Updated: Mar 23
Having multiples is an exciting adventure for your family! Full of twists and turns, that no doubt, have kept you on your toes since you heard the thumps of their heartbeats for the first time. Once they’re born, the real adventure begins! There’s no question about it, having multiples is very challenging as your family navigates new roles and schedule interruptions. But, I’m confident that with the right support and care, your family will blossom and step into this unknown realm of multiples with brave feet and happy hearts.
Becoming a mother of multiples is a bit of a different experience than your singleton mother friends. You likely went through the stresses of bedrest, hospital stays, and/or premature birth. You smiled and nodded through the shock and awe of anyone you spoke to about the pregnancy, all the while fearing it would be too overwhelming for you to handle. But you are a parent! You will come to find, that you are more capable than you ever thought possible! In the meantime, give yourself the space to work through the emotions you’ve carried for so long. They are heavy and need to be processed appropriately to move on in a healthy way. Talk through difficult births and pregnancies with family and friends or join a support group for mothers of multiples. There are many options online or you could join MOMS (Mothers of Multiples Society www.mothersofmultiples.com) in Denver.
All new parents feel overwhelmed at one point or another. It’s a normal process of change and growth. Being a parent of multiples requires even more patience with the process. Don’t let your expectations get the better of you. You will be tired. You will be sore. You will be frazzled. The house may not be just the way you like it. It’s all ok! It’s going to take time to find your rhythm and feel a little more like yourself. It might take a long time. That’s ok, too! If you are feeling like you’re drowning, reach out for help. Even superheroes need sidekicks! There’s nothing wrong with needing an extra pair of hands. You had extra babies, after all. It’s a great idea to hire a postpartum doula, or night nurse, to get you on the right foot. A close friend or family member may also be able to stay a night or two to allow you some much-needed rest. Start a meal train for when help has gone to alleviate the pressure of figuring out dinner. Feeding yourself is of utmost importance as your body heals and you, possibly, attempt to breastfeed.
Speaking of breastfeeding, it poses some challenges to breastfeed multiples, but it is definitely possible. Making sure you take in enough calories and fluids is paramount to maintain a healthy supply and to keep you from feeling physically depleted. If you have twins, feeding both babies at the same time is ideal to give you a much-needed break in between feedings (which should occur at least every 2-3 hours during the day). There are many different positions that make this possible, and experimenting which ones work best for you and your babies is the best way to find the right one. Alternating sides with each baby helps to keep breasts more even and increases the angles at which each baby gets to see your face, improving cognitive development. Once your milk supply is well-established, you can begin supplementing with a bottle of pumped breastmilk or formula if you need to leave the home or just need a break.
Speaking of formula, breastfeeding is incredible, but formula is wonderful too! Your babies will be happy and fed either way. If you feel your mental stability is being compromised because you are so determined to breastfeed that everything else is falling apart, it might be time to consider formula. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but feeding your children shouldn’t make you feel bad about yourself. Remember, any breastmilk is beneficial to your babies. Find an option that makes you feel proud to be doing the best you can. If your goal is to be a successful breast feeder and you can’t quite seem to figure it out, there are lactation consultants that are more than happy to spend time with you until you find what works for you. Also, pumping and bottle-feeding is an option for mothers who feel “breast is best” but need assistance physically feeding the babies. Just make sure that if this is your plan, you have babies establish your milk supply first (if possible) before solely relying on a pump. If they are preemies or can’t establish your milk supply for another reason, make sure to pump AT LEAST every two hours the first week or two until your mature milk comes in, preferably with a hospital-grade pump.
If you are bottle-feeding, it’s also possible to feed twins at the same time. You’ll become a master juggler of infants as you learn to prop them against your body and hold bottles at the same time. No matter the feeding decisions you make, investing in a nursing pillow (or two) may prove very helpful to alleviate arm fatigue and neck tension while feeding. Check out the WHO guidelines for safe bottle preparation.
Finding ways to share one-on-one time with each baby may be a challenge, but it will help with bonding and getting to know the distinguishing features of each babe. Not knowing which-is-which is completely normal in the beginning and means nothing about your mothering prowess. It won’t be long before you’re correcting family and friends when they try to guess who is who, so just enjoy the process of getting to know each baby. Consider having babies take turns being worn in a carrier with or without clothes. Skin-to-skin contact has been proven a very effective bonding tool, especially in preemies. Take a few extra minutes at changing and bath time to talk, cuddle, and coo with each baby. Lots of eye contact is very important for their development, and also for your bonding reflex to kick in. So, enjoy gazing into their beautiful big eyes as often as possible! Until you’re a master distinguisher, leave the hospital bracelets on or find another way to tell them apart. Maybe a certain color hat or pair of socks for each one.
When we think of sleeping babies, most of us think of homes so quiet you can hear a pin drop, but getting baby used to noise as they sleep, particularly if they are sharing a room, is beneficial for the whole family. Older children won’t (against your best efforts) get scolded for waking the babies, and you and your partner can go about your day without feeling the need to be silent. Most importantly, babies will sleep longer if they are used to a little noise while they sleep. If sharing a room, when one baby cries, if they are used to noise, the other baby may stand a chance of continuing to sleep. Dress the babies appropriately for sleep, making sure they are warm (but not too hot) that way they won’t need a blanket, which is advised against for safe-sleeping practices (AAP). Make sure babies are always placed on their backs to sleep, away from any blankets, or pillows/cushions that can be accidentally pulled over their faces.
Babies are bound to have many, many accidents, spit-ups, and spills. Add another baby, and you have twice the mess (but twice the love)! There are some tips and tricks to make keeping up with laundry a breeze! Well, maybe not a breeze, but definitely easier. First, imagine it’s 3 AM and you wake to find a screaming baby and (insert bodily fluid) everywhere! A great tip for making nighttime messes much easier is to layer waterproof liners and fitted sheets. So, put down a liner, then a sheet, then another liner, then another sheet, etc. As long as they are all fitting snugly on the mattress, it’s safe to do so. Then, when there is a mess in the middle of the night, you simply peel back a layer and you’re good to go. Laundry is going to be a battle. Make it easier on yourself by putting dirty clothes directly into the washer tub (at least for the first few months) and starting it as soon as it’s full or making sure to do at least one load a day. Enlist the help of a postpartum doula or family member anytime they come to visit. Ask them politely to run and fold a load for you. I’m sure they’ll be happy to help.
Diapers will also be an endless battle. After about the fifth day, babies should poop around 3-5 times/day, and wet about 5-6 times/day. Multiply that by how many babies you’re having and wow! That’s a lot of diapers! If you’re set on clothes and toys, (newborns don’t need all that much) when anyone asks if they can purchase a gift for you, ask for diapers! Investing in multiple diaper pails will also cut down on trips to the garbage. Set up multiple changing stations in rooms you spend time in that include a blanket or waterproof pad, diapers, wipes, diaper cream, a toy or two for distraction, and hand sanitizer. Consider changing diapers on a schedule (every 2-3 hours or after feedings) unless, of course, there is a diaper emergency. Dressing babies in easy to manage clothing (zips, elastics) while you’re getting used to everything, may also ease frustration and save precious time.
Finally, ask for help! Have I mentioned that yet? Mothers of singletons need extra help; mothers of multiples need even more extra help! Don’t feel overwhelmed in silence. The people who care about you want to help. They want your family to thrive. You and your partner will still need to find time for each other. Even if you can only manage quick rendezvous in the kitchen for a soothing tea. Ask someone to stay with the babies as you both go for a short walk once you’re feeling up to it. And remember, babies cry. Try to keep your cool if you can’t quite get to one right away because you’re busy with another one. Take a deep breath and know they are ok to wait a few minutes. Do the best you can to meet their needs as soon as you can, but don’t panic. They’ll soon learn Mama is coming!