The Real Scoop on Parenting Multiples
Parenting multiples isn't just about doing things in duplicate (or triplicate or quadruplicate!); it requires a lot of creativity and quick thinking on your feet as you navigate the logistics of feeding multiple babies at the same time, getting them on the same schedule, and making sure they sleep in unison. From thoughts on prematurity to which items you'll need to purchase more than one of, this crib sheet on parenting multiples will help you get your bearings if you're carrying twins, triplets, or more.
I thought this crib sheet was really useful. First of all, it’s written by Jen (the mother of quads) and she really knows what she is talking about. As the mother of twins, I thought I’d add a few more tips.
Do You REALLY Need 2 or 3 of Everything?
Jen is right. You really DON’T need multiples of everything on the registry. It’s easy to get sucked into trying to be prepared -- but when the wee people are, well, wee, they can easily share without it feeling like you’re being cheap.
You won’t need two (or three, or more) of everything -- not even cots (cribs) initially; my two slept in the same cot until they were four months old. You will need multiple diapers, bottles and burp clothes; in our case, we used swaddles, so we needed two of those. Beyond that, you really don’t need dupes of most things. We had a baby gym that we rotated with a baby swing or a baby chair. And if you have multiples, then Craigslist, eBay, and hand-me-downs are your best friend. Used and clean is as good as new. If you do get two of something, it’s a good idea to get two different things, as some babies take to some things differently than their siblings.
The Tough Days of NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit)/SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit)
There is no real advice I can give here, other than this: Don’t beat yourself up. (And you will want to. When our children are unwell, our guilt is huge.) Our son was in SCBU (the English equivalent of NICU) for two days. I agonized over it, but it's not your fault. The one thing I would say is be tight with the nurses (like Jen said), but don’t be afraid to be firm about your concerns and –- if they're recovering from surgery –- your need to be able to visit your little one(s). Some nurses try to tell you that they’re too busy or that you need the rest, but nothing is a bigger driver than wanting to see how your baby is faring.
Feeding Time at the Zoo
I agree with Jen -- you can feed two (or more) babies at once, whether tandem breastfeeding or dual bottle feeding. I’m not here to get into a debate about which feed is best –- I think what is best is what works for your family. For my family, we had to feed with formula. It’s not hard to feed both babies at once if you’re home alone. I used to sit on the couch lengthwise, with my legs straight out in front of me on the cushions. I laid both babies across my legs and fed them that way.
To burp them, I used my chin to hold a bottle in one’s mouth while picking up the other to my chest, where I burped them. I bent my knee and used the knee to support them while being burped. As they got older, I used those nursing cushions that are shaped like a “U” to prop them in and hold them while I held the bottles. A key trick as well (if you’re formula feeding) is to make up a pitcher of formula every morning and apportion it into bottles in the fridge. Formula is good for 24 hours, and making that one large amount in the morning will save you time and sanity.
Sleep When They Sleep & Other Lies About Getting Your Zzzz’s
I’ll take it from the perspective of twins because that’s what I have and say: You’ll want to get yourself on a routine with your little people as soon as possible. Get them into synch, so that both need to be fed, burped, bathed, and to go to sleep at the same time. If you do not do this, you will never sleep, never wash your hair, and never be able to find a clean pair of underpants for yourself as you’ll be too busy on exhausted crying jags. The early days are a learning experience, but live by the basic rule that all people under the age of one need to do everything together.
We found once they were older and didn’t need the feeding at night for weight purposes, that not engaging with them for their night feed (i.e. we didn’t cuddle and laugh and kiss them, didn’t turn the lights on or take them downstairs or anything fun like that) made the night feed boring for them, so they gave that up themselves and we made the daytime feeds the fun, close snuggly ones.
When you have them on a schedule, you’ll get on a schedule. Typically, small babies can go on a four hour schedule, and if you keep to the times and not allow them to go on separate tracks, you will have snatches of sleep, of laundry, of washing your hair or weeping quietly in the hallway while they rest. And like Jen said, ignore the people who tell you when you’re pregnant to get all the sleep that you could. If your pregnancy was like mine, you were sick, huge, uncomfortable, and needed to wee every 26.7 seconds. If you get the babies on a schedule, you’ll sleep more post their birth than you did in the last trimester. I promise.
Speaking of Zoos…
You will be stared at. A lot. Well-meaning people will come by with seriously rotten advice. You will hear the same comments again and again and come to know your least favorite. (Mine is “Wow, you must have your hands full!”) You will develop either sarcasm, a deeply beatific smile, or a withering harried glance. Jen handled this area with more grace than I did, but the good news is that strangers will stop you less and less as your multiples go from being babies to children. Upon hearing that you have multiples, though, people will always make random comments. It’s part of the fabric of mothering multiples, and one of those things that you determine early on if you’ll be thick-skinned (as I was) or embrace the love.
Oh Go On: Just One Piece of Advice
Jen’s advice is very good, and since you’ve made it this far, I’ll add my two pence. It’s all learning, and in hindsight we would all do things differently. People will freak you out with bad advice, you will feel overwhelmed, and at times you will definitely be smelling of Eau de Spit Up. But it will ultimately be a magical experience, one most don’t get to have. Enjoy it. It will go pear-shaped from time to time. But it will be the best ride of your life. I promise.
Your first instinct is, potentially, “Oh my god, we did it!” (as multiples are more likely the result of fertility treatment), followed by “Oh my god, how are we going to handle this?” (this one usually follows whether or not you’ve had said treatment). And the truth is, you just do it. You just do. There are two (or more) new little people who will need you and, rather like those jeans that have just come out of the dryer, you bend and grow together.
What did you think of the crib sheet? Is there anything you would add?
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