Twins: The First Eight Weeks

As soon as we found out we were expecting twins, I began connecting with other twin moms in our community, and across Canada. I found most twin parents said the first eight to ten weeks were brutal, but after that things started getting better. We were also warned we would get zero sleep, and wouldn’t remember the first 3-4 months. I rememered what it was like when Zach was born – the lack of sleep, exhaustion, round the clock feedings – it was tough. I remember thinking “how do twin parents do it?” when Zach was a baby. Well there was nothing I could have done, and no amount of books I could have read, to prepare me for the lack of sleep. It was INTENSE.

When I say intense, I mean we literally went entire nights without sleeping at all. And not just one night here and there, it was multiple nights per week for several weeks. Danny had three weeks off work, but once he went back I had to feed the babies on my own throughout the night. It took a long time to get the hang of feeding both babies at once, so for the first couple of months I fed them one at a time when I was on my own.  Our babies were small and took about an hour to eat, and would eat every two hours. So this meant that after both finished eating, burping, and settling back to sleep, one of them was back up to eat again within 15-30min. This went on around the clock for several weeks. On top of that, I was pumping around the clock right from the start as well as we had difficulties with breastfeeding. Even if breast feeding had gone smoothly, most twin moms have to pump to get their supply up.  I also got mastitis twice in two months. The first couple of months were AWFUL.

I had to cancel appointments because I wasn’t able to drive safely from the lack of sleep. I can’t articulate well enough how mentally and physically draining this process was. I felt like we were running a baby factory. Feed one, burp, change, feed the other, burp, change, pump, repeat. Then there was the hormones and baby blues. I was really nervous about getting postpartum depression, which I didn’t have with Zach, but the chances of getting it with twins is much higher. While I’m fortunate that I didn’t get it, the baby blues did last much longer with the twins than it did with Zach. I cried pretty much every single day for the first six to eight weeks I think. On top of looking after two newborn babies, we had Zach to deal with as well, who turned two years old a month before the girls arrived. He became so attached to Danny and would scream and cry when he had to help me feed the babies, which was pretty much every feed. It was awful. I would hear him crying downstairs for Danny and there was nothing we could do about it. Thank god my mom was here to help look after him.

On top of the lack of sleep, I felt like I couldn’t bond with the babies in the same way I was able to with Zach. There was zero time to just hold the babies, play with them, or stare at them. Anytime I felt like I had a few minutes with nothing to do, I slept. It really made me sad, and I felt horribly guilty over it. The whole nine months I was pregnant I was so excited, and everyone else was so excited, that when they arrived it was such a huge let down to not feel that excitement anymore once reality hit. But this is totally normal. I think feeling guilty is inevitable, but just know it’s normal, and it did get better.

I remember on the night before the girls turned eight weeks, Danny turned to me and said “well according to everyone, tomorrow it gets easier.” Ha! While it was getting better, it took until they were about three to four months old until I felt like I had some sort of control and like I could sleep enough during the night to make it through the day.

We’re 7.5 months in now, and I have a hard time remembering the first couple of months. I took a ton of photos, which helps, but baby brain is real and so is the exhaustion.

If you’re expecting twins, here are some of the things that really helped us get through the first eight to ten weeks:

  1. A night nurse/nanny. If you have the money, or are able to save up for it, I HIGHLY recommend finding a night nurse to help with overnights occasionally. We were fortunate enough to be able to afford having someone come in and watch the babies all night about twice per week for the first two months. I know some people would have a hard time letting someone else watch their newborns all night, and I did too, but we got referrals, recommendations, and feedback from other twin parents and felt comfortable when we met our night nurse. She was amazing. This was pretty much the only way I could get through some days – knowing I’d get at least 6 hours of sleep that night.
  2. A strong & supportive network of help – your village. My mom moved in with us for seven weeks when the girls were born. She basically looked after Zach the entire time, cooked food, did laundry, and cleaned the house. My inlaws also came in from out of town to help, which was amazing. Basically all the extended family just gave Zach their full attention. It distracted him enough from missing daddy, which made our job of looking after the babies much easier.
  3. Prepared meals. We actually didn’t do too much of this when Zach was born, but with the girls we knew it would be several months before we’d have the time and energy to cook. We’re seven months in and I still don’t have the energy to make dinner most nights. We didn’t have a baby shower for the twins, but if anyone asked what we wanted as a gift for the babies, I asked them for a gift card to a meal delivery service instead. It was the best decision we made. Twice per week we had fresh ingredients, portioned out, with a recipe card, delivered to our door.
  4. Important numbers & names on hand. I wanted to be as prepared as possible when it came time to getting extra support for breastfeeding. I researched lactation consultants and breastfeeding clinics in our area while I was pregnant so I’d have all the information ready for if/when I needed it, and I did absolutely need it.
  5. Places to put the babies down safely. We have used our Table for Two daily since the girls were born. It’s in our family room and we had the girls sleeping it it right from the beginning. We also had our Twin Z pillow upstairs along with their bassinet’s so always had somewhere to put them. I can’t recommend these two products enough!
  6. Diaper and/or formula subscription. The last thing you’re going to want to do with newborn twins is have to run out at 8:00pm to buy diapers or formula. Plus, the diaper subscription with Amazon Prime is the cheapest way to buy them. There’s seriously nothing better than having diapers show up at your door. It’s soooo easy.
  7. Getting out of the house whenever possible. This really made a difference to my mental health. Even just walking to the mailbox and back made me feel better. Having a toddler at home forced us to get out, so we kinda had no choice on weekends. There were for sure some weeks where I didn’t leave the house during the day at all though. Those weeks I felt like crap and I think the babies felt crappy too.
  8. A sleep schedule for my husband and I. For the first three weeks my husband and I would alternate sleeping during the day while he was off work. My mom was staying with us, so there was always two people awake to look after the babies and Zach. Once Danny went back to work, I would sleep once he got home until about 11:00-12:00pm, then he’d go to sleep and I’d be up with the babies during the night. It worked well, but we never saw each other. This is just something you have to accept unfortunately.
  9. Babies eating and sleeping at the same time. This is the MOST IMPORTANT advice I can give. Whatever you do, however you decide to feed your babies, make sure they’re eating and sleeping at the same time (or right after each other until you figure out tandem feeding). There will be times when one baby is sleeping soundly, but the other is hungry, and you’ll think “maybe she’ll just sleep through this feed” or “she looks so peaceful, I’m going to let her sleep.” DON’T DO IT! It will ruin your entire day. You won’t have that 15-30min of break between feeds for the rest of the day. How did I do it? I always woke the sleeping baby. As painful as that is, with twins, it’s a must. As soon as one woke up, if Danny was there to help feed, we’d wake the other up, or I’d bottle feed both at the same time in the Twin Z pillow or Table for Two once I was comfortable with that. During the day I would breastfeed one, then my mom or Danny would top her up with a bottle, then I’d start the next right away. I went by the 15 minute rule – always wake the other baby within 15 minutes of the first waking up.
  10. A supportive network of other parents of multiples. I joined the Toronto Parents Of Multiple Birth Association when I was pregnant, and let me tell you, theres no better advice on raising twins than from another twin parent thats been through it. My girlfriends were great, but no one quite understands the unique challenges like another multiples mom or dad.