HOW TO SURVIVE THE FIRST YEAR WITH TWINS
1. Give Yourself Grace
A couple months after my twins were born, I was feeling really down about my body. With it being my first pregnancy, I didn’t have the perspective of knowing things take a good year to get back to normal. Add in crazy hormones trying to adjust back to normal and complete sleep deprivation. Yikes. I took a trash bag and filled it with all my pre-pregnancy clothes and swimsuits and donated it all. This was just two months after my body grew and supported two human beings. TWO MONTHS, y’all.
After the hormones settled back down and my body started adjusting back to not being pregnant, I really regretted throwing out all my clothes. Like, really regretted it. I also felt really stupid when I was ready to finally wear something besides my high school sweatpants and an old t-shirt and stood in front of my empty closet. That being said, give yourself some grace.
Give your body grace after it grows two human beings. Give yourself grace when you forget all your friends’ birthdays due to sleep deprivation. Give yourself grace when you break down in tears because you just don’t think you can do it one more night. Give yourself grace when you can’t breastfeed them like you planned. Learn to give yourself grace every time the sun sets. You’re going to need it.
2. Get Them On The Same Schedule
If you talk to any twin mama, this is the first thing they will tell you. It’s the only way to survive that first year and especially those first several months. The last thing you want is to be feeding one right after the other around the clock or them napping during the day at opposite times. When one of mine woke to feed, I woke the other one to feed them together. (Okay, who am I kidding, the one screaming for milk woke the other one up for me.)
As they got older and we could get a set schedule down, I experimented with what worked best for them until we got on a consistent routine. They always ate, played, and napped at the exact same time each day, and I never dared to “fudge” their schedule because, as any twin mama knows, that is a nightmare. Having a strict schedule is what worked for us and, honestly, the only way it could’ve worked for us.
3. Learn To Tandem Feed
Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, tandem feeding is a lifesaver. For tandem nursing, I loved the My Best Friend Twin Pillow, and for tandem bottle feeding, I exclusively used the Twin-Z Pillow. (If you have preemies, you’ll have to wait until the doctor gives the okay to feed them together since they have to be fed in a very specific way to prevent choking and aspirating.) I truly think I tried every single twin gadget and position out there for feeding them out of complete desperation. Two boppies, two bouncers, two pillows, and the Table For Two – which I had high hopes for, but it was extremely uncomfortable. The best way I found and what I stuck to was putting them on the Twin-Z pillow on my bed, sitting against the headboard, and then pulling the Twin-Z on to my lap. They loved it. I loved it. It didn’t kill my back, and it was easy to pick them each up to burp them. It was a win all the way around.
4. Repeat: “It’s Not Forever”
The first year is very, very hard. There’s just no other way to put it. Especially those first few months, and, if you have preemies, those first several months. There were many nights, especially during the months my husband was traveling, that the only thing that got me through was constantly reminding myself “This isn’t forever.” Being a first time mom, it’s all too easy to get sucked in to thinking that the life you are currently living is it. That you will never sleep again or you’ll never feel normal again. Write it on your mirror or the back of your hand – whatever you have to do to make yourself know and believe that it isn’t forever. You will sleep again. You will feel normal again. You will get the hang of this twin mom thing. I promise.
You will have a lot of moments that first year that you need to remind yourself of this as they go through different stages. I still remind myself of this daily when mine are throwing toddler tantrums. Not only does it give perspective that whatever stage they are in isn’t permanent, it’s also a reminder to be fully present because one day, your mama heart will ache for them to be little again.
5. No Twins, No Opinion
A wise twin mama who went before me told me this very early on and, as time went by, I found it to be more and more useful. You will have people tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your babies. Where you should and shouldn’t go. What you should and shouldn’t feed them. How you should and shouldn’t feed them. Where they should and shouldn’t sleep. Not everyone will understand the way you live, breathe and survive by your schedule. Not everyone will understand that it is unrealistic (and kinda funny) to suggest you shouldn’t feed them with the same spoon (amiright, mamas?!). Not everyone will understand that, for a lot of the first year, you are operating in survival mode and you do whatever you have to do to make it work.
Having two babies who are the exact same age does not compare to having two children 3 years apart or even one year apart. (Don’t get me wrong, any number of children at any age difference is going to have its’ own set of challenges!) However, you have two babies going through the exact same developmental stages at the exact same time and who have the exact same needs at the exact same time. There is only one mama, and you only have two hands. That leads you to find what works best for you and best for your babies. From friends to family to complete strangers at Target: the opinions and judgement will come from everywhere. You have to learn to smile and nod at these comments, brush them off, and move on. They typically mean well, and it just comes from a place of not understanding the day to day life of mothering twins. Don’t let it get to you! No twins, no opinion.
6. Create Good Sleep Habits
Between my husband working out of state half of the year and running a full time business from home, helping my twins become good sleepers was crucial for me. I’m a firm believer in little ones learning to self soothe in order for them to get the quality sleep they need for their development. I’m also a firm believer in moms needing sleep in order to function as a normal human being haha. Let’s be real: the first several months, just plan to not function very well (just bringing the truth, y’all!), but once they are old enough and no longer need their night feedings, I highly recommend practicing good sleep habits in order for them to learn to put themselves back to sleep when they wake in the middle of the night and also so they go down for their naps and bedtime easily instead of being scared of their cribs or you walking away.
I personally didn’t follow any strict sleep training books or guidelines; I just tried to go with my mama gut. Once they were three months old, I started putting them in their own cribs for their naps. I always put them down drowsy but awake so that they learned to fall asleep on their own. I never let them fall asleep while drinking their milk as I didn’t want that to be a sleep association. It was my goal that they would love their cribs and be content to stay or play in them even if they woke early from a nap or in the morning. There are a lot of sleep training guides out there if you want to have a strict plan going in to it or you can just follow your mama gut. Either way, I highly recommend practicing good sleep habits right away as it’ll make things much easier for them and you down the road.
7. Can’t Breastfeed? Don’t sweat it
Breastfeeding isn’t easy with one baby, add another one to the mix, and it can be overwhelming. From latch issues (especially if you have preemies) to not producing enough, to the challenge of tandem nursing. Whether you breastfeed them through six months, one month, or start with bottles from day one, IT. IS. OKAY. I tried so hard to breastfeed; however, due to my rough delivery, recovery, and babies in the NICU, my production couldn’t keep up with two babies, not even close. I wanted to breastfeed so badly and beat myself up over not being able to provide enough for them. It got to a point that I knew I could be a better mom by switching to 100% bottle-feeding. All of the pumping after I had already nursed them in order to try and increase my supply resulted in even less sleep, more stress, and clogged ducts that were making me physically ill. I was only able to nurse them one or two feedings a day, but the thought of giving it up broke my heart. I struggled with the decision for a long time before I decided to nurse them both one last time. I cried and cried as I looked down at their sweet faces knowing I was ending our short journey of breastfeeding.
If you can’t breastfeed or choose not to, don’t beat yourself up over it. Most twin mamas have to supplement with formula at some point during the first year, if not from the very beginning.
8. Find Your Tribe
You are going to need some fellow twin mamas in your life for support, encouragement, and advice. I joined my town’s “Moms Of Multiples” club as soon as I found out as I was pregnant, and so many of these women were my rock that first year. They brought preemie clothes to the NICU, cooked us meals, lent us twin-specific items instead of us having to buy them, and more. It was also such a blessing to walk that journey alongside moms in the same place I was and with moms who had already walked that road and could offer tips and advice. There were lots of delusional 3am Facebook messages sent between all of us begging for someone to promise that sleep was in our near future, or desperately asking for advice on the most comfortable way to feed them simultaneously. As with anything in life, it is so great to be able to talk to others who just get it. There are Moms of Multiples groups all across the country, and I highly recommend joining one local to you!
9. Ask For Help
There will be days when you need help. Washing bottles, cleaning your kitchen, cooking you a meal, or feeding a baby. If one gets sick (which will quickly turn into them both being sick), you’re going to need help – especially if it’s a stomach virus. It’s so important that you ask for help when you feel like you are sinking. Be willing to ask for and accept help. Reach out to friends, family, a neighbor, Bob from off the street. Okay, maybe not him, but you get my point. My mama took all the night feedings every other night for two weeks. If you’re in the thick of it right now with the sleep deprivation, you know just how special that really is. My friends stepped up and helped by tagging along to my twins’ weekly specialist appointments downtown. It was such a blessing and helped tremendously.
Have any questions or want to see something specific addressed in the next Twin Series post? Please direct message me on Instagram as I like to keep my email reserved for my photography clients. You can find me on Instagram at @katiebethlamb (professional account) or @lifewithlambs (personal account)!
All photos in this post were taken by Mustard Seed Photography.