10 life hacks for parents of twins
Expecting two babies? You’re going to need all the help you can get. Here are 10 tips from a twin mama to make your life (a little bit) easier.
You’ll never hear me say that having twins is harder than having one baby or that I had it worse than everyone else because I already had a feisty toddler when my twins were born. I’d be short-changing all the amazing mamas out there who juggle several children who are close in age, the single moms who do it all on their own and the women whose partners work long hours or out of state.
But twins certainly present a unique set of challenges that force you to come up with creative, crazy and sometimes hilarious hacks to get things done. Here are my top 10 tips to help you maintain a modicum of sanity.
- Try not to panic over schedules
Other twin parents will tell you that the key to your soundness of mind is to force your twins onto the same sleeping and feeding schedule from day one. Ignore them. Your twins are individuals with different personalities (especially if they’re fraternal), so trying to make them do the same thing at the same time is an exercise in futility. You’ll just end up frazzled when one twin refuses to fall asleep the exact same millisecond their sibling does.
Instead of worrying about strict schedules, establish predictable routines that will make your babies feel secure. Wake, feed, play, nap, repeat. If one sleeps longer than the other, so be it. Most importantly, create a bedtime routine from an early age (dinner, bath, milk, story, lullaby, sleep) so that your little ones recognize the signs that bedtime is approaching and they start to relax and feel sleepy.
- Learn to feed two babies at once
I’d heard that tandem breastfeeding could be challenging, so I swore that I wouldn’t put pressure on myself to nail it right away. But when a nurse encouraged me to bring my tandem breastfeeding pillow into the special care unit when they were just a few days old, I tried it and was successful the first time! Tandem feeding saved me a lot of time, but I didn’t like doing it at night, when we were out in public (hello, boobs!) or when I felt like having one-on-one time with each of my babies. Once again, flexibility was the key to my happiness and sanity.
When I introduced the bottle, I laid them on a comfy beanbag in our living room and fed them at the same time. They were soon able to hold their bottles by themselves. Too easy!
- Learn to wear two babies at once
There are a ton of twin carriers on the market, but I was afraid I’d find them too heavy or hard to use. Instead, I strapped one singleton carrier on my front and another on my back – and voila! It wasn’t like I was able to vacuum the house while I was covered in babies, but I took them for walks (which was a great workout for me!) and enjoyed endless smiles and laughs with them as I took selfies in the bathroom mirror.
- Invest in two swings, bouncers, walkers and bath seats
With my first daughter, I had a minimalistic attitude. I didn’t need a whole bunch of electronic gadgets and fancy contraptions when I could just hold and cuddle her! Fast-forward a few years and I wanted all.of.the.things that would help calm my babies and keep them happy. I bought everything secondhand – they were barely used! – which was kind to my wallet and the planet.
The two electric swings were a lifesaver to calm them down and get them to sleep when they were newborns. The bouncers were great when I wanted to have a shower or cook dinner and needed to keep them contained. The walkers were fantastic once they could sit up and reach for toys – they bounced and giggled in them for hours (so cute!). And I used the bath seats for everything from bathing them to sitting them up at the public pool and even feeding them while traveling.
- Accept or hire help
We moved interstate when I was six months pregnant, so we didn’t have any family nearby to help us when the twins were born. From their birth until they were 15 months old, we took in three different au pairs – young women who came from France and Canada to live with us and help with the kids in exchange for room, board and a small salary. It was a wonderful experience for all of us and the help was invaluable. Other options include family help (if that’s available to you) or a nanny (who will generally be more qualified than an au pair but also more expensive).
- Shop online
When your twins are young, don’t even think of setting foot inside a supermarket. Two wailing babies in the diaper aisle = mommy meltdown. Do all your grocery shopping online and have it delivered to your doorstep. Cook in big batches and freeze meals so that you don’t have to cook every night.
- Use a sleep consultant
If your babies aren’t sleeping well (I’ve had three terrible sleepers!), consider hiring a sleep consultant who will come to your home and teach you how to get your baby to sleep or offer you advice over the phone or via Skype. We did two Skype sessions with a gentle sleep consultant who didn’t use any crying-it-out techniques (which we didn’t feel comfortable with) and they helped a lot. But I won’t lie: we are still sleep-deprived zombies more than two years in (sorry).
- Mix and match their belongings
When my twins were babies, they shared all their clothes. Either twin could wear whatever I pulled out of the drawer, which made my life a lot easier. Now that they’re two, they’re starting to develop their own identities and some items have become “MINE”. They will certainly tell you which shoes are theirs because one twin’s feet are a size bigger than the other’s!
And while they each have their own backpacks, hats, water bottles and teddy bears, there are several items (such as food containers and spare clothes) that I send to day care labeled only with our last name to reduce the fuss when I’m packing.
- Don’t rush potty training and other transitions
I whipped out the potty as soon as my first daughter turned two, but in retrospect I should’ve waited because she wasn’t truly ready and it took almost a year until she was fully toilet trained. Many twin resources suggest waiting until they’re at least two to start potty training because their development may be slightly delayed if they were born prematurely and one might be ready later than the other. My twins are nearly two-and-a-half and I haven’t started potty training in earnest yet. I don’t feel like they’re ready and there’s no rush – they won’t be wearing diapers when they go to college. The same goes for their big-girl beds that are sitting in the garage. I know there’s double the chance that my fragile, sleep-deprived mind will be shattered by a new wave of sleepless nights if they decide that getting out of bed 473 times a night is super-fun, so I wait…
- Make friends with other twin parents
Other twin parents will be your lifeline because they’re the only ones who can truly understand what you’re going through. I went to a playgroup organized by my local multiples club when I was still pregnant and I met a lovely mom from my hometown who had twins and an older child just like me. I stalked her on Facebook (in a non-creepy way) and forced her to be my friend. We’re really close now and she’s always there for me when I’m having hard days. She gets it because she’s been there. Find a multiples club near you on the Multiples of America websiteor through a simple Google search.
Twins are a crazy ride, but they’re also the most amazing gift. Hang in there, mama – you’ve got this!