My twin baby boys, Smith + Sheppard, just passed their 6-month-old mark. I cannot believe it’s been that long already. I mean, I CAN, but it’s blurry and hangover-y, if you know what I mean. These two tiny dudes have gone from being all wrinkly and saggy to being full-roly-poly-thighed-barrell-tummied-jowly-cheeked monkeys who spit acorn squash out and inhale applesauce. Already, I feel like I’ve learned a lifetime of lessons. I feel like if I were to have twins again (NOT GOING TO HAPPEN), I’d be better prepared because I know more now. So why not share what I know, hey? Certainly there are folks out there (suckahs!) who are going to have twins. Ok, folks-what-are-going-to-have-twins, there are endless places you can read about all the major things – so here are a few nuanced secrets born of experience and love, to make your first 6 months easier.
There are two babies. There are two breasts. If you’ve decided to breast feed, it’s important to switch those babies from breast to breast. One baby will likely be a better sucker, and one breast will likely be a better producer. And you wanna keep mixing it up, so one baby doesn’t end up with all the milk, and one breast doesn’t end up being 3 cup sizes larger than the other. I randomly chose a time of day (Midnight Feeding), and a baby (Smith). These hair bands on my wrist symbolize which breast Smith is going to be on for the day. Every time the Night Feeding rolls around, I switch it to the other side. Easy. Helpful. Good. And also useful to put hair up in a ponytail on a humid day.
Do yourself a favor right before the babes are born, and get new sheets, new pillows, and a great blanket. Make your bed feel awesome. This was a treat for me because getting into an awesome bed feels good no matter what time of day it is, or how many times you’ve done it before throughout the night. Then, when the babes woke me up for the thirteenth time in the night, I knew, at least, that the sensation of crawling back into bed after helping them out was waiting for me. Sounds crazy. But it is lovely. And it makes getting out of bed a bit easier when you know how good it’s going to feel to get back in.
When we brought the boys home, my husband and I would change their diapers, nurse them and burp them while walking laps around the room until they were sound asleep each time they woke up during the night. This was kind of epic and long and drawn out and exhausting. Turns out you don’t have to actually change their diapers or wait until they’re comatose to get them back to bed. This is our streamlined system now. Babies cry, Anson gets them while I get ready to nurse them. He hands them to me. I nurse them, he takes the first one done, gets a burp, puts him down. I do the same with the second. We only change them once a night now, and they’ve learned to get to sleep on their own once in the crib. What used to take about an hour each time now takes twenty minutes. Super-extra-tip: Anson always falls asleep while I’m nursing. He keeps his phone in his hand and I just call him and hang up when I’m ready for him to get back on duty. Works better than startling the boys out of their zen-like-drunken-milk state by whisper/yelling, “Anson!” seventeen times. Also, I don’t get mad. That’s nice.
The Witching Hour:
The evening ends up being rather hard in the first couple of months. I found that being able to bathe my sons at the same time was a game changer. The bath calms them and they enjoy it and somehow breezes them past what Kara coined as “The Nightly Fight-lies”. You CAN do this on your own. My sister Lori found this bath seat for me on a sidewalk for free, and I ordered the second one from Amazon for $10. Best $ I ever spent, for real. Also: get your twins to bed for the night early. I was putting them down around 9:00 pm and could barely walk by 9:10 because I was exhausted. They now go to bed between 6:30 – 7:00 pm, and sleep until 6:00 am. They need this much sleep. And it is not a bad thing to enjoy a few hours baby-free during the evening with your adult and big kid homies.
Dads + Formula:
Alright. There are a few things here that people can get all upset and sanctimonious about but just don’t, ok? This is my advice, so hear me out. Dads are rarely going to have the magic touch that moms do with brand new babies. It’s just the way it is. Yet we really really really need someone to hand these babies off to and feel confident that they are going to be just fine. Twins are tough – and moms need breaks. Let your husband/partner/whatever take the babies for a while every day, and back off. Don’t offer advice, don’t hover, don’t intervene. They need to come into their own style of parenting, on their own terms. While it’s tempting to say, “Eh, you should actually do it like this…” don’t. Be quiet. Go away. Let them figure it out. Because then they will become confident and the baby will trust a confident parent and that is magical.
I have been breastfeeding my twins from the moment they were born until about 30 seconds ago when they went down for a nap. I have also been fine with giving them formula on occasion. This is a hot button issue for lots of people and I get it. But it’s not for me. My thought? If you can get your head around giving your twinnies formula every now and then (mine get it about once or twice a week), life gets much easier for you. You don’t have the pressure to pump between feedings so that there is food for them when you’re gone. I mean – trust me. There’s plenty of pressure in millions of other areas that if you can sidestep this, do it. This has also been the way that Anson can let me sleep in on the weekends. I get up first thing in the morning with the boys, feed them and hand them off for a few blissful, very well-deserved hours of old-fashioned sleeping-in-on-the-weekend sleep. I sleep past their next feeding, and Anson gives them formula. And you know what? They still love to breastfeed, Anson gets time feeding them (a bonding experience, no doubt), and I wake up happy and gorgeous. Well, at least happy.
If you’ve read up on having twins, you’re well versed in how important schedules are. Truthfully, I live and die by the schedules I’ve set up for Smith + Shep. If one wakes, I wake the other. They eat at the same time, they nap at the same time, get dressed at the same time, and have their diapers changed at the same time. However, Anson has pointed out that scheduling should be like the terror-alert system. Shades of color. The first month? Code: Green. Don’t sweat it. The first month, just do what feels right for you. Sleep with them in your bed, in a rocker, on the couch, wherever. Hand one off to someone else and cuddle and sleep and feed. Then do it with the other. I feel like the first month is simply an introduction, and no bad habits are being taught or learned. It’s a honeymoon and should be soft and fuzzy and gooey and lovely and sweet.
In the second month, it’s a good idea to ease into a schedule. Start trying to get them synchronized, but don’t get military about it. By the third month, it’s time to consider scheduling at Code: Orange, and you’ll be moving on to Code: Red by four months, where you’ll be for the next few years.
The schedule is your friend, it is the weapon that you master and wield against would-be chaos for years and years. You don’t need to become obsessed with it, but do be deliberate about it, and make it something that works for you. My rule of thumb: babies should never be awake for longer than 2 hours at a time. Schedule naps, outings and get-togethers accordingly. Well, that makes it hard to socialize, no? Hey! Guess what! Your life has changed in a major way. And that’s what having twins means. But it also means that your heart is going to explode with happiness when these babies smile and coo and even make weird demon sounds at you. It’s worth it. It’s worth is multiplied by a zillion. And your friends, neighbors, and family will understand and accommodate you because that’s what they do. (If they don’t, consider hiring my friends, neighbors and family because they are awesome.)
My biggest piece of advice is learn to laugh. During the most stressful of times, when both babies are crying and you are alone and can’t figure out how to make them both happy at once (or at all), try laughing. Laugh at yourself because it is ridiculous what you’re trying to accomplish. Laugh at me because sister, I’ve been there too, and had this same feeling of desperation. Laugh because sometimes the babies will take notice and figure it out on their own. But mostly just learn to laugh because we’re doing this twin thing out of love. And the more we laugh, the more we love, the more we love, the less we have to drink.
What would you add? What would you take away? You don’t have to be a parent of twins – but if you are – I’d love to hear your tips for the first six months!