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  • Writer's pictureLiss McKenzie

10 Survival Tips for the New Twin Mom (Practical Advice to Prepare for Twins)

Updated: May 21, 2023


Recently I read a comment on one of my Instagram reels about how a lot of twin mom content can feel generalized and uplifting instead of truly getting into the nitty gritty of preparing for life with twins. This sparked a desire in me to think back to those early days and share as much as I could to help new twin mamas prepare for what's to come. So in this post I share my best advice on how to make it through those first few months of twins including tips on essential products, feeding, schedules, sleep and getting out of the house.


I think the reason why twin advice seems general is that each situation is so different, and what worked well for one person might not work for everyone. That being said, I am always happy to share my experiences in the hopes that they make a difference (even slight) in another mom's journey.


I am also so privileged to have an incredible group of twin mamas as part of my instafam and asked them to share what advice they wish they would have received when they were pregnant. Look for those at the end of this post!



1. Take birth classes geared to parents of multiples / build a twin mom tribe!

There is nothing more helpful in preparing for life with twins, than to learn from those who experienced it themselves. When I was pregnant, I realized that I didn't know many twin parents, especially those in the early days. I was grateful that the one twin parent I did know put me in touch with a local twins association through Facebook. Finding this community of twin parents was incredible. It was like we had an instant bond without even knowing each other. I've never met such a generous and welcoming community. I would suggest heading to Facebook and searching for a twin association near you or asking your doctor for a recommendation.


Secondly, even though I had taken a birth and babies class with my first son through the hospital, we took another twin-specific birthing class this time around. Having the information geared to twin parents was really helpful, but beyond that, connecting with other local families who were also pregnant with twins was wonderful. I still keep in touch with many of these parents and have made life-long friends (our babies too!! NOTHING cuter than a twin play date!!).


And lastly, if I had not already had the experience and knowledge of breastfeeding my first son, I definitely would have invested in a twin breastfeeding class while I was pregnant. I went into my breastfeeding journey with the twins cautiously optimistic. I had some reservations around the logistics of tandem feeding, but I had a really good base knowledge of what a good latch looked like, pumping tips and milk storage etc. Even with that base knowledge, our journey did not come easy, and I really struggled at the beginning. That's why I chose to share so much about my breastfeeding journey on my instagram and this blog, to help other moms. For more information on my feeding journey and all the tips and details to get prepared see this blog post (I am still breastfeeding my twins at 16 months and counting!).



2. Create a birth plan (but leave room for flexibility)


Having some conversations about your options for delivery, preferences around aftercare (NICU if needed) and feeding goals (breast, donor milk or formula), makes decisions in the moment a lot less daunting. As we know, twins are anything but predictable so even the best laid plans are going to need to change. But, having some sort of idea around your options and preferences will help you prepare for those scenarios.


I was so grateful to have a very understanding OB who walked through all my options and let me customize my plan accordingly. If you don't find you have this same support, consider pushing for a new OB or extended care team. It's so important to be your own advocate and be well informed of all your options for the benefit of you and your babies.


It really helped me to read other twin moms birth stories/experiences to know what I was getting into and wrap my head around having a scheduled c-section at 36 weeks (versus delivering vaginally at 41 weeks with my first son). You can read my full birth story and the tips I have for a scheduled c-section here (I also share my hospital bag checklist and birth plan template in this post).


3. Prep the nursey/stock up on supplies


If you ask 5 twin moms for their favorite products or must-have items, you will likely receive a slightly different list from each of them. But, I do feel like there are a handful of items that are truly essential for preparing for newborn twins, even if the brand or specific model are different for each person. I've compiled a list of what I think are essentials here, and shared more details of when you need to buy what along with links to what I used, in this blog post. There are so many great secondhand shops and groups, so be sure to check around for things you can get well-loved to save some money! Needing two of (almost) everything does not come cheap!


On top of supplies for the babies, stock up on general household items like toilet paper, cleaning products, self-care items and freezer meals! Getting out of the house is tough in those early days. Anything you can do in advance will make those first few weeks more manageable. I made some delicious instapot dump meals leading up to the twins arrival and plan to share in a future blog post - be sure to subscribe to be notified when that is live!




4. Arrange for help at home.

We were so incredibly lucky to have amazing support from our friends and families. My parents stayed with us for the first month and it made such a difference. Having a 3 year old at the time of delivery added another layer of logistics to everything for us. My parents were instrumental in helping us care for our first son and manage all the other tasks outside of the new twin babies (cooking, cleaning, laundry, lawn maintenance, grocery shopping etc.). On top of that, my mom, husband and I took on a 3 person rotation for feeding the twins those first few weeks as we sorted out the logistics of caring for two newborns.


If you can have friends/family or hired help bring meals, do laundry, dishes, cleaning or take shifts with the babies, take full advantage of it. It might seem like a lot of money, or a lot to ask of friends/family, but it is truly such a short blip in time, it will be worth every second, I promise you!



5. Put your health (mental and physical) at the top of your list

This was really difficult for me, and I think a lot of moms can relate. It was a big change going from my first pregnancy and vaginal delivery to then recovering from a c-section with premature twins. I felt an immense amount of guilt around not being able to care for them myself those first few weeks, and the amount of help I required. I also felt guilt about needing to rest and not being able to do stairs, or lift the car seats etc. Every time I did push myself to do more than I should, I paid for it and felt like my recovery took a step back for a couple days. I also noticed a direct correlation in my breastmilk production if I was not eating, drinking or getting enough rest.


There is also so much pressure that comes with motherhood and feeling like you need to do things a certain way (or not). Unfortunately, every single decision you need to make comes with conflicting advice. At the end of the day only you will know what the right decision is for you and your babies and it's important to weigh your own health into those decisions as well. A healthy/happy mama is so important, if not the most important thing for your family.


As they say, you can't pour from an empty cup, so here's your reminder to book those massages, talk to a counsellor, have a friend bring you a Starbucks, accept any help that is offered and make sure you fill your cup (literally and figuratively) every single day. And even though it's impossible to avoid mom guilt (for absolutely everything), push it aside and just do what you need to do to feel like you again. Your family and those babies will only reap the benefits.


6. Stick to a schedule.

In the hospital (NICU) they will put the babies on a 3 hr rotation (3 hrs from the START of one feed to the start of the next). Keeping this schedule worked wonders for us at home as well. I think the logistics of who does what and how was the biggest challenge those early days. Once we figured out a routine to follow, and how to solo feed (one person feed two babies at once), things got a lot easier and we could maximize our rest. I'm happy to share what worked well for us, however, this isn't necessarily what is going to work well for you, so take it with a grain of salt.


Most twin parents will tell you that the most important thing for life with twins is to have them on the same schedule for eating/sleeping etc (as much as possible) so you can maximize efficiency. So whatever schedule you follow, I would definitely encourage waking both at the same time and feeding as closely together as possible. In the beginning or feeding routine took about 1.5hrs start to finish, and then got down to 30ish minutes after a the first few weeks (plus pumping). We were fortunate enough to have the help of my parents for the first month, so our schedule and routine involved a three person rotation.


Our newborn twin schedule (0-4weeks):

Me: awake 9am-8:30pm (up to pump at 12am, solo feed 3am, pump 6am, repeat)

Russ: awake 12pm-3am, solo feed 12am

Mom: awake 5am-10pm, solo feed 6am


6am - Mom solo bottle feed and settle the twins. I would wake to pump and go back to sleep.


7am - mom/dad get my older son up and fed breakfast, dressed and off to preschool. Wash dishes/bottles, laundry, cleaning, meal prep etc.


9am - mom and I would bottle feed together. Then I would pump while mom burped and settled the babies. We would do some tummy time or play on the exercise mats and then put down for a nap in the daylight (this helps them determine day from night to encourage longer stretches of sleep at night).


12pm - repeat the 9am routine, but usually we would head out for a walk or sit outside with the babies to get them some fresh air and daylight. Russ would wake up at this time and have breakfast/shower/coffee.


1pm - Russ would take over washing bottles/pump parts etc. (he had a system)


3pm - Russ and I would feed both babies. Then I would pump while Russ burped and settled the babies. More tummy time or play time/snuggles. Then another daylight nap.


4pm - mom/dad pick up Wells and make dinner.


6pm - Russ and mom would feed the babies and I would pump. Mom/dad would burp and settle/play with the babies and clean up dinner while Russ and I had some quality time with Wells before bed.


7:30pm - Russ and I would put Wells to sleep while mom and dad helped with the babies (there was a period of time where this would be the witching hour for us, so we would cluster feed them and use the bouncy chairs or swings to settle them).


8pm - I would pump and give the milk to Russ, then go to bed.


9pm - Russ and mom feed the twins. Then put to bed for the night in their nursery (we moved them into their own cribs/room at 2 weeks postpartum as this seemed to work best for our family). My mom would then go to bed and Russ would be "on call" for settling the babies. He would often stay in the nursery and watch tv or play guitar (the babies weren't phased by noise early on).


12am - Russ solo feed and put straight back to bed. I would wake to pump and go back to bed. Russ would stay up and be "on call" in case the babies woke up and needed to be settled back to sleep. This way I could maximize my rest.


3am - Russ would go to bed. I would solo feed and then out right back down to sleep. Then I would pump and go back to bed, but be "on call" for wake-ups etc. until 5am when my mom would take over.



*around 4 weeks pp when the babies hit their birth weight, I started adding in some breastfeeding so I would nurse one baby for 5-10 mins before doing a top-up bottle and then switch to the other baby at the next feed (during the day only) or I would tandem nurse both 1-2 times a day. This was only when I had help during the day. For more specifics on how I tandem breastfed my twins, see this Instagram highlight.


*around 6-8 weeks this schedule changed again, as my parents went back home and my husband returned to work so I was on my own from 7:30am-4:00pm. I also started nursing during the day and pumping only a couple times a day and at night. I shared a day in the life on my Instagram stories that you can see here with more details on our schedule and tips on how life with 8 week old twins truly is!



7. Learn to solo feed.

Feeding two babies at once, alone, is quite intimidating. But the more you do it, the quicker you pick up little hacks to do it better and more efficiently. How you feed your babies can be quite controversial, and I have taken some flack in some of the pictures and videos I've shared on my Instagram page as to how we solo fed the twins when they were newborns. So I will just say that I am not a medical professional, nor a lactation or feeding consultant. Everything I share here is based on my experience and what worked for me and my family. If it's not something you are comfortable with or doesn't work for you that is totally fine! Please do not judge me or another mama for how she survives this incredibly challenging season of life.


Our feeding routine early on took about 1.5hrs and looked like this: heat both bottles and have them ready near the pack n play or feeding pillow. Wake one baby, change diaper and lay down in the raised basinet of the pack n play (or twinZ pillow) with his clothes off so he would wake-up fully. Wake second baby, change diaper and lay down next to his brother. Babies will be on their sides, back to back (or laying on their sides in the pillow). We would then use a receiving blanket to prop the bottle in the correct position for each baby (or hold both bottles in the side position to pace feed). Side lying position helps the babies pace feed because the milk does not drip out of the nipple this way, the baby has to work to access it. There are risks that come with propping bottles, so please ensure you learn about these and do what you are comfortable with. For us, we never left the babies with their bottles unattended/monitored. We fed them on their sides so the milk was not leaking into their mouths (pace feeds), and we only did this when we couldn't physically hold both bottles at the same time (when tending to one baby etc.).


As they got older and we were more confident holding two babies at one time, we tried different variations of bottle-feeding positions. I used a bed pillow on my lap, or the TwinZ nursing pillow in front of me on the floor mostly. As they got bigger, I liked sitting on the floor between two bouncy chairs or single boppy pillows. As I got more confident in holding both babies at once, I could double burp them on my shoulders or on the nursing pillows by turning them on their stomachs. For more pictures, videos and tips, see this highlight on my Instagram page.


8. Set healthy sleep habits from the start

This was a major take away from having my first son and going through all the joy that is infant sleep. I'm so glad that I had the experience of sleep training with my first son to prepare me for how to get the twins sleeping well on their own from the start. Of course there is no magic remedy and all babies go through sleep regressions and challenges, but there were a few things I did differently with the twins that I do think made a huge difference!


Early on, nap in the daylight and sleep in the dark to help babies set their internal clocks.

Since we live in a two story home, it was much easier for us to nap the babies in a pack n play on the main floor, rather than bringing them up and down the stairs for each nap. They learned to sleep through noise, light and activity in the daytime and when it came closer to bedtime (9ish those first couple months) we would move them upstairs to a dark space with white noise.


Start a sleep routine

This doesn't have to be anything crazy for the first while (or ever, really), but establishing a routine to help the babies associate certain activities with sleep is something you can do from the start as well. For us this looked like: change diaper, feed (bottle or nurse), burp, dark room, swaddle, soother, white noise, bounce in bouncy chair and then transfer to crib. As they got older we added in bathtime (2-3 times per week), stories, songs and cuddles. We still do the same bedtime routine every night. You can see how we manage this with all three boys in this post on Instagram. We also do a slightly smaller version of this routine at naptime, which you can see here.


Eliminate sleep crutches

This was something I was very mindful of with the twins because Wells had a couple sleep crutches which were really difficult to break when we did sleep training for him at 4 months. Things like being rocked to sleep, held to sleep and nursing to sleep. With the twins, I didn't want to have to rock them to sleep every night because I knew if I was on my own, it would be too difficult to that for both babies at once. This is why we used the bouncy chairs in the beginning and then made sure to put them in their cribs while they were awake. We also always did their feeds (nurse/bottle) first for the sleep routine instead of letting them fall asleep while nursing/bottle feeding.


Pay attention to wake windows/schedule

I've found that sticking to a schedule has been most important for all of us getting better sleep. There are common recommendations around how long babies should stay awake between naps depending on their age. Putting the boys down for naps/bedtime before they became overtired made the biggest difference for us. Early on the babies wake window was only 30-45 mins (basically as long as it takes to feed them and settle back to sleep), then it stretches to 1hr, 1.5hrs and so on and so forth. For our boys now (at 16 months) we do best when the boys sleep every 3.5/4 hours. A lot of finding the optimal wake windows is trial and error as all babies are different, but this post has some recommendations that seemed to work well for us.


Sleep train/get sleep help

Whether you hire a sleep consultant, use a sleep program, or follow a sleep training guide/book, I think one of the best things we did for our boys was to sleep train them. Obviously this is not for everyone, and again there are lots of opinions on what is the best method. Personally, I found using a mix of Taking Cara Babies and Sleep Sense was the best option for us. With Wells and the twins, after only 7-10 days, they were sleeping through the night and eliminating night feeds. Talk about a game-changer!


9. Get out of the house.

This one goes back to putting your health first again. I didn't realize just how much being stuck at home with two babies all day long took a toll on my mental health until I started forcing myself to get out of the house. At first it would just be a walk around the block, or a quick errand to the store for groceries. Then we planned a first outing as a family of 5 to a local park. Having a toddler as well forced me to do a lot more out of the home than I likely would have if it were just two newborns, but I'm so grateful that I had that push. I found the anticipation was much worse than actually getting out there and just doing it.







A few things that helped me get more comfortable:

  1. Plan a trip close to home so you can turn around if it all falls apart or you forget something.

  2. Make it low pressure so you don't disappoint anyone if you don't make it out of the car.

  3. Bring everything you think you might need but leave it in the car parked nearby. You will quickly determine what you need and what you don't after your first outing.

  4. Keep it short - feed and change the babies right before you leave, be back before the next feeding. if you want to practice feeding while out and about, bring someone with you to help and go somewhere with a nursing room like a mall or mom/baby class.

  5. Just do it! What's the worst that could happen - the babies cry, have a poo explosion, you forget something... that's why there are shops on every corner! All worth the risk!


10. Know you are not alone. Your feelings are valid. And there are a whole lot of twin mamas out there cheering you on!


The twin mom community is unlike any other group out there. When I asked my instagram community what advice they wished they would have recieved when pregnant with twins, this is what they said!



"Know the importance of being flexible when it comes to feeding, sleeping and people helping". Set your own boundaries and stick to them. Only you know what's best for your babies.

"I think you can't prepare for it until you are living it..."

"Stock up on food! Get help! You cannot do it alone at first"

"Twins can come early, learn about the signs to watch for"

"If you can get help, get help. The extra hands are so valuable. Divide and conquer"

"As much as you want to prepare, nothing will make you fully ready. You will learn and adjust as you go, just be open to things ebbing and flowing. Ask for help. But know you can do it"

"I had no clue how often babies ate. Start the 3 hour clock at the beginning of the feed, not the end"

"Less is more, you don't need two of everything"

"Outsource what you can - cleaners, meal delivery, laundry service, screen time as needed for older siblings"

"Have a basket full of diapers, wipes, creams, water and snacks accessible near your bed"

"Sleep deprivation is going to happen for both mom and dad and can cause meaningless arguments!"

"If planning to breastfeed seek out a lactation consultant way BEFORE the due date to prepare"

"You adjust to the lack of sleep, have your husband/partner help in the middle of the night even if breastfeeding, take shifts where you can"

"Get them on a daycare waitlist NOW"

"Have family come help with the babies or hire a nanny even when you are home to split the load"

"You are going to be exhausted. Set-up shifts. Tag team the babies with a partner. Get help."

"Mental health is worth protecting"

"Do a ton of freezer meals before hand"

"Keep the babies on the same schedule, even if that means waking one up"

"Our rule: anything said between 11pm and 6am doesn't count, laugh it off the next day"


I just can't help but to end this post with some words of encouragement, because at the end of the day that is what I needed to hear in those hard and scary moments. That is what I needed to see - that there were other moms out there making it happen. And that somehow life was manageable, and enjoyable, and not always as hard as I was worried it would be. Because when you are in those tough moments or tough stages it can feel like it will always be like that. And I can tell you, it isn't! Life does get good again, in fact it gets so much better than you can ever imagine. Please reach out anytime if you need a reminder!


xo




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