Many moms, familiar with attachment parenting, begin their pregnancy filled with wonder and anticipation about the new little person they’ll soon meet. Then, at some point, they discover they’re expecting twins. Perhaps a little shaken, maybe nervous, they begin to wonder how they’ll implement a parenting approach that requires such hands-on involvement with not just one, but two (or more) babies! Gingerly, they branch out, letting others know that they’re expecting multiples, and one by one the comments start coming in.
There’s no way your doctor will let you have them naturally.
Wow, you aren’t going to try to breastfeed them, are you?
I never would have survived without my bottle proppers.
Get two swings. You’ll never make it without your swings.
I remember you used to carry the older one in those slings; too bad you can’t do that with twins.
Well, you ARE going to get two cribs now, right?
You better get them on the same schedule quickly or you’ll regret it forever.
One by one, the comments come, and one by one, they begin to gnaw at your confidence.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can attachment parent your multiples! You might have a little more of a learning curve as you discover, through trial and error, what will and won’t work for you and your babies. You may have to modify an approach that had worked in the past or for a friend, when there was only one baby involved. That said, having multiples in no way means you cannot be a truly attached parent.
Dr. Sears, pediatrician, father, and attachment parenting expert, gives seven principles (http://www.askdrsears.com/html/10/T130300.asp) that are a part of attachment parenting. Here they are, along with some suggestions for making them work with mulitiples. If one or more don’t work as presented for you, that’s okay! The point isn’t to induce guilt over not being the perfect mommy— moms (especially of multiples) have enough guilt already. The point is to give suggestions, information, and encouragement.
1) Birth bonding. Just because you are expecting multiples doesn’t mean you lose the right to be an active participant in your birth planning. It is important to do research on issues that affect your pregnancy, your birth, and your babies. Know the things you can do to have the healthiest pregnancy possible. Know the things you can do to have the gentlest birth possible for your babies, and if a truly unhindered birth becomes impossible, know your options for making interventions or Cesarean as positive an experience as possible for you and your babies. Seek out support from other moms who are doing what you hope to do, and take their guidance to heart.
2) Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is the ideal nourishment for babies, even multiples. Having babies that are term and of healthy birth weights improve your chance for successful breastfeeding. Try to nurse within one hour of their births (sometimes nursing baby A helps stimulate contractions for baby B), and if you struggle, don’t hesitate to ask for help from a midwife, doula, lactation educator, lactation consultant, nurse, or La Leche League leader. <i>Mothering Multiples</i>, by Karen Gromada, has a wealth of information for nursing multiples; read it before the birth so that if you encounter any challenges, you’ll be ready for them. Just like with a singleton, nursing on demand ensures that the babies have plenty to eat. If you need to simplify, feel free to rouse one to nurse if you are nursing the other in an effort to synchronize their schedules; however, do not impose a rigid schedule as this is not healthy for the babies and may also decrease your supply. When time is of the essence, having learned to tandem nurse (nurse both babies at once) can be a lifesaver. Contrary to popular notions, you will probably not go insane from nursing two babies on demand; and if you do, you’ll find yourself in good company here!
Some mothers of triplets or more have had a lactating friend help nurse the babies initially until a good enough milk supply was established; others (when supplementation was necessary) finger fed supplements (expressed breast milk, or a bit of Pedialyte) or used “bottle nursing” (http://www.attachmentparenting.org/principles/feed.php– to simulate the breastfeeding experience) until milk supply could be established. Nursing works on a supply and demand principle, so you will more than likely be able to make enough milk for two (or three, or more) with frequent nursing. If, after seeking out help, you discover that nursing cannot continue, you can still encourage closeness and extra bonding through breastfeeding behaviors while “bottle nursing.”
Avoid introducing solids too early, which can increase chances of food allergies as well as promote early weaning, lower supply, and upset tummy in your little ones. Introduce solids gradually, and offer a variety of healthy foods.
3) Babywearing. Having your babies close can encourage bonding, and give them a sense of reassurance and confidence about the world. Close to mom (or dad), they learn about how we live. You may have to modify how you wear your babies, but it is still possible with two (and more). In the early months, many twin moms like “double slinging,” or wearing two pouches or ring slings, with a baby on each side. Moms have also reported enjoying wearing both babies in a wrap. As the babies get older, a popular carry is to have one on your back and one on your chest (in some combination of wraps, back carriers, or slings). Additionally, let’s not forget that you don’t have to be wearing both babies at once to enjoy the benefits of babywearing. You can breastfeed one while wearing one on your back, or wear one baby in a mei tai while the other is napping. Two babies definitely means increased need for hands-free parenting, and two babies will definitely benefit from physical closeness with a happy mommy!
4) Bedding close to baby. Cosleeping simply means both babies are in the same room with people who love them and look out for them, usually mom and/or dad. This might mean two cribs in the parents’ room, two bassinets, a sidecar cosleeper, or (in the early months) two babies sharing a crib. It can also mean both babies in bed with mom and dad, or one baby in the bassinet and one in bed (perhaps alternating nights, or even throughout the night). It can mean mom and dad get a king sized bed, or put two big beds side by side, and put a guard rail up to keep baby from rolling off the bed. As the babies get older and grow into toddlers, it can mean sharing a room with an older sibling. In any case, follow safe cosleeping guidelines (http://www.askdrsears.com/html/10/t102200.asp).
5) Belief in the language value of your babies’ cry. Just as you cannot spoil a baby, you cannot spoil a few, either! Learn your babies’ cues and respond to them. Your babies’ cries are a way of communicating their needs to you; their sounds, movements, and other behaviors also communicate, long before they are able to verbalize their wants and needs. As much as you’re able, respond to their early attempts at communication. “Tiny babies cry to communicate; not to manipulate” (http://www.askdrsears.com/html/10/T130300.asp).
It is prudent at this point to acknowledge that mothers of multiples are human, too. There might be some nights when one baby is being nursed to sleep and the other one wakes, and dad ends up walking the crying baby around for a while until mom is ready. This is not “crying it out”— this is life with multiples! There might be occasions when, after a long day of dealing with two fussy babies, you are exhausted, becoming resentful, or feeling overwhelmed, and you might put the babies safely into a crib or pack ‘n’ play while you walk to a quiet part of the house to collect yourself for a few minutes. Or, if you have help available, there might be times when you need to get out of the house for a while, and leave the babies with a trusted friend, family member, or sitter. These things do not make you a bad parent; they make you a human parent to a couple of human babies, doing what you need to do to help yourself be the best parent possible. Strive toward your high ideals, but recognize your limitations, and forgive yourself for both.
6) Beware of baby trainers. This, more than any other, is the piece of attachment parenting advice most useful to mothers of multiples, because as soon as you let people know you are expecting multiples, the baby training advice begins. Flexibility with multiples is important. It is not healthy, especially in breastfed babies, to impose a rigid feeding schedule. You can, however, encourage one baby to nurse right after the first one has, so that you might buy yourself a little time before the next feeding is needed. It is not healthy to allow your babies to “cry it out” as a sleep training practice. Plus, if one is screaming, the other one is not likely to be able to get to sleep anyway, if they share a part of the house! You can, however, wake both babies at the same time in the morning, and try to get them to nap at similar times, to encourage being sleepy around the same time at night. You can also lead both babies through a gentle bedtime routine that might include bath, massage, story, bedtime snack (if babies are on solids), followed by nursing. This, often, is enough to send even the most active little ones into lullaby land. When people ask you if you have them on the same schedule, respond with confidence, knowing you’re giving your babies a great start in life: “Actually, they’re working on showing me the schedule that works best for them, and I’m learning!”
7) Balance. Of course, having even more babies’ needs to meet means an increased need for balance in moms’ and dads’ lives! Remember your relationships, hobbies, and interests. Although the first few months will likely mean that most of your focus is on your babies, you can still find little ways to work in balance. In the first few months of my twins’ lives, when they were still nursing frequently, I couldn’t leave them at all (since one wouldn’t even take a bottle). However, at least once a week, my husband and I would leave our three older children with a sitter, and go on a “date.” We’d bring the babies with us, and if they fell asleep in the car (as they often did), we’d bring our infant seats in with us to the restaurant, and they’d sleep soundly at our sides while we enjoyed adult conversation. I know many attachment parenting moms rail against the use of “buckets,” but we didn’t regularly carry our babies in them, and our babies (if they were to wake up while we were on our “date”) would immediately be brought into a parent’s loving arms. This is one example of having balance in a life otherwise dedicated to raising children, and balance is too important to neglect. Occasionally finding time for yourself, your relationships, and your hobbies is important to your mental health, and your mental health is an important part of your ability to care for your babies. So, make the kinds of accommodations that simultaneously provide for your babies’ needs, keep your babies safe and near the loving touch of parents, and provide for your need to be an adult, with some adult interests. Get creative, and you’ll find ways, however small, to work in some much needed balance.
Attachment parenting can be an option for parents of multiples! The key is to not fall into the trap of believing that just because you’re having multiples, all your pregnancy, birth, and parenting philosophies are no longer applicable. With creativity, dedication, ingenuity, modifications, balance, and forgiveness, you’ll find what works for you and your family!