Picture this: your home pregnancy test comes back positive, so you schedule an appointment with your doctor. You arrive at your ultrasound, and lay down while the tech gets down to business.
And there it is: the heartbeat! You choke back tears, when suddenly on screen, there's a second flashing little heart. Another baby? Excitement soon gives way to anxiety: how do you take care of two babies? How do you schedule sleep? What about feedings? And the stuff – will you really need two of everything?
Take a deep breath! Here is some advice from moms just like you, who have figured out the tricks to loving life with multiples.
Handling sleep (or the lack thereof)
Whether you have one newborn or multiples, odds are you'll be up most of the night. Heather, mom of a two-year-old girl and 11-month-old fraternal twins, says that hands down, with an infant, "the hardest part was lack of sleep."
But, Heather says having her older daughter prepared her for the all-nighters: "Dealing with two babies wasn't much different than having one -- I don't think I missed out on much more sleep with the twins than I did with our older daughter. No parent with a newborn, whether it's one or two, is going to get a lot of rest those first few months!"
Having realistic expectations is key for adapting to nighttime with newborn twins. As is getting help when you need it. "We hired a nighttime nanny for those first weeks," says Heather. "It made a huge difference."
Feeding twins: formula or breast milk?
However you decide to feed your baby, the feeding process itself will take up a significant part of your day. Newborns eat every 2-3 hours, so you're looking at 8-10 feedings per day per baby. Assistant Professor of OBGYN at Indiana University Dr. Litwiller's advice? "Get your babies on the same schedule!"
Heather says this piece of advice has been invaluable. "Our twins spent their first two weeks in the NICU, and the nurses got them on a feeding schedule right away. Leaving them at the hospital was hard, but the feeding schedule was one huge positive that came out of it."
Similarly, new mom of two Katie, who's breastfeeding, tandem feeds her boys whenever possible. Nursing twins is a big commitment, and Katie says talking to a lactation consultant really helped.
When you're coordinating feedings for your babies, be sure to get your partner involved. Patty, whose twins are now four years old, advises: "If you're breastfeeding, have dad sit with you to help get the babies latched on and for emotional support. If you're bottle feeding, try alternating overnight feedings so that you can get some sleep."
One expectation that many moms have for themselves is that they can "do it all." "The reality is, moms can't do it all – they'll go crazy trying!" says Dr. Litwiller.
Both Katie and Heather have hired college students to help out a few hours a week. Heather says she's used this time to take her toddler out one-on-one, or go to an occasional yoga class.
Katie also says she's reached out to her local Moms of Multiples group, which has provided her with invaluable support, advice and friendship. "They brought me meals after the boys were born and I've borrowed various items from group members," she says.
What you really need
Afraid your home will be overwhelmed with baby equipment? Fortunately, you don't need multiples of everything. Here's what you'll really need:
Car seat: One per infant. Consider convertible car seats, so you'll only have to purchase one per baby.
High chair: One per baby. To save space, Patty recommends booster seats that attach to your dining chairs.
Stroller: One -- a double (or triple) stroller. Visit a store that allows you to "test drive" models to see what you prefer. Once you find a stroller you like, Heather recommends looking for it used on Craigslist.
Crib: One at first, then a separate crib for each baby. Many moms start their twins in the same crib, transitioning to separate cribs once babies start rolling over.
Bouncer/swing: Patty advises having a seat for each baby – "it makes showers/chores much easier!"
In addition, you'll need to stock up on lots of on burp cloths, onesies, wipes and diapers -- lots of diapers. Katie's twins go through over 20 diapers each day!
With the right attitude and expectations, life with multiples isn't much different than life with one newborn. The biggest difference, though, is that there's more love to go around. Says Heather, "I've been surprised by much I love having twins. It's been amazing to watch them grow together, and I know it's only going to get better. Everyone told me twins are a complete blessing, and I have to say I agree."
Tags: In This Issue, Infant & Baby, Parenting
Local Resources for Indianapolis Moms
Southside Parents of Multipleshttp://sspom.org
Northside Parents of Multipleswww.twinparents.com