How to survive the first year with twins

Surviving the first year parenting twins is cause for celebration.
Surviving the first year parenting twins is cause for celebration. Photo: Getty Images

So you're expecting twins – congratulations! Maybe you've just found out you're carrying multiples and are still reeling from the news. Or maybe you're near the end of the pregnancy and wondering what to expect when your babies arrive.

How will you feed them? How will you cope when they're both crying?  I had similar questions when I was expecting twins.

It's hard to imagine what that first year with twin babies is going to be like. As it turned out, our first year of having twins was kind of like being underwater for twelve months. In fact, making it to their first birthday with our sanity intact was cause for major celebration.

But fear not - if I can survive twin babies, you can too. Here's what I learned in that first year:

Must-have equipment

You don't need two of everything, so don't feel like you need to buy out the baby shops just yet.

You'll need somewhere for them to sleep – they'll easily fit into one cot at first, even if it's in side-by-slide Moses baskets. Do your research to make sure the sleep arrangements meet SIDS guidelines.

Two bouncers are also handy for your babies to sit comfortably and watch their surroundings.

Of course you'll need a double pram or stroller - be sure to get one that fits through your door and is easy enough to fold and pack into the car.

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You'll also need a giant nappy bag to hold all those spare clothes and nappies every time you leave the house.

Feeding two babies

They'll show you how to tandem breastfeed at the hospital, which might seem a bit fiddly at first, but believe me, it's worth pursuing if it means you can get two babies fed quickly and efficiently. 

The drawback with tandem feeding is that it's very hard to do in public, so you might want to make sure you're home for feeds in the early days when babies get hungry and unhappy very quickly. You do NOT want to be caught out in the supermarket with two screaming babies needing a feed.

If you bottle feed, there are various ways to make feeding easier and plenty of information online about how to become super-organised with sterilising and preparing bottles ahead of time.

When two babies cry

Dealing with two crying babies can be an overwhelming and intense experience but you'll soon learn the art of picking up two babies and holding them close for cuddles. They won't mind sharing your arms at this age – those arguments and tussles over who gets mum's cuddles will come later. 

You can also consider holding one baby in a baby carrier and using your arms to hold the other, if they're both determined to be cuddled by you for a while. Obviously this will be harder to manage as they get bigger.

Sleeping

Be prepared to be flexible on the sleep front.

While you might have planned for them to sleep in the same cot or the same room, you might find that one keeps the other awake or that one is much harder to settle than the other.

Consider having a travel cot or additional bassinet handy in case you need to separate them temporarily.

If you get into a muddle with sleep, there is help out there. Don't hesitate to get in contact with a parenting helpline or residential sleep school for some much needed support.

Sleep deprivation with one baby is tough enough, but with two babies, it can be truly horrific.

Bath time

Bathing two newborns is not easy.

If you have the time, the safest way is to bathe them one at a time, with one twin on a play mat or bouncer where you can see them while you bathe the first twin.

Even better, if you have someone around to help, you can focus wholly on bathing one twin at a time while your other baby is taken care of.

But here's the thing: newborn babies aren't that dirty. If you find bath-time a bit stressful, just give your babies a head-to-tail wipe-down and be done with it.

When they're older and a bit more robust, you'll find bath-time much easier to manage.

Enjoy your babies

Above all, enjoy those little miracles you've created.

You're in for lot of hard work and a steep learning curve, but you're also about to experience a special joy that many will never know about.

Meet other twin mums and share your journeys, swap notes and marvel over your multiples. Even though you might be exhausted, try to get out for regular walks and let your babies see the world.

Believe me, the attention and admiration you get from random strangers will be enough to put a kick back into your step.