Are we fucked for the rest of our lives?
September 22, 2011 7:50 AM   Subscribe

We just had twins. How soon can we expect one parent to be able to look after the two of them for a couple of hours without any help?

They're 7 weeks old, and at this point we basically need three adults around, one for each baby and one to go grocery shopping or whatever else has to be done. But at some point my mother-in-law is gonna want to leave and I'm gonna have to start doing more outside the house, so we're wondering at what point it will be possible for my wife, say, to look after the two of them for 4-5 hours alone. Also any other advice that's even vaguely related to the subject of twin babies is welcome -- we are in a world of trouble here.
posted by creasy boy to Human Relations (49 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You don't really need three people. Or even two. Your wife can look after the babies for 4-5 hours alone now. Yes it's stressful, yes it's scary, but once you start thinking it's too much, it becomes too much. It isn't. You can do it.
posted by headnsouth at 7:59 AM on September 22, 2011 [12 favorites]

I know a number of single mothers by choice who had twins and raised them alone from birth without help. It's possible.
posted by amro at 8:01 AM on September 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Millions and millions of people have had twins. Many of those families had far less resources available to them you do. They all survived. You will too. Hell, there is a family at the daycare where my wife works that has six kids - three sets of twins.

Take a deep breath.

Take another deep breath.

At 7 weeks one person should be able to handle 2 kids, assuming the kids don't have any special needs issues. . In a daycare setting, 2 people will be handling 6-8 kids in the infant room - so that's like 3 or 4 kids per person.

Send you MIL away for the weekend and give it a shot. I'll guarantee that you, your wife, and the kids will still be here, and ok, on Monday.
posted by COD at 8:04 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I guess I know that some people do it but I don't see how. Sometimes the boy cries for 3 hours straight, and sometimes it takes more than an hour to feed the girl. Should we just be prepared to let one of the kids cry in the crib for a good while?
posted by creasy boy at 8:08 AM on September 22, 2011

Should we just be prepared to let one of the kids cry in the crib for a good while?

It sucks, but. . . yes. Or, does he like the bouncy seat or the swing? Try putting him in the swing while you feed her, or put her in the bouncy seat and bounce it with your foot while you feed him. Or put one in the carseat and rock it while you feed the other. The people I've seen with twins get really adept at using their feet to parent.
posted by KathrynT at 8:15 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm going to pipe in with a concern about post partum depression. Is your wife saying anything along the lines of "please don't leave me alone with these babies?" or "I can't handle this?"

Has she expressed any sadness or regret? Anxiety?

Obviously, we are the internet and we are not qualified to diagnose anything, but it is worth checking into.

To address your update, are you swaddling the boy? Have you had lactation consultant(s) in, if breastfeeding?

Additionally, there are some twin forums online. I don't have babies myself, so I can't recommend anything specific, and my sister's girls just entered kindergarten, so I don't expect her to have advice on where to look for current forum suggestions.

Baby wearing? Are you guys doing that? There are ways to make it work with twins, but again, I don't have babies so I can't point you in a specific direction.
posted by bilabial at 8:16 AM on September 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'm extrapolating from being at home alone with a single baby, and I know, half as much baby. But just to cover the obvious, things that made life possible for me were:

1. Properly babyproofed rooms. You need some spaces that are just settled. Put the glass coffee table in storage for a while, do it all in bean bags, whatever it takes. Solid high quality baby gates at the doorways.
2. A high quality baby monitor.
3. Pack and plays. Chairs with belts that put the baby to sleep (vibrate, rock, whatever. Godsend). As they get older/can sit up, jump-ups. Play exercisers. I'm really sorry you have to buy two of all this stuff, I know it's expensive.
4. Are you big and strong?

One thing I think counts for a single as well as it will for twins is a certain amount of just dealing with your own paranoia is involved. You can watch them every second but no, this does not allow for much of a life. Everybody has to come to terms with leaving them on their own in safe situations. You have to figure out your own comfort level between unworkably paranoid (turn my back for two minutes? A panther could jump right in here!) and criminally neglectful (they'll be fine riding the bus for a couple of hours, I know where the last stop is!). You have to take showers, and naps, and mop the floor and stuff. I fell pretty hard on the paranoid side of things (as is my nature) but still managed to conduct a somewhat normal household.
posted by nanojath at 8:22 AM on September 22, 2011

I have some experience with psuedo-twins (not the same exact age, about 6 months apart but same developmental stage).

You do have to let them cry sometimes. It sucks. You have my sympathy. Once your daughter is a little older she'll probably be a more efficient eater and that will help a lot.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:22 AM on September 22, 2011

Get one of those bouncy reclining chairs for both babies. While she is nursing one she can bounce the baby in the recliner. Switch. This is what often happens at my baby daycare - one baby being held and fed in the rocker. Two babies at their feet being gently bounced in the recliners.

Every morning, make it a habit to set up a pitcher of water with a glass next to the favored nursing spot. Make sure there are plenty of quick snacks on hand - fruit salad, granola, yogurt, nuts, dried fruit, string cheese. Make sure diaper station is refilled and tidied every night before bed.

All your wife needs to do is concentrate on her needs and the babies needs. Get a housecleaner if you can. And get a bunch of ear plugs. Keep em by the water pitcher. They will quiet the sound of baby crying so you can attend to the other child. I find it impossible to concentrate when a baby us crying making everything impossible. You obviously don't want to ignore the baby but taking the moment you need to use the bathroom, get water, change the other baby is important.

And do talk to your doc about reflux with the cryer. There is medication.
posted by amanda at 8:22 AM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

A friend of mine who had twins told me, "You can hold both of them at the same time."
posted by orange swan at 8:24 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's been a really long time, but when my twin cousins were born I moved in to help out a while, and sometimes to give mom and dad time alone, I'd have them on my own. The things I remember that helped were a swing, a bouncy seat, a front pack so I could hold one hands-free while dealing with the other.

Like bilabial said, we're the internet and not qualified to diagnose, but an hour to feed the girl sticks out. And crying for three hours straight at that young seems like something that may have another cause.

It'll be an adjustment for the babies not to have their needs tended to instantly, but the books say that's a benefit of being a twin, of realizing early on that they aren't the center of the universe.
posted by lemniskate at 8:25 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, once you can comfortably do a back carry with one of them, hauling them around will be much easier. I have fond memories of the baby who needed to be held ALL THE TIME just chilling on my back for hours which made doing things for the other baby and myself much easier.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:27 AM on September 22, 2011

I think a critical thing to learn to accept when you have babies is that crying itself doesn't do them any harm. This took me a long time to absorb, but it's absolutely true (except, obviously, in those more or less rare instances when the crying is in response to some specific distress like hunger or pain).

I agree that you have to really just accept that chaos and random stuff happening on a per-minute basis is going to be the default life style you're going to have for the next few months. Accept these facts right now: your house will be a mess, one or both twins will be crying at any given point, you and your wife are going to have a lot of interrupted sleep, all kinds of errands and chores will fail to get done.

The really hard days of parenting babies has a cycle to it. You're in one developmental stage for a while when everyone is miserable -- crying during the first few months, the emergence of teeth and the attendant pain, motor and speech skills that lead to acting out or behavior issues -- and in between these spurts, you'll enjoy plateaus of relative peace and stability.

But I agree with others who say that one person can watch twins right now. If you're sitting with the twins in your house, so long as your house is baby-proofed, there's really nothing that can go wrong. It would be hard to be one adult taking the twins anywhere, though even this depends on a whole lot of other factors.
posted by Philemon at 8:28 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

First, congratulations! Second, no--you are not fucked for the rest of your lives.

I think the sooner you and your wife try to minimize the help, the easier things will get - or at least the more or a rhythm you'll fall into.

For the crying boy - have you spoken to your pediatrician? Might he have reflux? If so, there are things that might help, like keeping him upright 20-30 minutes after feeding. There's also medicine, if you're so inclined (it's been a big help to my 7 week old niece's crying and reflux). Then swaddle, and put baby down. If there's nothing wrong and he's just fussy, you might have to let him cry it out.

This gizmo has helped my brother, sister in law, myself and other aunts (I've probably spent half my nieces entire life with her so far!) immensely. It glides very, very gently from side to side. It is friggin' amazing.

You guys can do this. I had to "cut ties" with my bro and sister in law a week ago, because I think they were becoming way too dependent on me. Which is ok, I want to always be there for them and my niece - but like your mother in law, I had to leave and let them get into a groove. You guys can do it. It's hard, exhausting, and a lot of work, but the sooner you get into a rhythm, the better off all of you will be.
posted by raztaj at 8:30 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding trying to find some forums online. If you are in a largeish town or city there are probably twin/multiple birth support groups around too.

Are you breastfeeding, if so you can feed 2 babies at once. The only person I know who had twins did that. She used to look after them alone during the day and made judicious use of pillows to prop them all up and would feed them both at the same time. She said she felt like a milk bar doing it but it gave her more time. Of course you could do the same thing with bottle feeding, prop them up and hold 2 bottles at once. She also made judicious use of slings to carry one baby while dealing with another. They did have a woman come and clean once a week to help take that pressure off of her, and her husband would cook the adult dinners when he got home from work too.

I am not a doctor etc etc and this is just anecdotal, but if your son is crying for 3 hours straight and your daughter taking an hour to feed might be a milk supply problem if you are breastfeeding and it might be worth seeing a doctor over. My niece used to do something similar (the crying and taking ages to feed) and it turned out she wasn't getting enough breast milk and they had to supplement her with bottle feeds. Then she started up crying again and was lactose intolerant and needed soy formula.
posted by wwax at 8:31 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might also look into post-partum Doula care, and/or local twin resources. They will have the best ideas about how to juggle two needy babies and what carriers to use. These people make housecalls!

I also feel like 8 weeks was a turning point for my baby in being able to feed her more efficiently. I hear 6-8 weeks often being cited by moms as a magical time. I imagine with twins, they might be a little behind the standard timeline but I do think you've got some light at the end of this tunnel.
posted by amanda at 8:32 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

One bit of practical advice that worked for us: our baby cried like mad when she was a baby and nothing settled her done.

One afternoon, we put her in her little vibrating chair, and the vacuum cleaner was nearby, so I figured I'd rather listen to that than to her high-pitched wailing. Turns out, the vacuum cleaner, placed right next to her, knocked her out cold almost instantly!

This crazy thing worked so hilariously well, we actually have video of this one instance when she not just crying but pumping her fists. The vacuum goes on, and she fell asleep instantly -- with one fist still raised in the air. Very, very slowly, it came down to rest on her little lap.

This technique only worked for 10 days or so, but those were blissful days. (Incidentally, we could turn the thing off once she was asleep.)
posted by Philemon at 8:33 AM on September 22, 2011 [11 favorites]

When my twins were a few weeks old, my husband went on a week-long business trip. I didn't have any family around to help. We all survived somehow.

I fed the babies propped up in Boppies, rocked them in their carseats until they were big enough for swings (KathrynT is right on about using your feet). I took them places by myself all the time (the Double Snap N Go stroller is a lifesaver). Got them on a synchronized feeding/sleeping schedule ASAP. We lived by "Happiest Baby on the Block" and "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child." They will cry; you will have to accept that.

To be honest, our situation was special - we adopted our twins at four days old, so I wasn't dealing with any postpartum health issues, nor was I breastfeeding.

Twins can be hard (mine just turned 3, and ooh, boy, sometimes I wish I was dealing with bottles again instead of fighting over who gets which potty chair), but it does get better.
posted by candyland at 8:43 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

- Baby-wearing. Slings, Ergos, Carriers. You should go to a good store, WITH THE BABIES and try them out. Ask everyone you know if they have spare carriers/ergos. You will likely have to do some trial and error before finding the solution(s) that work, but hey, that's parenting :-) And it'll change as they get older. But seriously. Figure out how to carry each of them separately and both of them together.
- Mothering Multiples
- get connected to a Mother of Multiples group (sometimes MOMS) in your local area and online. Here is a good first start.
- start going on walks soon - even if it's just around the block at first. Get practiced getting them a bit synchronized, dressed, fed, into a stroller and/or wrap, and out the door for a walk. It'll help IMMENSELY in the weeks and months to come, and it'll take some time to figure out that part of a routine. Stage it as a game: how long does it take now? What can we do to streamline? What do we really need while out, and what is totally unnecessary? Can you make a specific diaper bag that has duplicates of everything and STAYS in the stroller?
- How much have you been learning about sleep? No-Cry Sleep Solution, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happiest Baby on the Block - there are a number of approaches and you'll have to figure out what's best for you. But don't assume that it'll just "happen" without any decisions or thought or planning. You can make your approach to sleep habits intentional, no matter what you decide.
- How much do you know about swaddling? Would any tips on that be helpful? It can be such a great technique and solution for fussy babies, tired babies, multiple babies, babies in new places, etc. If you're having a hard time with regular blankets, try a SwaddleMe
- Are you tracking their sleep/eating/bathroom habits? It can be helpful in terms of getting on a schedule.

There is lots of great parenting advice here - if you let us know other general questions, I'm sure we'd all be happy to provide concreted advice.

Congrats! Pics would help us answer the question ;-)
posted by barnone at 8:48 AM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

The thing you have to remember about babies is that while their crying is to you a sign of massive distress, to them, it's one of two ways of communication.

This is one of the few subjects that I can back anecdotes as data, because there are so many anecdotes.
posted by Sphinx at 8:48 AM on September 22, 2011

I don't have babies, but a friend of mine just had twins, so I've gotten to see what she's doing. Hope some of this helps!

Are you using a sling? Find one that really fits and feels comfortable you and your wife (get two if you have different preferences), and you'll be much more mobile and able to deal with one twin while keeping the other calm and safe. Don't be afraid to invest in the equipment you need, whether it's a really good double stroller or a swing or whatever fancy gizmos they're making now to keep babies entertained.

I also agree with those above who recommend asking your pediatrician for help. If your son regularly cries for three hours inconsolably, he may have a medical issue. If your daughter is having trouble feeding, there may be ways to help her with that. It's possible that you're just going through a rough time, but there may be solvable problems that could make your life easier now.
posted by decathecting at 8:49 AM on September 22, 2011

That crying is a concern. Talk to your doc. Find a multiples support group. From friends with twins, be ridiculously organzied. Systems for diapers, sleeping, bathing.
posted by k8t at 8:49 AM on September 22, 2011

Our twins just turned 11. It gets way easier.

The first six months are a blur of confusion and squalor and terrible meals eaten while standing, but then things smooth right out. Twins are more difficult than singles as infants, but way easier as kids. Similar interests, similar sports, help each other with homework, share books etc.

Trust me, chaos is your predominant lifestyle influence for a while, but it doesn't last long, and you tend to forget it.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:52 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

To address some points:

I'm going to pipe in with a concern about post partum depression.

Obviously we all have post-partum depression. I'm confident we'll feel better as soon as we all sleep more. I'm not worried about our state of mind, I'm just trying to plan out the next year and figure out how many relatives to beg for help.

And crying for three hours straight at that young seems like something that may have another cause.

The doctor, midwife etc. all seem to think the crying is normal; in fact the doctor drew us a bell curve of crying that peaked between 6-8 weeks and said that at that age kids just cry a lot and there may not be a reason. I only mention it as an example of how hard it would be for one person to deal with them right now.

Get one of those bouncy reclining chairs for both babies.

I'm not really sure what you're referring to ... we have a crib that rocks, and it just jack shit for us at the moment. The boy only calms down when we hold him. We have those cloths you use to carry babies. Maybe when they're a bit older the bouncy chair will work better? Could you show me an example?

And do talk to your doc about reflux with the cryer. There is medication.

Our doc and our midwife just said: they cry a lot at that age, hold them a lot. We tried symethicone (sp?) and fennel tea and neither really worked.

Once your daughter is a little older she'll probably be a more efficient eater and that will help a lot.

See, this is the sort of information I'm looking for. When can we expect feeding the two of them not to be a herculean effort?

get connected to a Mother of Multiples group (sometimes MOMS) in your local area

I should have mentioned that we don't live in America.
posted by creasy boy at 8:54 AM on September 22, 2011

And thank you everyone for all the answers so far.
posted by creasy boy at 8:54 AM on September 22, 2011

Bouncy chairs!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:58 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Based on my experience with one baby, 12 weeks is the magic number. Something about the sleeping working out, the feeding getter more efficient, the crying ceasing, and the mother's hormones calming down meant that the three-month mark was when things got a LOT better. So I'd plan on asking for help from relatives, or hiring help, for another five weeks and then re-evaluate. (And while of course you CAN leave your wife alone with them now, I found that I only got really comfortable being alone with the baby after six or eight weeks, so for her comfort and peace of mind I'd try to have a second person there until 12 weeks at least.)
posted by Ollie at 9:00 AM on September 22, 2011

Baby wearing devices!
(I like the Moby Wrap when they're little like your guys.... and the Ergo for older/bigger babies)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:02 AM on September 22, 2011

I am mom of 3 but not of twins.

Some babies will settle with very vigorous rocking. Get a swing (maybe friends have some you can try) that rocks fast and strong. This will sometimes settle a baby that won't settle with gentle rocking. For the first 3 months of my 3rd kid's life, a strong swing was the only way we could set her down for even a few minutes at a time.

Vibrating bouncy seat. Many of these have frames that you can press with your foot to rock the baby, or you can turn on the "vibrate" setting. Many babies love these. With some babies, they are the single most helpful thing in the world.

At around 8 weeks, in my experience, many babies become more settled. Their routines get more regular, their sleep may get more regular, you know them better. My partner and I used to joke that the timing is perfect--babies do this *just* as you are about to put them out on the hillside for the wolves. So, for one or both of your babies, you may be right on the cusp of a transition to an easier time. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.
posted by not that girl at 9:02 AM on September 22, 2011

I imagine with twins, they might be a little behind the standard timeline

They were 2.5 weeks early, so maybe they're really only 4.5 weeks old now. It's definitely not yet the magical time.

Also: we are only breastfeeding slightly and using lots of formula. What I really want to know is just when feeding, sleeping etc. gets to be a manageable routine and not a truly impossible task every time.

Thank you for examples of the bouncy chair, I will look into local versions.
posted by creasy boy at 9:04 AM on September 22, 2011

Well, I only had one baby, and I still felt that way early on. I was terrified when my husband went back to work and when my parents left. But they did, and we figured it out.

It's okay for babies to cry sometimes. It's especially okay if you know why they're crying and they just need to wait five minutes for that thing to happen - you can't change two diapers at once, for example.

It certainly seems like a sling would be a good thing to try out, because it frees up your hands.

Otherwise, you just have to keep trying different things until something works. Try things that fit with your personalities - are you structured people who like/need a very strict schedule? Then get your kids on a schedule. Are you more laid back? Then lay around with the kids in bed and sleep when they sleep and hope its all at the same time. At the beginning, I seem to recall an hour of crying between 5-6 pm no matter what we did. So eventually we just stuck her in a stroller and went for a walk. But that stopped by 10 weeks.

It seemed to me like things got a lot easier at 10-11 weeks; and then even more easier at about 5-6 months.

I highly highly recommend reading the "Wonder weeks" as time goes on for some well thought out explanations on when to expect things to get shaken up.

Also, if you can afford to, think about out sourcing whatever you can: pick up made meals from restaurants; hire a cleaning lady. If you can't afford to, then learn to let things go - embrace cereal for dinner and a messy house.

Congratulations. And good luck - it gets better!!
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:04 AM on September 22, 2011

I hope that things get better for you soon!

We found that crying peaked around 8 weeks. It made me feel better to read and reread this website on the Period of Purple Crying during the painful early evening crying frenzy.

And, just wanted to second getting some sort of carrier/baby holding device. I've seen twins in wraps and slings.
The Babywearer is a great resource for baby carrier advice.
posted by JuliaKM at 9:05 AM on September 22, 2011

I have 2.5 year old twins. Adjusting for the fact that they were six weeks premature, and spent the first three weeks in the NICU as a result, my wife started caring for them mostly on her own at probably around eight weeks old. Had they come home right away and not needed a bit of extra care I'm guessing she could have been solo at around 4 weeks.

Things that helped, in no particular order:
  • Learn to wear them as soon as possible. Both of you. The carriers that you can use will shift as they grow, right now your wife could be wearing them simultaneously in either two Maya wraps or one Moby wrap. Once they get old enough to hold their heads up on their own (4-6 months) I'd invest in something like two Ergos, which you can use to either each wear one or wear both simultaneously. Find somewhere local that can help you figure out which of the myriad of these will work for you, bonus points to places that do consignment so that you can trade up.
  • Look into a local multiples group. If you can't find one locally look online. You'll want someone else to talk to, and it'd be helpful to have several someone elses because perspectives will vary.
  • Get them on a schedule, write it down, keep to it. The schedule may not work at first, and that's ok, but you need to be simultaneously doing everything, eg. when one is hungry they both eat. At some point you'll need to loosen up and/or modify, but having a schedule is key. A timer might help.
  • Make a decision (when you're as rested as possible) about what must get done around the house and what you're willing to let slide. Work the things that must be done into the schedule. Let go of worrying about the things you've decided to let slide.
  • Rest when they rest. There's no shame in going to bed at 7:30 at night if you've not slept well in weeks
  • Mothering Multiples is a great book for advice on breastfeeding and just twins in general, and if your wife is breastfeeding this pillow or one like it will make everything easier.
  • It was impossible for us to eat when they were awake until we got them into high chairs, we waited way too long to do this.
  • Buy everything, especially diapers, in bulk and online. Not having to make a trip to get something is priceless. (See: Amazon Mom)
  • Co-sleep (with whatever definition of this that works for you). Running across the house to tend to two infants all night long is ridiculous.
  • Take the absolute minimum amount of crap with you when you leave the house. We whittled it down to three diapers, a ziplock bag of wipes, and one change of clothes. You've got two babies to lug around, you don't need a giant diaper bag to worry about too.
I'm sure I've forgotten a million things. Feel free to email me.
posted by togdon at 9:09 AM on September 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

A simple bouncy chair like this is perfect. Actually, if you can find one at the consignment store that is even more flexy from use, even better. The ones at my daycare don't have vibration or music and they are almost horizontal because these legs have bent and relaxed with use -- this gives maximum bounce with a toe tap! So, if you're looking at one, put it on the floor and see if you can rock it with your foot. That's the one (two) to get.

Are you in Germany? Surely, surely in the land of people who love children, there is a support group and/or a type of doula service that could give you guys a hand. I had a doula who specialized in post-partum care come over and she was invaluable -- 1. she had experience with hundreds of families and babies, 2. she was well-rested and impartial and her only aim was to make things work for us (it's so hard to problem solve when you're cross-eyed from tiredness), 3. she had so many tricks up her sleeve and was a great listener. I'm hoping you and your partner can find someone like this. If your MIL can help you find this person, that might be a good thing for her to do for y'all.
posted by amanda at 9:34 AM on September 22, 2011

Make sure your wife gets some time alone away from the babes too! And, while your mother-in-law is still there, go out with your wife for a couple of hours.

I took care of twins this age for a few weeks for some neighbors. Their nanny quit the day the mom was supposed to go back to work.

It was exhausting, and I was only there 9 or 10 hours a day, and I was an experienced mom with grown children. I found lying in the big be with one on each side right up against me while I gave them each a bottle worked well. Music did too. Like something soft and soothing, but some babies like rock and roll, try anything.

Do you have a car? Lots of babies calm right down when you take them for a ride in the car.

One of my kids cried a whole lot for the first 3 or 4 months and then turned into the most mellow of my three, and continues to be so at age 38. He's also an awesome dad. Do not, repeat, do not, worry too much about how much the baby cries.

Lots of good advice above, good luck.
posted by mareli at 9:36 AM on September 22, 2011

I took care of our triplets alone after my husband went back to work. They were 4 weeks old. I know it's just my perspective, but I don't think twins would be THAT hard. Hey, at least you have as many arms as babies.

Scheduling is very very very important, though. That's for sure. As are swings. But all babies are different, so it's hard to say if they'll work well for your kids.

Good luck and huge congrats!
posted by pyjammy at 9:37 AM on September 22, 2011

And god, no, you're not fucked. Your incredibly lucky! As are your kids. I know it's a cliche, but my boys have two built-in best friends. It's amazing. You will not remember the first six months once they hit a year or two. It will be a blur. So y'all just have to survive, get through this, and I promise, things will calm down. You will sleep again. And when they're about 4 months old, they'll probably start to notice each other. This will be really amazing to watch.

Now, mine are almost 4. They play together, and are absolutely (possibly distressingly) inseperable. But it's a wonderful thing to behold.
posted by pyjammy at 9:41 AM on September 22, 2011

Nth-ing bouncy chairs. And talking to your ped about reflux. One of mine cried for hours like that so they put him on baby prevacid and he was much better. My twins are 22 months now and I was home for 10-12 hours a day with them by 7 weeks. Yeah, it's exhausting but it doesn't last forever. By 4 moaths mine were taking 2 long naps and routinely sleeping 10 hours at night.
Hang in there, have your wife talk to her doc about ppd and maybe look into a moms if twin/multiples club. It's a nice resource of people who have been where you are. My club makes meals for new families, free dinners every other evening for two weeks, awesome.
We had one grandma for a week and a half and the other for 6 days. They both live out of state and we have survived. Good luck!
posted by areawoman at 9:51 AM on September 22, 2011

You likely have new-parent syndrome, and that is really what is going on here.

I am just going to repeat what a lot of others have said, but one person can care for those twins NOW.

When we had just one kid, my wife couldn't handle it, ever. Now we have two, and she still can't handle them, but I have been watching them both, alone, for a long time and to me it's as easy as caring for just myself.

So one might have to cry while you take care of the other one. Big deal. You have to feed one at a time. Bid deal. You have to get them both into a double-stroller to go shopping. Big deal. It's only as dramatic as you make it. Heck, my friend's wife takes all seven of her kids to the store, alone, all the time...
posted by TinWhistle at 10:00 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

You may also be suffering from a mild expectation that things shouldn't suck after the baby is born. I had a c section for our kid, and after she was two weeks old, and Mr. Llama went back to work, I'd describe my feelings about that as 'cold puking terror'. I did it without burning the house down but that's about it. And that's just one kid.

Some people are great with infancy and take it in stride. We did not. We were like we'd been in a non-stop gunfight for the first three months. I think before she was born we'd collectively spent about ten minutes around infants in our entire lives. I had PPD and had a c section, and had a terrible time in the hospital. Breastfeeding went terribly. If I could go back in time I'd have kept up with the pain meds, started anti-depressants immediately, and given up on breastfeeding on day two. Instead I soldiered on thanks in part to 'helpful' social pressure and in large part to enormous personal pressure and this idea that somehow the experience was going to be like it was in my imagination, even though I didn't know shit about it, in retrospect.

So realizing you're not nuts, it's really hard, and it won't last forever, might make you feel somewhat better.

Other than that, keeping looking for lots of devices for places to stick Baby A while Baby B is tended to. We had a light thing that was like the sort of thing you'd get at Spencer Gifts at the mall that made a cool light show on the ceiling. That was often good for space-out time for baby. You need all the devices that rock, move, hold the baby to you (the Bjorn thing is great) etc because only one in ten will work and you really need to come at it with both barrels because you've got twice the audience. So I'd say hit up everyone you know for every garish plastic baby item they have to find the one that works for fifteen minutes.

With regard to breastfeeding: if she's killing herself for a tiny bit of miserable success, it is okay to stop. The most important thing is to feed the baby and for everyone to take care of themselves and get back on to being the happy people you used to be before you ruined your lives. I'm kidding! I'm kidding! But I remember feeling just like that. Of course you didn't ruin your lives.

It's just one of those things -- it's hard for a while. Do everything you can. The days will pass. Everything feels like it's been going on forever and you've been listening to that baby cry as you furtively and desperately try to do a load of laundry while sobbing yourself, and then it's over.

You might want to peruse joke threads on AskMe. Punchy laughter is lots of fun. Feel better. It will not last for the rest of your lives and in fact, there will be lots of fun things in the future.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:11 AM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seconding everything A Terrible Llama just said. I know jackshit about twins, but I do have a 9-month-old, and until he was at least 3 or 4 months old my life sucked and I hated hated hated being on maternity leave because it meant I had to take care of him all by myself and I could barely handle it. Seriously, even one tiny baby is a lot. Two tiny babies is insane. It is normal for you to feel overwhelmed and like your life is over. Really. Things started to improve crying-wise for us when the baby was about 3 months. Don't freak out if 8 weeks is not magic for you. Everyone had repeated the 8 weeks thing for so long that when it came and went and things weren't better, I was despondent. It'll be soon, but don't get too hung up on a particular number.

Babywearing is the shit. Make use of it. Also, your daughter WILL get more efficient with eating. My son was the same. He took forever to eat, whether bottle or breast. That started to improve around 3.5 months, I think?

And by the way, my son gets cooler by the day and things are so much easier now you wouldn't believe it. Again, I know it's not twins, but it WILL get easier and you WILL figure things out. I promise.

Oh, did anyone mention a yoga/exercise ball yet? When my son went through his period of constant crying, the thing that worked magic was wearing him in a Baby Bjorn and bouncing like mad on a yoga ball. It was MAGIC, I'm telling you, and once he was asleep he would usually stay asleep as long as I left him in the Bjorn. So that could be Baby B feeding time, maybe? I do think schedules are going to be much more important with twins than with singletons, but don't stress if you're seeing nothing but randomness from them right now. That is normal, but they will start to develop schedules on their own within the next couple of months, and at that point, you should be able to begin to mold things a little to try to get them synchronized.
posted by feathermeat at 10:45 AM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Hang in there, as mentioned above finding something you can get them in and out of and wear them as much as possible.

The other thing I didn't see mentioned above, is a yoga ball. Yoga balls saved our lives when the only thing scrobbles wanted was motion and we just couldn't walk and bounce her any longer.

The babies will get better at eating as time goes on, but a lot of the being on the boob right now is a comfort/cuddling thing. You can possibly alleviate some of that by doing skin to skin contact yourself. There were times where I went shirtless and tossed my daughter in to a sling and put a super baggy sweatshirt over that....and that's how we spent the day between feedings so my wife could get a break.

I think the hardest breastfeeding time for my wife was the first 12 weeks. Things seemed to really start getting easier then. The sleep didn't get better for a while, but co sleeping for us helped.

Take heart, it gets better, no one can tell you when, but it gets better and sometimes the improvement is so slow it's hard to notice it. If things were as hard as they are now for the rest of the child raising society would have long since collapsed.
posted by iamabot at 11:02 AM on September 22, 2011

There are forums online! And here is the ABC-CLUB e.V. - "We are the largest German organisation for families with higher multiple-birth children from triplets onwards". Even though they claim it's for triplets+, I would definitely get in touch with them and see if they can direct you to resources for parents of twins!
posted by barnone at 11:46 AM on September 22, 2011

Father of three-year-old twin girls here. The first few weeks were hands-down the hardest of my life, so I feel for you.

We had help for the first few weeks too. Even with two people tending the babies, the feeding and cleaning and sleeping regimen left us with maybe a half hour to an hour every four hours to do anything else. My wife struggled with breastfeeding but was determined to do it, so had to spend a lot of otherwise free time pumping. (She became a pro at about 6 weeks and life got a lot easier- no pumping, no fussing with bottles, no mixing formula...)

Experiment with what calms them. Try everything. You'll find ways to keep them calm and happy, but it varies per kid. One girl really loved the automatic swing, and would stay relatively happy in it for a while. We exploited that. The other one needed to be swaddled very snugly to stay happy, but was indifferent to the swing.

When I had to go back to work, and we ran out of available helpers, my wife had some tricks.
- Take them out for walks every day, weather permitting. The motion of the stroller calms them, and it was good for her sanity.
- Use the rocking chair trick someone mentioned- hold/feed one baby and rock the other in the chair with your foot.
- Develop the ability to feed them simultaneously. If she's breastfeeding, this may involve some complicated structure of firm pillows and things. It took my wife a while to work out. If not, you can also work out ways to comfortably feed them simultaneously with a bottle. In general, do things in parallel whenever you can.
- Get multiple swings / bouncy chairs and place them strategically around the house. You can pop one or both in the chairs without having to go fetch it from elsewhere. Our twins required a lot gear- we used that redundancy approach all the time for lots of things.

But it's going to continue to be really hard for quite a while. Two newborns is not twice as hard, it's like 10 times as hard. Finding some other parents of multiples is good if for no other reason than to get confirmation that it really is this hard and it's not just because you're doing it wrong. (They usually have lots of extra baby gear they'd love to unload) Hang in there! It gets better!
posted by uberfunk at 11:50 AM on September 22, 2011

Oh yeah- we found it invaluable to keep them on the same feeding / sleeping cycle. We kept to a very rigid schedule. If one for some reason needed to be fed early, we'd still feed them at the same time, waking up the other one if necessary. Then we'd reset the clock for the next feeding. Fairly quickly they aligned, so it was rare that one was hungry when the other one wasn't, and they were almost always sleeping at the same time. Having two newborns out of phase is just too hard.
posted by uberfunk at 11:55 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

we all have post-partum depression. Nope. post-partum depression is related to post-partum hormones. Does the birth mom have post-partum depression? If she does, make an appt. with the doctor immediately; treatment is a good thing.

One of you has to be better organized. In your house, you have to have diapers, clean baby clothes and blankies - sleepers, onesies, sox will do it, and plenty of baby blankets free of pee, poop, and puke. You have to have adequate food for basic nutrition, including formula and bottles, as needed. Even with formula, a Mom nursing 2 babies needs lots of calories. There have been many threads on about affordable, easy/fast-to-prepare, nutritious foods. There have been askme threads about basic baby stuff needed. Visits to the pediatrician and obstetrician have to be made. Make a list of what absolutely has to get done, and make it a priority.

- Stock up on food and essentials so that you only have to go to the store about once a week.
- You have to make laundry a routine.
- Make meals as easy as possible.
- Do whatever housework you can manage, and let the rest slide.
- Co-sleeping, yes, and also, co-hanging-out-in-bed, snuggling. The babies want to be near the humans; indulge everyone as much as possible. If nursing is not going well, a day in bed with babies and lots of nursing combined with snuggling, can help. Nursing is for comfort as well as nutrition.
- If anyone, ever, volunteers help, take them up on it. You know what, if you could stop by and keep them safe while I take a shower, it would be heavenly or Help? Any chance you could drop off a meal? or You're an angel to offer; Lee has a cold and we can't find the baby thermometer. If you could run that errand, it would be a lifesaver.
- Make as many things into routines as possible.

So, make a list, get this stuff organized, get in plenty of groceries. Nothing else is urgent. Your best friend's anniversary, your grandma's birthday, your preference for the organic gelato from across town - those things are a luxury, to do only as time permits.

Good goals to work towards:
- A daily bath for the babies is a great routine. It's calming, even if it doesn't seem so, and if it's in the evening, helps signal that it's quiet-sleepy time.
- Put some effort into making a daily walk possible. It requires getting efficient with the stroller and 2 babies, but sunshine is good for parents and babies.
- Even if the schedule is really minimal, work towards it.

crying for three hours straight, The boy only calms down when we hold him.

Lots of snuggling, using a baby carrier, lots of holding. But, it's okay to put him down in a bouncy chair/crib/quilt on the floor, and let him cry while you change Baby girl, or get a fresh bottle. Ask the doctor about medications for infant colic. Some doctors will use some medications, some won't. Occasional use when a baby has been crying for 1 hour is reasonable in my book. This is an issue that people disagree about. I tried a lot of different things. Things that helped some of the time - a baby swing, car rides, comfort nursing, dancing while holding the baby, different types of music.

Don't feel bad if the crying is awful and intolerable for you. We are wired to want to help a baby stop crying. If you have to put the baby in the crib, and go stand outside for 15 minutes, just to cope, do that. I had 1 baby with colic, and I've done a lot of reading. I don't believe 3 hours of crying is routine.

If you can hire any help, it would be wonderful. Someone to come in, do laundry, clean a little, make a meal, and watch the babies so Mom can shower, is a huge treat, if you can afford it.

In the middle of all this, take time to admire, enjoy, love, photograph and appreciate your beautiful babies.
posted by theora55 at 4:07 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

3 hours of crying.... I know you said the doc and the grandma said that it's normal, but...really, it's not. I got the same head pat / poor silly dear crap from one doc and my mom and yet my kids both had reflux and protein allergies. I'm not saying that your baby does have a medical issue, but if your gut is saying that something is wrong then something is wrong. Babies don't cry after eating their fill at the boob - usually they are sleepy and cute and working on making you a diaper. At the age your babes are, screaming for 3 hours means he screams from feed to feed.

Also, baby wearing is life saving. My fave this early on is the Sleepy Wrap. It's the same concept as a Moby but because it is stretchy it has a more forgiving learning curve.

My two kids are really, really close in age and I freaked at first at the thought of being alone with them or, dog forbid, going on an outing alone. For the first solo outing I had my mom come alone and do NOTHING. It was great to have here there if things started going all sideways, but gave me the chance to prove to myself I could do it. I gets better, I promise.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:28 PM on September 22, 2011

I totally agree with the advice about establishing routines. You've got to routinize everything, but most especially bed time. Do the same things, in the same order, at the same time at bedtime, and it will pay off throughout the first year, year-and-a-half in particular.

I don't necessarily agree that excessive crying is a sign of a medical condition. Of course -- of course! -- check in with your doctor appropriately. But since you sound a little freaked out I feel obligated to mention that you shouldn't overreact to some of the advice given here listing all these things that crying could be a symptom of.

Don't think you have to run to the emergency room just because one of your kids has been at it for a while. There is such a thing as colic, which most babies have to some degree, and there's generally not much you can do about it. I took our daughter to the emergency room (because it was middle of the night or we were on vacation) because I was freaked out about something, and let me tell you straight off, these visits never did anyone in my house any damn good.

Anyway, after a while, you'll be able to recognize the difference between crying for no reason (or for minor reasons, like kid needs to be burped or is tired) and crying because of an illness or allergy or something that needs to be checked out by a doc.
posted by Philemon at 10:09 PM on September 22, 2011

Don't discount the reflux possibility. It's more common in twins because they are born earlier and their esophogeal sphincters are underdeveloped.

Also, creasy boy check your MeMail.
posted by werkzeuger at 1:24 PM on September 23, 2011

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