Years ago, before the internet was invented, there was little support and information available for mothers of twins, triplets or higher order multiples. They managed the best that they could. Things are a little bit easier now, but sometimes the sheer volume of information available can be overwhelming. You can find all sorts of alarming articles and blog posts about the risks, like the one I wrote last week, but most of them do not give practical advice about how to sail through your twin pregnancy and birth and be ready for the really difficult part: raising multiples. The truth is that there is no way to be fully prepared for this amazing journey, but there are multiple (pun intended) ways to make it easier.
We have a number of providers at Women’s Healthcare Associates who also happen to be twin moms (including me). Here is our best advice:
Prepare to slow waaaaaaaay down. This starts during pregnancy much earlier than with a singleton pregnancy. Even if you are not on bed rest, your body will not move as quickly as it did before. Even the simplest tasks will exhaust you. Lower your expectations and give yourself a break. If you envision yourself needing to do a lot of nesting in your third trimester, get it done in your first and second trimester.
Accept all offers of help. If you are on bed rest or at home with newborns, and someone asks if they can help, SAY YES. Be specific. Have them run a load of laundry (you will have more laundry than you ever thought possible), or wash and dry your dishes, or bring over dinner. Better yet, let them play with the twins while you take a nap. Don’t use this time to visit and chat—go to bed and sleep, because you’ll probably be up later that night anyway.
Get ready for the spotlight. Be prepared for a lot of attention when you go out—most is positive, but if you are the type that does not like a lot of attention, or if you are concerned about your babies’ developing immune systems, it’s okay to politely decline attention. Find a way to respond to attention, whether it’s positive or negative. Keep in mind that many interested strangers are just being friendly—even if they may say strange things sometimes. (Ask a twin mom about this.)
Pump. Immediately. Breastfeeding can be a challenge with twins. Start pumping right away to increase your milk supply, especially if you have had a cesarean section. Yes, this may mean that you are feeding two babies AND a pump. Many moms of multiples are simply unable to keep this up, and that’s okay too.
Find what works for you. While most twin moms swear by napping and feeding their babies together, other twin moms find that their babies may have different sleep needs and are able to “let sleeping babies sleep.” For other families, this is impossible due to space constraints, or because there are older children in the household. Just like with singleton babies, there is no right answer or one-size-fits-all approach.
Stay positive. It’s easy to be overwhelmed with crazy scenarios and become fearful, anxious or depressed. The first few months are really tough, but in the big picture, it’s only a few months. Some twin moms talk about this time as “the survival months.” It WILL get better. Connect with other mothers of multiples early on while you are still pregnant, whether it’s online or in person. They are probably going through or have gone through similar things, and will have solutions that singleton moms might not have. You might just make some really wonderful new friends who will be there for you with advice on how to contain moving twins, manage toddler twins, potty training twins, and share in the chaos of twin play dates. Check out Full House Moms, a local online community for the parents of multiples.
If your budget allows…get a deep freezer during your pregnancy. Double your dinners and freeze half. Freeze some of the meals that friends bring over. When you are in your third trimester or with newborns, you will be so glad to have a homemade meal ready to thaw. Something else to consider if you have the budget is a postpartum doula. After your company leaves, a postpartum doula will provide much needed instruction that will help you feel confident, whether you’re a first-time parent or a seasoned parent but new to twins. (Feeding twins by yourself—either bottle or breastfeeding—is an exercise in logistical planning!) If you can afford it, DO NOT feel guilty about hiring help.
The twin parenthood journey can be full of chaos, but remember that for every low point, there is a high point. My favorite time of each day is TWIN HUG time, after we are done with stories, and right before they go to bed. And, when your twins have managed to find a Sharpie and are writing all over the walls and furniture, remember that this, too, will pass, and someday, after you’ve recovered, you’ll get a really good story out of it.
Mothers of multiples! Join the conversation on our Facebook page and comment with your best tip for those expecting -- or raising -- multiples.
Special thanks to the Women’s Healthcare Associates providers (and twin moms!) who contributed to this article: Christine Barlow Reed, CNM, Trina Brodsky, MD, Darlene Dodson, MD, Natalie Jacobson-Dunlop, CNM, and Kate Robinson, CNM.
Dr. Laura Morrison is a board-certified OB/GYN physician and surgeon who sees patients at the Peterkort South office of Women’s Healthcare Associates in Portland, Oregon. She received her master’s and medical degrees from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she also completed her OB/GYN residency. She is the mother of four kids, including the twins pictured above. When she’s not chasing kids at home, her interests include adolescent gynecology, preventive women's health, vulvar health and delivering babies—one or two at a time.