When you’re expecting twins, the one thing (perhaps the only thing) you can count on is that your parenting life will be entirely different than singleton parents. The best advice you’ll ever get is from fellow parents with multiples who have been there and done that. I reached out to other twin parents for their best survival tips for raising two babies at the same time.
Stick to a schedule
“Keep them on a schedule, no matter what,” says Jaime Cohen Pickles, a mother of twin four-year-olds, Ryan and Sophie. “If one wakes up, wake up the other! If one eats, it’s time for the other to eat!” Your brain will be very sleep deprived during those first six months, so tracking what’s happening is one way to stay sane. My husband and I noted everything on a big dry-erase board in Chloe and Claire’s nursery. Cohen Pickles used the Double Time Twins Schedule Book to keep Ryan and Sophie on a coordinated schedule for their first eight weeks. For less analogue approaches, twin parents also like the Pocket Nanny, a handheld digital device that allows you to record diaper changes, naps and feedings, and the Jumelle Twin and Baby Tracker, an app that can track teething, fevers and milestones in several babies.
Juggling two hungry babies is incredibly stressful. Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding (or a combination of the two), do whatever you can to try to master simultaneous feedings. “You have to learn how to breastfeed both babies at the same time to maintain sanity,” says Erin Ballew, mom to four-year-old boy-girl twins, Orson and Astrid. “When bottle feeding, it helps to have two spots to seat them when giving bottles in tandem.”
Double breasted: How to master the tandem breastfeed
I breastfed and bottle fed my daughters and found that prepping everything I needed ahead of time (a breastfeeding pillow, bottles, burpcloths, pumped breastmilk or formula and a snack for myself) really helped ease the tough balancing act of tandem feedings. When bottle feeding, use two Boppy pillows, two Rock ’n Play sleepers or a Twin Z nursing pillow to prop up your babies. Grab two burpcloths or bibs to drape over them. Hold the bottles for them or try a Baba Buddy bottle holder to help one baby hold a bottle while you breastfeed or bottle feed the other. After feeding, burp one while the other hangs out in the pillow or Rock ’n Play and repeat with the second baby. After that, give yourself props for making it through a double feeding!
Bath times two
When your twins are wee, it’s easier to bathe one while the other hangs out next to you or near you in an infant rocker chair. From birth to about 10 months old, in the morning and before bedtime, Katie Belt, mom of boy-girl twins Cash and Maddie, would strap her son in an infant chair while she bathed her daughter. “When I was done bathing and dressing one, I would switch them out,” says Belt. Once your babies are around six months old and able to sit up on their own, Keter bath seats (which suction to the bathtub) can make it easier to give both babies a bath at the same time.
Know who is who
In the early hazy days of twin parenting, there will be 3 a.m. wake-ups where you go into their room and get your babies mixed up. My husband, Brendan, and I dabbed a dot of pink nail polish on Claire’s big toe in case we got confused.
Connect with other twin parents
Build your tribe with people who understand life with two babies. Find twin communities online in Facebook groups or on websites like twiniversity.com. Find an expecting-twins class in your area. “It’s true that moms of multiples are a sorority of sorts,” says mom Stephanie Lemelin Draven. “We’ve saved a lot of money on baby clothes by connecting with a twin mama whose girls were six months older than ours. But, best of all, twin parents understand what you’re going through and totally relate to you.”
The best thing we ever did was sleep-train Chloe and Claire when they were six months old. After many nights of multiple wake-ups, we hired a sleep consultant who gave us a nap schedule and virtually held our hands throughout the whole process. After three days of sleep training, our girls slept through the night, which made our lives a million times better.
Not everyone is up for the challenge of sleep training, though. Whitney Peach found that Marc Weissbluth’s book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins helped her set a good sleep schedule when her twins, Isabella and Violet, were 10 weeks old. “It was a great sleep reference without having to read it cover to cover,” says Peach.
Some twin parents swear by twin-specific baby carriers like the Weego, TwinGo and Twingaroo carriers. Skyler Wagner, mom to two-year-old twin girls, Sagan and Huxley, used two Ergo carriers to tote around her daughters. “It took some practice in our house at first, but once I got the hang of it, I ventured outside,” she says. “Wearing both of them made so many tasks possible.” I preferred owning two different baby carriers so that my husband could wear one while I wore the other.
Crying times two
The witching hour can be doubly stressful when both babies are losing it. Finding what soothes your babies can be challenging: One baby might prefer a different method than the other. Cheri Wagenbach, who has seven-year-old boy-girl twins, Alexander and Mackenzie, and two other kids, swears by infant swings. “Those two swings saved me when they were being fussy at the same time,” says Wagenbach. When my girls lost it, I would place one in a Rock ’n Play and rock them while wearing the other. It’s not fun to listen to two screaming infants, but using trial and error to find out what works for each baby takes patience and practice.
Asking for help isn’t always easy, but delegating tasks and having another set of hands to assist is key to surviving life with two newborns. Twin dad John Falvo recommends having a system in place to handle parenting responsibilities, which helped him and his wife, Jen, raise their 21-month-old daughters, Angelina and Sophia. “My wife and I are a team, so we need to share the work,” says Falvo. “I bathe the girls while she dresses them. Before bed, I make their lunches for the next day. We alternate who does the dishes. Sometimes one parent will take on more than the other parent, and you need to communicate so it doesn’t impact the marriage.”
For single parents raising twins, relying on grandparents for support can be critical during those first few weeks. Single mom Lehra Samadhi temporarily moved in with her retired mother and stepfather when her twin sons, Raj and Axl, were born. “My mom was a tremendous help during the newborn phase,” says Samadhi.
Rely on experts, like a sleep consultant, night nurse or therapist, to help when you need professional advice or much needed sleep. “Having twins is crazy hard and exhausting,” says Ballew, who would book a 45-minute therapy session every few weeks to help her through this trying time.
The best advice I got from other twin parents was that it gets easier after the first six months. It does get better. While it might seem like the days are never ending, the months are short and soon you’ll be cheering on fellow twin parents who are going through those newborn phases with the same highs and lows that you did.