The doctor has just given you the news: you're pregnant with more than one baby. You may feel joy and excitement, but also this news may leave you stunned and feeling unprepared.
Relax. If you are early in your pregnancy, you have several months to get ready, both emotionally and organizationally. If you are further along in your pregnancy, you still have time, but start as soon as you can because you have a good chance of delivering your babies early. Approximately 80% of multiple births occur before the expected due date. Although you may feel that you need to work overtime to get organized, do your best to get as much rest as possible before the babies come. Rest will help keep you healthy, so you can care for your newborns. For some mothers-to-be, this has meant starting maternity leave early, if financially possible.
Line up help
It can be challenging and physically demanding to care for one newborn. So it should not be surprising that having more than one baby can increase the work and stress. With one baby, you can sleep when the baby sleeps, but with two or more, you'll be lucky to get a five-minute catnap.
Line up help now, before the babies are born. Call relatives and friends and don't be shy in asking them for help. Neighborhood teens make great baby sitters; if you're worried about whether they can handle more than one baby, book two sitters at a time. If you can afford it, consider hiring a nanny or baby nurse.
Make arrangements to have someone with you day and night, at least for the first few weeks until you recover physically from the birth. You also may find it useful to contact an organization like the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs. The women in this organization have that most valuable of all traits — experience.
In the beginning, a single crib will be sufficient for two children, but an extra bassinet or portable crib is a good idea. Thus, if one baby is sleeping and another is fussy, you can keep them separated until they are both asleep.
A critical purchase is a double stroller. Back-to-back strollers fit through doors more easily than side-by-side models.
You may find it useful to post a chart in the nursery on which you record feedings, diaper changes, baths, and sleep times, so no matter who is providing the care, everyone knows what's been done and what needs to be done. If you can, try to keep the babies on the same schedule for these activities. If you are unable to keep the babies on the same schedule, try to alternate between them. For example, bathe one baby on even days and another on odd days, etc.
If possible, set up changing stations throughout your house. Stock them with diapers, wipes, towels and covered diaper pails so you're not running up and down stairs.
Prepare for breastfeeding
It's important for your own health and well-being that you take good care of yourself; it's also critical for successful breastfeeding. Eating right, drinking plenty of fluids and resting whenever possible will help your body produce the quantity of milk necessary to feed more than one baby. Make sure you have an emotional support system in place, including your partner and your physician, a lactation consultant, or another experienced breastfeeding mom you can call on. This will help if you have questions or difficulty breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding takes a little more planning when you have more than one baby. Buy a top-quality, portable double breast pump so that you always have milk on hand. If for some medical reason, the babies can't take breast milk immediately after they are born, you can freeze your milk so your babies can have it later. This also helps establish and maintain your milk supply, so when your babies are ready to nurse, you'll be ready, too. Some babies develop a preference for the artificial nipple, making it harder to re-establish breastfeeding but with help, most can learn to breastfeed. If your babies do need supplemental milk, explore other feeding options that may be available.
Rest assured that you will have enough milk to feed more than one baby. Your body produces milk based on supply and demand; more babies nursing means your body will produce more milk. As you might imagine, breast-feeding more than one baby takes more time. To save time, you may want to try to breastfeed two babies together, particularly in the first few weeks when they're tiny and don't move around much.
• You can position them in front of you with their legs overlapping, making an X across your lap.
• Or put pillows at your side (and maybe one on your lap) and put the babies face up on the pillows with their legs facing the back of the chair (both babies in the football or clutch hold).
• You can also lay the babies across your lap, with one on top of the other, but with their heads at opposite ends.
Alternate sides so that each baby feeds from both breasts. This ensures that the babies get equal quantities of milk, since one breast often produces more milk than the other, and gives your babies extra visual stimulation. You may want to learn to nurse while lying down so you can rest while the babies feed.
If you need to bottle-feed your babies, get on a schedule and feed two at the same time to avoid forgetting which baby has been fed and feeling that all of your time is spent feeding babies. In the early weeks, before your babies learn how to roll over, you can lay them on either side of you in bed or on the sofa, bolstered by pillows, and simultaneously feed them.
Your babies may look alike, but twins or other multiples are individuals and should be treated as such from the beginning. Refer to them by their names, photograph them separately and make sure each has his own toys. Try to avoid dressing them identically all the time. Find time to spend alone with each baby, whether it's an outing to the park or just an hour cuddling in the rocking chair.