It’s a question that most parents of multiples will ask themselves at some point. Particularly during the early days when their needs are so immediate, juggling two tiny screaming bundles can drive you to the edge of your sanity. And what no-one warns you about having twins is that you can’t always comfort them both when they need it.
Despite the challenges we’ve faced over the past few months, my husband and I still consider ourselves gentle parents. We do not like leaving our kids to cry (who does?) and we try to be respectful of their needs and wants. It was a lot easier when we had only one tiny demanding person – with three, it becomes more challenging.
In the first few weeks I believed that learning to tandem feed would solve all of our problems. If the babies cried at the same time, no worries! I would settle into the sofa or bed and give them both what they wanted, so no one had to wait. Unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy feeding them together – they bothered each other with their flailing arms and legs, and I didn’t get the one-to-one bonding time I so cherished with my eldest. Learning to breastfeed tiny babies again was a difficult task and I preferred to concentrate on one at a time.
It was easier when my husband was around, as we found a rhythm of feeding, burping, slinging, and cuddling whichever baby needed it the most. But when I was on my own with both babies, or all three of our children, I really struggled to fulfil their needs all at once – I still do. I would often be feeding one twin while jiggling the other in a bouncy chair with my foot, with an arm around my toddler as we read or watched TV. I spent most of the early weeks like this – I’d forgotten just how frequently newborns feed!
When I look back at that time, I remember feeling a lot of guilt as I’d feed one baby while the other cried. I felt helpless and frantic, convinced that I was doing it all wrong, that I should find a way to comfort both of my babies. It wasn’t until I started to meet other parents of twins that I realised I wasn’t alone, that many twin-parents spent lots of time switching between two crying babies! A friend also gave me some wise words of comfort: your baby crying near you, with you talking to them comfortingly, is not the same as leaving your baby to cry in another room.
I suppose the message I want to pass on to parents with newborn twins is this: it’s OK. It’s normal to feel inadequate, to be unable to split yourself in two, to address the twin with the most immediate needs first. You are not the first to feel this way; you will not be the last. And know this: it will pass. In a matter of weeks you will be impressing every visitor by making the juggling act that is parenting twins look effortless. You’ll get to know these tiny people who at the moment do nothing but cry, feed, and sleep; they will start to smile at you, their faces lighting up when you come into view.
It’s OK. Hang in there. It will pass.