As it was recently Multiple Birth Awareness Week, one of my readers Leanne shared her tips for new mums of twins. Leanne is a busy and proud twin mummy to fraternal girl/boy 4 year old twins Alice and Henry who are ex-preemie 33 weeker babies. They are now two very healthy, active, adventurous, incredibly quirky and lovable kids that couldn’t be more different than each other. Leanne is very knowledgeable about parenting twins and has compiled 11 tips to help other mums cope with raising twins especially in that first year!
11 tips for raising twins especially in that first year
1. Instant fame!
From the moment you and your partner discover you are expecting twins, you will quickly attract attention. From everyone! Trust me, it doesn’t go away. You and your babes will not be able to go anywhere without being stopped with curious eyes, compliments and comments. I couldn’t tell you the number of people that speak to me on a daily basis asking the same questions time and time again. You will quickly find a way to best respond and just take all the comments with the best intention. Just remember most people are just curious. Ignore the minority of comments about double trouble or ‘better you than me!’
I mean this in every way possible. From the moment you find out you’re expecting two, get researching about your local Multiple Birth Association, go to the information nights & join – they will truly give you so much more practical, helpful support than any antenatal class you will ever go to. Being a member, you will have great access to lots of things like hire equipment, private Facebook groups, support, events and can connect you up with other expectant mums in your community.
Try to get to the meetups as you won’t regret it. After the twins were born, I arrived frazzled every week at the Mums n Bubs group but I never felt alone. There is something very special being a part of a twin club. For me, it was having a community of parents to support you that all ‘just get it’ as they are all on a similar journey. It normalises things for you.
Parenting twins is really a unique experience and sometimes isolating so connect to as much of a network as you can whether it be coffee dates, playdates, playgroups or Facebook groups. After two years, I still attend two regular playgroups and have formed many friendships with both multiple & non-multiple mums. They have been a lifeline for me and I love that my children have made little buddies that they see regularly.
From Day 1 this is absolutely the best advice I’ve ever received and I’m still an advocate. By the time we brought the twins home from hospital, we had established a feeding routine. Do as much as you can simultaneously like feeding, sleeping, playing, nappy changes, bathing and mealtimes. It may feel completely impossible at the beginning but soon you will be more efficient, resourceful and multitasking than you ever thought you could be.
Make life as easier as possible on yourself and your family as it will pay off down the track and give you a chance to refuel. Start and finish the day as prepped as possible. One thing I always included in my routine was a daily pram walk in the afternoon. Whether it was nap time or not, we got out of the house for an hour and got fresh air. Most of the time, the twins would nap and I snuck in a coffee and sunshine. This was invaluable and to this day I think that was my sanity saver both physically and mentally. It has also given me the confidence that I have today to get us all out of the house daily. We have ditched the pram for most outings now though and have other activities instead with lots of gated park playdates.
Be careful not to put too many unrealistic expectations on yourself. You have just given birth to two babies at once and this is an extraordinary experience. Perfection doesn’t come with any parenting gig, for a single baby or multiple. It does get easier and you do get stronger (I promise), confident and day by day, you build your own version of mastery and find a rhythm that suits your family.
In the early days, it will take some time to work out your feeding methods, whether it be breast or bottle don’t be hard on yourself. Feeding twins is a learning curve. Reach out for lots of help during your hospital stay so when you get home you feel a little more equipped with how you will feed. I spent a lot of time with a lactation consultant on a daily basis whilst my twins were in special care, and also made countless calls to the Australian Breastfeeding Association when I got home. I also invested in a fantastic feeding pillow (My Breast Friend).
It will be a journey and what works for some mums may not work for you so don’t be afraid to seek professional help and to try different things along the way. Feeding two babies at once is hard work and each baby will have different needs. Expect that there will be bad days and you will get through them and be stronger on the other side. There will also be amazing days where you feel like supermum. Celebrate those days too they will get you through the hard ones.
I think every new mother has to deal with unsolicited advice. However, what people don’t understand is that advice from a singleton mother doesn’t always mean much to a mother of multiples. I’ve had people insist that they know more just because they are a mother, but believe me when I say it’s completely different being a mum to multiples!
So take it with a grain of salt, but your best advice is going to come from other mums who’ve walked in your shoes! Having twins is a completely different experience than having one baby at a time. Actually, take this note from me with a grain of salt (speaking of unsolicited advice)! Don’t compare with anyone. We each will have our own journey with motherhood and no mother’s journey is harder than the other, just different.
Like any new parent, help is something that we’re not good at asking for. However, when you have two babies to look after as well as yourself, you have no choice but to very quickly accept it, ask for it and appreciate every precious moment of it. I’m talking about meals, nappies, washing, taking them for walks in pram, feeding etc.Be really clear with people on what kind of help you need and instead of offering twin cuddles when they visit, ask them to bring/cook a meal, hang out some washing, change bedding, give you a break to shower, wash/sterilise equipment etc.
This also applies for your partner. For your relationship to be strong, you must communicate honestly with each other and work as a team to share the load. In the newborn days, I also outsourced help when we could afford to. We got a cleaner in fortnightly to keep things in order and I did my groceries online. Little things go along way so don’t be afraid to say yes if anyone asks to help.
7. Getting out & about
This is a really important one for me! When we moved to Newcastle last year and I became a full time mummy, I made it my mission to get out of the house daily to explore my new town and give my toddlers plenty of adventure. Very quickly, we had developed a weekly routine including playgroups, story time at the library, park play dates and different events on in the community.
Getting out of the house logistically can be any mums challenge, so I would have bags packed and snacks prepped whilst they ate breakfast or the night prior. I would get dressed myself as soon as I woke up and found it easier to go out first thing in the morning and then return by midday ready for naps. I would also limit outings to just once in the day.
Obviously with two newborns, you may work things differently but as they get older and nap less you will find it simpler strangely enough. Following Newy with Kids was a huge help for us as a family. If we wanted to try something new, there’s loads of helpful information about places to go/see/explore with most of them free so we plan them into our week. Although it sometimes feels like hard work getting outside the house, I never regret it and everyone is happier. Start with a daily walk in the pram and by the time you know it, you will master getting out and about.
8. One on one time
This one is talked about and written about a lot, and is in theory really important. In reality though, it can be hard to do – especially with one set of hands! To be honest in the first year, I can’t tell you many times I got to do this, but there were times one twin would wake up early from a nap, so instead I would use this precious time to have some one on one time. Cease the moment! Fast forward two years, My hubby and I now schedule dates with each child and have a 1:1 morning time with each twin. That time has been incredibly special but can be easily neglected so it’s important to plan it if you can. You will all get a lot out of it and a chance to really focus on their individuality.
9. Shopping for two
Get savvy on saving money ASAP. Just because you have two babies, don’t make the mistake of buying two of everything at twice the cost! The good news is, you don’t actually need two of everything! Find ways to save during your pregnancy and prepare for your twins’ arrival by looking on local marketplaces and joining twin clubs and specific buy/swap /sell Facebook pages. Watch for promos and bulk buy on things when they are on sale such as nappies, wipes and other things that you can never have too much of. The Multiple Birth Association will offer lots of discounts as well as formula discounts. If you bottle feed, this is an incredible saving when you have two babies to feed. From the setup of your home to everything in between, you will find that sometimes you don’t need to buy everything brand new and some things you will only need items for a small time so can move those items on within the twin community like bouncers, highchairs, bath seats, walkers, Grobags etc.
10. Self care
Remember happy mummy = happy babies. Parenting multiples absolutely intensifies everything. Don’t get caught up in too much of the ‘doing’ as burnout can happen twice as quickly with two babies to care for. Easier said than done but it can be so easy to get trapped in a endless cycle of feeding and sleep cycles especially in those newborn days. Make time to self-care, and also just as importantly make time to reconnect with your partner. Check-in on each other regularly. Your partner is doing this journey with you and can really be taking on board more than the average daddy. Even if it’s just a coffee/cake date for a couple of hours every now and then, or alternatively a night at home to watch a movie together, little things go along way.
11. Most importantly – Enjoy the ride!
Without a doubt, one of the of the most talked about, written about, unique experiences of being a twin parent is witnessing the special bond between your twins as they both grow up side by side together in this world. It is beyond words and such a beautiful experience despite all the hard work that it is. Count your blessings instead of your stressings and remember you have been chosen for a reason to parent these two babies at once. You’ve got this!
Visit the Australian Multiple Birth Association website for information on raising multiples. In this region, the Newcastle Multiple Birth Club Inc. (NMBC) offers support to parents of twins, triplets or more, and to those expecting a multiple birth.
Leanne is passionate about helping other multiple parents. In the twins’ first year, she volunteered her time with the Southern Sydney Multiple Birth Association and was the Multiple Birth Expectant Parent coordinator promoting & hosting information events aimed at supporting expectant or new parents of multiples. Her and her family relocated from Sydney to Newcastle and has enjoyed getting out and about in Newcastle. Leanne blogs about twin life with Alice & Henry on her Facebook page which documents their adventures starting from their birth story right up to life today.