5 tips for surviving your first year as a parent of twins
- Twins are more than twice the work compared to one baby. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
- Big ticket investments are totally worth it.
When my partner and I found out I was pregnant with twins for our second pregnancy, our first reaction was: "Are you joking?" The technician replied, "Oh no, I never joke about twins."
Panic set in and we started talking about needing to move to a bigger house, buying a bigger car, and managing the relentless sleeping and eating schedules of two newborns.
It's a year later and we survived, sanity mainly intact. Here are my top five tips for any parent who is blessed with twins:
1. Ask for help in advance
In my experience, people are happy to pitch in when you tell them you're expecting twins. The key is to figure out before they're born what kind of help you really want and need. (That way, you're not trying to google "night nurse tri-state area immediate availability" the day after you're back from the hospital.)
I knew from the postpartum days with my first child that my husband took care of both the baby and me after my C-section, so I did some research in my second trimester about other caregiving help. It felt extremely important to have another pair of hands to help us with not one but two newborns.
I am fortunate that through my employer, I have free access to Maven, which is a healthcare concierge service for family planning. I talked to a postpartum doula who walked me through what help they provide families. Finding the right doula takes some time (including figuring out insurance and costs) but it's one way to have peace of mind that you'll have professional help with the babies.
There are plenty of other ways to have folks in your life help out. Set up a meal prep day to put food in your freezer for later, or a food train where people drop off dishes during the first month home. Talk to family members about coming by to visit and be very clear about what you will need during that time (a nap? entertainment for the older sibling? help doing laundry?). Just ask!
2. Get a Costco (or Sam's Club) membership
Aside from the general benefits of buying in bulk — because you will need twice as much formula, milk, and other baby food as you normally would — you will at some point in your first year need to make an emergency diaper run. That's where a membership from a big-box retailer like Sam's Club or Costco comes in handy.
You should scout the best deals on diapers ahead of the twins' birth and stock up, of course, but I guarantee there will be one night when you've not slept for three days and you realize you are strapping on the last diaper in the house. Time for a Costco trip.
Pro tip: Don't forget to get extra wipes while you're there.
3. Decide which big-ticket investment is going to be the most worth it for your family — and then do it
Registries can be overwhelming so remember there are really only a few key things you need for newborns: food, diapers, bassinets, and car seats. For twins, you need two of everything, and that can add up quickly.
So if you're going to spend big, ask yourself what is most important. Do you want a high-tech bassinet that will help your babies sleep longer? Do you prefer a top-of-the-line car seat because safety is your top priority? Are you hoping to take the twins out for lots of strolls and want the best double stroller? Pick one and splurge.
Another big investment could be childcare: If what you really need is a nanny, night nurse, or babysitter to help you get through the days, do it.
For us, there were two items that seemed pricey in the beginning but have totally been worth it: a high-quality gym mat and a fence with a baby gate to go around it. Once our babies started sitting, crawling, and cruising we needed a safe place to keep them contained. They pretty much hang out there all day, every day.
4. Lean in to 'cry it out' for sleep training
This might be controversial since sleep training is not for everyone and the "cry it out" method has its share of criticism. But here's why it worked for us: nothing else did.
There was a brief period where the twins put themselves to sleep easily, but that didn't last. If you magically have two newborns who will go to sleep easily, you can ignore this. Most of us are not that lucky, however, and I knew I needed to sleep train.
Ferber worked for my firstborn but was an utter failure with the twins. Nothing less than shutting them in the room together to cry at bedtime was successful at actually getting them to go to sleep. For middle-of-the-night wakings, after checking to make sure a diaper or hunger was not the issue, the answer was the same: put the baby down gently and walk out of the room.
I respect that some parents will want to comfort their twins to sleep, but in thinking about my own mental health and the need to parent the next day, "cry it out" was the thing to get us through the nights.
5. Give yourself grace.
Parenting a newborn in the first year is hard. Whether you have a partner or are a single parent, whether the child is your first or you already experienced, bringing home a new baby and becoming a parent is a tough job.
Caring for twins at times feels like even more than twice the work because it's truly nonstop.
The first year is challenging, but once you've made it past survival mode, you can enjoy all the cool things that come with raising twins.
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