Friday, April 01, 2005

The C&D Twinalicious Relatives of MOMs FAQ

The C&D Twinalicious Relatives of MOMs (Mothers of Multiples) FAQ

Since I am a mother to twins, people often ask me all kinds of twinny questions. "Do they have their own language?" people ask. Or, "Do they fight?" Sometimes people mention that a friend or relative is expecting twins, and they want to know how to be most helpful to the new family. That is the purpose of this FAQ.

My friend/relative is having a baby shower soon. She is expecting twins/multiples. What should I buy her?

At the beginning, the material items we used most included:
  • a good nursing pillow, so I could nurse C&D comfortably and simultaneously. I recommend the mommy-to-be try on a couple different models at a breastfeeding store like A Woman's Work. We don't use ours anymore (we outgrew it), but many mothers of multiples use their pillows for many months.
  • nursing shirts. Easy, civilized access to the babies' lunch counter. You can find them at a breastfeeding store, various online stores, or even on eBay. I wore nursing shirts exclusively for the first several months.
  • a 1.5-liter water bottle. Nalgene calls theirs the Silo, and you can find it at REI. A mother nursing or pumping for twins will eventually make about 64 ounces of milk every day; that means she needs that much extra water in addition to what she should already be drinking, plus over 1,000 extra calories. A large water bottle will help keep Mom hydrated (she won't have time to stand at the sink and keep filling a smaller bottle!). Several 1-liter bottles will ensure that she always has a clean one to fill and stuff in the diaper bag, backpack, or stroller when the family is getting ready to go out.
  • an Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper. It didn't work for us as a sidecar crib, but made an excellent and spacious changing table for the living room, and it allowed us to change both babes at once. At 14 months, we are still using ours as a changing table.
  • LED headlamps. REI has a large selection to choose from. It's an unconventional baby gift, but the headlamps allowed us to tend to and diaper babies without turning on all the lights in the house. This kept us calmer, and prevented us all from turning our sleep cycles upside down. At 14 months, we are still using our headlamps.
  • a white noise device. On iTunes we found a track of a waterfall--no music, just water. Actually, it sounds a bit like a fast-running stream. We put it on my MP3 player, where it cycles all night. The white noise helps prevent us from waking each other up; this is especially important for us since the babies are both light sleepers. If you don't have an MP3 player or a way to set it up, you can also try a white noise machine, or a CD alarm clock that can run on repeat. We have one in the bedroom that has so far been repeating the same CD nonstop since November (and I'm writing this in March).
  • two baby carriers. Even now, at 14 months, my babies still prefer to be carried than to ride in a stroller. And when David is feeling a little clingy, I just strap him on and continue to go about my day. Their view is better, and they can interact with the world boldly, yet securely. If you or your friend/relative is new to babywearing, a gift certificate might be a good start.
  • tens and twenties. As in, cash. We have had an impressive array of unexpected expenses related to raising C&D. Gifts of cash will help the parents purchase what they need, when they need it, without worrying about the cost. Clever shopping will help your monetary gifts stretch even further if the parents-to-be shop at eBay or consignment stores.
We didn't need, and often didn't use:
  • infant outfits. My heart breaks at the sight of all the sleepers, outfits, hats, and other baby clothing that my babes didn't wear. You probably know how hard it is to get out of the house with a newborn; it is exponentially harder for families with twins. So what were all the outfits for if we weren't going to go anywhere? Furthermore, we were so busy--and so much wanted our tiny little babes to be comfortable and cozy--that we really just kept our babes in onesies or soft, easily-changed cotton sleepers. Resist the urge to dress up the babies like princesses or superstar athletes and get the family something from the list above, or, better yet, give a gift of your time (see below).
  • burp cloths. The baby will urp wherever the burp cloth is NOT. Better just to get the new mom and dad some extra help with the laundry.
  • diaper bags. We kept a few extra blankets, clothes, and diapers in the car (along with a portable potty). In my backpack (I don't use a purse) I carry a couple of diapers, a notebook, some wipes, and a small assortment of other baby-related items. And that's it. Why do I need to lug around a diaper bag?
We also benefited from the following services:
  • Diet Gourmet. I'm not on a diet, of course, but Diet Gourmet guaranteed that this perpetually starving new mommy had access to healthful food, even when I didn't have time to make it myself. A mother nursing twins needs as much calories per day as a marathon runner, or a new recruit going through basic training. Eating becomes a chore, cooking even more so. Access to some fresh, nutritious food could make all the difference in the new mother's outlook--and the health of the babies.
  • massage, before and after. A regular massage on my growing, changing body helped keep my body limber and ready for labor. TLC to the mother's body after the birth is important, as well--after picking up babies all day, my back hurts more now than it did when I was pregnant.
  • a Mother's Helper for the first year (or longer). Since our families live far away, having a Mother's Helper was a lot like renting an auntie--she was a companion on shopping excursions, helped rock our little babes to sleep, ensured I could shower, and in general became the extra pair of hands that we so often wish we have with a baby at home. While this kind of help was a large financial commitment, babies and parents benefited from a comfortable, well-kept home and lots of love and attention.
  • rental of a baby scale from a breastfeeding store. It can be hard to know how much milk a baby might be ingesting, and parents of twins want to be especially sure that the mother's milk production is easily meeting demand, and that the babes have both learned to latch on and eat correctly. A scale is an inexpensive form of insurance for the nursing relationship, and it's exciting to have an idea of how much milk the babes are drinking every day.
The babies are coming soon! What can I do to help?

How lucky the family is to have you! Here are some ways you can help the family prepare for the big event:
  • Clean up. Mom and Dad are going to want to get the house ready, but . . . have you ever seen Shamu mop? Right. Mom might be on bed rest, uncomfortable, or experiencing contractions with any prolonged effort. She might not be able to bend down or stand for long periods of time. Offer to clean up, or if that doesn't suit your fancy, hire a cleaning service for her.
  • Cook. Mom is probably hungry; she needs about 1,000 extra calories a day to keep her twins growing strong. If Mom doesn't eat everything, freeze it; she will be happy to have the food available to her later.
  • Go shopping. Let Mom and Dad send you out on errands; chances are, it's difficult for Mom to get out of the house, and she's probably keeping Dad pretty busy.
  • Take Dad's clothes to the cleaners. Or iron them yourself. When Dad returns to work, "I just had twins" won't be a sufficient reason to excuse away rumpled collars and pinched pants. A big supply of crisp, freshly-ironed shirts will help Dad look sharp even though sleepless nights have him feeling a little dull.
The babies are here! What can I do to help?

Sometimes, friends and relatives can come into the new parents' home and despite their best intentions become more of a hindrance than a help. This is uncomfortable and downright stressful to the new family. And anyway, you want to be invited back, don't you? Here are some tips to ensure that you can keep the family's baby moon burning bright:
  • Don't call the hospital. A couple of different times while I was trying to get some much, much-needed sleep, the phone rang at my bedside table at the hospital. Worried and thinking it was Matt, I painfully stretched out to answer the phone. It was not Matt. Please don't call. The parents of any new baby will be tired, parents of multiples more so. Hospital stays are already so full of interruptions from nurses and doctors. Be considerate and quietly stay by the phone; you will receive a call when the family is ready to call you. Until then, let the new family get some rest. They need it.
  • Don't ever, ever grab the bab(ies) away, regardless of how excited you are to see them. We teach children not to grab things out of another's hand, but when we first see a brand new little babe, it's hard sometimes for friends and family to resist taking him or her into their arms. However, that new little babe--or those new little babies--are their parents' greatest treasure. Remember that treasure deserves respect, as do the keepers of the treasure. Wait for the parents to give the baby to you, if they wish for you to hold her.
  • Respect the time that mother and children are taking for each other. This is especially important in the case of a c-section (common in multiple births) or after a recent NICU stay (also common in multiple births). Mommy misses her babies, and the babies miss their mommy. Help them get reacquainted and relax with each other. After all, is there any better sight?
  • Make sure the babes maintain lots of cozy skin-to-skin contact with Mom. They need to smell her, hear her, taste her. With her is where they are happiest, and under the least amount of stress. This is especially important if the babes were born early.
  • Do what you can to help keep the atmosphere calm and quiet. Sure, you are excited. But you are also well-rested, well-fed, and have not just experienced childbirth. Keep the atmosphere calm and peaceful, both for the sake of the tired, busy mother, and the babies. This is especially important if the babes were born a bit early; they might be a little sensitive to your overly enthusiastic or foreign voice.
  • Be willing to help Mom latch the babies on. Breastfeeding two at once takes coordination on the part of Mom and babies, and if Mom is sore or babies are frantic, nursing will be especially challenging.
  • If you are visiting, pick up after yourself. In fact, if you really want to be invited back, find ways to leave the place even cleaner than when you found it. Take off your shoes when you walk inside. Mop the floors, wash your sheets, wipe up the bathroom, do dishes, whatever needs to be done. The family will appreciate the effort, and Mom will be able to relax.
  • Cook or purchase food. The new family has no time for cooking, and delivered pizza isn't the breakfast, lunch, and dinner of champions. Even if Mom is not nursing her multiples, she is busy, busy, busy and needs her strength quick, quick, quick. Seek nourishing, nutritious foods to help keep her and Daddy functioning and happy! One of the greatest things my mom did for me when night when the babies were first born was make an enchilada dinner. After days of bland hospital food, the enchiladas tasted of culinary Nirvana. Speaking of hospital food, if you are going to visit the family in the hospital, bring something in. The hospital food is nothing special to speak of, and for mothers of multiples, never enough calories. Hospitals are often surrounded by junky fast-food joints, so consider bringing something fresh and interesting.
  • Do laundry. It builds up fast.
  • Don't call or visit and talk about work. Mom and Dad might pretend to be interested, but, really, they are not, and probably are too tired to remember the conversation, anyway. And why bother Mom and Dad over something they have no control over?


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