"I literally felt torn in two pieces. I didn't want to leave one baby to go back to the hospital, but I couldn’t stay away from the baby still fighting in the NICU."
There are many things about the NICU that no one tells you. And when multiples are involved the unknowns double. From the moment my twins were born at 28 weeks and admitted to the NICU, my first thought in the morning and my last thought at night was when will they come home. But during the 55 days that my twins shared the NICU, it had never occurred to me, nor had I ever been told that they might not go home together.
But that is exactly what happened. One of my twins was ready to be released, and the other was not. It would take another ten days before they would be reunited again. Those days were the hardest part of the whole NICU experience. I literally felt torn in two pieces. I didn't want to leave one baby to go back to the hospital, but I couldn’t stay away from the baby still fighting in the NICU. Finding a balance was impossible, which led me to feel so guilty.
Dealing with multiple discharge dates for your NICU babies will be difficult, but here are a few things that could help.
It is Common
It is common that multiples will have differing NICU stays in terms of treatment and length. Understanding and preparing for this from the beginning helps.
Have a plan in place for childcare. Once a baby is released from the NICU, they are not allowed back as a visitor. Future hospital visits will have to be made alone. Make sure you have someone in mind that can watch your baby at home that is comfortable providing the level of care that a medically fragile baby could need.
Continue to Bond
You may feel that you are less bonded, or are losing your bond with your hospitalized baby because you are not spending as much time with them as before. But the parental bond is based in quality not quantity. When you are able, continue all those bonding activities like kangaroo care, reading, and talking to them. And if you can't make it to the hospital everyday, remember that bonding can still take place via technologies like FaceTime and Zoom.
Having one baby home from the hospital will likely cause a flood of emotions, from happiness to guilt. It is important to seek help and support from your friends, family, partner, and professionals during this time.
As a twin parent there are very few things that I only do one time. My days are spent on repeat, as I care for one twin, and then do it all again for the next. But when it came to taking my kids to Disney World, I wanted it to be a one and done trip. I am by no means a Disney expert, and I wouldn’t even classify myself as a Disney fan. However, we had a really fun trip and it wasn’t super stressful or expensive (by Disney standards) because I spent some time planning and prepping before we left. I’m sharing my best tips with you today. First, here are the specifics. We took a 5 day trip to Disney World in Orlando, FL. We visited all 4 parks, with whole days spent at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, and a split day at Hollywood Studios and Epcot. We went in the Fall and our twins do not need a stroller or naps anymore.
We flew into Tampa International Airport and rented a car, then drove to Orlando. Disney no longer provides complimentary shuttle service from the airport, so you have to arrange and pay for this yourself. It was cheaper for us to fly into Tampa than flying into Orlando and it was nice to have a car to pick up groceries and other supplies as needed. Our return flight was out of the Orlando airport. We reserved day 1 and day 5 of our trip for travel with no park plans on those days. After we arrived at the hotel, we headed straight for the pool, and made it an early night to prepare for our first park day.
We stayed on property at the All-Star Music Resort, in a Family Suite. This allowed us to have two separate sleeping areas and a full size refrigerator, kitchen, and microwave. The suite also had 2 bathrooms which made the morning rush and bedtime easier. Even though this resort is considered on the “value” level, it had every convenience we desired and had short bus rides/wait times to the parks. In fact, once we even had the whole bus to ourselves. I also requested a late check-out to allow for a little swimming before our flight out, and it was readily accepted.
We made it through the whole trip without making a single dining reservation. Our twins are selective when it comes to eating away from home, and we didn’t want to waste an hour or more of our park time sitting down and eating a meal that not every family member would enjoy. So instead, I stocked our suite’s refrigerator with breakfast and lunch foods. We ate breakfast in our room each morning, and then packed a lunch for the kids and snacks for everyone. My partner and I used the Disney app to order a quick meal at the park. As a whole, we were not impressed with the meals at Disney, but some of the snacks were tasty. We also brought frozen water bottles into the park with us each day. They served as ice packs to keep lunches cold and then as they thawed, more drinking water. Also, ice water is free from any restaurant at Disney, but they only have paper straws. So bring your own if your kiddo requires them.
Disney App/ Genie +
If you are trying to do all the things in one trip, you must spring for the Genie +/ LightingLane options. I think it is ridiculous that on top of paying hundreds of dollars to simply enter the park you must also pay extra for Genie +. But without it, we wouldn’t have been able to ride and see all we wanted to in three days. It’s worth it to not have to wait in line at attractions and shows. I had packed activities to keep the twins busy as we waited in line, but we didn’t need them as we never waited more than 20 minutes. My main tips with Genie+ are to get used to the app before your trip, and keep refreshing it. There were several times we were able to get Genie+ times at the most popular attractions by simply refreshing over and over. And don’t forget to bring a portable charger, as all that refreshing will drain your battery.
What I Packed
Each day we brought a backpack and a small shoulder/waist bag into the park. Sometimes they searched our bags and other days they didn’t. In addition to our phones, money, and our Disney Ticket Cards…here is what we brought.
Are you planning a trip to Disney with your twins anytime soon?
Picking the right stroller for twins can be overwhelming. Not all double strollers are created with two children of the same age in mind. And while I’m a firm believer that just because you are having twins doesn’t mean you need two of everything, when it comes to strollers two can be better than one.
If you are only registering for one stroller, a front to back is a necessity with twin infants. I like a front to back model that accommodates your car seats for ease. Being able to click a carseat into the stroller without having to remove the baby is priceless when your twins are little. This is the best stroller for trips to Target, the grocery store and doctor's appointments because you can fit through a single door without assistance. Just find the stroller that works with your brand of carseat.
However, once your twins get a little older and can sit up on their own, having a side by side is useful. This style was my favorite for travel because it was light weight and ideal for transportation through the airport and gate checking. I also used this stroller for walks, and trips to places like the zoo where each child would want to be forward facing.
I am always on the hunt for systems that I can create and implement in my home to make things easier. Life with kids, especially multiples, just seems to run smoother when there is a process in place. After a year of my kids being at home much more than usual, wearing mostly pajamas all day, I began to look at how we utilize their clothing. I wondered if we could be more intentional and less wasteful. So I created a system that made managing their clothes much easier, and created less waste.
When I am purchasing clothes I follow these rules. This ensures that my initial investment in clothing is low. I don’t have any other children to pass clothes down to, so I really only need them for one season. Once my kids have outgrown an item, it goes into the sell pile or becomes play clothes.
Clothing that still has lots of life left moves on to another family. I have had good luck selling gently used clothing online or at consignment sales. Some twin groups even have sales specifically for multiples. I only sell items that are in excellent condition. Outerwear and special occasion clothing are especially desirable. Because I don’t spend much on the item initially I can usually recuperate about 50% of the original cost by reselling.
Clothing that is stained, faded, or ripped goes into the play clothes drawer. I like to have a stockpile of 3-4 pairs of pants, long-sleeved shirts, and t-shirts for each child. These are the clothes my kids wear to play outside, go camping, or create with paint. Not only does this reduce waste, but it increases the longevity of their other clothes. My kids love to play in the mud and get really dirty outside and when they are in play clothes it’s not a problem. Sometimes their play clothes get so dirty that it’s not even worth washing and I will just throw it away. I feel alright about doing this because we have gotten all the use out of it that we can. Once play clothes no longer fit, I will use the item as a rag for cleaning one last time before tossing it.
While this system is not waste free, it does decrease what we throw out and increases the life of my kids’ clothes.
And if a set of multiples are your only children, then you have the hard task of getting two children through a transition, without the perspective of being a second time parent.
I always wanted to be a mom. I always wanted to have more than one child. But I was never one of those people who wished for twins. When I found out I was expecting twins, after 3.5 years of infertility, I was certainly excited ( and nervous). Parenting twins is a unique and interesting experience. I am frequently amazed by the relationship my identical twins share. It truly is twice the giggles, cuddles, and love. And yet these two children sometimes feel like more than two times the work. Here are three instances where your twins feel like triple the work.
Yes, my twins get along really well and entertain each other during the day. Which I am so thankful for! But this often backfires at bedtime. You would think two people who spend the majority of each day together would look forward to a little alone time at night. But that is simply not the case. They have the excitement and energy of two best friends having a long awaited sleepover, every single night.
When they are not on the same schedule
Any twin parent will tell you that getting your twins on the same schedule is vital when they are infants, especially when it comes to sleep. I can still remember the feeling of anxiety that would start to arise when one baby was soundly napping and the other baby was still awake. I knew that one unsynchronized nap could throw my whole day, and certainly my night into chaos!
When they are going through a transition
Two singleton children, no matter how close in age, are not going through the same life stages simultaneously. Potty training, transitioning from the crib, and teething are so much harder when they happen times two. And if a set of multiples are your only children, then you have the hard task of getting two children through a transition, without the perspective of being a second time parent.
While I really enjoy parenting twins, I will be the first to tell you that two kids don’t always add up to two times the work. But as any twin parent will tell you, the love is multiplied as well.
There is a certain peace that comes when your twins are finally asleep at the end of a long day. The house is quiet, and for a few hours at least, you can let your guard down. Your super-energized sweeties are sleeping, safe in their cribs. Parenting multiples is hard work and nothing compares to the relief that everyone has made it through another day. But then one day, your peace is shattered as one (or both) of your previously slumbering darlings strolls right out of their rooms. And you realize that THEY. CAN. CLIMB. OUT. OF. THEIR. CRIBS. You put them back into their beds and hope it is just a fluke. You can try to delay the inevitable. But you know, deep in your heart of hearts, that the countdown to a big bed is on. I remember this faithful day well. There is not a one size fits all method. But here are a few things to consider when transitioning twins from cribs to big beds!
One at a Time vs All or Nothing
I have found that with my twins, they adjust to changes better together. They were both showing signs of readiness, so since they shared a bedroom, I found it easiest to transition everyone at the same time. However, if your multiples have their own rooms, or one still seems perfectly happy in their crib, you may want to introduce the new bed one-at-a-time.
Toddler Bed vs Twin/ Full Bed
On the way to a “Big Kid Bed,” we did make a stop at the toddler bed. I don’t think this is a necessity, but if your crib converts to a toddler bed, it is worth a try. It saves you from buying two new beds at the same time. Also if your child is a wild sleeper, a toddler bed is a great choice in case they roll out of bed.
One Room vs Two Rooms
My twins were sharing a room in their cribs, so they continued to share when they moved to toddler beds. I didn’t want to add another big change. But having two unfettered toddlers in one room all night is not for the faint of heart! Your twins might do best in their own room if space allows. You may also find that your twins are fine overnight together, but may need to nap in separate spaces.
Keeping Them in Their Rooms
I adopted the philosophy that once their crib was gone, their room became the crib. Meaning I wanted to keep them in their room all night until I came to get them in the morning. This of course is a process that can take many nights to achieve. My twins were not potty training at the time, so they didn’t need access to the bathroom. I made sure their bedroom was as safe as possible. This included removing any small toys, anchoring all heavy furniture to the walls, and putting a lock on the closet door. I set the expectation that after lights out, they would stay in their bed and call for me if they needed anything. Then came the job of enforcing that expectation, which looked an awful lot like me sitting outside of their bedroom door waiting for them to come out, so I could calmly walk them back to their beds...over and over again. Depending on your child’s temperament, this process could take a while. But I promise that eventually, they will stay in their beds.
While this particular transition can seem stressful, especially when you began to mess with well-established sleep patterns, I guarantee that eventually, you will find that peaceful feeling again...at least until it’s time to start potty training!
*This post is not sponsored. These are all toys that I personally own and bought with my own money.
Winter can prove to be a challenging time for kids and parents alike. There are not as many opportunities to get outside and burn off that extra energy. And many of the indoor activities that we all enjoy, are not available this year due to Covid restrictions. It seems like some toys actually cause my twins to disagree because there are not enough of them to go around. I am vowing to not rely on screens (too much) this season, so I have been researching great interactive toys to keep my twins engaged and happy.
HapiNest Turtle Stepping Stones
This is a fun toy that will keep your kids moving and help with balance, coordination, and gross motor skill development. They are very sturdy and can be used outside, however we reserve ours for indoor play. The set comes with activity cards and several games to play. The multiple stepping stones ensure everyone gets their fair share, and my twins are able to create many imaginary games with this open-ended toy (see video below for more info). I reached out to Hapinest and asked for a discount code and they obliged! So until the end of January (2021) you can use code TOY21 to receive 20% off the whole site!
I really like these subscription box services that send a new collection of activities, books, or toys each month. And with so many different options, you can find something that aligns with your child’s interests. It’s also fun to get mail!
If your twins enjoy sensory play, then kinetic sand is for you. I find it to be far less messy than bins of rice or play-doh. And if you are really mess adverse, plop the kiddos in the tub to make it a mess free activity. I also like that by using different add-ins (small dinosaurs, people, etc.) you have an entirely new activity.
Portable Party Light
This has been the MVP of quarantine. We have weekly dance parties and this portable party light really makes our discos (as my twins call them) super fun (see video below for more info).
If your twins like legos and blocks, try a marble run. Your twins can build separately or together. I love that this toy helps kids improve problem solving skills in a creative way. My only suggestion is to make sure you have plenty of marbles.
Of course I’m not going to make a list of screen free toys without including books. My twins really love this book (Wildlives), because it has short interesting stories about actual animals. It is a book we read over and over.
Hopefully this list will give you a few ideas that can help your twins enjoy a (mostly) screen free winter!
But as an introvert myself, I must admit, that having twins suits my personality type just right!
I’m naturally introverted. This does not mean that I am shy or that I don’t like people, as is often assumed. It simply means that I need time alone to recharge. As a career counselor who is certified in the MBTI personality inventory, I have helped hundreds of people discover and understand their personality types. But it wasn’t until I had twins that I started to think about how your personality can impact parenting. Certainly, no one personality type is perfect for parenting multiples, but here are 3 times when having twins is an introvert’s dream.
When you don’t want to go somewhere
Every introvert knows the drill. You are invited to a party, or a playdate, or a work event. And you have to come up with an excuse, as to why you can’t go. But guess what... once you have twins, you don’t have to come up with an excuse. Now you have a reason. Taking your two babies out of your house during that first year is so much work that everyone will give you a pass.
When you don’t want to make small talk
Chit-chat is often disliked by introverts, who prefer more meaningful conversation. When you are out with twins, you don’t have time to talk to anyone. Someone always needs your attention. You may start many conversations, but will inevitability be pulled away by a toddler needing a drink, or help finding their toy. This phenomenon hits epic proportions at the park when upon exiting the confines of their car seats, your multiples will scatter in different directions leading you to spend all of your time scanning the corners of the playground to ensure everyone’s safety.
When you just need to be alone for a few minutes
In most cases, more children mean less alone time for their parents. Unless you are talking about twins. One of the many cool things about parenting twins is their ability to entertain each other. Twins are often satisfied playing with each other, which can give you a pass every once in a while when you just need a moment alone to decompress.
Personality theory says that no one personality type is better than any other. And I whole-heartedly agree. But as an introvert myself, I must admit, that having twins suits my personality type just right!
"Your babies are not counting the hours and keeping score."
The inability to bond with a baby in the NICU is a common concern that many parents experience. Often your time in the NICU with your baby is limited by work schedules, other children at home to care for, and the time it takes to travel to and from the hospital. And if your already limited time is further divided by multiple babies in the NICU, you may be doubting your ability to form a strong, healthy connection. This was a fear I confronted during my twins’ NICU stay. Over the course of the 2 months they were in the hospital I employed several simple strategies that helped me to split my time without sacrificing our bond.
Stagger the Babies’ Care Schedules
Once your babies are strong enough you should be able to change their diapers, check their body temperature, dress them and eventually feed them. Ask the nurses to stagger each babies’ schedules so you are able to take part in as much care of each twin as possible. Communicate with your nurses when you plan on visiting the NICU, so care activities can be saved for and completed by you.
Keep Babies’ Isolettes Close
As long as it doesn’t compromise their care, most NICUs will try to keep siblings close together. For the majority of my twins’ hospitalization, their isolettes were side by side. This made spending time with both of them simultaneously so much easier. Position a comfy chair in between the beds and both babies can benefit from your presence.
Simultaneous Kangaroo Care
The hallmark of bonding is physical touch. And for NICU babies, this often means snuggling skin-to-skin. Kangaroo care has many health benefits for preemies including stabilizing heart rates, improving oxygen saturation and regulation of body temperature. Whenever possible, I would do kangaroo care with both babies together. They benefited from the cuddles with me as well as each other.
Recruit a Holder
Occasionally, you may need to provide undivided attention to one baby. When this occurs, recruit a family member, partner, or close friend to come and hold the other baby. Being held by someone who loves them, even if it’s not you is beneficial. Each NICU has different policies, but most allow approved guests to visit. Asking for help is part of being a parent of multiples, so you might as well start now!
Use Your Voice
There may be times when your babies are not stable enough to be held. At these times, remember the power of your voice. Babies can recognize their mother’s voice at 22 weeks gestation. Hearing a familiar voice promotes attachment, produces a calming effect, and can counteract all the background noise from alarms and equipment. Talk or sing to your babies. You can even record yourself telling a story to play for your babies when you are gone. They love the sound of your voice, even if you don’t. Position yourself between your babies and chat them up.
Bring several of your favorite children’s books and read to them. Studies show that reading to babies in the NICU reduces stress and aids in brain development. This is another great activity that all your preemies can enjoy together.
With permission from the medical staff, you can put together a playlist of soothing music. This is useful if you are unable to be with them, or are needing to focus on one baby at a time.
An additional bonding tool that doesn’t require your physical presence is scent. Scent can help babies identify and attach to their parents. Many NICUs provide fabric hearts, or a lovey that you can put in your shirt to pick up your unique scent. This is placed in your babies’ beds to cuddle and smell. If your hospital doesn’t provide such a device, ask what you could use that would be safe for your babies.
Feeling like there is not enough of you to go around when you have multiple babies in the NICU is understandable. Balancing life, work, family, and sick children is daunting. But your babies are adaptable. Your babies are not counting the hours and keeping score. Do your best to be present with them, whenever you can, and know that what you give them will be enough.
Your first inclination when you find out that you are expecting twins might be to buy multiples of everything. However, just like with a singleton, not every baby product is a necessity. If you are short on space or want to stick to a moderate baby gear budget, consider only buying the essentials. Babies, even two of them, don’t really need a lot of stuff. Here are the seven items* I think are essential to thrive with multiples.
Double Stroller- Let's be honest...you probably aren't going to get out much at first. But when you do, having a narrow stroller that is compatible with your infant car seat is a must. This stroller fits down the crowded store aisles and fits through any door without assistance.
Shown here: Graco Ready2Grow Click Connect Double Stroller
Video Baby Monitor- A video monitor is a must with twins. You will want to be able to see which twin is crying and which is sleeping without actually going into their nursery. Look for a model that is compatible with multiple cameras and allows you to toggle back and forth between camera views.
Shown here: Motorola 5” Video Baby Monitor
Twin Carrier- When your babies outnumber you, a carrier made for twins is essential. As much as you will want to carry your sweet babies around all day, there will be times when you will need to tend to other things. Carriers can be expensive, and not all mamas and babies enjoy them. But with such a wide variety of carriers available, you will surely find one you like. It’s a good idea to borrow one from a friend or a local baby wearing group until you find the right fit for you.
Shown here: Twingaroo Carrier
Feeding Pillow- If you are breastfeeding, you might want a double pillow that allows for simultaneous nursing. But for bottle feeding, I prefer two separate pillows. These are also another great place to put a baby down, useful for tummy time, and can serve to support a baby learning to sit up.
Shown here: Boppy Notebook Print
Bouncer- As a pump and bottle feed momma, I wouldn't have been able to feed my twins alone without these. Once they were able, I sat each baby in a bouncer on the floor facing me. I was then able to hold a bottle in each hand and feed both babies simultaneously. Talk about a game changer! When it's not feeding time, these chairs are a great place to put one baby down while you tend to the other one.
Shown here: Fisher-Price Geo Meadow
Big Diaper Bag- When you finally work up the courage to leave the house with your babies, you are going to need to take along some stuff. A big bag to contain it all is so helpful. You will need double the clothes, diapers, and bottles (if bottle-feeding). Also look for a bag with lots of pockets to help you stay organized and find what you need quickly.
Shown here: Skip Hop Forma
Bassinet on Wheels - If you would like your baby to bunk in your room at first, these are a great option. They allow you to easily move babies around without waking them. I used to push these beds all around my house so my babies could rest while I did all the other things I needed to do.
Shown here: Simmons Kids
Twins come with twice the love, but not necessarily twice the stuff. Consider your lifestyle, budget and this list, and you will have everything you need for your twins and nothing you don’t.
Some of the links below are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you use the link to purchase the item.
*This is not an endorsement of a specific product, just sharing the things that worked for me.