From the Trenches: a Parent’s Guide to Raising Twins
No one plans to have twins, but for parents lucky enough to be blessed with them, raising twins can be both a challenge and hugely rewarding. Taking care of two babies is pretty much double the work—but it can be doubly fun.
I can still remember the moment I found out my wife and I were having twins. During our first ultrasound, the technician showed us one healthy heartbeat, and 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 (and to realize we’d have to drastically change our plan for the nursery).
Now, two and a half years later, I’m here to tell you if we could do it, anyone can. While raising twins is daunting, especially in the beginning, you’ll get through it and even be surprised at how fast the time seems to fly by. All it takes is a little preparedness. Here are my top tips to help you find success and enjoy those early days with your babies.
I’m not saying sleep isn’t important—it absolutely is, and you should attempt to get some at every opportunity. Power naps are your friend. But the human body is capable of far more than you might assume. I had never been a morning person and always thought I needed at least eight hours of sleep—until my twins opened my eyes to just how far I could stretch myself. Some parents may get lucky and have twins that sync their sleep schedules, but it’s common for babies to be on different rhythms, meaning you end up being roused every few hours. Just know that it’s temporary, and though your patience and cognitive abilities may wear thin, you can survive a full day on just a few hours of sleep.
As babies, twins will seemingly never do the same thing at the same time when you want it, like napping. Once they get older, though, they’re in lock-step and copy everything the other does. Sometimes that’s helpful, like if you need them to follow you or stay together, but other times it means a constant game of twin A doing whatever you just told twin B not to do. Get used to proactively telling twin A not to stick his fingers up his nose immediately after he sees twin B do it.
To avoid toddler fights over who has what, plan to buy two of everything, whether it’s bottles, cups or toys. Sure, it’s important to teach them the importance of sharing (and tempting to save a bit of cash), but trust me, there are better times to impart those lessons than while breaking up a biting fight over who gets Elmo on two hours of sleep. We even got cups, spoons and bottles in two different colors so they each learned which was theirs and avoided fights in the first place.
The one exception to the above rule: You can potentially get away with having a single crib. You’ll probably want a second bed just in case, but twins quickly form a unique bond (which is part of what makes raising twins so fun and rewarding). My boys are so close that 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 against the other’s nose and get separated, but it’s one way to potentially save on money and space.
Twins go through so many diapers so quickly. I’m still amazed by how quickly a Costco-size box of diapers disappears from the house—think cartoon piranhas turning a chicken wing into just the bone in the blink of an eye. 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.
Get used to your twins being the biggest celebrities in any room they’re in. They’ll draw 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 oh-so-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.
Fine, this might not be my most practical tip, but it does make a huge difference. Twins create messes that rival the destruction of Pompeii. 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 version of the Roomba—a dog—is perfect for keeping things in order. Plus, our boys and the dog have been best friends since infanthood, helping to instill a love for animals in our kids.
Accept that you’ll have either have to pose for pictures twice, each time with just one kid, or take a single picture with one twin looking at the camera and the other a blur of movement and facing the complete opposite direction. You’ll become that parent at the zoo who, after yelling the kids’ names 20 times, captures one’s attention just as the other turns away again. You can get family pictures with twins when they’re about 20.
It’s incredible to me how different our boys have become, even though they’ve been raised in exactly the same way 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 tags along on a parent’s errand while the other stays home. Let them decide what they want to do and celebrate their evolution into distinct people with their own personalities and values.
Especially in the early months, raising twins can feel like everything is double (or triple) times the work. That 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 that this stage 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 you. 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 it.
Published January 2019