“There are two things in life for which we are never truly prepared: twins.” – Josh Billing
Back when I was in my second trimester with my third pregnancy and expecting twins, I began researching ways to prepare myself and my family for the babies. I had many questions, worries, and concerns, as one would expect.
To ease some of my worries, I turned to two parenting experts who are well-versed in the world of twins: Gina Osher aka The Twin Coach and Dr. Joan Friedman, herself an identical twin, mother of five including fraternal twins, and a psychotherapist.
My first question was “How do we mentally prepare for twins?”
Osher said, “Most of us, as we talk with our [co-]parent (or to ourselves) about the idea of becoming a parent, we imagine life with one baby at a time—not two, or more, at a time! I think the best thing parents can do at that point is to talk honestly with each other about their fears and concerns, such as the possibility of a Cesarean section versus a home birth, or the idea of bed rest, as opposed to working until her due date. None of those are certainties, but worst-case concerns sometimes enter a parent’s mind when they are told they are going to have twins.
“Both parents-to-be need to look at what their plans had been for the pregnancy, birth, and early months (or years) and then come to terms with the fact that very likely none of it will be as they had expected. Both partners have to be allowed to grieve that loss. Only then can they be open to the joy and beauty that comes along with becoming parents of twins.”
Osher also advised joining an active multiples group in your town or city and speaking with other parents of multiples. Connecting with others who have been in your shoes is a lifeline and a voice of reason in what can feel like an overwhelming time. She added, “These people will be able to share resources, advice, tips, and stories of how wonderful and crazy life can be with twins.”
Having had two children, and thinking we were done having kids, I had given away a lot of baby stuff. And now with the twins on the way, the questions of “What do we need? Do we need double of everything?” arise. (Cribs, car seats, strollers, etc.)
Osher reckons that we do not need two of everything ever, and certainly not in the beginning. She said, “In my opinion, it’s important to establish a sense of individuality for your twins from the start, and having separate things helps family and friends get used to that idea. But that doesn’t mean you need to take out a second mortgage on your home. Twins can sleep in the same crib until they are beginning to roll over (which can take a few months).”
She listed the basics for what we need:
- Lots of diapers. (Have preemie size on hand for when they’re first born. Even full-term twins are often very, very small.)
- A set of good car seats. Depending on how comfortable you feel with installing and re-installing car seats, you may want to have an extra set for each car that your twins will be using on a regular basis. (For example, if you have a nanny/babysitter full time, or if you and your partner switch off taking the children out regularly). Fortunately, as infants, it’s only the extra bases you would have to buy, but if the expense of so many car seats is too great, make sure you learn VERY well how to install your seats safely so that you can be confident your children are always safely secured in whatever car you drive.
- A sturdy double stroller. (If you can afford it, get a pair of single strollers as well so you can take the babies out separately and have one-on-one time.)
- Slings or carriers if you feel comfortable wearing them. They are an excellent way to be able to take both children out or do a task without having to have a second person around, as they allow you to have at least a hand free while one baby is in the carrier and the other is in a stroller or on the hip.
- Clothes. These are just a given for comfort and warmth. Again, newborn twins are often so small that they will be swimming in size 0–6-month clothes. Have a few preemie outfits on hand. Look for a multiples club which may have something similar to a “Preemie Lending Closet” where clothes are passed on from member to member, as they are so expensive and worn for such a short time. Don’t worry about matching outfits for twins, since building a sense of individuality is done from day one.
I breastfed my older two boys and wanted to try breastfeeding the twins. The very idea terrified me, however, as I had enough challenges with just nursing one child at a time. So how does one breastfeed twins?
According to Osher, a double nursing pillow was the answer, as it gave her a comfortable place to put the babies where they could safely lie in a “double football hold” and nurse. She did mention that some mothers prefer the bed and lots of pillows. Everyone has a different method.
She also added that there are times when your body simply won’t produce enough milk no matter what lactation consultants tell you and no matter how hard you try to follow everyone’s advice. “You have to come to terms with that if it happens to you,” Osher said. “Your babies will be OK if you formula feed (you can take a look at this handy post comparing the best formulas) or if you use donated breast milk. You have to do what causes you the least amount of anxiety and stress.
“Even if you plan to breastfeed and are successful with it, my belief is that you should introduce a bottle early on (even one feeding a day will do) so that your babies are familiar with it. Ask your pediatrician, doula, or lactation consultant about when you should introduce this. Acceptance of the bottle allows your partner or other family members to join in the wonderful bonding time that feeding a baby brings. It also simplifies things should you choose to not breastfeed in public or if you leave your child with a caregiver and are not able to get back in time for a feeding. Thus, bottles are important.
“I have found that you need to try different bottles and different nipple types to see which your babies are comfortable with; thus, don’t get a huge amount of anything until you are certain they are working for you. As for a breast pump, unless you plan to breastfeed for an extended period, I recommend renting one. We got ours from The Pump Station, but your birth hospital should have them for rent as well.
“I breastfed and pumped for almost seven months, and it was still cheaper than buying one (and then I didn’t have a pump taking up space in my house)!” Osher added.
Lastly, I asked, “What are the challenges that we can expect with twins?”
Dr. Joan A. Friedman had some advice on how to cope with expected challenges with twins by having a mindset of raising emotionally healthy twins. Her advice included expecting to have different feelings for each child; thinking of your twins as two unique individuals, and giving each child consistent alone time with parents. She also offered advice on what not to do: do not attempt to provide a “fair and equal” childhood for twins; do not compare twins to each other; do not rely on twins to be each other’s constant companion or surrogate parent; do not teach twins to share; and don’t perpetuate the “twin mystique.”
Osher said, “This is a very hard question to answer, as it can vary from person to person depending on each one’s situation, outside influences, background, finances, and more. In the most general way, I can say the biggest challenges will likely be lack of sleep, adjusting to a life that is totally different from the one you had before, realizing that your partner may have a much harder time than you are to adjusting, and giving them the support they need to come around.
“On top of all of that, parents of multiples have a much higher probability of having postpartum depression (the men as well), so this is an important issue that friends and family need to keep an eye out for if the parents themselves aren’t aware of their mental states.”
With Gina Osher’s and Dr. Friedman’s practical advice, I feel a little more prepared now, knowing what to expect, and how to deal with expected challenges. You can find more of Gina Osher and Dr. Joan Friedman‘s work on their respective websites and their videos on Kids In The House.
A version of this post appeared originally on Everyday Family and has been syndicated with permission to Multiples Illuminated.
ABOUT ALISON: Alison Lee is the co-editor of Multiples Illuminated: A Collection of Stories and Advice from Parents of Twins, Triplets or More. In another life, Alison was a PR and marketing professional. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies and of the world’s biggest sports brands, she traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison’s writing has been featured on Brain, Child Magazine, Mamalode, On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, Mothers Always Write, Feminine Collective, The HerStories Project, and DrGreene.com. She has essays in two anthologies, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends and So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood. Alison lives in Malaysia, with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins). Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, and LinkedIn.