More than one newborn!
When we talk about that “new normal” in the realm of becoming parents, I think it’s fair to refer to becoming parents of multiples as the “new not normal.”
Now, that’s not to say that you, producer of much loin fruit, are a freak. It’s to say that you’re expected to do superhuman things, from the moment you’re expecting.
It’s a lot. More than one baby is a lot.
Here are my best tips for living through — and loving — multiple newborns, curated from parents of multiples.
Feed on demand AND on a schedule.
The first baby to wake up hungry should be fed on demand. Then, even if the other one is asleep, feed (and burp) that baby right after the first. Keep going if you have three or more! You’ll be sorry if you wait for natural hunger cues from multiple babies. (Another option is tandem feeding.)
Parents of singletons feel like they’re feeding Baby all the time. You, superhuman multiple parent, really WILL be feeding babies (almost) all of the time. Imagine what that looks like when they wake up — and feed — out of sync.
Do what you can to be as organized as possible in your new life. If pumping, pump after a feed. If you’re formula feeding, make a pitcher of formula. If washing bottles, go assembly-line style and get it done. Opt for grocery delivery, with a saved list of staples. Laundry only when there’s a full load or better yet, two, or — let’s be honest — three. Get all the apps that help with sleep-timing, feed-timing and burping-wizarding. These will help you feel in control and in the know, rather than feeling like you’ve lost your mind and/or have forgotten to feed a child.
The phrase “touched out” — used to describe all mamas of newborns who are pinned under a baby for too long — is magnified for parents of multiples. Dividing and conquering (one parent per baby) is all well and good, but I’ve seen miracles happen when caregivers take on all the babies so their partners can sleep in shifts. One parent takes a four-hour shift with all of the babies so that his or her partner can get uninterrupted sleep. Then you swap. This is your best chance at actually recharging, at least in the beginning.
Sleep the babies together.
Chances are, your babies will sleep better together in close quarters, either in side-by-side cribs if not in the very same crib, at least in the very beginning. If they sleep better, you sleep better. Sharing a womb is a powerful thing. A multiple is likely to find more comfort and familiarity with a sibling than with Mom’s voice or heartbeat, or Dad’s smell.
Plan for — and accept — help.
This may seem like a cliché, but all new parents, parents of newborn multiples in particular, need to have help at the ready. Make a special list — with addresses and phone numbers — of food helpers, baby helpers, pet helpers, in-case-of-emergency contacts and emotional-health supporters, plus your favorite take-out spots. Hire a gardener or basic lawn service, if only temporarily. Lean on a night nanny, a doula, that awkward teenager down the street. Ask the mailman to hold a baby for a few minutes. With whatever resources, get help, in whatever shape it comes. Ask for it; accept it; prepare for it in advance.
Most of all, be real. As a dad of triplets once told me, “There’s so many of them, it’s kind of hard to enjoy it.”
Let yourself find them adorable, sure. But also let yourself think that it sucks. And then let yourself feel and think both of those things at once. Let the house be messy, let the midnight diaper go unchanged and let your heart grow big enough for more than one baby. It will.
Jen Wittes is a marketing director, writer, certified postpartum doula and mom of two living in St. Paul.