Looking after twin babies is certainly a lot of work! There are many challenges that mums (and dads) of twins face, that parents of single babies don’t have. Plus of course, there is double the feeding, changing, crying etc.
I had a few ideas of what I wanted to write here, just some things that I’ve learned after looking after my babies (who now seem to be getting more grown up by the day!). But I thought I’d see if my twin mum friends had any suggestions too, so I got in touch with the Hong Kong Mothers of Multiples (MoMs) and they have supplied some of the tips below!
With that in mind, tip no. 1 is find your local mothers of multiples or twin support group. The Hong Kong MoMs can be found via their website or facebook page. It is inexpensive to become a member and then you get to meet all sorts of other lovely ladies who have been through or are about to go through what you are, and can offer lots of advice and support. I’ve really enjoyed being part of this group, and I think it’s a great aspect of being a twin mum!
Also, on the theme of support, accept all offers of help. This is particularly important in the first month or so. I was lucky enough to have my in-laws visiting for the first two weeks, and then my parents visiting for the next two weeks – I don’t think we could have got through that time without them! After 5 or 6 weeks, the babies were much easier to handle on my own (while Tom was at work) but that beginning time was tough, especially as I was a first time mum so it was a very steep learning curve! Friends also brought round food and one lovely couple cleaned up our flat a bit for us! Be aware that this is an exceptional time and you will want all the help you can get.
Get the babies’ father involved. This is really important, even now I think it would just be such hard work if Tom didn’t share the load. But I’m a lucky lady because he was prepared to do his part from the word ‘go’ and look after one of the babies in the night feeds, change nappies, soothe crying babies etc. In my limited experience, men have much less of an appreciation of what it’s going to be like to have a newborn (or two) around so discussing this before the babies are born and deciding who will do what is a sensible thing to do.
Eat well. I think this is actually pretty hard to do, especially at the beginning. Even now I struggle to find the time to prepare wholesome food for myself. But it’s really important especially if you’re exclusively or majority breastfeeding. You have a LOT of nutrients and calories leaving you several times a day and you need to replenish them! This advice is coming from a place of regret. I am still breastfeeding at 8 months and still trying to improve the quality and quantity of the food I eat.
If at all possible, try and get your twins doing the same thing at similar times e.g. feeding, sleeping. Sleeping is particularly important because if they don’t sleep at the same time then you’ll never get a break! Whether you decide to have a strict schedule (à la Gina Ford) or follow the babies’ cues is obviously totally up to you, but it’s good to have a bit of structure so that you know what’s coming next. I know quite a few twin mums who swear by Gina Ford and it’s really worked for them. I found that I couldn’t personally stick to a schedule like that and much preferred to have a loose daily routine where the timings fluctuated daily according to the babies. Even then, I don’t think we really settled into a routine for the first 2 or 3 months but from the start I made sure that they were at least in sync with each other.
Feed your babies at the same time – it’s a total lifesaver! While my in laws and parents were around, I was feeding one at a time, which was fine (although very time consuming) because there was generally someone else there to look after the other baby when needed. When they left I quickly found that most feeds were a nightmare – one baby would cry while you feed the other one, and then they’d switch round! Feeding them both at the same time meant that they were both occupied, and also meant less time feeding. If you are breastfeeding, I’d recommend a U-shaped twins feeding cushion. I still use mine now (at 8 months)! I also found this page to be full of useful tips on breastfeeding twins. If you are bottle feeding then you might need to try a few things to see what works best, but I’ve heard of a few people who have sat on the floor with a baby in a bouncy chair on either side of them and held a bottle to each baby. One lady with twins slightly older than mine was showing me a photo the other day of her twins sat down with soft toys piled up on them and the bottles balanced on top!
Keep a log of what you did when and with whom. Here I’m talking about feeding, peeing, pooping etc. This is especially important if you’re not doing the same thing to both twins at the same time! In the fog of new mother-dom it’s very difficult to remember these things. I think we dropped the log after a month or so but in those early days it was very difficult to remember when the last feed for each baby was!
Try and get out with the babies every day. This may not be possible in the first month or two, but after a while it becomes necessary to maintain your sanity, as well as a nice change of scene for the babies. I wrote a blog post here on how I find getting out with the babies in Hong Kong, which puts a bit of a negative slant on it but most days we only pop to the local shops or walk around the area so it’s pretty straightforward. As I mention in the blog post, if I’m going in anywhere or travelling on public transport then I tend to use a single stroller for one baby and a carrier for the other, but if I’m just going for a walk nearby then I pop them in the double stroller. If you have a car, I think you’ll find it much easier to get out and about with twins – just make sure you can fit the double stroller in the boot (or ‘trunk’ for our American readers)!
I read somewhere not to worry if you spend more time on one twin than the other, it usually balances out in the end. When the twins were born, I found that Jack was much more time-intensive than Isobel because she was just more laid back and I worried that she wasn’t getting enough attention. But then a couple of months ago I found I was spending more time with Isobel and now I think it’s switched back again. So the advice was correct for me!
Also, one of the other twin mums told me that some crying is inevitable, so don’t worry about that either. And she was right – when you are dealing with one (e.g. changing a nappy) and the other one starts getting grumpy for no obvious reason, then you just have to let them cry for a while until you are able to deal with it! If there are two of them and only one of you, you just have to accept that it’s going to happen and the babies will survive a bit of crying.
Treat them as individuals. I don’t know about identical twins, but the mums of non-identical twins who I have spoken to have found this one to be pretty easy because their babies are really different. Mine are no exception. Even despite this, you sometimes find yourself comparing them or lumping them together especially if you spend all your time with both twins together. At the newborn age it doesn’t matter so much as when they are older, but remember to celebrate the differences – and don’t give them matching names!
Have a glass of wine! This was a favourite tip among the Hong Kong MoMs! It’s really important to reward yourself and find a way to relax at the end of a long day, whether it’s a glass of wine, a nice bath or something else you enjoy.
Enjoy your babies. This is far easier said that done, especially in the early days when you are struggling to get by on very little sleep and it all just feels like really hard work. I remember all the cards we got when the babies were born saying ‘double the joy, double the love’ – and all I could think was ‘double the crying, half the sleep’! I think you just have to remember that it will get easier, and they change so quickly that you won’t get to enjoy them like they are now for very long. Celebrate each new skill they master and have lots of cuddles while you still can.
Looking after newborn twins isn’t easy, but I hope these tips help. If you’re a twin mum with any tips of your own to add, please comment below – I’d love to hear how you found it!
Thanks for reading!