Spend some quality time with your other children if you have any and especially with your partner. It will be a busy time ahead and free time will be very limited. Make arrangements with familiar friends and family to take older children out and about doing the things they would have normally have done with you before the little ones arrived. (For more tips on older children see the section on sibling rivalry). Stock up on DVDs for when urgent distraction is needed.
Make a pact with your partner to allow the small things to pass over unnoticed for a short time. It will be difficult enough without sweating the small stuff. Going from two to three puts a huge strain on many relationships. Going straight from two to four, five or more makes it nigh on impossible in the early days to enjoy any semblance of an adult relationship so enjoy the good times now and if you have the energy get out for dinner, away for the weekend and store up one the good memories for the sleepless nights ahead.
Get your hair done, have a pedicure (you’ll be able to see your toes again shortly), have a pregnancy massage, read a book or two (you won’t read another one, unless it’s about raising multiples, for a very long time). Basically rest up and make time for yourself before the birth. Its not just for your good – a well-rested mum means a happier baby so no more excuses, put those feet up!
Keep a chart of each babies feeding, sleeping and nappy changes and note down any comments or concerns you may have. When you tot everything up at the end of the day often you will be reassured that your difficult feeder is actually getting enough to eat and having enough wet nappies. More importantly though it will help you remember who had what or did what when so it s great for keeping track and handing over the reins to someone else while you sleep. Click here for anInfant Feeding Chart.
Decide that you will not be house proud while the babies are small
It is not possible to do all you did before the children came along – give yourselves a break and relax. Housework is never ending but the babies will only be small for a short time. Alternatively ask some house-proud family members to help out with the cleaning, washing, ironing for a few weeks or if you can afford it consider paying for a cleaner/ironer in the early months.
Spend a few hours cooking up at least one week’s supply of microwave friendly meals and freeze them. If you don’t have room – can you leave them in someone else’s freezer for collection? Or prioritise – it might be essential to freeze meals for toddlers and you can rely on takeaway for the time being. However it’s important in particular for mum to eat properly at this busy time. Gather easy menus together so that you don’t have to think too much about what to cook each day. Perhaps do a shopping list of food that you would normally eat as well as cleaning and new baby supplies and stick it permanently on the fridge, that way if you get a volunteer to shop for you, you can just check off what you need on the list. That may sound a little far fetched but you’d be amazed at how the tiredness will prevent you from drawing up a simple shopping list. Ask any visitor to bring dinner rather than presents!!
Get your sleep
Any chance you have, go back to bed and don’t feel guilty about it in the slightest. Sleep deprivation can make you susceptible to many illnesses not least of which is post-natal depression. A well rested mother, difficult as it may be, is essential for you and your family’s health. It is even more important if you are trying to breast-feed your babies as rest is essential to maintaining a good milk supply necessary for one or more babies. So cut out the visitors unless they bring dinner and can let you go back to bed. Keep your phone off and check all your messages once a day or you will go demented trying to reply to everyone and getting no sleep. In the rare moments when all babies are asleep, put your head down to. Forget about the phonecalls, the washing, the ironing, sleep is more important than anything!
Many parents alternate “night shift” feedings and take turns napping during the day. Alternatively if you can afford it you might consider a night nurse – especially for the first few weeks. Many multiple parents often recommend breaking the ‘never wake a sleeping baby rule’ and wake and feed all the babies at one time. Eventually this will help you to coordinate your babies’ schedule and minimize the number of wake-up calls in particular at night.
Other Practical Tips
Buy yourself two reasonable sized baskets and put one upstairs and one downstairs. Fill them with nappies, wipes, creams, cotton buds, baby bath, a few vests, baby grows, bibs, socks, cardigans and burp cloths (one parent used face cloths as burp cloths, small and easy to wash and dry). By placing one basket upstairs and one down stairs you ill save your legs every time you need to do a change…and there will be a lot of them. If you do have older children give them the job of replenishing the baskets daily. It’s one less thing for you to do and a way of involving the other children also.
- Beg, borrow or steal (well maybe not) as many nursery items as you can. The only absolute necessities are two cots (eventually – one will often suffice at the start), some sort of transport system (from single pushchair and sling combination to a top end all in one system) and some sort of feeding chair for when solids are introduced (again parents have used everything from baby bouncers to high chairs depending on budget and space). For everything else, consider the expense against the amount of time you will be using it and see if you can borrow it from a friend who has just finished with hers. The Classified section of sites such as Rollercoaster.ie are brilliant for getting good quality second hand nursery items and equally importantly for getting rid of yours when you’re finished with it! But remember some items need to be new ie. matresses so if you’re borrowing a cot, replace the matress. Also remember to make sure items like car seats have not been in a crash.
- If you’re planning to bottlefeed, consider the practicalities of washing and sterilising 12 or more bottles a day (newborns often require 6 to 8 bottles each a day at the start so multiply that by 2 or more and if you haven’t already got a dishwasher it might be time to invest and that’s before you start sterilising!) Learn how to prepare bottles of cooled boiled water so that you can just add the scoops of formula when needed.
- If possible (see earlier point) put a cot/travel cot/bassinette downstairs as well as upstairs. This will also save your legs when it comes to nap times. While the babies are tiny they can share a sleep spot. You may feel daunted by the idea that they are sleeping together, that one might wake the other but they have just spent approximately 9 months together in very tight quarters, they won’t object to sleeping in the same cot for a short while. The sooner they get used to the other crying the more likely they will sleep through any kind of noise. Alternatively some parents have found that they have spent 9 months in very cramped conditions so a bit of space to stretch is what they want when they eventually come out! Try both options and see what works best for your babies.
- If you don’t already have one, invest in a clothes dryer. It is invaluable in an Irish climate when it comes to drying the babies’ clothes. It saves on ironing too as they came out soft and ready to put back on.
- Bathing multiple babies can be quite a challenge. Some parents bathe their children separately in the interests of both safety and one-on-one time. For higher-order multiples, though, this may be impractical. Your best bet is to recruit some help during bathtime. When the infants are older, it will become easier to bathe more than one at a time. Bath seats can be very handy for bathing twins or more once they can sit up by themselve but never ever leave babies in a bath unsupervised.
- Dressing your babies in the first few months doesn’t have to be a big deal apart from their first excursion of course! Many multiple parents keep babies’ wardrobe curtailed to vests, baby-gros and cardies for the first six weeks. A good tip is never to cut the tags off clothes you get as presents. If you never get round to putting on the new-born clothes (and really it’s unnecessary hassle getting the babies all dolled up everyday) then you can always bring the clothes back and exchange them for something you need when the babies get older and you do enjoy dressing them up. In the early days as well if babies are similar in size it makes sense to share basic items of clothes – stacks of white vests, baby-gros and bibs anyone? For babies of different sizes it is often easier to have different shelves with the clothes presorted to avoid rooting through everything all the time. As babies get older, it is important to give them their own clothes and establish their unique identities.
- Going out: Don’t expect to be going too far in the first few weeks, sit back and let everyone come to you (when you’re good and ready) but when you are up to it, pack the nappy bag and be ready for your first excursion out to show off your new babies! Believe me the attention you will get makes the sleepless nights almost worth it… If you’re ever feeling down as well, take the babies out for a walk, the ‘oohs’ and ‘aaws’ and ‘you have your hands full’ will make you feel better!
- For peace of mind: Get a room thermometer (baby’s room is ideally supposed to be around 18 degress) and an ear thermometer (easy to use). These would be good presents to receive. Cellular blankets for sleep safety would also be useful or baby sleeping bags (for babies over 7lbs) are also great for babies who kick off their blankets a lot.