Twins: The First Couple Months
If you're expecting twins, check out my post about Expecting/Having Twins on my old blog here. I received great feedback from that post, and am delighted to have helped prepare a few twin moms-to-be for the unique experience of having two babies.
I decided to do an updated version for those of you about to have, or who have just had, twins. Or, for those of you who are just curious. I won't share everything, but feel free to reach out to me privately with specific questions. So here goes. I'm sitting here with coffee, a version of these raw cookies I made based on THIS recipe (I used figs instead of dates), and hopefully two babies asleep for a little longer.
Wow. I took a breath to start and realized how much of a blur it has been; let's hope I can remember detail. So we brought the girls home after a week in the hospital, and let me tell you, EVERY nurse and doctor will ask if you have help at home. And if you respond brightly "just us!" they will look at you like you are the worst parents ever. They meant well though; twins are hard work and you DO need help initially unless you are that person that can operate just peachy on two broken hours of sleep (Like my former Navy SEAL father that seems to never run out of energy or drive and slips out of the house in the dark to swim before walking to work until late in the night.) Alas, that gene was not passed down to me. (Side note: Ivy rarely sleeps: she must have her grandpa's energy! That just came to me. Pretty sure it's true; more on that later).
So we brought them home just in time for Christmas alone. If you're picturing two blissfully sleeping babies besides a Christmas tree with two goldendoodles festooned with red ribbons, it was slightly different than that. If you've already had children, you may be more prepared for bringing a newborn home. But I at least was constantly worrying: checking temperatures, bundling them up, listening for breathing, and fretting when they seemed too noisy, or too quiet. I was irrationally afraid to leave them alone with my husband, though he was perfectly capable. I felt like I was the only one that could take care of them, even though I simultaneously felt like I didn't know what to do, and how could the hospital have let us take two preemie babies home?? When exhaustion caused me to cry at the smallest thing, my husband would encourage me to lay down. I would lay in bed, fitfully startling at every little noise, and sure that at soon as I fell asleep, one would stop breathing (spoiler alert: this didn't happen. They are now 10 weeks old, healthy and thriving).
We kept them in our very toasty house for about two weeks. They need more layers than you; especially preemie babies need to keep their temperatures up. Skin to skin contact really helps them regulate temperatute, and with bonding and milk production, so skin-to-skin contact them up! Then bundle them and put their hats on. Also though, they can get too hot, so check the backs of their necks occasionally (it will feel damp/sweaty if they are overdressed and heating up). After two weeks, on sunny days I would bundle them in the stroller and walk around the neighborhood. Once you get the pediatrition's "okay" on this, do it! The exercise and fresh air will do WONDERS for you. Plus for the babies. The better you feel, the better your babies seem to be; they really sense stress.
You will likely have weekly or every two week appointments with the doctor to check their weights. We were told to feed them every two hours or up to three hours, but no longer that than, and if they will drink every one hour, that's encouraged too. (This made tears spring to my eyes; when they only went an hour between feedings, it was honestly hell. I would pump, feed them, wash the pump parts and bottles, pump again, and feed them again). Luckily it was usually about every two to two and a half hours at first, then up to three. Now at 10 weeks, they feed about every 2.5 to 4 hours (the 4 hour stretch is usually in the middle of the night, or about 1-5 am, which is great!)
I think I mentioned this in the previous post, but they started forifying breast milk with formula right away for the girls. Right now the girls are drinking organic formula with breast milk, and one bottle a day with preemie formula that has a higher calorie content to really bump up the weight gain. I use Baby's Own brand organic formula from Vitacost (In case you're looking for an organic formula source, I'll put a $10 off link here), which has the best nutrition that I could find (apart from human breast milk, of course). I was upset that the big brand formulas like Similac have corn syrup as one of the top ingredients.
OK now for the feeding part. I imagined breast feeding in tandem, like on the picture of the package my twin breastfeeding pillow came in. This MAY be you! If so, wonderful. For me, my experience was not what I had hoped.
Initially I was pumping more than enough to feed them (they came home drinking 40-60ml of milk) so I started freezing extra milk right away. They adapted quickly to the bottle in the hospital, and though I tried to feed them from the breast, all the doctors and the pediatritian told me not to breastfeed them for the first couple weeks as they were burning too many calories. Though they continued to gain weight, unfortunately they loved the bottle nipple feel and flow and not my own. They would cry and scream at my breast or just refuse to drink. I saw three lactation specialists, and tried nipple shields and even a syringe briefly that I could not handle on my own. The girls continued to thrive on the bottle and refuse the breast, and every breastfeeding attempt ending in tears on both sides. Also, something I hesitated to include, but ultimately decided to because this may be you: I hated the sensation of both pumping and breastfeeding. I feel like I am bonding with my girls in many ways, but breastfeeding was not a loving, bonding experience for either of us. I dislike the sensation of having full breasts, and anything pulling on them, and yes, even my own babies. This is normal, I learned. I would sob that something was wrong with me, but I did a little online blog reading and talked to a few friends who as it turned out, had similar experiences. It's just that nobody mentions the bad experiences; for me at least, I only heard/saw beautiful breastfeeding stories. I had constant clogged ducts, pain and the constant pumping meant I was never sleeping, and quite honestly, the sensation of pumping or feeding made me feel horrible. At two months, their milk intake was far exceeding my production, and we began adding in more organic formula. They are now getting formula and my breast milk thawed from the freezer, and we are all much, much happier. I'm hopeful I have enough milk to bring them to 4-5 months of breast milk, but I know they will be just fine if they only get breast milk for a few months. After my milk dried up very recently, I noticed I was happier, relaxed, slept better and more, and felt closer to my babies than ever as a result. This may not be your experience at ALL and that is great. I am a firm believer that happy mom=happy baby, and at the end of the day, the babies being healthy and happy are what's worth it.
Also, there are times when your relationship will feel strained, especially when you are both exhausted and the twins are being extremely fussy. Then there are those wonderful times when you are both delighted at what you've created. Try to take time to appreciate your partner as much as you can. This is hard when you are emotionally and physically exhausted and all you want is sleep, and everything seems hard. Once my milk dried up though, and I felt more like my old self, I felt much happier and as I result, I think my husband did too. I felt closer to him and way more relaxed when I was sleeping more and things were running smoother, and when I didn't have to cut pumping sessions short when the twins started crying or had my sleep interrupted by painful breasts.
Here's our sleep schedule in case it might work for you: I get up anywhere from 12:30am to 3am, depending on how tired my husband is or his work schedule. I then stay up until about 7pm, and if I'm lucky, can catch 30 to 50 minutes of nap somewhere in there. For me, napping is hard and very rare, but if you can fall asleep quickly and easily, then you'll be in a better boat. My husband gets up around 8am and goes to bed when I get up, and he naps sometimes in the evening if he can. Initially since my husband was on a break, he was home with us and helping out when needed, but after he went back to work it was just me all day, and he would take over at night.
I couldn't do it without this guy!!
My mother came to stay and help for a week, then my twin and her husband came for a week, and then my mom came back for 2 weeks. This was AMAZING and helped me sleep a lot, and gain more confidence in being a new mom. My in-laws came too for 2 weeks. I highly recommend family you are closest to helping out as much as they can. The help makes a huge difference, so shamelessly accept all that you can. I made a Chore Help list on the fridge, and our houseguests would do anything from cooking and laundry to cleaning the bathrooms (yes, seriously! It was wonderful). I have also had friends pick up things for me at Whole Foods and Target, walk the dogs and come over to just hold babies. If anyone offers, even if you are worried they are just offering to be nice, say yes! Test them to see if they are really a friend ;)
Oh and yes, carrying them in carriers or pushing them in the stroller really calms them down. I have a Weego twin carrier that is amazing for the first couple months, and two little carriers for 8lbs and up (this is nice so that my husband and I can each carry one), a Moby wrap that I only use one at a time in, and of course, a giant double stroller that they slept in often for the first month and a half; the incline helped with reflux. Sometimes though, you will be carrying one around on your chest to do chores, then the other one will freak out, and you may end up quickly rigging something like this:
(Hey, whatever works and calms the babes).
Anyways I'm sure I'll think of a million things to update on again later, but here we are at 10 weeks and the babies are thriving at just over 8lbs. (I think Ivy is about 9 now). They survived their first cold which was terrifying mostly for me I'm sure, and almost everything I worried about is normal. Your baby's belly button may poke out a lot due to a small umbilical hernia that will close in a few months; as long as you can push it back in and there's no hard lump, it's fine. They may look at you cross-eyed sometimes; their eyes are still developing and learning to track, and this is normal. Their heads may looks slightly weird or not symmetrical; give them tummy time, have them look both directions, and also their brain will push the skull out as it develops, so don't fret. One baby may sleep like a peaceful angel, and the other may noisily grunt and occasionally yell as she sleeps, which is a cruel but normal occurance as well. Their necks need to be cleaned often as milk gets trapped in the folds, and if a redness appears, you can use a little diaper cream to clear it up (I use a natural organic diaper cream; there's a bunch of great ones out there). Basically, I brought a list of questions to the pediatritian every time we went, and everything was considered normal. So don't lose any sleep over these little things; you need that precious sleep!
When you are out with twins, you will feel like a celebrity. Go out with them when you especially need affirmations or some stranger kindness. People constantly say God Bless You, you look fantastic, what a wonderful job you're doing, etc. Yesterday I had two different women take pictures of me carrying them in the Weego. People will also tell you that their neighbor's daughter had twins, that their grandma was a twin, that they went to school with twins, and every other random twin connection they can think of. Get used to it! (I like to say I am a twin, my little brothers are twins, and I have twin girls. So I win. Okay, I just say this in my head).
Often people marvel at how much I am out and about, but it keeps me sane. As a normally very fit and active person, I am finding ways to keep moving and keep my energy up however I can, while also healing my ab separation, or diastasis recti. (Hint: DON'T do crunches or planks! My OB told me planks were great; turns out they make the separation worse). My fitness is currently walking miles and miles, barre, and a little running, usually while wearing a belt/ab support. I will do another post later on postpartum exercise. Working out while carrying babies is awesome (see below), but know that every workout will be cut short or not go as planned or one twin will sleep blissfully, the other will scream, and then they will keep switching. My biggest lesson with twins thus far is to be flexible, and patient. Two hard things, but you gotta go with the flow!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or clarifications; I'm happy to help another twin mama. We need each other!