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Babywise and Twins: the newborn days
My name is Kristi and I’m a mother of twins (and then some)
Hello. I’m Kristi, mother to twins David and Erik (almost 4), baby sister Anna (1), and another on the way (coming the end of March). When I first became a mom and started implementing the ideas from On
Becoming BabyWise, Val’s blog was such a blessing. I’m so grateful for her and all the hard work she puts in to help other parents, and I’m honored and delighted to give back and share my experience with all of
you. But please note my twins were born almost 4 years ago, I have 3 small kids, and I’m pregnant. Some of the details are a little fuzzy.
When I was 20 weeks pregnant with our first baby, we got the shock of a lifetime. There on the ultrasound screen my eyes darted back and forth between two heads. Head, head. Head, head. Head, head. Baby
was actually babies. Twins. To say that I was surprised would be an understatement. I was freaked. I never imagined I would have twins. I never wished for it. In all honesty, when I found out, I cried. A lot. Twins were not what I had planned. Thank goodness God gave me what I needed instead of what I thought I wanted. My twins are such a wonderful blessing, and they were so clearly meant to come to earth together. Watching their relationship with each other grow has been one of the highlights of motherhood for me.
As rewarding as being a twin mommy is, there is no denying it is hard work. And some of the hardest days are the newborn days. Those first 3 months are so hard. Be prepared to feel like you have failed. Be prepared to cry. Be prepared for your babies to cry (at the same time of course). Be prepared for schedules to be off. Be prepared for one.
But take heart, because while those first few months seem never ending when you are in them, they really do fly by, and someday they will be a happy, distant, and likely blurry memory. And with help from the ideas in Babywise, by the end of those first three months, you and your twins can be off to a great start.
Starting your routine
If you are like me, when you found out you were expecting twins, you read every book on twins you could get your hands on. And you probably noticed that the first bit of advice in every twin book was “get your twins on the same schedule,” but no books gave any ideas on how to do that. And then you read Babywise and felt like all your twin prayers had been answered! And then you had your twins, and everything you read fell out of your mind, and you were left wondering how on earth you were ever going to get those two babies to sleep at the same time!!
In the first few weeks, work on helping your babies to take full feedings. Newborns are very sleepy. And if your twins come early, even just a few weeks early like mine, they will be newborns for a little longer. During those sleepy newborn days (and yes, you’ll be sleepy too), it can be frustrating getting your baby to take a full feeding. And nursing a tiny baby (how is that little mouth supposed to get around those giant breasts?) can become daunting, especially when you have two tiny mouths to feed. Because my boys were early and little, they would much rather sleep than eat. All of the nurses and doctors encouraged exactly what Babywise says: Don’t let your babies go more than 3 hours without eating during the day, and no more than 5 hours at night. Full term babies will usually demand to eat, but premature babies won’t. They’ll just sleep, and that can be dangerous. Feed your babies on a 2.5-3 hour routine. Feed earlier if they are showing hunger cues, but don’t let them sleep all day or even all night those first few weeks.
I found that for our twins, a 3 hour routine worked best for the first month because they were so tired and hard to wake. After that 2.5 hours was a better fit because they started to wake up and be hungry, and a 2.5 hour routine allowed for an extra daytime feeding which helped them to naturally drop a nighttime feeding on their own.
Once you have full feedings established, work on the eat, play, sleep cycle. Keep in mind that newborns have very short wake times. Forty minutes is a very normal wake time for a newborn. And premature babies might not have any wake time at all until they get closer to their due date. Don’t try to keep your babies up!! That is one of the biggest mistakes I made (and I think it is a common mistake among new Babywise parents). For some reason I got it in my head that my babies should be awake for half the cycle time. So when my newborns were on a 3 hour schedule, I was trying to keep them up for 90 minutes, and I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working. Now it is laughable, but it was really frustrating at the time when I so desperately wanted to get my twins on a good routine. Reading Val’s blog is what helped me realize my mistake, and fixing their wake time solved so many issues. So don’t make my mistake, and keep those wake times short!
After you have the cycle down, pick a start your day time, and stick with it. This was another point that my twin mommy brain just forgot after my babies were born, and it took reading Val’s blog to remind me of
this very important step.
The book recommends starting your day within a 30 minute window. For example, if you want the day to start at 7, you can start anytime between 7 and 7:30, or you could start between 6:45 – 7:15, but it should be within 30 minutes. This was one area where I didn’t stick exactly to the book’s recommendations. When I picked a start the day time, I allowed for 30 minutes in either direction, so an hour window. Some days that 30 extra minutes of sleep for me made all the difference, so I’m happy I made that decision. But I also think that the closer you stick to your start the day time, the sooner you’ll see results. So for some, it might be better to have a bigger window and wait a little longer. For others, it might be better to stick to a smaller window and get the payoff sooner.
Breast, bottle, or both?
A big decision you’re going to need to make is how to feed your new babies. Every mom needs to make this decision of course, but having two babies does change some things. Since my twins were my first, and I had no firsthand experience with breastfeeding, I went into motherhood with the idea of “I’ll give it a try, and see how it goes.” Thanks to a lot of support from my own mom, I was able to nurse my twins almost exclusively for 9 ½ months. So if you would like to breastfeed your twins, I’m here to tell you it can be done successfully. It takes a lot of work (especially the first few months), but it is really rewarding and wonderful for your babies.
Of course my twins were my first, so I didn’t have other littles around to care for too. I think that would make nursing twins much harder. Not impossible, but it would definitely change things. And if nursing just
isn’t for you or doesn’t work out or you have to pump and do bottles or supplement with formula, don’t feel guilty. All you can do is weigh your options, make the decision you feel is best for your family, and then charge ahead. Parenting twins does require some sacrifices, and for some that might mean not breastfeeding or choosing to supplement. Rest assured that the sacrifices are well worth it, and the joys of having twins far outweigh the hardships.
*For those that are bottle feeding, I’ve heard from other twin mommies that getting two boppy pillows is the way to go. One in each and then you can hold their bottles and still feed them both at the same time. My pillow recommendation for breastfeeding is found below under “Learn to tandem nurse!”.
Nursing twins is hard
My boys were born at 36 weeks, so not terribly early, but they had tiny mouths and learning to nurse did not come naturally to them. Keeping them latched and awake the first week felt impossible. It was so hard, but I kept at it (again thanks to the encouragement of my mom), and it got easier and easier as we all learned together.
Thankfully my babies had a very short hospital stay. David was with me from the very first day, Erik spent less than 48 hours in the NICU, and both boys came home with me at 4 days old. But we learned a lot from the NICU nurses during our short stay, especially about premature babies. The nurses informed us that premature babies can easily be overstimulated and overtired, so I shouldn’t spend a very long time trying to feed them because it would wear them out and make them unable to eat. They encouraged breastfeeding, but also helped us realize the importance of getting calories in without exhausting our babies.
So for the first week, when it was so hard to get my nipples in their mouths, I would try for 20 minutes to get them to latch. If after 20 minutes they were on (and yes sometimes it took that long!), I would keep nursing up to 40 minutes. If not (and yes, sometimes after 20 minutes, they still weren’t latched), I would feed a bottle of milk and then pump the missed nursing. It was exhausting, but it only took about 2 weeks before they were nursing for every meal. Which was great, because I really don’t like pumping.
I know a lot of lactation consultants don’t recommend giving a bottle until nursing is well established (usually around 6 weeks), but my boys had bottles (both of pumped milk and formula) and binkies from the day they were born, and both learned to nurse wonderfully. So if giving a bottle is going to save your sanity like it did mine, then I say go for it. Still keep offering the breast, and keep pumping any meals that are missed. But don’t feel like giving a bottle is going to lead to breastfeeding failure.
Learn to tandem nurse!
If you are going to nurse, then get yourself a good breastfeeding pillow and learn to tandem nurse. It sounds hard. Well, it is hard at first. But it is so worth doing. It literally cuts feeding time in half, and stimulating both breasts at the same time can increase production. I used the brestfriend (yes, that is the “correct” spelling, and I hate it, but the pillow is great). They didn’t have the twin pillow when I had my twins, so I used the regular brestfriend and some throw pillows as they boys got bigger. But I have heard really great things about the twin brestfriend. Definitely worth the money.
Because it was so hard to latch them, I nursed them separately the first month. I had them on a staggered schedule by 30 minutes. So at 7, I would nurse the first baby. At 7:30 my mom would wake and change
the second baby and hand him to me. And then I’d hand the first baby to her to burp and play and go back to sleep. It worked well, especially since I had my mom to help me (she stayed with us for the first month),
but I really wished I had tried tandem nursing sooner. When she left, I felt real urgency to get them on the same schedule, and they took to tandem nursing really quickly.
So I guess my advice is learn to tandem nurse, but don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work right away. The staggered schedule can work well for those sleepy newborn days until you figure out how to tandem. Just keep trying every few days until it works.
Even after I got my twins tandem feeding and on the same routine, I still did the dreamfeed (the late night feeding right before you go to bed) and the middle of the night feedings separately. Partly because it was easier to get them to take a full feeding when they were so sleepy. And partly because I enjoyed having some feedings that were one on one.
So for the dreamfeed, I would feed, burp, and put the first baby back down, and then I’d feed, burp, and put down the second baby. So their dreamfeeds stayed staggered. David was naturally a better nighttime sleeper when they were newborns, so I did his dreamfeed first.
At first when we did middle of the night feedings, I would feed whomever woke first, and then when he was done, get the second. That worked well for the first few months. As they began to stretch out their nighttime sleep, I started letting them both wake on their own at night. That meant two middle of the night feedings for me, but it was short lived because they both starting sleeping through the night after a week or two.
The magical night!
It seems hard to believe. I know I didn’t really believe it myself until it happened. But one day (or rather night), your twins are both going to sleep 7-8 hours without waking. And it will be magical! You’ll feel like a
new person. Like you could do anything. Even raise twins!
But until that happens, keep a few things in mind. While lots of Babywise babies start sleeping a 7-8 hour stretch by 8 weeks, it takes 12 weeks for some. And if your babies were born really early, it might take even longer. Mine were 12 weeks old, 8 weeks adjusted when they started sleeping 7 hours consistently.
Setbacks are normal. Your babies might sleep 6 hours for a week, and then go back to only sleeping 4 hours. That’s normal. Remember that there is often a growth spurt around 6 weeks, and that can often cause
more frequent nighttime wakings.
Sometimes it can be hard to accept help, but having twins is a lot of work. Take any help that is offered. If people ask what they can do, meals and cleaning are always a good answer. Some new moms like a break to just get out of the house. If that’s you, let volunteers babysit your napping babies.
I loved having my mom come and stay with us. She was such a great help. If you have someone in your life who would be willing to help you out in this way, it could be a real blessing. Of course if your mom or mother-in-law will end up driving you crazy, then it might be best to have them help in other ways.
And it is probably best to give anyone who is going to be helping out longer term a brief summary of Babywise and why you are doing what you are doing. My mom didn’t really get it at first, but she was supportive. Now she is a Babywise believer too and recommends it to people.
It will get easier
Or perhaps you’ll just get better. Each stage of parenting my twins has brought new challenges, but as I’ve practiced parenting, it has gotten easier. And once you are getting a good night’s sleep, even hard things
seem a lot more doable.