What do you do when you have two (or more) crying babies?

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I wrote this post in my head one night when I was getting dinner for my girls (7 months old twins) and their 2.5 year old brother, by myself.  It was one of those nights when things just weren’t going well. I reheated my dinner three times before I got to eat it, which was after my mom arrived to help out.

Other moms with one and more children, singles and multiples have asked me what do you do when they are both (or all) crying or need some kind of attention? The easy answer is you do whatever you can do/need to do to help whoever needs your help.

Before our twins were born, I read advice from one mom of multiples who said you should feed or change the quiet baby first, then the one who is crying.  Of course, I discounted that advice… but as I think about it, here are some of the strategies I think I would use to figure out what to do, if I actually consciously thought about it:

  1. Is anyone in immediate danger? This would obviously be the first child who would get attention.
  2. Is anyone injured? Again, this would probably take priority over other issues.
  3. Are the reasons one baby/child would need attention first? If one child is sick or teething or has some other reason that they need extra attention, that might mean I help them first.
  4. Which problem can I solve most quickly? When my son needs help getting down from his booster seat, which will take just a few seconds, I help him before I sit down to feed a crying baby.  Otherwise, he’ll have to sit in his seat for 15 minutes before I can help him.
  5. Who is most able to wait for help? My son is old enough that he can find something to do by himself for a few minutes if I’m busy with babies.  He can understand that I’m busy changing a baby and that I’ll help him get dressed when I finish.  The other baby, who is crying in the crib, doesn’t understand this.
  6. Can I distract anyone? Can I help anyone from a distance? Singing, laughing, playing peek-a-boo, and talking can sometimes quiet a baby for a few minutes.  Other times, giving a baby a toy or a soother will settle her down. I also have lots of strategies for keeping my son busy. The easiest approach is often to find something he can do to help like put laundry in the basket, find a blanket for the baby, look out the window and if Daddy’s home yet, sing a song for the baby, etc.  This will often give him the attention he needs and refocus his energy.
  7. Who was fed/changed last? I’ll usually try to help the baby who has been waiting longest since she was fed or changed, assuming they are both hungry or wet.
  8. Who is making the most noise? Sometimes just getting everyone quiet will make it easier for everyone, especially if one baby seems to be crying just because her sister is.
  9. Is there anything I can do to prevent another child from starting to cry? Sometimes, I have to admit, I take that advice I read and I help the quiet child first.  After meals, I usually wash the quiet baby’s hands and face, and then I put her on the floor to play first. Then I get the fussier baby cleaned up and sit down to breastfeed her knowing her sister will play quietly while I breastfeed.
  10. Is it okay for them to cry? I’ve found that the girls will sometimes wake up and cry for 2 or 3 minutes and then go back to sleep.  If I get up with them, then we’re all up for 30 minutes, which doesn’t serve any of us.
  11. Do I need to do anything? In other words, is there someone else who can help?

Of course all of this is complicated when you add someone ringing the doorbell or calling on the phone, or the oven timer buzzing because your cookies are ready, or a toddler who is learning to use the potty and needs immediate help, or any number of other factors.

So, what do you do when you have two or more children demanding attention?

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