How to Survive the First Three Years with Twins

Parenting Twins Series on Bambini Travel

“That looks like a second heartbeat.” Those are life changing words.

In my experience, if you have heard these words you will react in one of two ways. Delight, followed by some panic, or simply panic.

Two babies? One baby is a lot, right? Just ask any parent of a newborn and they will nod their tired head at you.

The idea of having two babies at once is difficult to imagine. It is, however, completely do-able. In a few years you will likely even find yourself thinking that this was the best possible thing to have happen.

Right now you are panicked by the idea of twins.

You have to buy double of everything. You have to contemplate how to carry two babies, feed two babies, send two babies to college…You can very quickly get overwhelmed.

Before you start plotting an addition to your house and buying a mini-van, take a breath.

“Enjoy it! I cried when I found out I was expecting twins. My mum had twins when I was 12 so I knew they were hard work. The truth is, they are more hard work than just one (doh! there are two of them!) But they are great fun and so cute together. It’s an awesome ride. There’s no going back so enjoy it!”
Orlena Kerek. Twin Mom. Blogger at Snotty Noses

“It’s going to be great. You can’t even imagine how awesome it is going to be to watch your twins run around and play together, lay and whisper together, come up with surprises for you together…
It’s going to be hard, but it will get easier and easier and easier.”
Adrienne Danielson. Mom to Twin 5 year olds.

Focus on those first few years.

The first few years with twins are a little like boot camp. This is maybe not the optimism that you were looking for, but it is honest. The optimism is this: you will survive boot camp.

You can get through those first few years and I know exactly how to get you there.

Like millions of twin parents before me, I am on the other side. My twins are four and a half right now. They are energetic, they are busy, and they are currently in their room bouncing on their beds boycotting laundry folding, but they are delightful.

The advantages to having twins are huge if you were planning to have more kids.

You get two with one try. They have a playmate. It is easier to plan a vacation, buy toys, and plan a schedule around two kids at the same age rather than two of differing stages.

What about if I wasn’t planning to have more? This one was supposed to be my only or be my last? I still say that twins are awesome.

Your twin has a playmate. This will in the end be far less work for you. The bond between twins is fascinating and fun to watch. This might not be what you planned, but it will be good. You just need to get through that first year and a half.

So, how do you do that?

Below are my simple guidelines, along with amazing advice from some fellow twin mamas. They will take work to implement (remember the boot camp reference) but they will carry you through to the other side. The magical point when your kids will scamper off to play together and you will drink a cup of tea. I did that for like a whole 10 minutes this morning. It will happen for you too.

“Get as much rest as you can and take care of yourself – a twin pregnancy is hard work! Twins are awesome, don’t be scared.”
-Laura Rizer. Twin Mom. Blogger at Sunny Day Family

Attack Parenting as a Team

Everyone always talks about twin moms. If you are a single mom you are officially being elevated to super woman status and I highly recommend reinforcing a support system. If not, get your partner on board with double teaming your twins.

This can mean a lot of different things, but starting with your relationship is key to surviving life with twins.

Then arrange more help. Some people want help with the babies. Some people want help with the house. Some people need help with meals.

Whatever that means for you, try to arrange help before the babies come. For me, some to bring me dinner and someone to occassionally watch the kids is what I needed the most.

“Enlist help now! Who will be with you in the beginning? It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a metropolist to raise twins!
Erica McCool, Mom to twin 15 month olds.

Expect the Unexpected

From the moments that second unexpected heartbeat pops up on the monitor life with twins is never dull. Surprises are a part of parenting but you seem to find yourself in uncharted waters more frequently with twins.

Your pregnancy will be different than others you have had or the ones you read about in books. Their birth is not likely to follow your birth plan. Bedrest, NICUs, preemies…these are all frequent words in the multiples world.

This is scary, but I share this not to scare you but to just point out the extraordinary surprises that go along with being a twin parent. Even as toddlers and beyond, life with twins deviates from singleton parenting. It is often unexpected. Most of this is truly in the best way possible.

Twins can be the most tiring and awesome experience you will ever have. Be prepared to spend the first 3 years of their life answering the question “Are they natural?” Come up with your own sarcastic answer and own it (My go to: No, they are robots, aren’t they lifelike?”). If your twins are identical choose a method to know who is who until you can tell them apart (we chose specific colors for our boys). Find the parenting/feeding style that works for you. For us we set a schedule, and it was a lifesaver, but find what works for you and don’t be afraid to keep with it.”
Ticia Messing. Twin Mom. Blogger at Adventures in Mommydom

Get Them on a Schedule

The need for a schedule cannot be emphasized enough.

I am sure that there are some parents that manage to parent twins without a schedule, but I have no idea how.

Get those babies on a schedule. Get them sleeping at the same time, eating at the same time, playing at the same time and you have hope. You have a chance of eating and even getting some sleep.

This takes work. HARD work. The first few months it will seem impossible, but push through that and you will be so glad you did.

“Put them on a schedule as soon as possible. When one is hungry feed them both. When they are a few months old they will be ready to be coaxed into napping on the same schedule as well.”
Adrienne Danielson. Mom of twin five year olds.

 

Buy Smart

Start with a good double stroller. I used a stroller considerably more than my friends with one baby who could carry them into a building on their hip. Buy one that will last and is easy to fold and push.

Then consider the other things you will need. This might be less than you think, but there will be some things you need in double. Here is my list of twin essentials.

Our number one rule when purchasing things for our twins was to think long term.

Buy convertible car seats. Buy high chairs that grow into toddler chairs. Buy cribs that convert into twin beds. Think ahead and you will save yourself money in the long run.

“Invest in the Step2 Choo Choo Wagon, Britax Convertible Cars Seats, Magna-tiles, a ring sling, and a mei tai carrier, you won’t regret it.”
-Kristen Stehli. Mom of 7 Year old twins. Blogger at Epic Childhood

“Get a car seat/stroller system that you can lift and maneuver easily. This is different for everyone. Side by side works for me, while my cousin with twins swears by tandem. Try them out in the store and buy what works for you otherwise you will never want to leave the house. AND YOU NEED TO LEAVE THE HOUSE.”
Erica McCool. Mom of 15 month old twins.

Take Care of You

I think this is important advice for all pregnant and new moms, but it definitely applies to twin moms.

Take time for yourself.

Make rest during your pregnancy a priority. Once the babies come, find a way to take a break. Have two friends over to hold your babies for an hour or two. Take a moment to quickly shower, drink a cup of coffee, or whatever it is you need to feel somewhat human.

An exhausted parent is no good to anyone.

Twins are truly remarkable but you will have days when you have no idea who is who and if you will ever get a shower. My advice is to fill your freezer with things you can eat with one hand. Muffins, mini meatloaves, banana bread etc. Start compiling a list of people will come over and truly help. You will need extra hands for so many things. Schedule them in now because they will be your saving grace. And, get out when they are babies and don’t move – dinners, shopping, short trips – they are great little travel companions and getting out of the house provides stimulation for them and you! And when people ask if they are twins, declare it was a 2 for 1 sale!” 
Kerrie Mendoza. Twin Mama. Blogger at Family Food and Travel

Trust Your Instincts

It is normal for parenting to feel overwhelming. Whether you are having two kids, five kids or 15 kids, parenting is hard work.

There is no one right way to do this. There is no one perfect magic way to make children behave or produce happy off spring.

There are a million ways to do this right and only you know your kids. Only you can decide what is best for your children. I’m giving a lot of advice here and you will get countless more suggestions over the years, but you are the parent. Do what feels right. Follow your gut and it will all be okay.

“Don’t get too caught up in what books say or other people’s advice, you are still a mother and you will have a motherly instinct just like everyone else. Twins are hard work, but the first time you witness your babies giggling together or holding hands you will quickly realize what an amazing gift you were given.” 
-Meredith Magee Donnelly. Twin Mom. Blogger at Homegrown Friends

“Don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go how you think they should. They will be fine even if you never make it to one “Mommy and Me” class with them.”
-Adrienne Danielson, Mom of 5 year old twins

  “You may need a c-section and you may not be able to exclusively breastfeed your twins. Come to terms with it now. I was stoked to have a vaginal delivery and pretty upset when nursing didn’t work out. MOVE ON! Do what works for you and babies…Get Amazon Prime if you don’t already have it…Your heart will ALWAYS be fuller than your hands. My twins have taught me to chill out and not sweat the small stuff. Today they learned to march and kick while dancing to Christmas music. Last year at this time I didn’t know my name! It goes quickly and twins are a unique joy for only the luckiest of moms!!!
Erica McCool, Mom of 15 month old twins.

How to Survive the First Three Years with Twins . Advice from Moms of Multiples

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5 Baby Products New Twin Moms Need + One to Skip

Parenting Twins Series on Bambini Travel

I remember walking through the aisles of the baby store completely overwhelmed by the touring shelves of baby equipment. I was wondering what on earth I actually need for the twins growing in my belly.

There are things that all babies need – a place to sleep, some clothes, some burp cloths, feeding source, a few board books, etc. There are also a few things that parents of multiples need to consider when registering and shopping for their unique situation.

For twin parents the daily logistics of getting out of the house with two and feeding two are so much easier if you have a few essential baby products.

Here the five things that are essential for all twin parents – plus one I’d advise you skip!

affiliate links are included below

5 Essentials Baby Products for New Twin Parents

1. Awesome Double Stroller

This is hands down the most important thing for a mommy of twins.

Although I spent a fairly ridiculous amount of time carting two carseats (you get really strong arms!), carrying two babies for any length of time is impractical.

This is the stroller that we used from newborn through age 3. We loved that it grew with them (you can start with your babies in their car seats with these adaptors and our children still fit at 3. We wanted a front and back so it would fit through doorways, which this does without any problems. My one and only criticism is that although it folds down fairly flat, you have remove one of the seats and when folded the stroller does not stand on its own well.

Here and here are a couple more that I’ve had recommended to me by other twin mommies.

2. Large Diaper Bag

With two babies, obviously you are going to have to carry more stuff. There are a lot of adorable diaper bags out there, but make sure that you have one that is big enough to pack full of diapers, wipes, extra clothing, toys, and feeding supplies for two babies.

3. Serious Pump and a Portable Pump

If your twins are going to drink breast milk this is a serious job. You need a serious pump for home.

This is the one that I used and loved. I would also highly recommend a small portable pump, like this one to throw in your diaper bag.

We used this a lot when we were traveling or out of the house. It is often difficult to find somewhere to nurse two babies. I often pumped for one baby and then someone could feed that infant, while I nursed the other one.

4. Double Breastfeeding Pillow

Speaking of nursing, if you are attempting this super woman feat – you will need one of these. There are other ways to do it, but this is the easiest, quickest way to get comfortable and support two babies.

5. 2 Boppy Pillows

boppy pillow would go on my list of must-haves for one baby too, but I think I used it more because we had two.

These are wonderful for propping up babies while you feed two at one or for babies with reflux after they eat. When they got a little older, I could prop them up facing each other and they could bobble a little, without me worrying about them falling onto the floor. I also used them to hold the babies while I got situated before nursing.

In general, they are handy to have with little ones, plus they come with all kinds of adorable covers.

What can you skip?

The rocking chair. We had one and I did love it, however it is completely impractical for feeding or rocking two infants.

You will end up propping yourself up on the couch, your bed, or a huge arm chair and wondering why you spent the money on that comfy rocker that’s taunting you in the corner of the nursery.

5 Baby Products New Twin Moms Need and One to Skip

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on Getting Out of the House with One (or More!)

 

6 Steps to Becoming a Parenting Team

Parenting Twins Series on Bambini Travel

I remember one of the first long days as a twin mom after my husband went back to work. My two week old twins and I spent most of it on the squishy couch in the living room wedged on the nursing pillow. My daughter was refusing to nurse, my son was refusing to sleep, and I was sticky, stinky, and incredibly sleepy.

Then my husband walked in the door and all three of us perked up.

Parenting is hard. Parenting newborn twins is really hard.

Newborns are needy. Even the easiest babies still need you for everything. They need you to feed them, change them, carry them from point to point, help them sleep, bathe them.

Parenting twins means caring for two extremely needy little ones. The high rates of prematurity among infants means that you are often dealing with more challenging infants who are not quite prepared to be out in the world and would much prefer to be in the dark comfort of the womb for a bit longer.

I do not say any of this to scare you. I promise it is doable.

I say this to set the stage for what is to come. It is hard. But together you can do it.

The together part is important.

Single parents in general, but single parents of multiples are super heroes in my book.

The teamwork aspect of parenting was crucial to our survival during the first few months and beyond. Below are some of the ways that we prepared for and supported one another in the first few years of our parenting adventure. If you enter parenting with the idea that you are in this together and have each other’s backs, I promise it is not only doable, but ultimately enjoyable.

Here are the 6 main ways we work together to parent our multiples. Hopefully our experiences are helpful regardless of whether you are parenting one or a whole crew.

Updated from Original Post Shared May 2014

6 Steps to Become a Parenting Team

1. Communication

We talk A LOT.

We had been together for 11 years (married for 5) when we had our twins. Communication did not come easy to us at first, but we learned that in order for us to work we had to talk. We had to talk about the every day things, the things that bothered us, and how we were going to make things work.

When we found out we were pregnant we talked some more.

The topics and results of those conversations are not super important. For one thing, they almost immediately changed upon having our twins. And two, they are unique to each couple. What is important to you is different than what is important to anyone else, but knowing and labeling those things is important. We knew what our main goals were from the start and that guided us in the hazy beginning.

Post-baby arrival day, we continue to talk.

We talk about the cute things they are doing and how they are challenging us. We talk about what is NOT working and brainstorm together things to do differently. Even though I am home with our kids 11+ hours by myself, most of our decisions are made together and the ones that I make on my own I do my best to talk to him about so we are on the same page. This leads perfectly to item #2.

2. United Front

This one I credit my parents for. My parents were obnoxiously on the same page at all times. They made decisions together, they knew what the other one had told us, and they agreed with each other. It was a pain.

However, it is now one of my guiding philosophies.

One of the most commonly heard phrases in our house right now is, “I agree with Dad/Mom”. We do our very best to support one another and their decisions in front of our children. Later, when we are away from them we can debate and disagree, but in front of our kids, we agree.

We are a united front.

3. Night Time Feedings

All of our sleep decisions primarily followed the advice in this book.

Our babies were both breast and bottle fed from day 1, which made this a little easier. After the first hazy week that I remember extremely small blurry moments of, we began this plan that served us well for the first 6 months. We split the night in half. One of us did all feeding before 2am. The other did all feedings after. This generally worked out evenly.

You may have to play around with where your magical dividing time is. This meant, that aside from me pumping at first and eventually from a brief awakening when they cried out, we each got about 6 hours of sleep.

Life saving.

Once our infants were consistently down to just one feeding, usually around 2am, we changed to alternating nights. We do this still. It is your night until you have to get up with someone. Then it is the next person’s night.

Of course there are exceptions, like that night both kids were vomiting – it was a two person job, or if one of us is sick or getting up super early it isn’t their turn.

Being a team means that you are supportive and fair. Not always perfectly even.

4. Regular Dates

We are absolutely that dorky annoying couple that goes out every month.

We were probably annoyingly cutesy before we had kids. We have always celebrated our monthly anniversaries with a night out. Usually nothing fancy, but just a dedicated night for the two of us. We have done this for 16 years now, but it has grown even more important since having our children. With only about 3 exceptions, we have gone out every month.

This is time for us to be us. Not mom and dad. I know this is common advice, but to me it is one of the most important parts. When our little loves grow up they will leave around the same time and we need to still have an us.

5. Break Nights

In addition to dates, we also give each other “break nights.”

We each get two evenings a month that are on the calendar as “me time.” This means different things to each of us, but it is guaranteed time where we don’t participate in the chaos that is dinner/bath/bed time.

We get other breaks. Mornings to sleep in, nights out with friends, book club, whatever – but these are separate times on the calendar. However you choose to do it, giving each other a break is important.

For me it is usually quiet time to myself. Time to just be me for a few hours.

6. Managing and Changing Expectations

Parenting is hard. For everyone. No matter what people say or how perky their instagram feed is, parenting is hard.

Go easy on one another. Know that you will both make mistakes. You will both have bad days. Your children will have bad days.

Keep the things that work. Work together to fix the things that don’t. Adapt together to the every changing whirlwind that is raising two little ones.

No two days or weeks are the same so you need to change too, together.

6 Steps to Becoming a Parenting Team and Surviving Life with Twins

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