Twins and triplets: Your most important parenting questions answered

Kinderling News & Features

Multiples can mean twice as much fun! And triple if you’ve got three.

Mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue and author of Bringing Baby Home specialises in twins, and in Kinderling Helpline she often help parents that have a query about their twins or triplets. Here are four very common questions that Chris has answered for us!

Help! I’m pregnant with multiples. How will I manage?

“The first piece of advice it to not think too far forward,” Chris says.

Instead of thinking six months into the future, break it up into smaller chunks of time. Start with the first six weeks, as there’s so much going on then in terms of establishing a rhythmic pattern for feeding, the logistics of moving two babies, and getting them settled. It’s also recovery time for mum, since a lot of multiples end up being caesarean births. Take things slowly and get good established feeding patterns in place.

Choose whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, and feed the bubs in the same time frame. Find yourself a large, supportive pillow, if you’re going with the breast and have each bub tucked under each arm, so they can both feed at once. In this case, it does restrict where they can feed, and the mother will need help burping the babies, especially if there’s another older child in the family too.

Some parents may move onto mixed feeds, so breast and bottle (which could be formula, or expressed milk), to make it a little easier for other people to help, like partners, friends and family.

There are complexities in all of these scenarios of feeding, but the first six weeks is about establishing good patterns and that includes sleep. Where you can, have the support for two people to get up at night, to feed and resettle.

Listen to Chris on Kinderling Conversation:

Chris recommends that if you are able to get additional support during the day, ask for someone to swing by in the afternoon or early evening, preferable with a meal! Babies are a bit more unsettled around this time, so having an extra helping hand is great.

As for a breastfeeding mum, they probably don’t have to eat double the amount of food but you do have more breastmilk being produced. Eat to your needs, which Chris says will probably five small meals in 24 hours to keep up with demand.

Help! Should my multiples sleep in the same room?

The short answer is yes, says Chris.

“Generally speaking, we [sleep] them together. I always equate it to my parents of twins and triplets, it’s like the first time you sleep with your partner. For the first month, you have to work out who sleeps where, what noises they make, lights on or lights off, windows open or not open and that takes time. But eventually you sleep through all those things that happen in your bedroom.

“That’s what happens with twins. They’ve got to be given the time to learn to sleep together and then they get used to each other’s noise. So, you can have one teething, and the other one sleeps through.”

Don’t worry about taking one twin out of the room when they cry, either as that can setup bad habits.

Hear Chris on Kinderling Helpline:

There’s good news here too. Chris says that often twins end up sleeping better than single bubs, as parents are more consistent with their child’s behaviour, since moving two babies around is much trickier than one!

Help! What is normal for twins’ sleep?

Especially in those first six weeks, it’s so hard to know what is ‘normal’ slumber for twins, especially since they’re often premature.

Chris says, “We feed them at the same time, and put them down at the same time.”

As a guide, a one-month old baby will be awake about an hour before they’re ready to go back to sleep.

If they’re waking a lot, or not on the same rhythm, Chris says you should check your feeding rhythms first.

“Look at your feeding and make sure they’re feeding properly, because they’re really young babies and the way they feed will probably influence the way they sleep. So, if your babies are a little bit out, its either because you’ve got your feeding out, or they’re not feeding well and they’re generally unsettled.”

“Go back and look at your feeding first and find out how effectively they’re feeding.”

Chris recommends you start to form bedtime habits from this early age, such as wrapping them, giving them a little cuddle, and putting them down.

Help! My twins keep biting and hitting each other

By the 18-month mark, kids have well and truly developed their own personality, and what’s fascinating with multiples is that they have such distinct personalities, despite the same upbringing.

Every toddler hits, kicks or bites at some stage, and when you have more than one child at the same stage, it’s just a lot more pronounced. “It’s typical of the age group, but its heightened because you’ve got two of them doing it at the same time,” Chris explains.

Especially at this age, “they’re both seeking the same sort of attention.” They’re trying to be autonomous, independent, and want to do things their own way, so Chris says you need to give lots of time and patience.

You have to do a little bit more play with them, and teach them how to play together, while also teaching what sort of play is appropriate, and what is not.

“Biting in response to not getting your way is a learned behaviour,” Chris says.

Hover for a couple days, or be very near them when they’re playing. “When you see one child playing with the toy, and the other child looking like they might like to go and bite them, distract the biter.”

Be vigilant at this point, where they’re close to lashing out. Take them by the hand and suggest a book they’d like to read together, or a job they can help you with.

The more you distract them out of the behaviour, the less they’ll do it.

Chris also recommends that when littlies are acting out, pick your battles. Sometimes only two out of the three kids will get a bath, but if you can wash them properly at least thrice a week, she says you’re winning!

Catch Chris Minogue every Monday on Kinderling Helpline, on air and on Facebook Live. Get in touch via a Facebook message, text 0437 665 200, or email conversation@kinderling.com.au.