More than 1.5 per cent of pregnancies and births result in twins or multiple births. For the recent decades there’s an overall increasing trend, perhaps because of genetic factors, the mother’s age (the older the mother the higher chance of giving birth to twins) and fertility treatments.
Whichever is the case, caring for your twin babies is a challenge not just today but also for the long term. There are unique challenges parents face because of multiple births and raising two or more babies at the same time.
First, it seems impossible to meet the needs of both twins at the same time. Caring for one baby is a real challenge itself and caring for two, well you’ve immediately realised the overwhelming logistics and potential heavy sleep deprivation for at least a year.
For instance, the sleeping and waking hours of newborns are unpredictable and for the two babies most often they won’t match. The parents’ exhaustion is immeasurable and this makes caring for the twins a lot more challenging. The mum’s physical and mental function suffers which is why it can also be hard to pay attention to the babies’ needs and perhaps spot health issues such as serious rashes and fever.
That’s why the first step is to get more sleep and one way to accomplish this is by getting help. It’s great to have two relatives or friends who can support you especially in the early days. This way you can catch some naps here and there and assist you with laundry, cleaning, cooking and other tasks. Being a parent is overwhelming and exhausting and it seems being a supermum is the only way. Thankfully, there could be relatives and friends who are willing to help you catch some sleep and let you better focus on caring for your twins (e.g. instead of cooking, going to the supermarket or doing the laundry).
Another way to get more sleep (and keep your physical and mental functions at reasonable levels) is by ensuring that your babies get the sleep they need. This can be tricky and challenging because as mentioned earlier, the babies’ sleep hours often won’t match and one might disturb the other. To get around this, many parents found swaddling and letting the newborns share the space with their co-twins. This might be effective because the twins were used to being together and inside the womb (swaddling emulates the environment and feeling inside the womb). The comforting presence and environment can help your babies fall asleep faster (and perhaps get longer uninterruptible sleep).
What about logistics? Best thing to do here is to implement a scheduled and structured approach (make it more predictable and manageable). For example, you can breastfeed both your twin babies at the same time (it takes time getting used to it) and stick to a schedule (rather than feeding on demand). As your babies grow, you can introduce bedtime rituals (e.g. reading a bedtime story to them) to establish a routine and their expectations (they always know what comes next). This way each day will be more predictable. This also has a result of making the sleep and waking times (and changing the nappies) somewhat uniform.
Aside from breastfeeding and sleeping, another challenge is bathing. A good way to avoid the chaos is to prepare beforehand the clothes, nappies and towels. Just like with breastfeeding, it also helps to bathe them at the same time. Again, it’s good to have an assistant here (an extra pair of helping hands) so that the task gets easier and the babies stay safe.
Competition and squabbling can be intense between the twins (especially as they grow up) because they always share the same space and compete for the mum’s attention. The never-ending cycle of fighting and squabbling can deplete the parents’ patience (and disrupt everyone’s sleep).
The straightforward solution to this is to be always fair and equal. However, nobody’s perfect and making sure each twin gets his/her turn is impossible to achieve 24/7. One might need a little more attention and the other may get ignored. In these cases, it’s great to keep the other occupied by allowing him/her to play while you’re busy with the one needing your attention. This way no one feels ignored and both will always feel loved.
Parents of twin babies face unique challenges that most other mums won’t be able to imagine. It’s difficult and it doesn’t get any easier. The important thing here is that both receive proper care and enough attention from you. To accomplish this, it’s always good to be properly rested and getting all the help you need so that you can better focus on taking care of your twin babies.