Baby & Pregnancy

Caring for Twins

Caring for Twins
Written by Sarah


Your feelings are perfectly understandable. After all, caring for one child is daunting enough for many new parents, and having two at the same time can be a real jolt. Often, such concerns are unwittingly reinforced by the reactions of friends and family. Remember that no parents receive all the support they need; every new mom and dad could use more time, help, training, money and emotional backing.

With twins, these needs double, and more. You’ll require much more help than just your partner can give, so resist the urge to blame him — or yourself — when stress starts to build, and reach out for help. Find out whether your insurance plan will pay for a home visit from a nurse, or consider hiring a doula to help out during the first days or weeks at home. “Make sure you have family or friends on call if you need them,” advises Emma of New Zealand, the mother of identical girls, Charlotte and Alaina. “You have to let people know exactly what you want. Tell them politely to go away if you don’t want them there, but don’t be too proud to ask for help if you need it.”

Emma says she coped by relaxing her standards. “You have to come to terms with the fact that there are not enough hours in the day to keep the house spanking clean,” she says. “And if you just concentrate on the babies for at least the first three months, you will be a lot less stressed about everything.” She was lucky enough to have a mother who dropped in every day for weeks and did the dishes — then disappeared. “That type of help you really need.”

Can I still breastfeed with twins?

Sure. Feeding two is no harder because increased demand increases milk production. Finding a method that works may take some practice and patience, however. The trick is to find a comfortable position that works for you. Geri Martin Wilson, mother of two sets of twins in Palo Alto, Calif., breastfed her first twins until they were 2 years old and she’s still breastfeeding the second set, now nine months old. She uses a twin nursing pillow with each twin’s head cradled in a hand. Simultaneous nursing saves time and has other benefits as well. “Nursing at the same time helps put them on the same nap schedule,” says Martin Wilson. “If one wakes up at night, 95 percent of the time we wake the other up and I nurse him or her, too.”

But for Teresa Edgington of Cincinnati, things weren’t so simple. In the beginning, she tried nursing both twins, but her boy, Christian, didn’t nurse well and required lots of bottles, so Teresa switched her strategy. “It became easier to nurse one and bottle-feed the other,” she says. “Emi is predominantly breastfed and Christian nurses for comfort.”

How long a maternity leave should I plan on taking?

Like most women who’ve just given birth, you’re probably wondering how you can possibly juggle a job with parenting twins. But the deciding factors still come down to what works best for you and your family, your babies’ health, how you feel physically and emotionally, your financial circumstances and your workplace environment.

As for maternity leave, the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after you give birth. Companies with fewer than 50 employees — the vast majority — are exempt, although they may have their own policies. If you work in a three-person office and you’re indispensable, you may find it tough to take time off.

On the other hand, with no strict guidelines imposed by law, you may be able to work out your own informal arrangement. “The plus side for those people working for smaller employers is that there may be more room to negotiate,” says Jennifer Kosko, who took 10 weeks’ maternity leave from her job as vice president of meetings and trade shows for an association. She then worked full-time until her twins were 3 years old and now does part-time consulting.

You may also be surprised to learn that when you’re pregnant with twins or more, your employer isn’t obligated by law to allow you any more time off than if you were having one baby. However, many mothers of twins find getting back into the swing of things more difficult. If you feel you need more time off, consider discussing the matter with your company’s human resources department, or talk to your boss about taking an extended leave or part-time or work-from-home arrangements. You may also decide to take a break from your career. Remember, whatever you decide works for you is the right answer to this question.

How can I find other parents of twins to talk to?

Parents of twins will empathize with your situation like no one else can. Jennifer Kosko, president of the Fairfax County, Virginia, chapter of the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, has attended the group’s meetings since she became pregnant. “There are a lot of things that can make your life easier and it’s worth investigating, even if you’re not one of those joiners,” she says.

Case in point: Many mothers of twins find the gawking and comments that people can make insensitive and inappropriate. “You’re still put on display …, and it’s nice to come home to this group and not feel that way,” says Kosko. “When you’ve got one baby on one knee and you’re burping the other, nobody bats an eye.”

Mothers in Kosko’s group share tips on how to deal with well-meaning relatives and friends, shop for the right baby products and equipment, save money and stay sane — information you’re not going to get from parenting classes.

Contact the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (800-243-2276) for a referral to a club in your community, or try the Triplet Connection (209-474-0885). “My local twins club morning coffee has been fantastic for establishing contact with other mothers of multiples,” says Emma. “I started going when I was pregnant to get a bit of a feel for it — a bit scary at first, but it is better than being thrown in the deep end,” she says.

If no club is near you, another option is communicating via e-mail, which Emma uses to stay connected to mothers of twins all over the world. “It’s fantastic to have contact with other parents of multiples, as some baby advice doesn’t always prove useful when you are coping with more than one,” she says. “It’s nice to know that someone out there has been through it all, too.”

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