times two! You’ve just learned that you’re expecting twins. That means double the smiles, double the cooing…and double the diapering, feeding and sleep deprivation.
Before you begin worrying that you won’t be able to handle a new baby’s demands—let alone two or more (!) newborns—take a deep breath and listen to the experts. We asked them about how to prepare for the arrival of multiples, the challenges they faced, the greatest misconception about mothering multiples and—bonus—the unexpected advantages. So, take a break from figuring out how to open and close that double stroller, and read on.
Advance Planning Pays Off
Just as if you were expecting one child, educating yourself before your multiples’ births is essential. What differs, however, is the amount of help required to care for more than one child. Christa Reed, editor in chief of TWINS Magazine, suggests reading up on as much information as possible from a variety of sources, like Twinsmagazine.com and the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc. (NOMOTC). She also recommends researching the location of area parents of multiples clubs. “Local twins clubs provide support, resources, [information about] clothing sales and exchanges and playgroups, and let new moms know they are not alone in this journey,” she adds.
Because adequate rest is essential when caring for multiples, get a sense for sleep plan options before your babies come home from the hospital. “Whether you subscribe to Ferber or Weissbluth, what’s important is that you have a plan and you’re prepared to implement it,” offers Barbara Reich, mother of 12-year-old twins and author of the forthcoming book, Secrets of an Organized Mom (Simon & Schuster, February 2013). She proudly sleep trained her twins at three months, which paid off with a set bedtime for eight years. “Don’t underestimate how important a good night’s sleep is for you,” Reich adds.
And besides looking out for yourself and your little ones, don’t neglect dear ol’ dad. “Preparing your marriage is equally important,” says Natalie Diaz, founder of Twiniversity.com, an online resource for families of multiples with over 80,000 members in more than 20 countries. “A lot of expectant moms forget about the importance of their spouse while getting ready for the big day. Make sure that you check in with one another each day and remember that you’re in this together.”
Debunking Multiples Myths
You may have already heard your share of old wives’ tales about managing multiples, but according to the experts, not everything is to be believed. “One of the biggest myths is that there is absolutely no way a new mom of multiples can breastfeed,” says Reed. “When breastfeeding twins or more, it can be a challenge because moms aren’t sure if they should nurse separately or at the same time.” Support groups like the La Leche League (lalecheleague.org) offer tips for new mothers experiencing difficulties in this area.
Parenting alone, even for the most self-sufficient mother, is another common misconception—especially with multiples. “Having twins is not as hard as having one baby; it’s exponentially harder,” says Diaz. “With twins or more, you need help—from a spouse, family member, church or whomever.” Her sister was a lifesaver after Diaz’s twins were born premature and her daughter needed to stay in the NICU for an additional month. “I thank God for my sister who was home with my son while I visited my daughter. All hands need to be on deck,” she adds.
While multiples may require more diapers, bottles and hands-on time, the general consensus is overwhelmingly positive. “In some ways, it’s actually easier,” believes Reich. “If you get them on a schedule, then your babies will always nap at the same time, eat at the same time…and go to sleep at the same time. This allows you to have down time between naps and bedtime.”
“The advantages of having multiples far outweigh the disadvantages,” says Diaz. “Yes, I was going through cases and cases of formula, baby food, wipes and all the other baby accessories. But fast forward a few years, and my kids have a built-in best friend.”