Bringing home twins
Mothers who already have a child, or children, have different challenges compared to first time mothers who don't have any experience feeding and settling one baby, let alone two. First time mums with twins enter motherhood with an enormous bang - adjusting to motherhood as well as adjusting to being the mother of two. But, as a first time mother with twins myself, I liked to tell people, "At least I didn't know any different."
In the beginning, a book that helped me - and helped me right up to twins age of two - is "Mothering Twins" by Linda Albi. It gives the different perspectives of five twin mums - one of whose twins arrived prematurely, another were late - so you get to read about a wide range of experiences.
It's important to establish good support systems. First port of call is usually family and close friends. But if you don't have family nearby, or friends already have their hands full, then most twin mums find the best support is from the Australian Multiple Birth Association (AMBA) whose motto is 'support from those who know'.
One thing you quickly realise when you have twins is that, despite their best intentions, mothers of singletons really cannot understand what you're going through. By joining your local club, you're put in touch with both experienced twin mothers and mothers with twins of the same age.
In hospital with newborn twins, mothers get a lot of attention from staff. In my situation, I wasn't 'allowed' to leave hospital until I was breastfeeding my twins properly and, because I became engorged and couldn't feed for a couple of days, I had a team of nurses massaging my breasts around the clock! Then, when things were back to normal again, I had another team of nurses helping me attach my boys. It was a struggle. I found that no sooner do you attach one baby, then simply moving your arm to pick up the other would make the first baby come off! Ten days later we left the hospital, feeling more confident - but there was a feeling of being all alone after getting so much help in hospital. That's where having other twin mothers around me really helped.
Ask for help
While many twin mums love being thought of as a 'supermum' - don't try and be a superwoman. It's not always easy to ask for help but swallow your pride and, if you need it, ask - even if it means asking a neighbour to pick up milk and bread. I know a woman who put her entire street (a small cul de sac!) on a roster, with some people cooking, others helping with housework and others just being an extra pair of hands to hold one baby while mum is busy with the other.
The amount of help you get in those frantic early weeks can make a big difference between enjoying this amazing experience, or looking back on it with a shudder and groan.
Get husband/partner involved
Some women are blessed with very hands-on partners - others have to literally beg their partners to change a nappy. If possible, expectant twin mums should plan ahead and discuss who will be doing which chores when the babies arrive. One person can take over in the kitchen while the other looks after the housework. One person can be in charge of bathing - most twin parents I meet say that a big advantage in having twins is that their partners had no excuse not to change a nappy! It's also important to get a little bit of time to yourself, even if it's the time taken to soak in a bath.
Get into a routine ASAP
Contrary to popular belief, twins do not do everything at the same time! In a perfect world they'd sleep at the same time - for the same amount of time - soil their nappies at the same time and feel hungry at the same time. Of course this isn't the case. But, as impossible as it seems, getting them into the same - or similar - routine is do-able. When one baby wakes for a feed, it's often wise to wake the other baby, so that their tummies will be 'full' at the same time.
However, whether you're breast or bottle feeding, it's not always easy to feed a sleepy baby who might not be interested in a feed. Many twin mums struggle with the dilemma of having a larger/hungrier twin who sleeps well between feeds, versus a smaller/less-hungry twin who doesn't sleep well between feeds. For me, it was a lot of trial and error. There are no easy answers and everyone's situation is different.
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