Crash course in babies
July 10, 2014 7:59 AM   Subscribe

My best friend and her hubs are about to have twins (fraternal), as in at the hospital right now! They also have a toddler. I have volunteered to be live-in help 2-3 days a week during the first however many weeks needed with whatever is needed. Give me your best family chaos wisdom on what to expect for me as the helper and how to be the most helpful to her and daddy, twins and toddler. Assume all are healthy, happy and wonderful. Also assume mom is recovering from C-section.

I have no kids of my own, my exposure to children is through babysitting and what I've learned through friends with kids. Her hubs will be working days through most of the initial weeks so it's just her and the kiddos with help from family and myself and whoever else drops by. Assuming I already know some of the best help is keeping the household running smoothly - laundry, dishes, meal prep, keeping mom fed/watered as well as kiddos, and showering the adorable toddler big brother with attention - what things I am not thinking of and utterly unprepared for that come with multiple tiny infants in their first weeks? When you had an infant/infants and a toddler, what were you super appreciative of or what do you wish someone had done for you? What can/can't mom do after a C-section and how can I best help her recover, physically, mentally, emotionally?

Thank you from me - and all of them - in advance.
posted by danapiper to Human Relations (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do not let yourself get involved in drama. It will lead to no good. They will forgive each other and themselves for anything that happens in the first few months -- they may never forgive you. Even though she's your best friend, if they start up with drama, excuse yourself from the room and go cook something or clean something or shower attention on adorable toddler big brother.
posted by Etrigan at 8:06 AM on July 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You're probably fine. Have the pediatrician's number handy in case questions arise… in fact, make sure someone (you?) has gotten an answer from the pediatrician re what to do if questions/problems arise in the middle of the night. (I found out too late that there was a wide variation in quality of urgent care clinics even in the same chain.)

Mom can't lift comfortably; and "standing" chores (dishes, changing baby) may be difficult. Coughing hurts post C, so having a water bottle around to make sure throat did not get dry was important. Breast feeding can be challenging - you may need to help her experiment with pillow arrangements, or pop out to the babies-r-us to get stuff. If she complains about pain etc, research solutions. She will be exhausted and may not know what solutions are available.

Food was the biggie for me. Having someone take care of nice meals would have been the biggest thing. The thing I remember most was the friend who came by with homemade chicken soup for us.

Middle of the night crying was the biggest challenge as I recall. Figure out some sort of shift arrangement with the hubs. Don't all be up at the same time if you can help it - make sure someone's getting rest while someone's dealing with the night work.

What a lucky mom she is to have a friend like you! Thank you for doing this!
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:11 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Coordinating with dad so that either you or he is responsible for the kids for 8+ hours/night so that mom can sleep uninterrupted is probably the #1 thing you can do to help speed along her recovery.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:20 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Be helpful and in the background as much as you can.

Focus mostly on doing the non-baby stuff that needs to be done, so the parents can focus on bonding with their baby.

For things like dishes and laundry, don't wait to be asked: just do them unless told to stop. Food prep, bring mom a nice glass of water or cup of tea, etc are nice. Running errands is great. Maybe give the mom a paper and pen near wherever she's mostly hanging out (bed, rocking chair, whatever) so she can add stuff to a shopping list as she thinks of it.

Keep negative comments and fears to yourself. Especially around breastfeeding (if the mama is trying to breastfeed). She will figure it out (or not) but expressing doubts or worries that the babies aren't getting enough food can really undermine her confidence.

Know that the parents and especially the mom are going to be exhausted and hormonal and subject to mood swings, and allow for some snippiness or accidentally rudeness.

You're awesome for doing this!!
posted by latkes at 8:26 AM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's okay to let Mom sleep while you wrangle little people. The more she sleeps the better it is. Infants may like to chill in a crib/bassinet/laundry basket, or one or both may want to be perpetually held. If so, hold.

Learn to swaddle. Be prepared to diaper a LOT. Learn to work the swing.

Other than that, do what makes sense.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:41 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My main answer was in your question: "laundry, dishes, meal prep, etc." Let mom mother; you let her happen.And it sounds like you know this, but if there's something you know needs doing (e.g., washing the dishes), just do it without consulting. If you you're not sure about something, don't ask "Would you like me to...", just say, "I'm going to....". She'll object as necessary.

If possible, prepare food that can just be stuck in the microwave for the days you won't be there.

If the weather/environment allows, after a week or two, suggest that you take the babies out for a walk in the stroller for an hour or two. They will often sleep better with the movement and that will let mom sleep. Ideally, you'd take all three to the park and let the toddler play while the babies sleep/rest/look adorable in the stroller.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:43 AM on July 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Speaking as the firstborn in my own family - the more attention you can shower on the toddler, the better. Everyone's going to be focused on mom and babies, out of necessity but also because of whee exciting little tiny baby new people energy and the toddler is going to feel a little bit of "wait, what about me, I'm still here" anxiety. Having someone who's paying a lot of attention to them instead of to the new screaming crying meatloafs in the house can help with that transition a lot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:46 AM on July 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Hydration. No one remembers to drink enough water, and it's especially crucial as her body recovers from surgery and she starts feeding two babies. The toddler will also likely need someone refilling his drinks regularly. Be the water fairy. This was the thing that helped me most as a new parent.
posted by judith at 9:30 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When my mom stayed with me after my c-section, the most helpful things she did were help me remember to take my meds and give me backrubs. I had SO MANY pills to take (pain pills, antibiotics, vitamins, iron, stool softeners, and I don't remember what else), all at different times or with food/without food and I would never have remembered it all. She made up a little chart, and at the appropriate time would bring me the right pills and water and check it off. When she left I was able to keep up with it easily using the chart. This is especially important for the pain pills, which work best when they are taken on time, instead of when you start to feel pain.

She also gave me a great backrub before I went to bed each night (I would lie down on my side) which made me feel better than most pain pills. I had a reaction to the anesthesia that resulted in severe pain in the "shoulder strap" muscles for several days, and a massage worked wonders.

And +1 to paying attention to the toddler and fixing meals and running errands. You are a great friend.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:58 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Be the enforcer for getting visitors out, either at a time that you arrange with the family or when you're given the secret signal to start bouncing people. I was surprised by how long people were willing to camp out in the living room of a woman who came home from the hospital that day.

Also, check on the husband. When I did what you're doing, everyone's thoughtful about the mother, but the father was a little ignored, so he and I had a couple conversations about "oh my god, you have a child now." I know he and his wife talked about this, but while she was immediately post-partum he wanted to keep as much off her plate as possible.

When you leave, make it seem like you were never there - strip your bed and wash your sheets/towels, do the dishes, fill up the fridge.

I made a double batch of cookies before I left and froze half as dough. I got texts for months thanking me for that.
posted by punchtothehead at 10:03 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mom may not be able to breast feed 2 babies. Help with bottle prep.
posted by Cranberry at 10:16 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can also make sure the baby room is set up. Fresh diaper, wipes, change of clothes etc. is all laid out so nothing needs arranging when change time or nap time happens. Clean the bottles or clean the pump if she's using that.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:47 AM on July 10, 2014

Best answer: This is a great lactation cookie recipe that helps to increase her milk supply - you can't make too many of these, they are so freaking good. Make, freeze extras, etc.

You will have your hands full with the things you described, and you are doing a really great thing here.

Learn their toddler's favorite comfort foods and normal routine, so you can read a book in the right chair, help with bathtime and how they normally would put him down for a nap mid-day, etc. Toddler will have a hard time understanding why mom and dad have less time/energy to focus on just him now, and especially why mom can't pick him up for a while. If you can pick him up and do some of the swing-in-the-air stuff that toddlers love, that will be good. You might also think about ways to take him out of the house for a little outing (library, playground) every day for an hour or so, if someone can be there to stay with mom during that time. You'll want to get dad to show you how to strap kiddo into his car seat and tighten everything.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:50 AM on July 10, 2014

My daughter had twins in January. She had help in the house for just about every day of the first four months.

As suggested above, do as much of the non-baby stuff as you can: meals, shopping, cleaning, dishwashing, laundry...Probably there will be some bottle feeding you can help with.

Transporting two babies is hard. Be on hand for trips to the doctor, or anywhere else.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:16 PM on July 10, 2014

Response by poster: These are all great help, thank you so much! Checklists, meds, visitor watchdog, and that recipe, yum! Babies were born this afternoon and are super cute and healthy, as is mom. Headed up tomorrow to visit at hospital and then start my shift next week. So excited. Thank you all again!
posted by danapiper at 1:53 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

oh and make sure you know how to empty the diaper pail and do it (but also make sure hubs knows how to do it for when you leave.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:21 PM on July 10, 2014

I just did some time helping friends with newborn twins. I definitely used the strategy of just doing or saying that I was doing the chores, like dishes or laundry. They would object "you don't have to do that, you are our guest" because they are nice people but then I would insist. I took care of as many meals as I could and made sure it was healthy food.

For the twins themselves, I found that there wasn't as much I could do for mom, if your friend's situation is similar she may be pumping or breastfeeding every 2 hours at minimum, so even though you can used pumped milk to feed the babies, she will still have to be awake every 2 hours to do this. What I did was take the spouse's shift at night so that the spouse could sleep all the way through (in a room far from the babies) and get a good night's sleep and be more energetic and helpful the next day. You don't mention whether this is an issue, but oftentimes at least one twin has problems with not gaining weight well, and one or both can have other issues related to prematurity - hoping this is not an issue for your friends based on the fact that it sounds like there is no NICU stay. If there are any issues then just be aware that your friends might be a very sensitive to possible health concerns and trying to stay on top of feeding, and breastfeeding to try to boost immunity in any way possible and so forth, and that is understandable.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:12 PM on July 10, 2014

Best answer: Awww, I did pretty much this last fall for my sister (twins, but no toddler). I stayed for 3 weeks, and it was super awesome but probably also the most exhausting thing I've done in my life.

A couple more things I'd note:

If you already know how they like things to be done around the house, stick to that. No need to add extra stress. If they ask you to do something a particular way, just DO IT. (We've had issues with the grandmothers always wanting to do things their way and not listening.) Whatever decisions they make (or change their minds about) -- feeding, sleep stuff, cloth diapers or not, recording minute details about eating and pooping, etc -- you're supportive and on board.

Take care of yourself. Remember to eat, get enough sleep, blah blah blah. It feels sinfully luxurious to get enough sleep when they are all so sleep deprived you can't look at their sad tired eyes without wanting to cry. But you being well-rested means that when someone is snappy, which will happen, you're calm and ready to listen or take whatever action necessary to solve problems. It also means your BFF doesn't have the stress of worrying about draining you.

Keep dishes going, keep laundry going, make sure people have stuff to eat. Even if the new mom doesn't literally have a bell to ring to fetch someone, be ready to run in with a glass of water or a snack or another pillow or whatever nursing thing got left in the other room. Keep track of where things are, so that you can grab pretty much anything she might want quickly.

If she's breastfeeding, she may be self-conscious about the near constant presence of boobs for a bit. Be totally chill about it.

Finally, OMG, cherish that new baby smell and the bits of time you get the joy of having them sleep on you.
posted by ktkt at 3:37 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

All of their friends and family probably want to do something to help out, which can be crazy-making and difficult to manage. Let them cook! For the last three or four family/friend babies, I've used to coordinate the masses, and each time it's been pretty great.

In my experience, if you set it up so that folks are bringing generous-sized dishes every other day, on "off" days you can deal with leftovers and/or cook something yourself, to keep the casserole supply from backing up too much. I'm sure there are other websites that offer a similar scheduling service, but mealtrain's worked well for us.

So, what you can do, as a best friend, is organize it, send the email invites to all her friends and family, and generally be the admin riding herd on the undertaking. And wash dishes and make salads and do whatever else is needed—having other people cook won't lighten your load too much, don't worry!
posted by mumkin at 8:32 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: First hitch is perfect, mostly spending quality time with the toddler, but a few snowflakey things I didn't know about or anticipate (if anyone else finds this post useful down the line) were the extra care for their circumcisions during diaper changings, how disturbed the toddler would be not understanding why mom can't pick him up, how exhausting children really and truly are, and how cute newborns can be! I remember the older brother being kind of boring when he was first born, but this time around I'm just fascinated with every movement and eyebrow wrinkle with these little guys. Eeeeee!
posted by danapiper at 7:59 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

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