Above: Lucas and Zachary Tesler, Dr. Deborah V. Tesler’s identical twins
As every parent knows, taking care of a newborn is totally amazing, deeply fulfilling, often frightening…and thoroughly exhausting. And that’s just for one baby. What about two?!!
At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we have many parents who, once they find out they’re having twins, come to us with lots of questions, and sometimes lots of worries. How can they take care of two infants at the same time? Will they break the bank buying two of everything? What happens when the twins start crawling/walking/running in two different directions? Will they ever sleep again?
What we tell them is that parenting twins presents a multitude of joys and challenges. Yes, it means having two babies to feed, burp, diaper, bathe, put to sleep, cuddle, buckle in and out of the car and stroller, take to the doctor when sick, worry about, and of course, love.
However physically and emotionally demanding it may be, parenting twins also offers unique joys and special moments.
The key is knowing that you’re not alone in this (at times) Herculean endeavor. At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we urge you to ask for help, from family members, friends, other moms and dads, other parents of twins, and also from us. We’re parents too — some of us are twins and even parents of twins! — and we’re here whenever you need us with tips, advice, support, and just a listening ear. We want to help you in any way we can so please call on us.
In the meantime, to help make raising twins a little easier, here are some tips and guidelines we’ve pulled together from a number of sources. Exciting and challenging times are ahead – we hope you enjoy the ride.
Advantages of having twins
One thing that’s important to remember is that twins have been together since conception: from embryos to fully-formed fetuses in the womb to birth. This constant togetherness is the foundation of a very special bond that lasts throughout life, providing comfort, support and a unique understanding of what each is going through.
In addition, reports Bright Horizons, twin babies often learn to sleep through noise and being moved around better than singletons. They understand that they might have to wait to have their needs met. They often exhibit less separation anxiety because they have a constant companion. They tend to handle transitions better, such as being left with a caregiver for the first time or starting school. Plus, they’re always learning from each other regarding what to do (crawl, draw, talk) and what not to do (touch a hot stove).
Remember that each twin is an individual
Although twins may have a lot in common and get a certain amount of comfort from one another, Bright Horizons reminds parents that each child is a separate being and should be viewed as such from day one. “Although their emotional bond to each other is to be treasured, each child is a unique being with a natural drive to fulfill individual potentials. Like all siblings, twins each have different temperaments, needs, desires and abilities and they will argue, fight, hug, comfort and love each other. There may even be some sibling rivalry,” the Bright Horizons article says.
9 tips for parenting twins and keeping your sanity
Bright Horizons offers 9 tips that accurately align with our parenting philosophy at Westchester Health Pediatrics, and we’d like to share them here.
Ask for help.
Whether you’re a single parent or two partners raising twins, reach out to your family, friends and neighbors for support. You’ll find that people often love being invited to cuddle, feed or play with babies or toddlers. Everyone likes to feel needed!
Develop routines and schedules.
A structured and predictable routine helps everyone, including parents, caregivers and the babies themselves. A daily routine helps children feel secure because they know what is going to happen when, and what to expect next. Especially important is trying to get both babies on the same sleep and feeding schedule.
Connect with other parents of twins.
Parents of twins can provide a wealth of support to each other by sharing their knowledge, advice and experiences on raising twins. To find a group, check out the National Organization of Mothers of Twins.
Yes, you can breast and/or bottle feed your twins at the same time.
Simultaneously breastfeeding twins can actually be accomplished with baby prop-up pillows (like Boppy). They can be bottle fed by using similar pillows while cuddling them next to you.
Help each twin develop his/her own identity.
With twins, it’s easy to think of them as a unit. However, it’s very important for you to recognize and respect their differences right from the start, and to teach them that they are each their own unique individuals. Early on, you’ll need to form separate expectations around each child’s abilities and interests, and to support each child’s individuality by referring to each one by his/her name, not always as “the twins.” Also, we suggest not always dressing them alike. As they grow, let each one develop their own style.
Plan quality parent-child time with each child separately.
Twins have a tendency, especially in the early years, to be very dependent upon one another. Time apart helps them develop separate identities, and also lets them form their own relationship with you as a parent. Separate playdates are a good idea, too, when this is practical.
Being respectful is more important than being fair when raising twins.
Parents need not always spend exactly the same amount of time with each child, buy the equivalent value of each toy or gift, or treat each one in the same manner. Instead, respecting the similarities and differences of each child will foster a healthy sense of self.
Each child needs some possessions that do not have to be shared.
Possessions — clothes, toys, books, blankets, games, keepsakes — help children form a sense of identity. Make sure that while many items may be shared by your twins, they have several special objects that are theirs alone. Sometimes it’s helpful to label each child’s possessions with their name.
Try not to make comparisons.
Young children are very perceptive and internalize what they hear. We urge you not to compare one twin to another, and instead, to praise each child for their strengths, interests and accomplishments.
What gear/supplies twins can share and what you need to double up on
We found this list from Parents.com to be really helpful:
Twins can share:
- clothes, blankets
- diaper bag
- changing table
- baby bathtub
- nursing pillow
- breast pump
- baby monitor
- double stroller
- activity mat
- toys, stuffed animals
- baby carrier for twins
Each twin needs his/her own:
- car seat
- high chair
- toddler bed
To know more about raising twins, check out these articles:
- Parenting Tips for Raising Twins
- Twins & Multiples: Surviving the First Year
- Real-life parenting hacks for raising twin babies
- Smart Ways to Help New Parents of Twins
- Parenting Twins: A Dad’s Perspective
At any age, count on us for all kinds of information to help you raise your kids.
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Whether you’re raising teenagers, adolescents, toddlers or newborns, we’ve got years of experience helping parents take care of their children and we’re ready to help you with yours. Please come in and see us.
Want more information about raising twins? Come see us.
If you’d like more advice and guidance on raising two babies at once, or if you have questions about any aspects of your child’s health and well-being, please make an appointment to come in to see one of our Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatricians. We’ll take all the time you need to answer any and all of your questions. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
By Deborah V. Tesler, MD, FAAP, an identical twin and mother of identical twin boys, Pediatric Physician with Westchester Health Pediatrics, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners