Parenting Twins: Personal Experience from Three Colorado Families

We love working with multiples families, walking alongside them through their birthing year and beyond. We’d like to take a look at what it’s like for Colorado parents of twins and celebrate the many varied ways that parents handle this special family dynamic.

My own husband is a twin and it’s something that always fascinated me. In my younger days I REALLY wanted twin girls. That’s why I had three single boys of course, because the universe has its own plan. J
For multiples month we will be sharing several blog posts about multiples and their families. Today we are letting two of our former clients, and a friend, tell you about their experiences, in their own words. Please enjoy!

A.B. & J.B.
Twin girls currently aged 9 months.
Overall parenting style: Crunchy and authoritative

Twin Girls

  1. In your own words, please tell us what the overall experience has been like for you:
    Our overall experience has been unexpected, amazing, challenging, a double blessing, and very busy.
  2. What is the one thing you couldn’t find information about before your twins were born? What advice would you give about that subject to parents expecting multiples?

There was a lot of information on breastfeeding positions and breastfeeding pillows but we couldn’t find specific information on lactation for twins.  My best advice for multiple parents that want to breastfeed or bottle feed with breastmilk is to involve an out of hospital lactation specialist early on.

  1. Are your babies identical or fraternal? How are they alike and different?

Identical. Physically they only have very few differences such as a different size birth mark, an extra freckle on the belly, and a fold on one ear.  But how we can often, but not consistently, tell them apart is by their different facial expressions as if their individualized soul shines through their faces.  Also behaviorally and emotionally they are very different.  One is more aggressive and the other passive, one is more emotional and the other is easier going, one is a better eater and the other satiates faster, and the list could go on and on.

  1. What are your favorite resources for twin pregnancy, birth and parenting?

For twin pregnancy the book I liked, “Twins, Triplets, and Quads” by Barbara Luke.  For birth, we relied on the best and most supportive OBGYN and doula.  We also prayed a lot. For parenting, we use kellymom.com for their evidence based practices, “The 5 Love Languages of Children,” by Chapman and Campbell, and “Boundaries for Kids,” by Townsend and Cloud.

  1. What advice would you give to a family if they were not happy about having twins?

We were overwhelmed about the thought of having twins since we had an older child to care for as well.  Once we had twins, we loved them of course, but we quickly found out that there’s more social grace with twins.  And parents can relax because you’re expected not to have it together.  A father of 7 kids with a newborn baby in his arms told my husband and me, “Wow, you have twin babies.  That must be a real handful.”

  1. What do you REALLY need to have two of and what can you get away with only one of?

The things we really needed two of were: infant feeding chairs, clothes, cloth diapers, bottles/nipples

The things we could get away with one are: bottle warmer, crib mattress, baby swing, toys, infant bath tub

The things that we could get away with skipping all together were: cribs, changing table

  1. How do you make sure the babies are treated as individuals after they are born?

To make sure they’re treated as individuals we call them by their names, not the twins.  We also make sure we have one on one time with each one separately from their twin sibling.

  1. When/how do you sleep?

I sleep at night but will wake for feedings whenever one baby starts stirring, then I’ll wake the other and tandem feed.  They both go back to sleep after the feeding.  The only time my sleep is disturbed is the final ~11:30pm diaper change but my husband frequently helps out with that one.

  1. How do you get the babies on a similar schedule?

If they’re fed, changed, and bathed on the same schedule they are more likely to sleep at the same time and stay on schedule.  This is truer for identical twins than fraternal twins.

Kate & Gerry
Twin girls currently aged 7 months, 3 weeks old
Overall parenting style: I would say that I am pretty OCD and big into schedules. I wish I were more laid back, but I am pretty nervous and easily stressed. But I also hope I am very loving and attentive

Fraternal twin girls

  1. In your own words, please tell us what the overall experience has been like for you.

The experience has been incredibly overwhelming, in good and bad ways. We were unbelievably happy to finally get pregnant, but totally unprepared for being parents, especially parents of twins. We had no idea the range of emotions it would involve, and the big mood swings. I can go from wanting to hold one of my girls and smother her with kissed, to thinking this little beast could not possibly be my child. And I still am not used to the amount of preparation it takes to do anything with them out of the house. Because it takes so much work, we stay at home about 90% more, which can be a little isolating for me as a stay-at-home mom.

  1. What is the one thing you couldn’t find information about before your twins were born? What advice would you give about that subject to parents expecting multiples?

Unfortunately, I did not do enough research to say whether I could not find some information I wanted before they were born. The advice I would give expecting PoMs (Parents of Multiples) is to get ready early. With twins, you never know when they are going to come. Consult a parent of multiples before you register for/buy baby equipment to find out what you really need and what made life a lot easier. And read whatever parenting manuals you want to read (on sleep training, what to expect, etc.) long before their due date. You will not, I repeat NOT, have time to do so once they are born.

  1. Are your babies identical or fraternal? How are they alike and different?

The girls are fraternal and could not be more different. Alex tends to be a little more serious and is very interested in her toys and how everything works. Ellie has a big goofy grin on her face a lot of the time tends to be more interested in people and what they are doing than her twins.

  1. What are your favorite resources for twin pregnancy, birth and parenting?

I consult my Facebook groups for parents of multiples and I am contact with a couple of moms from those groups to share our experiences and to ask them for advice.

  1. What advice would you give to a family if they were not happy about having twins?

First, I would say do not feel guilty or beat yourself up if you aren’t happy about having twins. It is totally understandable to have trepidations and concerns about how you are going to handle twins. They are a big drain financially, time wise, and emotionally. But, once they arrive, you will not be able to imagine your life without one of them. Just prepare as much as you can, then be ready for that preparation to mean nothing. It is a lot of work, but you will get through it because you don’t have a choice. They big, BIG payoff is that you have two amazing little human beings, instead of just one. And your little ones have built-in daily play dates.

  1. What do you REALLY need to have two of and what can you get away with only one of?

You need two car seats, two safe places to sleep (this is a must for me at least because I believe in following the Pediatric Association’s recommendation against co-sleeping to help prevent SIDS), some sort of double stroller, two infant chairs, and enough diapers for a small village ;).

  1. How do you make sure the babies are treated as individuals after they are born?

I haven’t found this to be a problem so far because my girls are so different. But I would try to avoid referring to them as “the twins” too much. Use their names. Try to spend one-on-one time with each baby as much as possible. Don’t feel like you have to dress them in the same stuff every day. We do that a lot, but only because people gave us matching outfits, and I am not going to turn down free clothes.

  1. When/how do you sleep?

I was very lucky. The girls started sleeping through the night at about 3 1/2 months. So, that helps. I don’t really nap much. If I’m tired b/c one of the girls didn’t sleep well, I try to make it to the next night with an earlier bed time. I have a little bit of trouble sleeping while monitoring because I hear everything, even phantom cries. So, I sleep with a fan on or space heater in the winter to block out some of the little grunts and movement noises.

  1. How do you get the babies on a similar schedule?

We were very scheduled from the beginning. We feed them at the same time (or one right after the other) from the beginning. We fed them at designated time increments when they were newborns, even if we had to wake them up. We woke them both up at the same time in the morning. We put them down at roughly the same time for naps. If one wakes up from a nap before the other, we usually will wake up the other within 15 to 20 minutes (unless that twin didn’t sleep well at night or a previous nap and needs to catch up) to keep them somewhat synched. We sleep trained them in the same room from the beginning so they could get used to hearing one another cry.

Kory and Kyra
Twin boys, currently aged 5 years.
Overall parenting style: We have really had to just take it as we go. Parenting “styles” haven’t really worked for us.

Identical twin boys

  1. In your own words, please tell us what the overall experience has been like for you.

Rewarding…and very mentally and physically demanding. Our twins were preemies, and spent a large portion of their first year in the care of their biological mother – a person who was extensively abusive toward the twins as well as their other bio parent. This person is no longer in their lives as we finalized a legal step-parent adoption a little over a year ago, but her impact remains with them till this day, and will likely always play a part in their lives. Entering kindergarten this past August, they are around 2 years behind some of their peers, and also both deal with a mood disorder. Raising them to this point has been slow and frustrating a lot of the time, which generally won’t be the same case with most other twin parents who don’t deal with any such thing, so feel free to take this with a grain of salt. Still, as they continue to make real personal strides, it is constantly rewarding and adventurous.

We have 5 kids, and our twins are on the somewhat mild end of the special needs spectrum, with a lot of delays and a mood disorder, so we’ve had to develop our own style that caters to them individually. We really try to allow them to be as creative as possible, very gender neutral, and use natural consequences as it is reasonable. We really wanted to have a much more relaxed approach to parenting (which is easier with our other kids) but the twins don’t always take well to it. They lack many basic concepts for kids their age, and function better and are happier with firm boundaries and immediate consequences. It’s very easy for them to get intensely “stuck” on something that we let slide even once, which tends to ruin months of hard work. I.e., telling them they don’t have to eat their broccoli one night will probably result in complete meltdowns surrounding every vegetable for the next several months, even though we’ve spent all year working on it and have gotten to a very agreeable place. This can also at times make family and babysitters with different rules more of a hassle than a reward for us.

  1. What is the one thing you couldn’t find information about before your twins were born? What advice would you give about that subject to parents expecting multiples?

Twin escalation syndrome. Man…This doesn’t get better unless/until you are able to separate for specific activities that trigger it. Also, “twin speak”/twin language, where they seem to be delayed because they prefer to only communicate amongst themselves. Again, some level of separation for specific activities, along with lots of socialization, will do a lot to encourage them to be more outwardly-focused.

  1. Are your babies identical or fraternal? How are they alike and different?

Identical. They both have identical delays as well, but exhibit it in different ways. One is generally loud and likes testing his voice. The other is quiet and aloof. They are both very physically active and meticulous. They share the same speech pattern and glasses prescription. They both react to joy and being upset similarly. They each part their hair (naturally) in opposite directions and are oppositely-handed. They have different noses, and only one has dimples.

  1. What are your favorite resources for twin pregnancy, birth and parenting?

Mostly the web. Only one of us is a bio (non-birth) parent, the other is adoptive. The extenuating circumstances surrounding the twins’ conception and birth didn’t allow for a lot of involvement from the other bio parent.

  1. What advice would you give to a family if they were not happy about having twins?

It’s going to be slow going, but it gets easier and happier, and becomes very rewarding.

  1. What do you REALLY need to have two of and what can you get away with only one of?

Sorry…you need two of everything. Once one twin has it, the other one NEEDS it, even during infancy. Period. (Ok, you might be able to get away with one armoire/dresser, at least while they’re young, and one changing table).

  1. How do you make sure the babies are treated as individuals after they are born?

Name them as individuals; don’t just look for matching names. That’s not cute when they’re 30-year-old professionals. Let them have a say in clothing and dress them as individuals. Matching is cute sometimes but after they get into school it really stifles individuality (Though I do tend to buy clothes in different colored sets and have a thing about dressing them “unfairly”…what if one is warmer than the other on a cold day?). Separate and socialize differently as needed: they are not going to suffer from being separated for short periods. Instead, they are going to be given a rare, valuable opportunity to learn and grow from it.

  1. When/how do you sleep?

For the first 3-4 years, we didn’t. Our twin’s mood problems started very early and they didn’t sleep through the night until after 2 years. Between twin escalation and the real need for firm boundaries mentioned above (which is hard to give to a sleepy, delayed toddler with a difficult mood disorder), we had a hard time teaching them to sleep. Honestly, they spent well over a full year after leaving their cribs having complete, inconsolable meltdowns each night at bedtime, which we were never able to help them overcome by being present…instead our presence only lead them to believe they were off the hook, which would upset and confuse them even more. We had to start bedtime with a solid routine, and just really settle on the fact that we were going to be busy with them for the 1-2 hours following bedtime. They would scream bloody murder the second they were put down, they would get right back out of bed, and they would throw themselves all over the room in a fit of rage. We would camp out outside their bedroom to calmly pick them up, put them back in bed, acknowledge that they were safe and not alone but that it was bedtime, and leave again. They did not stop this behavior until it had been reiterated enough times to stick: well over a year, with a full, several-day to several-week relapse with every move, furniture rearrangement, exciting day, guest appearance, or any other tiny stray from the everyday norm, until they were about 5. School has been a game changer…we’ve found that most major life changes can be switched around and used as a tool to distract them from a negative behavior long enough for them to forget about it and have something else put in its place. This was the case for sleeping as well as being destructive with their bedroom and belongings (which, in the past, was major issue – much more extensively problematic than their sleeping and other behavioral problems). Entering kindergarten was a major change. We used it to mark a stepping stone in their minds and basically said, “Now that you’re big enough for school, you’re big enough to go to bed right, and to have actual furniture and toys in your bedroom.” They were so exhausted from school and waking up early that they didn’t have the energy to stay up, or to wake up early and destroy any belongings. We kept the same schedule with them on weekends for a while, and their minds were so full of school that they eventually totally forgot they had ever acted so awfully: it’s no longer on their “agenda,” even on days when lots of changes happen.

  1. How do you get the babies on a similar schedule?

Just do it. Do as much at the same time as possible. Some of it will come from work you’ve done, and some will be their natural process of becoming accustomed to the world. Eventually, they will do it by themselves anyway, but you can encourage the process.

Hiring a postpartum doula for multiples is an absolute must to keep you from getting outnumbered and sleep deprived. Our postpartum doulas specialize in twins and triplets, and are available in Denver, Colorado Springs, Castle Rock, and all other surrounding Colorado cities.

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