I often get asked how I managed to do certain things whilst looking after twins in the early days.
So I thought I’d try to put together a useful post – for once!
If you’re reading this whilst pregnant with twins, or have just given birth to them and are wondering how the f*ck you’re physically going to manage certain things, then this is for you.
It might be of no help whatsoever, but at least it’ll keep your expectations in check. Basically it’s hard work looking after twins and everything takes twice as long, but I’m guessing you might already know that…
My twins are now 3 and we’ve survived so far. I think. Wine and chocolate consumption is up. So is my waist circumference and weight, but hey, we can’t have everything.
If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know I’m just a normal mummy of three young boys who likes to be honest about it all. I’m by no means the type who pretends everything is rosy 100 per cent of the time. Nor am I one of those mums who says looking after twins won’t change anything about their lifestyle. And that you can easily jet off around the world with one slung on the front, and one on the back.
This is just not me.
Looking after twins is hard work
Having two babies at the same time is hard work, and no matter what the Insta-perfect brigade say, looking after twins will be somewhat of a hindrance in everyday life. Do not think otherwise if you want to be realistic.
But I’m here to say that it’s all totally do-able. Well, when I say ALL, I wouldn’t have a clue about jetting around the world as I’ve not tried that. Mainly because I can’t be arsed. It would be an awful lot of hassle, wouldn’t it? Especially when you add my eldest boy into the equation too.
I’m talking more about the practicalities of everyday life looking after twins. You know the actual important stuff you’ll need from day one. Holidays can wait.
So here you have it. A few tips. None of them are expert advice obviously. But merely from my own experience.
5 practical tips for looking after twins in the early days
We’ll start with feeding, because, well it’s kind of essential whilst looking after twins. What is NOT essential is to nail tandem feeding on your first attempt. (That means feeding them both at the same time) What is ALSO not essential is to breastfeed your twins. I’m not going to get into that whole debate (again) as last time I had the audacity to express an opinion a particularly nasty woman spread it all over facebook and I got slagged off and called names. You can read about it here if you like.
However you feed your twins is fine. And the reasons/choices behind however you feed your twins is also fine.
A feeding routine is helpful when looking after twins
One thing I would say is helpful though, is to try and get into a routine of feeding them at the same time. If you actually want to be able to do anything else with your day other than feed a baby.
Yes it sounds hard, and yes it is a bit tricky, but with some practice, you can nail it. You can even entertain your toddler at the same time!
Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, there are twin pillows out there and advice designed to help you tandem feed. Everyone finds their own way of doing it, and don’t be scared to try different ways until you find something that is comfortable for all of you.
I tandem bottle fed my twins and did it in a few different ways. One of my best friends breastfed her twins and also had a few different ways of doing it.
One of the best things I bought was a special pillow. You know if you have a single baby, you can buy ‘V’ pillows? Well this was kind of a ‘W’ pillow with two slots for two babies. And it was an absolute lifesaver. I’d put it on my bed and lie them both in it at bedtime. I’d then lie to the side of it or in front of it with two bottles, reaching out to hold them to the baby’s mouths. It took a while to find a comfortable position where it didn’t hurt my back, or make my arms go dead, but once I found it, it was absolutely fine. I could even hold both bottles with one hand sometimes, but that was just showing off. (Or if I wanted to look at my phone!)
Feeding twins during the day
During the day downstairs I’d feed them in their bouncers at the same time. (I purposely bought the best bouncers I could find as I knew they’d spend a fair bit of time in them). At first I would kneel in front of them and hold their bottles but soon realised this is bloody uncomfortable on your back – especially when they take ages to feed. The other way I did it was to sit on the floor and lean up against my settee. I’d then position each bouncer facing me on either side of my legs and hold their bottles that way. This was so much more comfortable.
I would give each of them half the bottle, and then stop to wind them alternatively. Mine were both colicky so it was a bit of a guessing game as to who would throw up first. It was usually Twin Two so I’d wind him first whilst Twin One had to just wait.
The absolutely BEST thing is when you’re with a friend or your mum who offers to help you feed them, either at home or when you’re out and about. I was lucky enough to have some fabulous mum mates who would gladly feed one twin on their lap whilst I fed the other and our toddlers ate or played. When they were a little bit older and not in their carrycots, I’d be able to feed them both at the same time whilst they were in their buggy or car seats.
Feeding twins during the night
The only time they’d be fed separately was at night because my husband was home most of the time and we’d feed a baby each. (None of this letting him sleep in another room as he had work the next day – he was just as involved in this as I was). The occasions he was working away, I would dread the night times in the early days. To start with if one woke up I’d feed them on their own silently praying that they’d finish before the other one woke.
But I soon relaxed and fed them on the pillow if it was both at the same time. One thing that did really work for us was to wake the second twin up at night once the first one woke up. It meant they stayed in ‘sync’ with their feeds and you could do it all in one go, rather than be woken up an hour later. Because back then, even half an hour’s sleep is EVERYTHING!
If you’re bottle feeding, you’ll have your own way of making the bottles whether that’s with a machine or a kettle. I ditched the Perfect Prep early on as thought it was a massive pain in the arse, and went for making up bottles in batches with my kettle and topping up with hot water from a flask. I would also recommend getting cold water sterilisers for ease. This worked for us, and was helpful when out and about. Although looking back now, I’m SO GLAD that phase is all over. If you’re in it now, don’t worry, it won’t last long, honest!
So it’s not as daunting as you might think, once you’ve got the hang of it. Of course you don’t have to feed them at the same time. Do what’s best for you, but I wanted to so that it was done quicker. I also had a toddler in the mix that demanded my attention and this way was fairer on him and not so time consuming.
Me offering advice on ways to get your twins to sleep is somewhat ironic. Given that my twins are currently 3 years and 3 months, and Twin Two still gets up every night anytime between midnight and 4am. So maybe take this section with a pinch of salt!
If you’re pregnant with twins right now, I hate to break it to you, but the sleep thing (or lack of it) could be a bit of an issue if your babies are anything like mine. I actually think mine were nocturnal for at least the first three weeks of their life. During the first week they were home, they didn’t settle at night until 4am most nights. 4am FFS. And then my toddler was waking up at 6.30am.
I’m not going to lie, this was not fun. Not fun at all. Looking back it was pretty bloody shit, but do you know what? We got through it like everyone does, and you live to tell the tale like everyone else too.
As with feeding, there are a number of different ways parents of twins put their babies down to sleep.
Keeping your twins together for sleeping
A lot of parents like to keep them together. And we did that too. Depending on how big they are when they’re born they may both fit into a Moses basket or a ‘next to me’ type thingy attached to your bed.
My twins were on the large side. 7lbs 1.5oz and 7lb 8.5oz when they were born. So actually bigger than a lot of single babies. (No wonder I was massive!) And because of this they weren’t going to fit into a Moses basket together. We tried, and ditched that idea immediately!
We ended up putting a cot in our room (a cot bed wouldn’t fit, but if your bedroom is big enough I’d jump straight to a cot bed) and put them both in there at either end. At first they were small enough to be next to each other, but as their legs grew, we turned them round to lay ‘top to tail’.
We didn’t have Sleepyheads or anything like that (because I was too tight to buy them!) but I used a rolled up cellular blanket to make two arch shapes under the sheet and placed them in these to imitate a Sleepyhead. It seemed to work a bit. You know, as far as I could tell when NOBODY HAD A WINK OF SLEEP MOST NIGHTS!
We moved our twins to their own room at four months
At four months they were too big to both be in the same cot, so we moved them into their own (shared) room and they both *slept in the same cot bed top to tail for a few more months. When they grew a bit more we put the cot alongside the cot bed and they had one each. We then moved house and bought a second cot bed and they’re now converted into beds with bedguards but they still share a room. Taking the sides off the cot and moving them to big boy beds was so much fun – not!
I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong answer about twins sharing rooms – it’s more a practicality of if you’ve got enough bedrooms. I do genuinely think my twins would benefit from their own room at bedtime – when they seem to get a second wind and won’t stay in their beds. They egg each other on and wind each other up to cause trouble, and I’m guessing this wouldn’t be an issue if they were separated. I also wouldn’t have the constant panic that if one is crying, they’ll wake the other up. But our fourth bedroom is downstairs (and used as dumping ground) so I doubt they’ll be separated until my eldest is old enough to want to be downstairs at night.
Everyone does napping differently. Some parents let their babies nap in the buggies/car/carriers whilst they’re out. Some have a strict naptime routine whereby their little ones only ever nap in their own cot/bed at home. I had a bit of both. In the very early days when the twins basically slept all day and were awake all night, they’d sleep in their bouncers on the kitchen floor whilst life went on around them. This is why I bought decent, supportive, lie-flat bouncers as I knew this would be the case. They also slept in the car of course, and in their buggies.
When they were about four months old and we moved them into their own room, I tried to instigate a nap routine whereby they went to bed for their afternoon nap. I’d done the same with my eldest, and because they’re so close together in age it meant he was still napping too. This was the main reason to try and get a routine for them too – so that for maybe a BLISSFUL hour each day, I had time to myself.
Glad I introduced a nap routine – but it took persistence!
Introducing a routine was bloody hard work. They did NOT want to go to sleep in their cot bed during the day. At all. But I persevered, I kept putting them down, stayed with them singing/stroking/shhing them until they’d give up and drop off. This often took the entire hour the toddler was asleep and I’d want to punch myself in the face, but it was worth it. The main problem was I’d get one to sleep, and the other would wake up screaming.
It was like a 10 minute tag team and I can remember nearly losing my shit on a number of occasions. It probably took about 6 weeks of keeping at it, but it eventually worked, and I was so glad I’d done it. After that, and until they were 2.5, I’d be able to put them in their cot beds wearing their sleeping bags, turn the light off, walk away and they’d go to sleep by themselves. They could then happily nap for three hours if I let them. Shame they weren’t that good at night but I guess you can’t have everything!
All babies are different, and we all have our own ways of doing things. But from personal experience with twins, I’d definitely recommend trying to sync both their feeding and sleeping routines when looking after twins. Especially if you have older children you need to tend to as well. It’s hard work but will eventually pay off.
Leaving the house with twins
Okay, you might think I’m joking on this one. But it IS actually possible to leave the house when you’re looking after baby twins. But I’ll level with you. It’s a MASSIVE pain in the arse and takes f*cking ages. Never again will you be able to nip anywhere. I remember one time it took me FOUR hours from waking up to getting my toddler to his swimming lesson because the twins were so time consuming. WTF??
The main bit of advice I can offer on this score is always assume it’ll take you longer to do things than you’d normally think. Because it actually will. It will of course take you TWICE as long, as you have two babies. But it will probably take you even longer as something unplanned for will happen. You know what I’m talking about. The last minute up-the-back shit, or the projectile vom all over themselves and your last clean top. We’ve all been there.
The other thing I’d suggest is being friends with people who don’t mind (or judge) you being late. I was never a late person before having twins, even with one baby I think I was okay. Add two more small people into the equation and it is a mere impossibility to be on time. Even if you have given yourself four hours to get somewhere five minutes down the road.
Looking after twins is time-consuming!
One of the things I stupidly hadn’t appreciated when I was pregnant with my twins was how much time I’d spend going up and down the stairs carrying a small child. It was a ridiculously time-consuming undertaking just to get everyone downstairs in the morning. Most of the time the two year old wanted to be carried down the stairs too, and add in having to actually bring ‘stuff’ down as well, you’d be doing four or five trips at least. It was like doing a flippin’ step aerobics class every morning!
You’d have to make sure anyone who was left on their own at any point in the military exercise was secure, so either in the cot upstairs or in the bouncer downstairs before rushing back for the other one. The last thing you’d need is for one to bloody roll off the bed mid stair dash! As they got a bit older I actually had a foldable playpen in my bedroom to contain them. It was much like a travel cot and was a Godsend when they started moving around. And basically couldn’t be trusted to be left on their own even for 30 seconds. I would readily put one twin in there with a load of toys whilst I dressed the other one or the toddler. Or take anyone downstairs – where I’d have to figure out another way to secure them!
Getting all three ready was like a conveyor belt of nappies, clothes, and coats. Regularly having to start all over again with one of them because they’d puked or had a dirty nappy.
Getting twins into the car is a pain
Loading them into the car was always a pain too. I can TOTALLY recommend a car seat that can be lifted out of the car. Purely for convenience and your own sanity. Yes they’re also handy for putting on top of the buggies. But if you’re looking after baby twins it means you can put them into the car seat inside your house. And know they’re secure and not going anywhere whilst you sort the other twin or child out. I’d put them into their car seats in the kitchen, know they’re fine, then put the toddler in the car. I’d then bring the car seats out one by one, knowing that the toddler was secure in the car. It’s all about pinning them to one spot! Then head back for your bags. This is the circuit training session on top of your already complete step aerobics class.
It then usually takes less time to drive to your destination than it did loading the kids into the car, before you have to do it all in reverse. I’d leave the toddler strapped into the car (screaming to get out) whilst I put the twins in the buggy, then get him out last so he wasn’t running off. If you can do all this in less than 10 minutes, then you’re my hero!
Now the twins are old enough to climb in and out of the car, and they don’t have a buggy, it still panics me that they’ll do a runner. I’m trying to teach them to stand by a wall or the car and not move whilst I help the last one out. But it doesn’t always work. If the (now) five year old is with us, he actually proves helpful by holding onto a twin. Or if he’s feeling mischievous the total opposite happens and he encourages them to run off with him!
Choose the right car for looking after twins
Another practical tip for looking after baby twins is to make sure you have a suitable car. Especially if you’re like us and have an older child who still needed to be in a toddler car seat. Most cars cannot accommodate three baby/toddler seats across the back. You’ll have heard me moan (and moan and moan) about this before, if you’ve been with me from the beginning. We had just bought a brand new fancy BMW, and had to hand it back within months after we found out we were having twins as the back seat wasn’t wide enough.
There are only a handful of cars on the market that have three full-width back seats which can take car seats. These are models like a VW Touran, a Ford S-Max, and Citroen Picasso as well as a couple of others. Even the posh (and expensive) Land Rover Discovery I tried out was no good for this reason. If you’ve only got twins obviously your car options are looking a lot better. Just make sure you have a big boot. Double buggies are not small, and don’t even get me started on all the crap you have to take when you go on holiday.
Taking twins to baby and toddler groups
You may shudder at the thought of taking your twins to baby, toddler and preschool groups. And I can totally understand why. Considering it takes you HOURS to leave the house sometimes it’s really not worth the bother. And that’s fine. But if you’re the type of person who likes these groups, and wants to meet other people they can be really good. Just remember, unless you can rope someone else in to come and help you, you will need to put your big girl pants on, take a deep breath and just go for it.
Most groups will be run by lovely helpful ladies who will want to make it as easy as possible for you to be there. If they’re worth even bothering with, they’ll help you into the room, and ideally help you during the session, taking one of your twins from you to play with/sing at/dance with. If they don’t attempt to help you, don’t bother going back. This is not the right group for you. If you can park right outside you are winning. If not, then take the buggy if possible. Or at least one in the car seat, and one in a sling when they’re little, or reins when they’re walking. I would sometimes carry them both in car seats at the same time. It’s not an enjoyable experience. Although treat it as a weights session to add to your circuits and step aerobics – and all before lunch.
Other mums will stare at you – in awe of you looking after twins
I went to one group at a community centre with its own car park and would dash one in and give to the leader, then go back out for the other one. At the end of the class, she would carry one out with me. This is the type of leader you need to find! During the session be aware other mums will be watching you. I’m not sure if they were thinking I was crazy to be there, or wondering how I was going to deal with certain situations. Usually when one child is about to get into a fight over a balloon and the other is trying to escape out the fire exit. What they’re actually thinking is that you’re bloody amazing for being there with twins. And that’s exactly what you are. (I’d still recommend taking another adult with you though!)
A few more tips for looking after twins
So there you have it. A few tips for looking after twins for the bigger scenarios you’ll have to tackle. Other things I’d recommend is get a (huge) rucksack for a nappy bag so you’ll be hands free (especially when you no longer use a buggy), buy nappies/wet wipes/anything/everything in bulk when it’s on offer as you’re going to go through A LOT of it all, and get good bouncers and a feeding pillow.
But above all accept ALL offers of help. In fact don’t just accept them, bite the bloody arm off of the person offering. Do not be proud, yes you can do it on your own, but it’s so much easier (and will involve less wine consumption) if you can get help now and again. Lower your expectations. This is NOT the same as having one baby, not by any stretch of the imagination. Looking after baby twins is hard. But you will totally smash it.
If you have twins already, what are your top tips for coping?
Did you enjoy this post? If you want to read more about the early days with twins, head over to my Mum Life section. You may also want to read 10 ‘must haves’ to survive the early days with newborn twins and a toddler. And if you want some inspiration for UK family holidays, check out my Travel Section.
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