Ask the Moms – Solo Newborn Survival

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Categories Ask the Moms, Infants

Oh, hi there!  Remember Ask the Moms?  Yeah, sorry ’bout that.  We’re back now.  I apologize for the slacking.

If you have a question for Ask the Moms, please leave it in the comments, or on our Features page.

Today’s question comes from a new mom of twins:

I’ve read some of the great posts on the site about being a SAHM with twins, but it seems like all the posts address older children, and finding the right balance of activity and schedule. My twin boys are only 6 weeks old, and my husband just went back to work. I only just figured out how to (bottle) feed both of them at the same time, never mind leaving the house (or a shower everyday). My question is: how did all the other moms of multiples make it through these early days and keep their sanity?? Ideas for dual feedings, what to do when both are inconsolible and feed/sleep/play schedules would be great!

Ah yes.  The newborn days, when all of the help goes back to work or flies home to Florida.  It can be a very sad day when the extra hands are gone.  But, freak that I am, I also found it kind of empowering and liberating.  Truly, now it’s just up to you, in a good way.  You’re the mommy, you make the decisions.  Following are some of our sanity-savers, tips, and tricks for those very early newborn days when you’re all by your lonesome.

Double Bottle-Feeding

We all have had some variation on the bottle-feed-two-at-once trick.

LauraC's hubby shows us how it's done.
LauraC's hubby shows us how it's done.

Prop ’em up in two Boppies, sit them in the bouncy or car seats, or have one little head resting on each leg.  In the very earliest (pre-rolling) days, lots of us did it on the couch.  Or on the floor, back up against the couch.  Get the babies situated on a stable incline and hold both bottles.  I for one have a near-permanent butt-print in the center of my couch, with two slightly rubbed spots on either side where the boppies lived for months on end.  Is it the cuddly and snuggly image you always dreamed of?  Maybe not.  And sometimes you might have a situation where one is ready for a bottle while the other isn’t, and you can get your snuggle on.  But most of the time, it’s all about efficiency when it comes to food.  Snuggles can come when their bellies are nice and full.

When Both are Ballistic

As my friend and fellow HDYDI contributor Rebecca put it at our twin club’s cope meeting last night, sometimes the bad parts are exactly how you pictured them.  Both babies red-faced and screaming.  It’s no fun for anyone, and it does sometimes happen.  We each have our own triage methods.  Some just go with whoever seems the most hysterical at that moment.  Some first attend to the one that is known to be easier to soothe, so that baby can be quickly calmed and then you move on to the trickier one.  Some just try to rotate who gets picked up first.  Whatever you need to do, you do it.

Do not fear tools like the swing, the bouncy seat, or pacifiers.  My son would only nap in the swing for the first five months of his life. There were times when I’d have them both in bouncy seats on the floor, and I’d bounce them both with my feet so that I could actually eat something (or just get my ears a few more inches away from the screaming).  And definitely, if you haven’t already, watch the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD.  Swaddling, shushing, swinging… a mom’s best friend.

A baby carrier can be a good friend, even if it only contains one baby.  If you have a fussier baby that wants to be close all the time, why not put that one in the Bjorn / Ergo / Sling?  Then you still have your hands free to grab a sandwich or pick up the second baby.  Don’t worry about the happier baby being neglected.  You can’t make a happy baby any happier.  So if one is calm and content, do what you need to do for the other.  The happy baby will get their share of the love, I promise.  (And, at some point, will likely swap personalities and become the fussy baby…)

If Mama Ain’t Happy…

Your sanity and, dare I say, happiness, is extremely important.  As moms, it’s easy to start neglecting ourselves.  But there has to be a balance.  Some people just plain do not feel human until they’ve had a shower in the morning.  If that’s the case for you… guess what, Daddy is on baby-duty for the whopping 10 minutes it’ll take you to wash your face and your hair and get that spit-up smell off of your shoulder.  Or, if there’s no other adult who can watch them, they’ll really be OK if they sit in their bouncy seats inside the bathroom (or just outside the open door if there’s no room), or even rest in their cribs for a few minutes so that you can hop in the shower.  Just make sure they’re in a safe and secure place.  If they start crying, it’ll be OK.  No need to leap out of the water with your hair still lathered.  They’ll be OK for the whole 60 seconds it takes to finish what you’re doing.

Activities and getting out of the house are key for your sanity, and good for the kids, too. Even if they’re still little and can barely see past the handle of the carseat, it’s OK.  Get out of the house, get a little fresh air.  Take a new mom class.  Meet other new moms, and especially meet other new moms of twins (have you joined your local twin club yet?!)  Take advantage of the first month or two when they’ll sleep any time you rock the carseat, and go out for lunch with a friend.  Look around for local movie theaters that often have a once-a-week mommy movie, where they show a non-kid movie at a baby-friendly time.  That way you actually get to see a recent release, and no one else minds if you take up four seats and have to change a diaper or breastfeed most of the way through the movie.  Getting out on your own with two babies can be intimidating… until you’ve done it a few times.  You’ll get the hang of it quickly, and then you can just let everyone you pass be in awe of your capabilities. :-)

Schedules are a good thing, and many (most? all?) of us here at HDYDI are big fans.  But newborns can’t read clocks.  More important at the newborn stage is routine. See our previous post on that subject for more details.  Routines are good, predictability is good.  But don’t expect a true nap schedule until closer to 5 or 6 months.

Finally, remember that those newborn days are not a sprint, they are a grueling marathon.  Do what you need to do to power through, nourish yourself (yes, that means make sure you get to eat and sleep), and survive.  Roll with the punches, get out of the house even for a short walk around the block.  Somewhere in the neighborhood of four months, the haze will lift and you’ll start doing more than simply surviving.  That’s when it gets good and interesting…

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9 thoughts on “Ask the Moms – Solo Newborn Survival”

  1. I think the marathon point is a good one. Although I’ve survived 8 weeks so far it is hard to imagine how many more I have to go before my kids are on a schedule or I at all feel like I’ve figured it out. I also second Goddess about ROUTINE. It’s not the same time schedule every day but I know that after I feed them at X time, they should sleep for about Y amount before the next feeding. I prefer the one at a time feeding but as Goddess says sometimes you can’t do it if both are hungry.

    One thing we instituted after we got home from the hospital was bedtime. At first it was 9 pm and now we’re down to 8 pm (and 7 pm once our clocks change next week). We do an occassional bath (every 3 nights), feed them upstairs in their nursery (on the floor because we have a very small nursery) with lights dim and bedtime mix on. Then the middle of the night is a silent, dark feed. Sure, we feed them when they are hungry but it is surprising how quickly they figure out when is bedtime as long as we are consistent with them. And I never feed one without then feeding the other (even if it involves waking one of them up).

    Naps/sleeping during the day is tougher when you want to take your kids to groups or other activities. I think we usually have at least two or three days a week we get out even if that means they aren’t “napping” at home in their cribs/swing/etc. Even though I’m going back to work I embrace it so I can feel like I’m out in the world instead of looking back on my maternity leave as being trapped at home all winter.

  2. My mom still bottle feeds my twins in a side by side stroller. Yours may be a little young, but they’re close to when we started. It’s an alternative to the dual boppi!

    Another little victory for me was bathing both babies on my own. When they were yours’ age, my twins hated baths. What worked for us was my getting into the adult tub with one baby, and suddenly it was fun! I considered myself a master when I had one twin in the steamy bathroom, happily in sight of mom, in her bouncy chair while bathing the other. Then switching. When my husband is around he takes the non-bathing twin.

    Good luck!

  3. My almost 4 month old twins are on the same schedule and it’s been a lifesaver. They spent 9 days in the NICU and I think it helped them get on a good schedule. I also always feed them together and sometimes have to wake one up. I have been trying to breastfeed since they were born and we always tandem feed. Lately, after they nurse, I leave them in the same football hold position on the boppy in my lap and give them their bottles. This way, they’re close to me and I can look in their eyes and talk to them. When they were tiny, I fed them one at a time. As they grew, I fed them in boppys, then bouncy seats. I never thought I would prop a bottle, but at some point I had to check my pride a little and keep my sanity. When two babies are hungry NOW, propping a bottle might be more proper than I thought. 😉

  4. One of the things I did to get things like showers in was have my husband help make this happen. To this day, we have a morning routine that allows me to have a shower before he leaves the house. No matter what. In the early days, he would get them dressed and settled too. Later on, he’d prepare their food for the day. Now, he still brings them downstairs and gets them dressed while I grab a quick shower. That way, you’re (more) ready to go out when the time comes. I would definitely say, get out! Meet some other twin moms, who won’t care (or notice) if you got the shower in that morning, go for walks, go to Target or BJ’s. The kids and you both will appreciate getting out of the house. Will you have some meltdowns out? Yes. But you’ll also have a bunch of successful, and sometimes even fun, outings!

  5. As a twin mom of almost 11 week old boys, I think the key is about knowing that you are thriving, not just managing. If you just had one baby, gosh you would able able to shower and shave!!!

    I know its not easy, and when your alone and both babies are screaming, scream too!

    One of my sons is colicky and the other is a quiet mouse – I tend to both with the mantra –
    Sweet words
    Change diaper
    and start over…..something will work…if not on the third go around I add one of the following:
    taking their temp
    gas drops
    by then we’re good.

    Also, letting go of the idea you will get (nonessential) things done is important (I am still working on that one!!!)

  6. I also want to highly recommend ‘Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child’ by Weissbluth. I know a lot of you mommies used his scheduling theories (like don’t let them go more than 2 hours between naps for the first few months) and it has been our lifesaver. My almost 1 year old b/g twins have been on the 2 (almost) steady naps a day and sleep from 7/7:30 pm to 6:30/7 am. We also implemented nightly baths around 8 weeks on. That queued them that it was time to sleep longer.

    As others have mentioned, just keep steady with your routine and they will figure it out. BUT, don’t become a slave to your routine ALL the time later. It will drive you insane. A day here or there not following the ‘rules’ will be ok ;o)

  7. I gotta say I joined a new moms group with NO twin moms and it was/is the best ever.

    When their baby sleeps, they can help you!!!

    When your husband travels, their husband can watch the kid and help you with your kids!!!

    They are always saying things like “you are amazing” and “I don’t know how you do it” to reinforce how hard things are!!!

    I may have to write a blog post on this one.

  8. I fed my girls in the bouncy seats and rocked them to sleep in bouncies or walking back and forth with side by side stroller in the kitchen… whatever works. Mine never got on real schedule – I just went with the flow to keep my sanity. They also never properly napped and are still NOT good sleepers at night.

    For the first few months of their life at home we lived in the living room (two cribs, two bouncies, dininning table converted to changing table and couch for sleeping). At one point the only way they would sleep more then two hours was on top of one of the parent – so we would sleep on sofa/loveseat with baby on our chest … not reccomended but after two months with no sleep we were glad to get some shut eye.

    Getting out is important as getting to know other twin moms.

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