Illustration: Olivia Mew
If there’s one thing I learned when my twins were born, it’s that two babies need a lot of stuff. Thankfully, you don’t need two of everything—there are lots of items your littles can share or that you won’t end up needing at all. While a double stroller (or two or three) is a must, you don’t have to double up on every item, and a lot of the things that your babies will outgrow quickly are much better borrowed or bought second-hand (I’m looking at you, bassinet). Read on for some twin-mom wisdom on what you really need for your two-for-one special delivery.
Two car seats When shopping for infant seats, look for models with a lower weight limit of four pounds (the lowest on the market) to accommodate preemies, as many twins are born preterm and most hospitals won’t let you take the babies home unless they can ride safely in a car seat. Test the seats out in your car before buying them to make sure they fit, and have them checked by a certified car seat technician to ensure that they’re installed correctly. Same goes for convertible seats once the twins have outgrown their infant seats (upper weight limits range from 22 to 35 pounds, but your babies may outgrow them heightwise before they hit the maximum weight). This is especially important if you’re trying to fit three across if there’s another child in the vehicle, as some seats are narrower than others. Never buy or borrow used car seats unless they’re from someone you trust with your children’s lives and you know they haven’t been in an accident or are past their expiry dates (which are usually stamped right on the seat). If you can’t find the expiry date, call the manufacturer, who can tell if the seat is expired based on the serial number.
Double strollers Yep, strollers in plural. You’re going to need at least two double strollers before the kids are independently mobile because one won’t meet all your needs. During the first few months, a lightweight, easy-fold stroller frame that will hold your infant car seats, such as a Snap-N-Go, comes in handy—though it’s not necessary if your regular stroller accommodates two car seats. This stroller allows you to easily transfer sleeping babies from the car to the stroller without taking them out of their car seats and is perfect for trips to the mall or grocery store when you need a compact stroller.
You’ll also want an everyday stroller that grows with your babies. Tandem strollers (where one seat is in front of the other) are easier for manoeuvring through doorways and in stores, while side-by-side options tend to be better in the snow. It’s a matter of preference. I was a fan of the side-by-side stroller because I walked a lot with my babies and felt more secure with the wider wheel base, but today’s add-on strollers (such as UPPAbaby Vista and Baby Jogger City Select) are much sturdier options than the ones I had to choose from. Once the babies are big enough to sit up, a lightweight, collapsible double-umbrella stroller is great for travelling and throwing in the trunk for outings.
One crib—to start Those little bundles of joy have been snuggled up together in your belly for months, so sharing a crib until they start rolling around is no biggie. Having only one set of sheets to change when they have synchronized diaper leaks (oh, yes, this will happen) also makes life much easier. If you have two cribs from the beginning and you live in a multi-storey house, consider setting up cribs on different floors so that you don’t have to cart two babies up the stairs for every nap. (Alternatively, you can use a playpen for this purpose.) This goes for change stations, too. You’re going to be changing a lot of diapers, so having a fully stocked change table and a diaper pail on each floor is super-helpful.
Double nursing pillow Nursing two babies at the same time is possible but a lot harder without a good double breastfeeding pillow. Depending on what feels most comfortable, you might opt for a softer pillow that moulds to your back and provides a little support or a firmer one that keeps the babies exactly where you place them so you won’t find yourself leaning forward to maintain a proper latch as they sink into the soft surface. A pillow that is M-shaped rather than C-shaped is great for bottle feeding, too, as you can prop up each baby in a separate curve.
Two high chairs Once your babies are big enough to sit at the table, consider two portable high chairs over freestanding ones. Some clip directly onto the table, while others can be strapped to regular chairs. These can be a lifesaver if you’re venturing out to a restaurant, visiting others during mealtimes or travelling, and they take up less space in your home, too. They’re also a good thing to look for used. While fabric seats can get grubby, easy-clean moulded plastic options can be found for cheap and last forever.
One bouncy chair and one swing Start with one of each until you know your babies’ preferences. Some kids love bouncers, while others can’t get enough of swings. Double up on their favourite one and store or sell the unloved item.
One playmat and two exersaucers Both of these items can take up a lot of floor space, but while you can get away with only one floor mat—the babies can both fit on one or you can rotate who is on the mat at any given time—there is something about being face to face in a pair of exersaucers that babies just love. My twosome spent hours in their “circles of neglect” over the months, bouncing and making noises at each other (which was often the only way I had time to make dinner). Get two different models to keep things interesting.
Double electric breast pump This is a big-ticket item—ranging anywhere from $140 to almost $500—but if you’re planning to breastfeed, it’s worth it. Many hospitals will rent industrial-grade machines for around $25 a week, so if you’re not sure that nursing will work out, try before you buy. Avoid purchasing used breast pumps. You might save a few dollars, but the internal parts can’t be cleaned the same way that hospital machines can and you don’t want to run the risk of giving your baby contaminated breastmilk.
Bottle sterilizer There are microwave and electric options, but either way, you’re going to want one of these if your babies take bottles. Look for large-capacity steamer units with flexible designs that allow you to throw in pacifiers, breast pump parts and bottles.
Twin-specific baby carrier There will be many times when the only way you can get anything done is by strapping two babies to your chest. Depending on your preference and what’s most comfortable, you may opt for a wrap-style carrier (you can find twin-wrapping techniques online), double up on slings or purchase a special carrier designed for two babies.
Lots of sleepers You will have so many cute baby outfits, but the truth is, your babies will be in sleepers and onesies most of the time, so have ample stock of these items. For sleepers, you’ll want ones with zippers rather than snaps, which make life much easier and diaper changes faster. If you’re having boy-girl twins, opt for neutral colours so that they can share or colour-code identical twins so that it’s easier for people to tell them apart. Have at least two sleepers per day per baby in stock—diaper blowouts are real.
Diapers, diapers and more diapers The average newborn goes through 10 to 12 diapers a day. Multiply that by two. Once you’ve figured out your brand preference, check online for coupons and deals and stock up when they’re on sale. Even if they only have a size up from what you’re currently using, get them when they’re cheap because you’re going to need them soon anyway. If someone coming over for a visit asks if she can bring anything, tell her to grab a box on her way over. For cloth diapers, use a service that will pick up soiled diapers and deliver clean ones to your door. There is honestly no way that you’re going to have time to wash them all by yourself.
Packable playpen Portable playpens are multi-use objects: They can be used as cribs for naptime, containment zones when you have to turn your back for a few minutes, and holding cells by the front door when you’re loading the babies into a stroller one at a time. You can probably make do with one, but if you’re using them for naps, you’ll find that having two is easier once the babies get a bit bigger.
Bibs and baby blankets A teething baby can soak a cloth bib in a matter of minutes, so have a stack of these on hand. Lightweight cotton baby blankets are great for swaddling, covering a sleeping baby in the stroller or car seat, using as a sun shield for the stroller and doubling up as burpcloths—you can’t have too many.
Help Taking care of two infants is hard, hard work. Even if both parents are on the job 24-7, there will be times when you can’t do it all. If you have friends and family who offer to help, say yes. If you can afford to hire a helper—even if it’s only for an hour or two to handle nighttime feeds—do it. This is not the time to be a hero because you will burn out—and that’s bad news for everyone. Take heart, there is a light at the end of the sleep-deprived tunnel: It gets easier, I promise.
Deals While it would be lovely to have everything brand new and matching, in reality that route can be ridiculously expensive. A lot of perfectly good baby stuff can be purchased second-hand or borrowed from friends and relatives. A great source for gear (as well as support and information) is your local Parents of Multiple Births Association (POMBA). Multiple Births Canada, the national organization, lists regional POMBAs across the country. Many chapters have robust online communities where members offer their preloved stuff and hold sales and swaps. (The biannual sales held by the Toronto chapter are huge, with thousands of quality items—from preemie clothing to double strollers—up for grabs.) If nothing else, the sense of community you’ll gain by sharing your experiences with people who truly understand your situation is priceless.