Raising Twins

Parenting twins is not easy. Parents of twins have to cope with double challenges. Read about the challenges faced by parents of twins and some tips for raising twins.

Raising Twins

A daunting task

When a couple is told that they are expecting twins, it is not surprising if they feel a little ambivalent. Everyone knows that looking after one baby is a full time job, but two at the same time can be truly daunting. 

What if the twins don't feel hungry or sleepy at the same time? What if every time one of them starts to cry, it sets the other one off? But as every parent will tell you, it's all worth it in the end. Twins may be double the trouble, but they are also double the joy.  

Telling them apart

After the delivery, mothers are bemused when they are confronted with two babies that they have to give their attention to. If they are identical, there is the added problem of trying to distinguish between them. People will tell you that mothers "just know" which is which, but in reality parents of twins will tell you that they sometimes get confused even after the twins have grown up. It may take more time than usual for a mother to 'bond' with her twins, but it will happen. If you have identical twins and you're finding it difficult to 'spot the difference', try to dress them in different colours or paint one of their toenails or even sew on name tags on their clothes to identify them. As they grow older, physical differences will appear that will help you tell them apart.  

The early days

When you take the twins home from the hospital, mentally prepare yourself that it is going to be hard. You will need to make a list of priorities. The babies' needs should head the list, including feeding, bathing, sleeping, and cuddling. 

Resting whenever you get the opportunity is also imperative. Force yourself to sleep or rest when your babies fall asleep, because this is probably the only time you're going to get. This is not the time to catch up on your backlog of chores. 

You should even consider putting the phone off the hook. 

Be clear about one thing. You are going to need help. This is not something you can do alone. Get your mother or mother-in-law to stay with you and help out with the baby till you find your feet. Hire help if you can afford it. It goes without saying that husbands will have to pitch in too, otherwise it's going to be very difficult to cope. Don't be diffident about asking for help. You don't need to ask people to change dirty diapers or feed the baby. Even if they bring food over from time to time it will be a relief because you probably won't have the time to do anything more than the most rudimentary cooking. 

Fatigue and depression are common in the first few months. Lack of sleep is a common complaint and as a result tempers are short. If the twins are your first-borns, you can expect some rough patches as you and your spouse attempt to adjust to your new roles as parents. It can be tough on a marriage so both you and your spouse have to try to spend some time alone together. 

Mothers often find that it is easier to breastfeed than bottle feed twins. The advantage of breast milk is that it increases the babies' immunity to infection and it is more convenient as it comes 'premixed' and in its own container! It will be hard at first, but once you get the hang of it, you can probably even feed them simultaneously. Some mothers can even breastfeed in their sleep. This is something that would just not be possible if you were bottle feeding. Mothers who are worried that they will not produce enough milk should ensure that they drink enough fluids and eat a proper diet. As long as your doctor feels that the babies' weight gain is adequate, it means that you're on the right track.  

Encouraging individuality

Just because your babies are born at the same time or look alike, does not mean that they are not individuals in their own right. It may be amusing to dress them up alike and that people cannot tell one from the other, but remember that they are two separate beings and treat them as such from day one. Avoid referring to them as "the twins" and use their given names. Be sure to take photographs of each child separately because at some point he or she will ask for a photograph of "me." Write the child's name on the back of his/her picture so that there is no confusion in later years.

It is important to encourage individuality. As the children become older, try choosing different toys and encourage sharing. Build a special one-to-one relationship with each child. Look for special talents and praise them often. Twins usually have a special bond between them. Try to rear them as individuals without destroying their special bond. 

Each twin should be encouraged to have his or her own friend's circle and to do separate activities with his or her own friends. Some people feel that it is a good idea to put twins in different classes when they go to school to prevent them from becoming too clingy and to foster independence. But this cannot be applied as a general rule. Parents of twins will have to take this decision based on the personalities and wishes of their set of twins.