Parenting Special Situations Part Two

With twins, parenting means double the fatigue, double the fun. While most parents find the first year of life with twins a bit of a blur, here’s how to make caring for multiples easier.

Doubly prepared.With ultrasound now routine during prenatal care, twins seldom come as a surprise. And remember, multiples usually come two or three weeks early. Waiting until the last minute may find you with an unfeathered nest. Do most of your baby buying and nursery designing before your final months of pregnancy. In the last trimester, join the Mothers of Twins Club in your community. Attend their meetings before the birth of your babies and continue throughout at least the first year or two. There is no better resource than experienced parents sharing time- and energy-saving tips.

Double team.With singletons father involvement is a choice. With multiples it’s a must. In caring for twins the mother-father roles are not clear-cut. Except for breastfeeding (and even here dad has duties), all the high-maintenance tasks of infant care can be shared by father. Yes, attachment parenting multiples takes more time and effort, but you get double the rewards. You may not be able to do the whole attachment parenting package all of the time. Do the best you can with the resources you have.

Dinner for two.Try to get both babies on a simultaneous feeding schedule. If dad is home, and you are bottle feeding, each parent can feed a baby at the same time. If you are breastfeeding use the holding positions shown below.

Holding patterns for twins.Experiment with all these positions to find which combination works best for you and your babies.

* Unless sitting in bed, use a footstool to elevate your lap to better contain both babies. The double clutch hold allows you to control the babies’ head movements in case one or both tend to throw their heads back during breastfeeding. When breastfeeding in this position, be sure to support yourself and the babies with lots of pillows, or purchase a special designed nursing pillow (available from La Leche League).

* For the cross-cradle position, put one baby in the cradle hold, then put the other baby to the other breast in the cradle hold — they’ll have their heads apart and their legs and feet crisscrossing. Again, use lot of pillows for support.

* In the parallel position, one baby is in the cradle hold and one is in the clutch hold so that their bodies are lying in the same direction. The cradled baby is on your arm (on a pillow) and the clutched baby is on a pillow, the back of his neck held by your hand.

Double duties. As with simultaneous feedings, try to get babies on a similar sleep schedule. Having two set times during the day when all three of you lie down together helps establish a consistent nap routine. In the early months, double bathing will be impossible without four hands. If you find two in the tub too cumbersome, bathe one while the other one plays. Realize that babies don’t need daily baths. Bathe one baby one day, the second the next, and yourself the third. Daily sponging of the face and diaper area during the out-of-tub days should suffice.

Doubly organized.With the birth of your twins comes an honorary degree in time management. Do what you have to do and delegate the rest. Give dad, grandma, or a trusted friend your shopping list. Let wait what can wait. Ask your equally tired friends at Mothers of Twins for shortcuts, for example, with preparing food. Diaper service is a real asset if you’re using cloth diapers.

Double up in bed.Instead of putting babies in separate bassinets in the hospital, most twins calm more quickly and settle better if placed side-by-side or face-to-face in the same bassinet. After all, they have been womb-mates for nine months. As they get older, juggle sleep areas depending on whether they sleep better snuggled next to each other or separately.

Get help.Hire household help, at least in the early months. For parents of twins this is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. If your friends ask what you need or what they can give you, ask for housekeeping help and solicit brought-in meals.

Carrying double.Carried babies cry less. Veteran parents have learned that this style of parenting calms babies. Double this for twins. One crying baby can set off the other, and the cumulative effects of double wailing can be nerve-racking. Get two baby slings, one for mom and one for dad, and frequently wear your babies out for a walk. The great outdoors can be a mind saver when you are feeling housebound.

Seeing double.If you have trouble telling your identical babies apart, try these labels: a bracelet on one, painting toenails different colors, cutting one’s hair differently, and identifying clothing. Even for identicals, if you give each a total body scan you usually notice an identifying birthmark, dimple, or other feature that belongs only to one. Trying to match four look-alike shoes is the worst case of mistaken identity. Either buy different looking pairs or use different shoelaces. As twins get older, even the most identical-looking ones develop unique features.

Name that twin.Keep in mind you are parenting individuals, not twins. Call them by their names, rather than “the twins.”

Alike but different.As these little mates grow older, be prepared for them to play both ends. They like the specialness of being twins but also want to be individuals. One day they may want to dress alike; the next they may want to dress differently. Ride with the flow, treating them alike when they want to be twins and differently when they want to be individuals.

There’s an extra dimension to watching twin development — babies relating to each other. Doubling the humor balances doubling the work load. The arrival of the sitting and crawling age is a major relief milestone for parents, as the duo can entertain each other, giving you much-needed baby breaks. Then comes the surveillance stage, as your eyes wander Ping-Pong-like, keeping both babies under your watchful gaze. The high-maintenance stage of twin raising soon lessens but never passes. Such are the joys of parenting, a baby — and another baby.

There will be more articles on infants, breast or bottle feeding and other related topics to follow. So please keep an eye out for more of my articles.

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