My husband and I held hands as we anxiously awaited the news of whether our fourth baby would be a girl or a boy. As the doctor spread the sticky jelly across my stomach and began to rub the ultrasound wand across, I heard a gasp. She quickly pulled the wand away and pushed a chair toward my husband. “I think you should sit down.”
I thought I knew what she was about to say. I had seen something, too. “Twins?” I asked.
“No, not twins,” she answered with hesitation. “Triplets!” We were having two boys and one girl. It was the single most shocking moment of our lives, and I found myself filled with great excitement and wonder for the miracles I was carrying. The amazement was also mixed with worry and fear as I tried to wrap my head around how I would manage so many infants.
Parents expecting baby twins, triplets or more often find themselves feeling overwhelmed and unsure of whom to turn to for advice. I assumed I was more prepared to handle triplets because I had three older children. I quickly realized that raising multiples is profoundly different and much more challenging. “Throw out most of what you know about parenting because multiples are a whole new ballgame,” says Cynthia Wilson, mom of five, including triplets, in Olympia, Washington. “Just when you think you’ve got everything figured out, they throw you a curveball.”
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Raising multiples is challenging, amazing and exhausting. Megan Guertin, mom of twins in Kansas City, Missouri, says, “It was hard for me to accept [that my experience] of life with newborn twins was not the same experience some of my friends had. It helped to find happiness in each moment and stay a few steps ahead to maximize one-on-one time.”
Having multiples is wholly different than having one infant at a time, and that’s OK. To help you cope with the changes coming your way, fellow moms of multiples are here to lend a bit of support with tips and tricks that are worth remembering.
Stick to a Schedule
“Get them on the same feeding and sleeping schedule as soon as you can,” encourages Amanda Copenhaver, mother of four, including twins, in Kansas City, Missouri. “It was life changing for my entire family!”
Many parents of multiples will suggest feeding the babies every three hours—even waking sleeping babies—to reduce the amount of feedings overnight. Sleepless nights are the norm for a parent of twins or more, and a strict schedule can increase rest time for everyone.
Don’t be Afraid to Slow Down
From the moment you find out you are expecting more than one newborn baby, the phrase “one day at a time” should become your mantra. I can safely say that nearly three years later, I still think about it on a daily basis. “Take it a day at a time, an hour at a time—and some days you’ll have to take it minute by minute. It’s hard, but it’s so worth it,” shares Emeline Britton, mother of four, including triplets, in Fort Madison, Iowa.
It is so easy to get caught up in all the “Hows?” that come with raising multiples. How will I feed them all? How will we accomplish getting out of the house? How will I potty train or sleep train? How will I wash so many baby clothes? How will I find qualified childcare? Take a deep breath, and only worry about the moment you are in right now. Having a present-focused mindset makes things so much easier to manage. This is especially important if you’re breastfeeding twins or more, as stress can negatively affect breast milk supply.
Do What Works for Your Family
Every first-time parent receives unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends, relatives and caregivers. You might already be feeling stressed because you’re expecting multiple babies, and additional input can be overwhelming.
“I listened to what others said, but I only did what worked for us,” notes Katherine Schwaebler, twin mom in Raymore, Missouri. When you are in the thick of things and living in survival mode, just do whatever feels comfortable for you. “When it comes to nursing or bottle-feeding, co-sleeping or other sleep habits, cloth diapers versus disposable, it doesn’t matter what anyone else does. Do what works for your family,” says Heidi Carlton, mom of two sets of twins, in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.
Get Out of the House
The mere thought can be daunting, but one of the healthiest things mothers of twins or triplets can do is step out of the house on a regular basis. Packing up multiple babies and the strollers and the mega diaper bag can feel like packing for a two-week trip, but the sense of accomplishment that comes with conquering this makes you feel like a superstar.
“It’s so easy to lose yourself in the mom role. Take some time for yourself and your spouse as well,” says Sarah Imbierowicz, mom of seven, including two sets of triplets, in Kokomo, Indiana. Making time for yourself and your relationships can be a challenge, but when you return to your family refreshed and ready to take on the next day’s challenges, everyone benefits.
Expect the Unexpected at All Times
As soon as you’ve made your sixth and final trip from the house to the minivan, buckled the last child safely in his car seat and double-checked the stocked supplies, you may smell a familiar scent. Yep, someone needs a change. With multiples, each obstacle that goes along with having a new baby or toddler is, of course, multiplied. When dealing with multiples, plan to leave the house earlier, pack more diapers and burp cloths than you could ever imagine needing, and try not to stress about the hurdles you face along the way.
My triplets have been able to work as a team to break toys I thought were unbreakable, climb heights I thought were unreachable and make us late to nearly every single event since their birth. (Sorry, there are no hacks here.) Someone is always sick, has an accident or forgets something, and you learn to be flexible while simultaneously planning for every disaster possible. Just think of the time management and organizational skills you will perfect while raising your little ones.
Find Your Tribe of Likeminded Mamas
One of the most important tips for new parents is to find a supportive group of friends to get you through the highs and lows of parenting. “I joined a multiples Facebook group to gain support from others who understand,” explains Teryn Tomme, mother of four, including twin girls, in Olathe, Kansas.
There are many online and local support groups for parents of multiples, or you may find a group of friends in your community who can relate to what you are going through. Having fellow mamas and papas to laugh, vent and share life with can be a sanity-saver while raising a family.
Accept Help from Others
“If someone offers help of any kind, take it,” urges Kelsey Raper, mother of four, including twins, in Kansas City, Missouri. Many people offer help early on or during pregnancy but don’t know where to start. Do not be afraid to ask friends or family to clean your house, bring over meals, rock babies while you rest or shower, or do carpool for older siblings.
It can be really hard for a new mom to accept help, but with multiples you will find that it is a huge blessing. “I was overwhelmed by how generous people are—from the time I announced we were expecting triplets to this very day,” says Laura Fecak, mother of five, including triplets, in Toms River, New Jersey.
Embrace it and Enjoy it
Raising twins or more is an exhausting and sometimes overwhelming job, but it is also a unique experience filled with immense joy. Watching the bond that my triplets have is heartwarming. When I think I can no longer handle the stress or dread the idea of facing yet another diaper change, I watch them play together, cheer each other on and comfort one another. Then I remember I am part of something special that few people will have the privilege of experiencing firsthand. Finding joy in the small moments makes it easier to embrace the challenges.