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Resources Centre / Twins Tips Introduction / Twins Tips / Expecting Twins - Preparation & Survival Tips
Expecting Twins - Preparation & Survival Tips
Just how do you prepare for a multiple birth and most importantly how do you survive those first few weeks with your newborn twins!! Delyth Raffell, mother of twin girls and founder of TwinsUK writes from her own experience about the challenges of having twins.

Other issues that many multiple birth parents will face are how to handle the important issues of work, your relationship and maintaining your sanity when you are raising twins.

Seek Information & Support
"Unfortunately. as my girls arrived earlier than expected. I was not very prepared but I did manage to find a book specifically for multiple births and I joined Tamba who also have some publications that are very helpful. My advice would be to get as much information as you can early in your pregnancy and you will then be better prepared. you may find that health professionals may not volunteer any information. Research on the internet and if you can. find a multiples specific antenatal class or if you can only find a "singleton" class. insist on being provided with information on multiples by your consultant. mid-wife and health visitor and ask lots of questions. Health professionals do not always give out much advice or information if you are expecting twins or more and are generally not multiples (twins or more) trained"

"There are big differences between a multiple pregnancy birth than a singleton one and it"s vitally important parents are aware of the risks and potential complications as well as birth options. Leave work earlier than you would expect in a singleton pregnancy - I was not aware that the general advice is to leave no later than 28 weeks and feel that I may have added to the risks by staying on after this and ending up in hospital 7 weeks earlier than planned. I also developed pre-eclampsia which is vitally important to detect early so you need to be aware of signs of pre-term labour and potential complications."

"Join a local Twins & Multiples Club when you are pregnant for on-going support and real practical advice before you have your babies. I didn"t do this as I didn"t even know they existed but really wish I had and am now in two clubs. Ignore any negative comments from non-multiple parents as this may only make you more anxious and remember they have no experience. Join an online twins forum for real advice from multiples" mums if you do not have a local twins club or want advice any time day or night!"

Get Organised Early !
"Pack your hospital bag early! Get organised at home before the birth by ensuring you are stocked up on all the practical essentials. You will need enough nappies for a small army (expect 6-8 changes per day per child) and I was lucky in that at that time, I worked for Procter & Gamble who make baby products so I did actually have quite a stock already and they also gave me a complimentary baby pack for each child."

"Finding premature baby clothes was a challenge in itself which is one of the reasons I now do a full range on the site as well as other prem items. Although the hospital will provide clothes. I wanted my babies to have their own clothes. I found it difficult to try and find out what types of equipment I needed for two and that some products were not always practical for two babies. Finding a buggy suitable for newborn twins in any high street store was almost impossible and I sourced mine from the internet."
"Most of the staff in high street baby store staff have limited, if any, knowledge or experience of twins and multiples so will find it difficult to offer any advice on the most suitable equipment and accessories. With multiples it's not just a case of "two of everything"."

The First Few Weeks
"When the girls arrived. it was a major shock not only because they were 7 weeks early and I wasn't ready but I had no idea just how life-changing this was going to be. In the hospital. I struggled with bonding with either of my babies as the birth experience had not been enjoyable and I hadn't seen them for 3 days. They then spent weeks in incubators where you can only take them out and hold them for a few minutes so it"s really difficult to get to know your children under these circumstances. This is really hard to explain to people as the common myth is that you will fall in love with your babies as soon as you see them - this was not the case and it took a long time for me to bond with them and I felt incredibly guilty."

"Many twins arrive early, at 37 weeks or less rather than the average of 40 weeks for a single birth. Triplets arrive on average at around week 34 and quads at week 32. Approximately 50% of twins. 90% of triplets and virtually all quadruplets are either premature (less than 37 weeks for twins) or considered low birth weight. less than 5.5lbs."
"Once they come home you spend the majority of your day with your babies but I certainly felt a bit "cheated" as a twins mum as I didn't have as much time to play or have fun as singleton mums as there were two of them to look after and the everyday tasks seem to take up most of your day. Although the first few months are hard. this does get better as they grow up and you do have the double joy of two first smiles. two first steps. two first words and two big kisses and cuddles later on !"

Routine. Routine. Routine !
"My girls started their life spending 7 weeks in Special Care. so it may be a bit different to some parent"s initial experiences. but this was a positive point as they established a routine whilst in the hospital which we were able to try and keep to when they came home. We had charts to ensure we knew which baby had slept. been fed. changed. given medication etc and at what times and we religiously completed these even at 4am! "
"We also found that by dividing the daily tasks between us it was a lot easier to get everything done - for instance one of Graham's jobs was to make up the 16 bottles we used per day. Teamwork is essential when you have so much to do and I was lucky to have a very supportive husband who was involved from day one in their care. I believe having twins is an advantage for dads as they do get to be far more involved."

"I have to admit. I ran the house like a military operation in the first few months and all hell broke loose if they decided they didn't want to stick to it! I relaxed a lot more over the coming months but the first year is very stressful and a routine does make it easier to manage two babies" needs as well your own. I found that you do need to be flexible and adapt your routine and you may have to try a few different ways before you find things that will work for instance feeding two babies is a challenge in itself and there are many different methods - you need to establish what you are comfortable with so there is no "right or wrong way" just one that works for you."

Focus on Priorities
Forget the housework! I found that just to get through the day was enough of a challenge. never mind worrying about daily chores like housework. cooking and ironing. I was lucky that my mother came to stay with us for the first few months and that was an enormous help. I tried to be supermum for a while and do everything but this is exhausting and you need to focus your energies on your little ones instead.

Keep Yourself Sane
Although as a mum you feel you should be able to cope with everything. it"s really important to know when and how to ask for help from others. Everyone loves twins and are really eager to help and I would ask them to run quick errands or allow me time to take a shower in peace! You really learn to value time so much more that you took for granted before children.

It"s also important to remember that you should not isolate yourself. It can be very lonely on your own at home with twins but I definitely benefited from joining the local twins clubs as you can really share your experiences and learn so much from mums who have lived through the same situations as well as have some fun. I also tried to meet up with friends occasionally and spend some time alone with Graham as it"s so easy to lose yourself once the babies arrive and your relationship can suffer.

Relationship & Work Issues
Having twins placed an enormous strain on our relationship even though we had been together for 20 years - you hear how having one baby is a life-changing experience - but having two places even more pressure on your relationship as it does feel like a relentless cycle of nappy changing. feeding. crying. washing with no end in sight and even the smallest things can be blown up out of all proportion due to lack of sleep and stress. The most difficult part of the day is when your partner arrives home from work as you feel you deserve a rest but so do they so it"s best to agree how you will manage this period beforehand. These days. I usually take half an hour off and let Graham play with the children and then we all muck in for the night-time routine.

I also struggled with leaving a job that I loved and as a life-long career woman. I found the shift to motherhood incredibly hard to adjust to but with time this does get easier and your children do become your first priority and you adapt your life around this. However. I will always feel the need to work as well as this gives me a great sense of personal achievement too. The business will allow me to be there for my children when they need me, will fulfill my aim to provide support for the multiples community and also give me the satisfaction of running my own successful business inspired by my wonderful children.

Financial Burden
There is no doubt about it having twins or more is very expensive and it"s important to set aside some money early on as you will have a lot to buy initially and. if you have no other children. like myself. there are no hand-me-downs although your family will usually be happy to help and you can get good second-hand equipment. clothing and toys from twins clubs. locals newspaper ads and friends. Make sure you ask for discounts when purchasing multiple items. You may also need to consider moving house or buying a bigger car like we did which is added expense not normally associated with having one baby.

You also need to be aware that twins or more do not get any special additional financial help from the government and although you get child benefit for two babies. this is paid at different rates for each child. You will also need to check out your maternity allowances. paternity leave and tax credits. Childcare is an enormous cost for two babies and one of the key considerations when thinking of returning to work or staying at home. When I returned to work my girls went to Nursery five days a week which costs in excess of &;pound;1000 per month. I now have a nanny which is even more expensive but gives me more time and the girls benefit from fun-filled days and one on one time with an experienced professional carer.

Twins - The Practical Issues

Sleep - What Sleep!
The honest answer to the age old sleep question is that there isn't much when you have twins! Even though we tried to synchronise the girls" routine and split the evening/night feeds so each of us could get some sleep there is very little sleep in the first few months - for us this continued for a long time as Ellen really struggled with her eczema and this kept her awake. We did have the girls in the same room for a couple of months but we soon separated them as Ellen would constantly wake Abbey up and then you had two screaming babies to deal with !

This was probably the most challenging and stressful things to deal with and I didn"t always cope well. there were times when I would just sit in the nursery and cry as I felt I couldn"t carry on anymore but I read an article from another twins" mum that said no matter how bad it seemed. you would get through it and you do but you cannot underestimate just how tired you are going to be and how much this may affect your life and your relationship with your babies and those around you.

Feeding for Two
This is another big challenge for parents of twins. how on earth do you feed two at once ? This will depend on your feelings about breastfeeding or bottle feeding and if your babies are in SCBU. My personal experience was to express milk for the first few months as my babies were premature and this does give them the best start. I wanted Graham to be involved so expressing was a good option and then bottle feeding with formula. However. it is perfectly possible to breastfeed two babies but you will need support and advice on this. You could choose to feed them separately but I decided I wanted to keep them synchronised and fed both at the same time - this took a few attempts to find the most comfortable position as I wasn"t aware of the products you can buy to support two babies so I tried all sorts of different ways in the early months.

Weaning is another challenge but I found again. feeding them at the same time using one bowl and spoon was definitely the easiest and quickest solution. Once they start on finger food and feeding themselves. the feeding gets a lot easier although a lot messier too - get rid of carpets and lay wooden floors!

Out 'n' About
This may sound easy but for any parent with two or more babies this can almost seem an insurmountable task and just not worth the effort. It took me about 2-3 hours to get organised to leave the house as there is so much gear you need to pack for twins for even a short day trip and then you need to get them fed. changed. dressed and into the car or double buggy which is difficult if you are on your own with two babies. I did manage to get out as soon as they came home and you feel so much better once you"ve done it although I would recommend you take a friend with you if possible as it"s much easier with two pairs of hands and a lot more fun. However. the upside is that as you are up really early. you are still ready to go by 9am!

What I found was that it is best to re-pack your (large) changing bag every evening so at least you are ready to go and know that you won"t forget essential items like nappies!

Going shopping presented its own challenges and I found that I could only really shop in large shopping centres like the Metro Centre in Gateshead as they have wide walkways. no doors on the shops and wide aisles plus M&S provide flasks of hot water for you to make up feeds or warm baby food. Be prepared for your shopping to take twice as long (or even longer !) as you imagined as you will get stopped every few steps by inquisitive shoppers who will sometimes ask the most personal questions! I also learnt to ignore "no buggy" signs in surgeries/clinics and would ask for assistance if I needed it in anywhere else.

Delyth Raffell is the founder of Twins UK. a company dedicated to families with twins. triplets and higher multiples from pregnancy and beyond. Understanding the unique challenges of caring for multiples the site offers straight-forward advice in Twins Tips and an extensive range of multiples specialist products. everyday practical and innovative products plus a unique selection of gifts. cards and stationary for parents. families and friends. All our products and services are designed to make life with multiples a little easier and more enjoyable !!

Looking for more information, why not take a look through the rest of our Twins Tips where you will find a host of information and advice from pregnancy onwards. If you have just had your twins then you may be particularly interested in The First Year!

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