Tips for expectant parents of multiples from those who have already walked the same road
CONGRATULATIONS you’re expecting twins, triplets or more! Hopefully you have gotten over the initial shock and surprise that you have more than one baby on board! As you engage on the exciting journey of being a parent of multiples you are probably asking yourself-where do I start, what do I need, how am I going to look after more than one baby??? Pause, Take a deep breath…you can do this. Being a parent of multiples is challenging yes, but oh so very rewarding.
As part of Multiple Birth Awareness week, we asked the Australian Multiple Birth Association for their expertise after many years of supporting parents of multiples and seeing and hearing about their day to day lives – both the challenges and the wins! They have provided some great tips that they share with you below. By no means are you expected to do everything on this list. Many parents of multiples will tell you – do what works for you. You could read every book/blog/app around but be prepared that what works for you will be individual and specific to your family. Having twins, triplets or more is not the same as having a single baby or even two babies close in age so it can be helpful to hear what worked for someone who has walked a similar journey to the one you have begun.
1. JOIN your local AMBA club
Join before you have your babies and attend a pre-natal parent night or go along to a playgroup-the information, tips and tricks you will learn along the way will be invaluable. Have a look at the prams parents use, how they go about feeding and managing their multiples…they won’t mind if you ask a million questions either. The people you meet will become a great support network for when your babies arrive and as they grow.
2. Be ORGANISED
BEFORE YOUR BABIES ARRIVE:
- Be as organised as you can before your babies arrive because once they arrive you will be busy and will hear yourself saying “I wish I had…”
- Prepare meals and freeze them. Have lunches and dinners ready to go that can easily be defrosted. These are a necessity for the first few months and later on as you have an unsettled day or two. It will save you a late night pizza run…not that there is anything wrong with needing to grab takeaway! Lunches can be difficult to get organised so having single potions that are easy to defrost are perfect.
- A pile of healthy and easy to eat (with one hand) snacks and drinks are a must especially while breastfeeding as your body needs the extra nutrients and fluids-but it is going to be the last thing you think of when you have your hands full with babies!
- Stock up on nappies and wipes. You will need PLENTY and it saves you a last minute dash out the door to buy a box of nappies which is not an easy task with a double pram. Wipes can and will be used for EVERYTHING! From dirty bottoms, to cleaning up dribble, vomit, sticky fingers…you will even find yourself using them to wipe down your bench and clean up dust and cobwebs so you will never have too many! Buying items in bulk and when on sale will save you money too. A box of infant nappies is handy to have in the cupboard because your babies will grow so quickly and you don’t want to be stuck short.
- Buy a good pram and practice opening it, closing it and putting it in and out of your boot. The same goes for your car seats. You don’t want the first time you do this to be with screaming babies-you wouldn’t believe how tricky some of them are to use!
ONCE YOUR BABIES ARE HOME:
- Having a routine will make things easier when you have multiple babies to feed, change, entertain, and put to sleep…repeat. Find a routine that works for you and don’t worry about what other people say you should do it is important to do what works for you and your babies.
- Get a notepad and organise it with a column for each child. Especially in the early days you can record times of feeds, nappies, sleeps and medication. It is very helpful in those first few weeks and months when doctors and nurses will ask how frequently each child feeds, how many wet nappies etc. and you will likely reply “lots!” It is also hard to remember who you have given pain relief to and the time especially overnight when things can be a blur. An alternative is to use the notes page on your mobile phone to record all this information.
- Save yourself some time and the risk of forgetting things by packing your nappy bag the night before you go out. Keep a bag in the boot of your car with nappies, a change of clothes for you and each baby, wipes etc. so you always have it there in case of an emergency.
- Order your groceries online and get them delivered. This is especially great for your larger shops which are near impossible to complete alone.
- Keep an eye on how much petrol is in your car and try and fill up when you’re out with your partner or when someone else can take your car to be filled up. This saves you getting your babies out of the car, into a pram and then back into the car again.
Learn to say YES to all offers of help. Family and friends wouldn’t offer you assistance if they didn’t want to. The most valuable gifts to be given are a home cooked meal, having chores completed, picking up the groceries, watching the babies for 10 minutes while you have a shower. And if you need help don’t be afraid to ask family and friends, after all you only have 2 hands!
By now you will have heard people say it everywhere but we really mean it, sleep as much as you can before your babies arrive. The first few months of round the clock feeds and settling of multiple babies will leave you feeling exhausted and emotional. Things will become easier but starting with some energy reserves is a great help. In the early days get yourself into a good routine of sleeping when your babies sleep-including during the day. Even a couple of broken hours can make a massive difference and leave your ready and prepared to tackle the day after a sleepless night.
Don’t feel pressured to breastfeed your babies. If you can’t or you don’t want to breastfeed don’t feel guilty regardless of the pressure you may receive from midwives. Your babies can get the nutrition they need from formula. You have to do what is the right thing for both you and your babies. Try to keep your babies on the same feeding schedule if you can or else you will find yourself feeding all day. A twin feeding pillow can also be a life saver.
So you’re thinking-“I’ve got more than one baby to look after and only one pair of hands right?” In those early days bouncers/swings can be a life saver. It can entertain one baby while you nurse/feed another, you can have hands free time so you can grab a drink, some food etc. without these many multi-parents will tell you they would have gone crazy. Accepting that it is ok for one baby to wait for a few minutes while you tend to the other one is very important-you are only one person and you are doing your best.
7. GETTING OUT AND ABOUT
As soon as you can get out of the house even if it’s just for a quick walk around the block-you will feel so much better for it and will build up your confidence for regular outings. Be prepared for LOTS of comments and questions about your babies when you are out in the community. Your standard trip to the shops may take a little bit longer than you thought as everyone appears to be curious and delighted in your multiples!
Accept that this can wait. As tough as it can be, your visitors aren’t coming to see your house; they are coming to see you and your babies. You only have 2 arms and it is more important to use those and your energy to look after your babies. If you can afford it you could periodically hire a house cleaner or ask for this as a baby shower gift.
9. STAYING SANE
Remember that not every day will go to plan, take a deep breath, relax and say to yourself this will pass. Don’t punish yourself for needing to break routine to survive the day. Tomorrow is a new day. It does get easier! It is hard to find time for “you” after you have put everyone else’s needs first but to keep yourself going make sure you do something even small for yourself on a regular basis. Go for a walk without the babies, catch up with a friend, have a bath or finish a cup of coffee while it is still hot!
Having a baby can be tough on a relationship, so extra babies plus sleep deprivation and hormonal changes can make those early days tough. It is this time when it is especially important to care for and nurture each other. Hot tip for partners-an hour or two off to allow mum some sleep or have a hot bath will be welcomed with open arms! A small gesture can turn your week around!
Finally, try not to compare your multiples development to a single baby’s development especially if your babies were born prematurely. If your paediatrician and maternal child health nurse are satisfied with their development feel reassured that they will learn to do things in their own time even if that is slightly later than their peers.
Most importantly enjoy the wonderful and exciting journey of being a parent of multiples!
For more info and to find support as a parent of multiples, visit The Australian Multiple Birth Association website.
This article has been published with the permission of the AMBA.