These days, it seems double strollers are everywhere, doesn’t it? The number of twins continues to rise due in part to huge advances in fertility treatments. Older, first-time moms are responsible for twinning, too, since after age thirty-five, a woman produces higher levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) which causes the release of more than one egg at a time (fraternal twins occurs when two eggs are fertilized by two different sperm). As a result, everyone now knows someone who has twins or is expecting a double bundle of joy very soon. Hey, it may even be you!
If you’re soon to be doubly blessed, congratulations! Although it’s an exciting time, it’s also a bit unnerving. After all, you think, how will you ever prepare? Will you have everything you need? Will you be able to keep up with the demands of two infants simultaneously while recuperating from childbirth? Not to worry. You’ll do fine.
It’s All in the Timing
Twins notoriously show up early to the party (week 36 on average compared to week 38 for a singleton pregnancy). Rather than holding off to the eighth or ninth month to prepare your nursery, your family, and yourself for their birth, get a head start. Sign up early for child birthing class and connect with other mothers of twins through your local twins club (log on to the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs). If your neighborhood doesn’t have a local chapter, or you just don’t feel comfortable joining a group and expressing yourself in public, you can still get some timely advice from the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs’ website, or try Twiniversity’s forums for some answers to your pressing questions. If you plan to breastfeed your twins, attend a local La Leche League meeting where you’ll get an enormous amount of tips and suggestions for breastfeeding your twins, all in a loving and positive environment.
Next, make a list of everything you think you’ll need to buy or do before their birth, too, and then prioritize your list doing the most important first. For instance, concentrate on the essentials—sleeping arrangements (will they sleep in your room or a nursery?), building a basic layette, cooking and freezing meals, and retaining extra help—before shopping for the little extras like baby backpacks (an item that you can’t use anyway until the babies reach eight to ten pounds) and toys.
What Will You Need? Preparing the Twin Nursery
Two of everything? Not necessarily. The beauty of newborn twins is that so many things—toys, clothing, and even a crib—can easily be shared.
Crib Capers. Unless you plan to have two separate nurseries for your duo, don’t feel the need to rush out immediately and buy two cribs—twins can easily share one, often until they turn six months old! Once they start rolling over—somewhere around four months—simply use a thick rolled up towel down the center of the crib to keep each baby on his own side. Or invest in a crib divider available at many baby supply stores or online from merchants. If you do want to invest in two cribs now since at some point you will need a second one, set up the spare in another part of the house, say downstairs if you have a two-floor home, and use as a secondary napping location, or just a safe spot to put a fidgety twin down for a moment.
Stock Up. Buy essential everyday items like diapers (figure in the beginning you’ll use about 140 to 180 diapers per week), baby wipes, and infant formula (if you choose to bottle feed) in bulk. Not only is it cheaper to buy these things by the case, but it also saves time since you won’t be running out to the store every day to stock up. Hit the warehouse stores or buy supermarket-brands for the best prices. (You shouldn’t worry that store-brand infant formula is secondary to name brands—baby formula, regardless of who makes it, is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.)
Take a Stroll. Choosing the right double stroller is paramount when expecting twins since it will get a lot of use. It pays to invest in a good one. Most double strollers on the market come in two styles: tandem, where the babies sit single file, one in front of the other; and side by side, where babies sit two across. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so before heading to the store, think about your lifestyle and how you’ll use the stroller. For instance, although tandem strollers are great for navigating through crowded spaces such as department store aisles, the front seat doesn’t recline all the way, a potential problem for taking a nap when the mood hits. Side-by-side strollers allow both twins to have fully reclining seats, great for afternoon strolls through the neighborhood, but their bulkiness may prove too much for you when you try to stroll through a doorway. (A close cousin to the side-by-side model is the double jogger—a great choice for an athletic mom on the go.)
Whichever model you choose, make sure you take it around the store for a serious test drive making note of how the wheels handle cornering and backing up. Is it easy or difficult to fold up? And finally, check to see if it will indeed fit in the trunk of your car!
Laying Out the Layette. You’ll need about 1-½ times the amount of clothing for twins, not twice. Assuming you’ll be doing laundry every few days, here’s a basic layette checklist for your duo.
- 10 – 12 cotton onsies
- 10 – 12 one piece, snap-leg pajamas
- 3 – 4 cotton sweaters (at least one with hood)
- 2 – 3 sets of booties or soft-bottom shoes
- 10 – 12 cotton socks
- 3 – 4 cotton hats
- 4 winter sleepers (if you have winter babies)
- 6 – 10 receiving blankets
- 2-dozen diaper “burp” cloths
- 10 – 12 bibs
- 4 – 6 hooded bath towels
- 3 – 4 cotton crib sheets (for one crib)
- 2 crib mattress pads (for one crib)
- 2 covers for changing pad
- 2 bassinet sheets
And when it’s time to go out and meet the world, will you dress your twins identically or differently? It’s a personal decision, but from a purely practical point of view, it’s easier to dress twins differently since you can interchange their wardrobe. Besides, you won’t have to worry when one baby gets his outfit dirty that you’ll need to change both to keep them matching. If you dress them differently from the start, you’ll be telling the world that these two babies are indeed different and unique people.
All Those Little Extras. Obviously you’ll need to invest in two car seats, but what about bouncy seats? If you’re tight on space and funds, many families of twins and triplets make double duty use of infant cars seats and carry them into the house to use as bouncy seats. But if space and money aren’t holding you back, by all means invest in two bouncy seats (preferably with a vibrating motor—a great comfort to fussy babies). Baby backpacks are a great help, too, especially when one baby is crying and you need your hands free to feed the other.
Get Some Help
Give yourself the biggest gift of all and hire some outside help for the first few weeks following delivery. Having someone available to help you get the knack of bathing twins simultaneously, learning to nurse, or just an extra set of arms to rock a crying baby when both are on a tare is enormously helpful while you and your twins are adjusting to each other. Even if it’s just for a few hours a day, a few days a week, she’ll be worth her weight in gold. Call your local hospital for some referrals, ask at your child birthing class, or check the back of your local parenting magazine for a list of licensed doulas (women who assist mothers following childbirth).
But what if funds are tight? Recruit family members (grandparents are a great asset), girlfriends with a stockpile of extra vacation days eager to get their hands on a cooing infant, or even a responsible neighborhood teenager (put an ad in the local high-school paper) will aptly fill the role. You’d be amazed at all who will be willing to help. Just ask. Don’t feel guilty; most family and friends close to you will love to lend a hand. When you’re adjusted to your new life, pay them back with a special dinner out.
Take a moment to look ahead at your life for the next six months. Yes, it will be busy with your new, sweet-smelling, double bundle, but what about other commitments? For instance, if your twins are due in early December, try to get a head start on your holiday shopping. Or, at the very least, choose your birth announcements early and start addressing envelopes to save time when the big day arrives. Another plan-ahead gift to give yourself is to cook and freeze meals. Try some simple, comfort food like beef stew, chili, and Italian meatballs. Divide into family-size servings and freeze. With ample food stocked in the freezer, you can forget about dinner and instead concentrate on your twins.
Taking Care of Yourself
Even with so much preparation, it’s important to remember to take time for yourself (and your family). Make it a priority to take several short rests during the day with your feet elevated to help reduce the incidence of swelling and edema. Remember to eat several small meals each day, concentrating on getting enough protein so your multiples will grow big (protein has a direct correlation with babies’ weight gain), and keep hydrated with plenty of water, juice and milk to drink.
Take time to be with your family, especially if there are other younger children in the home. Let them participate in decorating the nursery, or cooking and freezing meals.
Enjoy quiet, loving moments together now, for all bets are off when twins enter the picture! But, hey, peace and quiet are highly overrated. Right?