When we found out that I was pregnant with our second set of twins, our first set of twins were only a few months old. Our reaction was not what you would expect. We were already exhausted mentally and physically from our first set of twins, who spent a month in the NICU because they were born a few months early. The thought of having a second set of twins was actually terrifying. Of course I felt blessed that after trying for several years to have children with no luck, we naturally ended up with twins twice, one year apart.
If you just found out that you are expecting twins for the first or second time, take a deep breath because you will survive it and you and your multiples will be in for the adventure of your life. The first key to survival with multiples is to take care of yourself and keep yourself healthy, so that you can take care of "double trouble."
The second key is to know what to expect and to be prepared. For example, the night we were supposed to take our first set of princesses home, we were expected to stay overnight in the hospital in a separate room with the babies. Many hospital NICUs make this a requirement so that if parents have any questions or concerns the first night alone with the babies, nurses will be there to help. This was actually very comforting. Just be prepared for early delivery, because it is not entirely uncommon that twins are born premature and have to stay in the NICU until close to their due date.
It is also very common that premature twins take a bit longer to learn the sucking motion for eating, so they have to be fed smaller amounts more often. This means that you could be waking up with the babies as often as every two to three hours to feed them. Remember, you are feeding two babies, not one, and you can't feed them at the same time, so this can be a slow process.
Because some parents have to go back to work, one parent may have to go solo in the middle of the night. The first few weeks after delivery it can be very helpful to Mom if Dad can take the first feeding of the early evening and Mom can try to sleep for a few hours early in the night. I used to try to go to sleep early in the night around 9 p.m. and my husband would take the early-evening feeding. Then I would wake up and take the midnight feeding.
Trust me, you are going to need every trick in the book to cut your feeding time down so that you and the babes can get back to sleep quickly.
To keep the babies from spitting up after feeding, try to feed them in a more upright position. Cradling them in your arm in a flat position will only increase chances of stomach upset, and they will be more likely to spit up and not fall back asleep after the feeding. Then you will have the baby you just fed crying because they spit up and their angry sibling crying because they are waiting to be fed. Been there, done that, and it doesn't go over too well at 3:00 a.m. As a parent of twins, you need feedings to go as smoothly as possible so that you can all get back to sleep before the next feeding! Dr. Brown's bottles seem to work the best, particularly with babies who have acid reflux or a tendency to spit up feedings.
If you decide to breastfeed, the following won't be as informative to you. However, most premature twins are supposed to be on a different type of formula intended for prematurity. If this is the case, full-time breastfeeding may not be an option.
We actually found our saving grace, and you need to do this, too, at least for the first three to four weeks, until you get acclimated. Some formula companies sell pre-made formula in glass bottles. This can be a bit difficult to find, but it is out there. Sometimes the NICU nurses can give you the name of their laboratory representative for the baby formula, and you can order it through them. This is great because you don't have to measure, mix with water and shake it up at 3 a.m. Then we also ordered disposable bottles and nipples through a website, so that in the middle of the night we were not assembling bottles. We simply opened up the formula and poured it into the disposable bottle. When we were done feeding, we just tossed out the bottles and empty formula containers.
We also got a small refrigerator to keep the formula in our room so that we were not running up and down the stairs all night preparing bottles. Last but not least, we had a bottle warmer in our room on top of the mini fridge so that everything was right there on hand. You can also just use a big coffee mug and fill it with really hot water and warm the bottle in this just to take out the chill.
All of this sounds a bit over the edge, but believe me, this will cut out at least 30 to 45 minutes for you in the middle of the night. Having everything upstairs with us was also convenient because we co-bedded both sets of twins in an over-sized bassinet and kept them next to our bed.
Try vanilla-scented Soothie pacifiers. The smell is heavenly and very soothing to babies. Many hospitals use them for newborns. You could even ask the hospital if they could give you an extra one to try. You can also order them online.
For more information regarding where to purchase pre-made formula or to find out any other information about surviving twins, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to share any information from my twins-twice experience to help you prepare. As always, consult with your pediatrician about formulas, breastfeeding and all other concerns. Look for my next article for tips on surviving the first few months of twins, triplets or more!