In the fourteen-plus years that I’ve been researching and writing about twins, I’ve noticed a couple of trends among mothers of twins. A decade ago, for instance, everyone was a bit on edge when it came to enrolling their twins in kindergarten. Back then, school districts were just hitting the cusp of the twin pregnancy explosion and didn’t have any set policies when it came to placing two, same-age siblings in the classroom. So many school administrators made a host of broad assumptions leading them to separate twins arbitrarily regardless of parents’ wishes or the individual needs of the twins themselves. Parents were not happy. Many fought back successfully. And now ten years later, several states have laws that allow parental input when placing multiples in school, all thanks to the passion, love and commitment of parents of twins.
One sidenote: There’s still not a lot of research out there when it comes to twins in the classroom but what little we do have says that most twins will not suffer emotionally or socially if placed in the same classroom, especially in the earlier grades. Still, parents need to proceed with caution when making the decision. Although your twins may want to be together in kindergarten or first grade, you might see things differently. Not all twins do well when placed together even though they get along just fine at home. As the mother of 14-year-old twins who has gone through the cycle of placing them together, then separating them, then putting together again, then finally separating for the last time, I can tell you there are definite advantages and disadvantages to each.
But classroom placement is old news, and that’s a good thing. With all the conversation on the subject, new parents of twins have plenty of information from which to make their own informed decisions. These days, the focus on raising twins has spun 180 degrees and now the buzz centers on twin pregnancy weight gain. I noticed this became a hot topic after the arrival of Dr. Barbara Luke’s book, When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets or Quads–Proven Guidelines for a Healthy Multiple Pregnancy. (BTW, the third edition of this book is due out this November.) The debate specifically centers on the large amount of calories and protein Dr. Luke advocates that a pregnant mom of twins should consume daily (it’s a lot) as well as the amount of weight she should gain in order to help ensure the delivery of plump, healthy twins (again, it’s a lot). To put it into perspective–a mom carrying a singleton should consume about 2,500 calories per day, and should try to gain about 25 – 35 pounds during her pregnancy. Dr. Luke suggests that a mom carrying twins should shoot for 3,500 calories a day, and should gain between 40 – 55 pounds depending on a mom’s weight prior to getting pregnant. Plus, she should gain 25 of those pounds by Week 20. (The thinking is that high early weight gain aids in the development and function of the placenta.) That’s a tall order! And based on some negative book reviews, some pregnant moms are none to happy with the recommendations. Some have called her diet guidelines “unrealistic” and even question Luke’s credibility (mainly her use of the title “Dr.” as she’s not an MD but a PhD and has four academic degrees.) Many moms complain that they feel frustrated and a “like a failure” as they can’t seem to keep up with the amount of food. It’s totally understandable! Many pregnant women experience terrible morning sickness and have trouble keeping down one meal a day, let alone the six small meals that Luke advocates. But before you throw out the baby with the bath water, let’s take a step back.
Although Luke’s recommendations are difficult to follow for some, it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) discount the message that early and substantial weight gain along with the concentration of dietary protein not only puts on fetal pounds but helps thwart premature delivery. When I was researching and writing the pregnancy chapters of the second edition of my book Double Duty a few years back, I kept coming across Luke’s work in numerous highly regarded medical journals. These clinical studies speak for themselves.
But how does this information help moms who are struggling to eat enough every day?
Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t. Strive for the 3,500 calories a day and concentrate on protein but at the end of the day pat yourself on the back for trying. Some days you’ll succeed; some you won’t. Oh, well.
Next, try “cheating.” Know which foods are high in protein and incorporate them into foods you can keep down. For instance, add a smear of peanut butter to apple slices, chopped hard-boiled egg to a salad, even try a protein shake as a soothing snack.
And finally, don’t be afraid to indulge in your cravings. When I was pregnant 15+ years ago, I’d stop by In-N-Out Burger (a fabulous chain here on the West Coast) on occasion on my way home from work. Mind you, I didn’t know back then that the protein from those double-doubles (yes, two hamburger patties….) was actually helping my double-double pack on the pounds. I ended up gaining 60 pounds total and delivering my babies at Week 39 weighing 6′ 10″ and 6′ 8″. All I knew at the time was that I was HUNGRY and the aroma of those grilling burgers was luring me in….often.
Remember, knowledge is power. And now that you have the knowledge that calories and protein can help prevent a premature delivery, try to utilize it as best you can. And don’t beat yourself up if you struggle.