No one plans to have twins, but for parents lucky enough to be blessed with them, the extra work can be both a challenge and hugely rewarding. Taking care of two babies is quite often double the work, but it can be doubly fun. Parents expecting twins just need to know and be prepared for some extra difficulty, a bit less sleep, and knowing which battles are worth the fight. With a good plan though, anyone can do it and truly experience the unique joy that can only come with twins.
I can still remember my reaction to finding out my wife and I would be having twins. During our first ultrasound, the technician showed us one healthy heartbeat, then after an audible “huh”, showed us another. It took me a minute to realize what I was hearing and what it meant. It took another couple of hours for it to really sink in that we’d be in for “double trouble” and had twice the work ahead of us. It also drastically changed our plan for furniture and setting up their room.
Now, two and a half years later, I am here to tell you if we could do it, anyone can. While raising two children at the same time is daunting, especially in the beginning, you’ll get through it, and one day will be surprised at how fast the time seems to have flown by. Though there may not be a manual for parents, here are my twelve tips to help you as a new parent of twins, find success, make it through, and enjoy the early days with your twins.
1. You can function on two hours of sleep more than you think. The human body is capable of far more than you may think. I had never been a morning person and always thought I needed at least eight hours of sleep – sometimes more like twelve hours a night in college – until my twins opened my eyes to just how far I could stretch myself. Some parents may get lucky and have twins that sync up with sleep schedules, but it’s very common that at least once a night babies will get on different rhythms, meaning parents are awake every few hours. Just know it’s temporary and though your patience and cognitive abilities may wear thin, you can survive work and a full day on just a few hours of sleep.
2. It’s not always twice the work. Just because there are two babies doesn’t mean everything comes with twice the work. It’s fairly easy to get kids on a schedule that’s relatively close to each other meaning you can at least get a break while both nap, and only have to worry about feeding at one time. Keep them together so that they stay on the same schedule and make the most of the little gaps you get as a result. Power naps are your friend.
3. You might not actually need two beds. Sure, you’ll probably want the second just in case, but twins form a unique bond that other siblings just don’t get. This bond is a huge factor in what makes raising twins so fun and rewarding as a parent and it also means they’ll quickly attach themselves to each other. My boys are so close they never want to go to sleep alone and insist on sleeping in the same crib every night. Eventually they get sick of each other when someone’s foot ends up in the other’s nose and get separated, but it’s an area to potentially save some cash.
4. They’ll do the things you don’t want at the same time, and the things you do want at different times. As babies, twins will seemingly never do the same thing at the same time when you want it, like napping. Once they get older, they copy each other for everything. Sometimes this is helpful if you need them to follow you or stay together, but other times it means a constant game of twin B doing whatever you just told twin B not to do. Get used to proactively telling twin B not to stick his fingers up his nose immediately after you see twin A do it.
5. Get two of everything. Avoid fights with two of everything; cups, toys, bottles, stuffed animals, and everything else. While it can be tempting to save money or to try to teach them the importance of sharing, trust me, there are better times to learn these lessons than when breaking up a biting fight over Elmo on two hours of sleep. We even got two colors of items like cups, spoons, and bottles so that they each learned which was theirs and avoided fights in the first place.
6. You’ll get sick of the comments from strangers. Get used to your twins being the biggest celebrities in any room or place they are in. They’ll get all the attention and random strangers will feel the need to touch them, talk to them, and ask a million questions. You’ll get sick of comments they think are funny and original like “double trouble”, “you’ve got your hands full”, and “who is older”. My wife even had a stranger ask her how she managed to breastfeed both of them! Start practicing your responses now.
7. Get a dog for clean up. Fine, this might not be my most practical tip, but it does make a huge difference. Twins create messes that rival the destruction of Pompei. Crumbs end up everywhere. All manners of unidentifiable sticky substances end up on the floor. Vacuuming and cleaning floors every day gets old, so nature’s Roomba, a dog, is perfect for keeping things in order. Plus, this approach has resulted in the dog and our boys being best friends since infanthood, building a love of animals in our boys.
8. You’ll never get a picture of both of them at the same time. Accept that you’ll have either two of every picture with one kid each, or a single picture with one kid looking and the other a blur of movement and facing the complete opposite direction. You’ll become that parent at the zoo and everywhere else yelling each kid’s name twenty times to get one’s attention just as quickly as the other turns away again. You can get family pictures with twins when they’re about 20.
9. Embrace their differences. It’s incredible to me how different our boys have become even raised exactly the same with the same experiences. While it’s fun to accentuate their similarities, we’re more guilty than most of dressing them the same and making them do the same things, you’re missing a big part of the experience of raising twins if you don’t also celebrate the things that make them unique. Split them up periodically, even if it just means one goes shopping while the other stays home. Let them also decide what they want to do and celebrate their evolution into distinct people with their own personalities and values.
10. Get a diaper subscription. Twins go through so many diapers so quickly. I’m still amazed by how quickly a Costco sized box of diapers disappears from the house – think cartoon piranhas turning a chicken wing into just the bone. Get a membership to a warehouse store, an Amazon subscription, or maybe both. They’ll also grow like weeds in the first few months, so don’t overstock on a single size because it may quickly be too small.
11. Sleep when they sleep, if ever. While it can be tempting to try to cram in chores or just other types of relaxation while they sleep, the absolute best use is to catch up on your own sleep. A few months in, nap schedules are ideal with fairly regular and stable naps of a few hours at a time multiple times throughout the day. If the days are hard to get through because there are only a few hours, often frequently uninterrupted, throughout the night, catch up throughout the day during their naps. It’s also a good time to practice an effective strategy for parents, splitting up. While it can be hugely helpful at times to share duties across parents so that each parent takes one kid and can play man coverage, there are just as many times it makes sense to let one parent get some recovery on the bench while the other handles zone defense.
12. Double the work, double the tears, double the fun. In the early months especially, raising twins can feel like everything is double, if not more, times the work. This can mean double the stress, double the doubt about being a good parent, and double the fear about doing the right thing. As hard as it can be, it’s important to remember this is temporary and things do continually get better. For all the extra anxiety, loss of sleep, and tears, there will be even more extra joy, fun, happiness, and rewarding times for parents. The first time your twins hold hands without prompting, give each other a hug, or tell you in unison that they love you, you’ll see it’s more than worth the double work.
I’m not here to tell you it will be easy, but trust me, you can make it through the hard parts of raising twins and discover the joy that only comes with twins. The early days can be an overwhelming storm of anxiety and stress and the lack of sleep that can only come from two new human beings seemingly working together is never easy, but it does get easier. Throughout this time, figure out which fights are worth having, which are better fought another day, and what matters to you as a parent. Additionally, learn to embrace both their similarities and differences equally and you’ll soon find what makes raising twins such a blast.