My Grandmother was a twin and my brother has twins so it’s something I often think about. I can’t imagine how difficult a juggling act it is after multiple births, so we turned to our wonderful resident expert maternity nurse Mary Ashton to give us a bit of help and advice for anyone with twins or more!
So you’re pregnant with a multiple birth – congratulations! Are you over the shock yet? All the multiple birth parents I have worked with over the years will admit that shock and fear was their first reaction when they found out that they were expecting more than one baby. However they all love their “bunch” of babies and wouldn’t be without them.
I’m not going to lie to you having more than one baby is tough – both during the pregnancy and once they have been born. However I have compiled a few tricks and bits of advice that I have used over the years of looking after newborn twins, hopefully these will help to make your life a little bit easier in the early days.
Before the birth:
Bed rest – I know it’s thing most people want to avoid especially if you already have a child or two. Even if a Doctor hasn’t advised you I know quite a few mums who have done a self-imposed modified bed rest in the last months. At the end of the day it works and with the chances of your babies being early, every day you can keep them inside is incredibly important and you will be thankful in the end when they are born.
I always tell my pregnant clients, regardless of how many babies they are expecting, that the last trimester is when you are supposed to sit and eat and grow your baby.
Pram/Buggy – I have just a couple of pieces of advice when it comes to buying a buggy for your multiples. Firstly, measure your door frames; on a rainy day the ability to wheel the buggy straight through the front door and into your house with be a godsend. As a general rule of thumb if you can lift the buggy onto the counter in the shop when you are pregnant you should be able to lift it into your car boot. Finally remember that even though your babies when they are born may be tiny, they are only going to grow and get heavier. So think about how heavy the buggy is going to be with two big toddlers in it.
Support – Many years ago when I worked as a nanny to triplets I used to run my local twins club and through that learned the importance of multiple mums supporting each other. The most useful time for this contact seems to be before the birth and during the first few years of the babies’ life. I recommend you join the national Twins and Multiple Birth Association (TAMBA). They will also be able to point you in the direction of your nearest local twins club so you can get in touch.
Chances are you will have your babies early, of the 25 sets of multiples I have cared for only two were delivered on time at 38 weeks, and if you are having a C-section you are probably looking at around four days in hospital after delivery. However you end up delivering your babies you can be assured it will be more intense, emotional and overwhelming than having just one baby. Due to an early delivery, premature babies or possibly an emergency C-section.
Arriving home – So you have your babies and you are all finally home and everyone wants to come and visit. Now I understand that you can’t keep immediate family away but I do strongly suggest that you limit your visitors for the first few weeks. Especially if your partner is off work, enjoy some time with your new family and let the babies settle into their new environment. You will be glad of some company once your partner is back at work.
Feeding – However you decide to feed your babies hopefully these tips will help. Feed them at the same time and by that I mean one after the other, if one wakes up for food feed that one and then wake the other one and feed them. It is ok to wake a sleeping baby for food and also it will help organise your day a little bit so you are not constantly feeding or waiting for a baby to wake up. If you are breastfeeding and it is going well and you want to try and feed the babies together latch the baby who is more difficult on first. Tandem breastfeeding can also help with the let down if one baby is a poorer feeder.
Something I started doing when I worked with premature identical twin boys and I wanted to be sure in the night when I was tired which baby was which, was to place them the same side of the cot every night. So I knew baby A was on the right side of the cot and baby B on the left. This has stuck with me ever since and goes beyond cot placement now. I also use it when making up bottle-feeds for multiples. With premature multiples it is not uncommon for them to be on some form of medication even if it’s just vitamins and iron but there is a chance the babies may be on different medications to each other. By making up the bottles with baby A’s on the right and baby B’s on the left I always know whose is who’s regardless of how tired I am.
Identical – If you are going to have identical twins or triplets you could consider giving each one a colour of clothes for example blue and brown for boys. You wouldn’t need to dress them in that colour everyday because you as parents will get to know who is who pretty quickly. However it will enable visitors and occasional helpers to call each baby by their own name. It may sound silly to do this when they are so little but you would be amazed how easy it is to refer to them as the twins. Fostering individuality is incredibly important in all multiple births but especially with identical ones.
Sleep – Sleep when your baby sleeps is an old piece of advice but it’s a good one – if you can get them sleeping together in the day then lay down as well. Even if you don’t actually sleep you will be resting your body, which is just as important. You will have plenty of time to put that load of washing on in an hour when one of them wakes up.
Support – If you can afford it some kind of help when the babies have arrived is a great idea and allows you sometime to recover from the birth. Whether it’s full time help like a maternity nurse (make sure they have experience with twins) or some part time help like a night nurse or even a cleaner to help around the house whilst you look after the babies.
Equipment – Don’t be tempted even for a minute to buy a sling that means you can carry both the babies at the same time. Even if your back has survived a multiple pregnancy without any pain this is such a bad idea. I tried one once and all the weight was on my neck I could barley stand up straight and the babies weren’t even that big! Tiny love makes a play mat that is slightly larger than average, which will help when there is more than one baby.
You will become an excellent multi-tasker as a multiple mum – I am currently working with premature newborn twins and one is sleeping on my chest as I write this article!
Finally, a little trick for new mothers of triplets I once heard: If your partner is helping you do the night feed pick the slowest baby to feed that way your partner has to feed the third one and you get to go back to bed sooner once your one has finished.