If you are expecting a new addition of multiple babies to your family, you already know that everything will change when it’s time for them to come home. Regardless of whether or not you’ve brought a baby home before, everything is new when there are two (or more!) babies. With two mouths to feed, two babies to soothe, and twice as many diapers to change, the first few months with newborn twins can be overwhelming. With advanced training in multiple births and experience supporting moms and families of multiples, we at Chicago Mindful Doulas have some tips on bringing your little ones home and adapting to your “new normal” with 2 or more babies.
Scheduling is everything
Imagine waking up to feed one baby, only to find the other awake and hungry as soon as you put the first back down to sleep. Juggling the demands of two separate feeding and sleeping schedules can quickly become overwhelming. Infants often operate on their own schedules, but there are ways to encourage the babies to sync with one another. Following a schedule that’s predictable yet flexible will create a framework that is soothing and reassuring to not only the babies but the rest of the family as well. To encourage this, try these tips:
- Write it down: keeping track of feedings, diapers, and sleep time is key. Some multiple moms like to jot this information down on a whiteboard, while others find apps helpful. Try Baby Tracker or Eat Sleep for tracking multiple babies, both available in the App Store. If you’re more of a pen-and-paper person, try a free printable chart like this or create one that works for your family.
- Wake the baby: it may seem counterintuitive, but when one baby wakes to feed, it’s best to wake the other as well. This encourages a similar feeding schedule, which will, in turn, keep parents up for fewer night feedings.
- Add in activities: planning time of the day for reading books, gentle walks, tummy time, and bathing adds important variety to the daily routine.
Having things ready to go can make daily life exponentially easier — and make sticking to that schedule go a lot more smoothly! — when multiple babies are involved. Keeping the fridge stocked with chopped cheese, fruit, cut veggies, and other quick snacks will help you stay well-fed when you need it most. Keeping stations with essential items on each floor of the house, or frequently used rooms minimizes running from one end of the house to the other with multiple babies in tow. Having a basket with feeding time essentials — water, snacks, wipes, burp cloths — will let you grab the basket and have everything there; once you sit down for feeding time, you’ll be there for awhile! Using your time to plan and prep wisely for the day can help avoid last-minute chaos and frantic running from room to room.
Mothering the mother
With increased hormonal fluctuations and the added demands that come from caring for multiple newborns, mothers of multiples are at an increased risk for developing postpartum depression, which makes it even more critical that mamas are able to care for themselves in the months following their babies’ birth. Making sure that you are well-fed, hydrated, and as rested as possible is necessary to your well-being. Keeping easy snacks on hand ensures that you’ll be able to grab something out of the fridge to munch on. A large cup with a straw for while you’re nursing or holding the babies will help you stay hydrated. Above all, accepting help from others — whether it be from a partner, friends, family, or a postpartum doula — will help you adjust to the demands of caring for multiple little ones.
Asking for (and accepting) help
The newborn period is an important time for bonding with babies, introducing new siblings to older children, and adapting to changes in the household dynamic that come with new babies. But that doesn’t mean that you have to do it all alone. Following a few simple guidelines will allow you to benefit most from the help from friends and family:
- Set visitation guidelines: everyone will want to meet the new babies, but that doesn’t mean that your home needs to become an open house. Remind friends and family who call that you’d like them to visit at certain times, which will allow you to plan accordingly and also maintain the babies’ schedule.
- Delegate tasks: if a friend or relative asks what they can do to help, consider asking different people for different things. Maybe your cousin would make a great babysitter for a morning that you need some help, while your neighbor would enjoy helping you prepare some meals ahead of time.
- Consider what you need most: a date night with your partner? Time alone with your older children? A shower, nap, or walk by yourself? Help with the laundry? Use this assessment to ask for, and accept, help from your support system that will benefit your family most during this time.
A postpartum doula’s role
A postpartum doula is specifically trained to nurture the entire family: parents, babies, and siblings. Doulas teach skills and strategies that help the family adjust to their new family dynamic and best care for both the mom as well as the newest members of the family. Since the needs of each family is different and can change on a day-to-day basis, postpartum doulas assist families in whatever is needed at the present moment, whether it be ensuring that mom is hydrated and fed, that partners are bonding with the new babies, or helping with tasks to allow the mom to gradually ease into her new responsibilities as a mom of multiple infants. By staying attentive to the changing needs of the mom, babies, and family, a mindful postpartum doula will help families ease into their new routine while keeping a watchful eye on everyone’s well-being.
Are you a mom of multiples? How did you adjust to bringing your little ones home? Leave a comment below!