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Singleton Siblings of Multiples

Singleton with twin siblings‘Things were just great around here until they came along!’ 17-year old brother of 1-year old twin sisters.

‘You always loved them more than me!’ 6-year old sister of 4-year old twin sisters

Our 9-year old son has consistently acted maturely and responsible towards his twin brothers (aged 3 years) since their birth. From the beginning we involved him in their care (they were premature) and he seems to be very proud to be the brother of twins. Mother of 9-year old singleton and 3-year old twins.

My son is 13-1/2 months older than his twin sisters. He learned to talk and speak up very early to make his needs known.  Mother of 3-year old son and 2-year old twin daughters.

I loved being the singleton child in our family. Twins were the norm and I was one the who was ‘special’.  Singleton sibling, with FOUR sets of twin siblings, two older and two younger!

For parents, the arrival of twins, triplets or more is cause for a rollercoaster ride of emotions: how will we cope? This is SO cool! Can we afford them? How will I carry them all? and feelings of over whelming joy, to name a few. Even though the impending arrivals is shared with the older child(ren), it is very difficult for him to comprehend the effect of the arrival of so many babies and how it will affect him. Parents are very sensitive to the needs of their singleton child(ren), and do their best to explain what will happen and that no matter, “Mommy and Daddy will still love them to the moon and back.”

In spite of the parents’ best preparation efforts, the arrival of two, three or more siblings, can be a challenge for singleton siblings, especially if they have been the King/Queen of the Castle for some time.

Initially the multiples’ arrival may not impact the siblings too much but give it a week or 10 days and the realization sets in that Mommy and Daddy are not as available and behaviours may change. One 3-year old singleton said to his parents, “OK, that’s enough. Take them [his twin siblings] back to the hospital now.” Another 3-year old yelled at his parents, “I only want one!”

Reactions aren’t limited to the younger set: A 15-year old girl put herself in foster care when her twin sisters arrived, and a 17-year old young man (yes, young man), didn’t speak to his parents for weeks and stayed in his room as much as possible when his twin siblings arrived.

Following are some examples of, but not limited to, possible behaviour which may be exhibited by singleton siblings:

  • refuses to give up the bottle/reverts back to the bottle;
  • wishes to breastfeed again;
  • seeks your attention when you are less able to provide it and rejects you when you are available;
  • there could be problems with toilet training, i.e. a set back or refusal to use the potty;
  • speech regression or refusal to speak;
  • is clingy and/or excessively whiny;
  • plays rough with the babies;
  • may pinch, hit or bite them when alone with them; or
  • unresponsive to direction, refuses to co-operate.

There are some ways to support the singleton child(ren) and to assist him (them) in coping with the new arrivals:

  • avoid calling the babies, “the twins” or “the triplets.” This label automatically leaves out any singleton children and gives the impression that those with this label are more special. Correct others each and every time they use the label. As the parents others will take their cue from you;
  • presenting the multiples as a package will ensure that they are perceived as a package. Continually dressing them alike and giving them rhyming names reinforces the “package” mentality and the singleton child(ren) is left out;
  • arranging special play dates or preschool for an older child allows her to have her own special time, activities and things to talk about;
  • include them in the decoration of the babies’ room (should we use yellow or green paint?) can be helpful;
  • allow them to help put the babies’ clothes in the dresser drawers;
  • don’t use your older child(ren) as “gophers.” They can quickly resent being sent on an excessive number of fetches. This doesn’t mean they can’t help (could you please get Daddy a diaper for your sister?), but don’t get caught in the habit of using them on a continual basis;
  • provide lots of positive feedback. “You were SO helpful today!” “You are so special to me and have been such a good girl/boy today.” “Thank you for being so patient;”
  • if there is bottle or toilet training regression, just go with the flow. Don’t make issues of it and handing them a bottle plays down the issue rather than have it escalate out of control and become a temper tantrum and make of control. It won’t take long for them to realize that they are not babies and a bottle can be hard work. Leave the potty out in plain view, but don’t over focus on it;
  • set aside some time each day for him. It can be bath time, bed time and story, grocery shopping, play time but the important thing is for him to be the full focus;
  • if you can’t be available when she requests attention, buy a little timer and give it to her. Set it for 15 minutes (or what works for you) and say, “When the bell rings, we will read (play) together” and then keep your promise;
  • if you can’t keep your promise, and there will be times when you can’t, let your child(ren) know that you are sorry and realize you have broken your promise but will make it up to them as soon as you can. Two things are important here: 1) you have taken responsibility for your behaviour, and 2) you have taught your child it is OK to take responsibility for one’s behaviour. Such an acknowledgement helps a child learn that others have limits and it isn’t their fault you weren’t available. Children tend to internalize things when they don’t work out as planned and see themselves as being “bad” as a result. Clearing the air is most important. But do try to make it up to them as soon as you can;
  • you can give your child(ren) some feelings of control in the life but giving them simple choices: what would you like to wear today, the red outfit or the blue? What would you like for breakfast, cereal or toast?

Multiples in public cause a stir and attract a lot of attention. It will be important to include your other child(ren) in the conversation when necessary. A simple, “This is their older sister and she is such a help” goes a long way to soothing hurt feelings.

As one 4-year old asked her Mom after some strangers had made a fuss about her triplet siblings and not even spoken to her, “Didn’t they see me standing there?” It is important that parents advocate for all of their children.

Splitting up the kids for an outing can change the group dynamics. Take an older child and one baby to do groceries. It gives everyone a change of pace.

Give your singleton child(ren) time to make the adjustment to the arrivals. Be as patient as you can. Just as it will take parents time to get into a proper routine, it will take a child(ren) time to adjust to the changes in his/her own routine.

Younger Singleton Siblings of Multiples

Some parents go on to have singleton children after the birth of their multiples. These singleton children are born into the situation and may have less adjustment to make as a result but there are no guarantees. When two or three siblings are all having a birthday party at the same time and you are not, feelings can be hurt and the tears flow.

Patience and understanding works wonder. Some parents will buy that child a gift too. I’m not sure that is the way to go because the world will not make room for you just because your feelings are hurt. Cuddling and words of explanation may be a better approach than expecting a gift on your siblings’ birthday and is an important learning tool that the world does always cater to you. Explaining that his birthday will come and he will get to blow out the candles himself on his own cake, separates the events and gives each child a chance to have a special day to all his own.

Sometimes an issue of the multiples ganging together and “bossing” a younger sibling(s) occurs. If such is your experience, appropriate guidelines will need to be put in place so that a younger one does not feel bullied or ganged up on. Explaining to everyone that “Mom and Dad set the rules, not the kids” and “two (or three) against one amounts to bullying” can be helpful. Be prepared to go over these rules on at least a semi-regular basis and perhaps to have consequences in place when necessary, e.g. no TV/internet tonight, put 25 cents into the jar (for allowance-aged older multiples) at each offence.

It is human nature to adjust and most of us get over having siblings. Being guided by the loving adults in our life can make the journey more tolerable.

Additional Resources

The Singleton Siblings of Multiples, Multiple Births Canada, booklet.

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Study on the effects of losing a twin

The purpose of “Two in One: Once a Twin, Always a Twin” is to study the effects of a twin losing his or her twin and to investigate the differences of the impact based on when the twin loss took place (Early loss, Childhood loss, Teen loss, Adult loss). I contacted hundreds of twinless twins and emailed them questionnaires about how it was to interact with their twins and what the affects of losing a twin are, among other questions. Through this twin loss study, it is evident that all twinless twins feel a significant loss in their lives. Early loss twins have always felt that something is missing from their lives and they find it difficult to talk to their parents about the loss of their twins. Most of the adults who lost their twins later in life went into a deep depression. The common denominator among all twinless twins is that they feel significant losses in their lives and many limit themselves to talking to few people outside of the Twinless Twins Support Group.

Two in One: Once a Twin, Always a Twin, a study written by Robin A. Phelps

From Lynda: Robin is a 17-year old monozygotic young woman who lost her twin sister, Jacqueline, shortly after their birth. Robin has struggled to understand why she survived and her sister did not and her feelings around the loss of a special relationship with Jacqueline. At the encouragement of a special teacher in her life, Robin has written her story. If you would like to connect with Robin, she can be reached at raphelps2@yahoo.com

Purpose/Hypothesis

“Two in One: Once a Twin, Always a Twin” discusses twin separation. This project covers the differences in ages of twins when the separations occur. My hypothesis is while no matter when someone’s twin dies, it is an extremely difficult loss; however, because Adult loss twins had the time to develop and nurture their relationships, their losses have a greater impact than Early loss twins’ losses.

Background Information

I pursued this project because of a personal experience. My identical twin and I were born just under 26 weeks. My twin, Jacqueline, was 1 lb 14 oz, and I weighed 1 lb 4 oz at birth (and then was less than 1 lb at a week old). Jacqueline survived 27 hours. I have wondered why I am here and she is not.

At birth, there were many complications and doctors told my parents I would probably not survive and that if I did, I would have serious medical problems; it is amazing I am alive and healthy. Yet, losing my twin has been very difficult for me; half of myself is gone. This is a loss that will be with me forever.

I decided to locate some of the doctors and nurses who fought so hard for the survival of my twin and me. Learning about some of the diseases my twin and I endured has helped me tremendously. Meeting other twinless twins has been amazing because they “understand” me completely and accept me as I am.

As a result of Jacqueline’s death, I am extremely compassionate towards others. I volunteer at UCSF Intensive Care Nursery (ICN), which shared physicians with Mount Zion (where I was born). UCSF and Mt. Zion merged ICNs in recent years. Volunteering at the ICN is important to me because it gives me opportunities to help other premature babies fight for their lives and to step outside myself and share my gift of life and love with others.

Materials

For this project, I used:

  • The Computer
  • Internet
  • Survey Responses
  • Procedure/Method:

I searched online for twinless twins, and when I found names and messages (posted on online guestbook websites), I emailed them. After exchanging emails, I sent them six to nine questions (depending on what ages they lost their twins), including how it is for them to know they are twins and what happened when their twins died.

I was sent numerous emails from twinless twins and I was able to use the 43 surveys and stories I received to complete the study of twinless twins and the impact the loss has on their lives. Using a speadsheet, I categorized all of the data I got from other twinless twins. These categories included: name, male/female, identical/fraternal, age lost twin, circumstance of loss, and present age. I received seven (7) responses from males and thirty-six (36) responses from females. Fourteen (14) twinless twins were fraternal and twenty-nine (29) twinless twins were identical. I grouped the responses by using folders; these folders included: Early loss (in utero to three years), Childhood loss (four to twelve), Teen loss (thirteen to nineteen), and Adult loss (twenty and older).

After I reviewed each response and put the email in the appropriate folder, I found the common ground of the loss (i.e. teen loss). I used the analysis of each category’s loss to come up with common ground for overall twin loss.

Results

I am not an expert, but I do have personal experience in this area of study. I have reviewed each twinless twin’s response and read it carefully and with understanding. Additionally, I found it difficult to graph results and rate each loss on a scale of 1-10. There is information and my findings for each category below.

Early twin loss

I received eleven (11) responses from early loss twins. It is sad for this group of twinless twins to know that they were and are twins – just never having the opportunity to grow up with their twins. As the Early loss twins got older, each twinless twin understood the situation better, but it made some people depressed, sad, and curious about the whole situation. Many wonder about all the things and memories that could have happened. One twin writes, “I miss her every single day and I am constantly curious about how life could have been with her.” Many have numerous questions about why the death of their twins happened so soon. Eight out of eleven twins had parents who did not acknowledge that they were twins and their families were not and are not supportive in any way. For early loss twins, there is a feeling of having an obligation to live on their twins’ behalf. Throughout all of these twins’ lives, they have felt a deep loss. Early loss twins feel like they are searching for best friends but they can never, ever find someone to fill in that “missing puzzle piece.” This loss is difficult because for many, there are no memories or pictures. They were given the gift of being twins, and then it was ripped away so soon after birth. “Survivor’s guilt” is common among Early loss twins. They feel guilty because they survived and their twins did not. According to Dr. Elizabeth A. Pector, “Mirror fascination starting at an early time in infancy has been noted by many parents, especially those with surviving identical twins.” One identical twin expressed that when she looks in the mirror she always has a feeling as if she is looking at two people. Early loss twins have a difficult time talking to their parents about their twins, but they find that their moms do support them. They find comfort in writing poetry or reading, and many talk to their twins. One early loss twin writes, “I think talking about it helps slowly. And emailing other twinless twins who have lost their twins as babies or before birth helps. I think it’s different for the twins who never got to know their twins… the wondering, not knowing can torture you. But I know I’m not alone, and that does help some.” Many have written something similar – “Every evening before I fell asleep I’m talking to him, I can feel him. And most beautiful is to know that I will be together again with my twin after my time is over on earth…”

Childhood twin loss

I received five (5) responses from twins who lost their twins anywhere from the age of four to twelve. These twins feel honored and blessed to be a twin; but they also feel sad because they miss their twins. “It was great been a twin, always had play buddy. It’s like having a friend for life that never lets me down,” one twin writes. Some twinless twins are able to talk to their parents, but others are not able to. A couple twinless twins have cut off all contact with family because of abusive situations. Other twins have supportive family and friends in the sense that they don’t say anything insensitive; however, they really don’t truly understand twinless twins’ lives and the twinships and twinlosses. Twins describe the impact of their loss being they have a feeling of total emptiness. One twin describes, “We were best friends, constant companions, day and night, we were very close. When she died, I became a loner, a deep thinker. At age 16 I had to heal, and it was too young when she died. I had to go back to that day she died and start over in a way.” Childhood loss twins try and remember every detail of each event that happened. They feel a great sense of responsibility and obligation to live life to the fullest. Some twins have great memories of their twins, but when their twins passed away, they were upset. “I was angry for a long time. I have always felt the loss and it still hurts. I have regret because of how different my life might have been if he had lived,” one twin comments. Writing, talking to people about their twins, and spending time talking to their twins are ways they find peace and comfort.

Teenage twin loss

I received five (5) responses from twins who lost their twins in their teenage years. “We were each other in two separate bodies, but one in spirit,” several twins acknowledge. Teen loss twins truly grasp the meaning of being a twin. They understand that their twin was and is a huge part of who they were and are. “I believe that you see true beauty in life through the hardest times. Because I had my twin and then lost her, I have a true sense of what beauty is in life is. Our twin love and the sadness we both felt when we parted makes me appreciate everything I have, even if I am truly sad at times.” They had that one person they loved and trusted and was there for them no matter what. They twins did everything together – “I wouldn’t go anywhere, not even to parties, without her,” one twin comments. They had a truly special and unique bond – their closeness they shared was remarkable and some of them commented that it is hard to describe the closeness they felt with their twins. Their twins taught them love, compassion, truth, and loyalty. Some twins got depressed when their twins died and they cried themselves to sleep. They make scrapbooks using all of the pictures they have; or, they talk to their twins or play their musical instruments – these activities bring them comfort. Family is very supportive – twinless twins say that their families will always be there for them. One twin writes, “I think I took her presence for granted. I always assumed she would be there with me. You go through life and you always forget how precious life is and that it can be gone in an instant. I have read where twins have their own language, and we had our own little language. I miss those quirks. When she was here, I felt complete and now I am half dead.” All of the twinless feel like half of themselves is gone.

Adult twin loss

I received twenty-two (22) responses from adult twinless twins. “I took it for granted in that we were the only two children. She was my sister. She was always there,” one twin comments. Twins said that they did everything together – from elementary school to adulthood. They would call each other for no reason. “We could finish each other’s sentences and thoughts. We would describe stories in the same manner (our family told us this) all details, expressions, mannerisms exactly the same,” a twin writes. Many twins attended the same college and roomed together during those years. They had each other to turn to and the majority of the twins liked all of the same things, which made their lives great. When their twins died, their worlds stopped and they did not know how to go on. They experienced identity crises. Some had panic attacks; the majority of twins suffered (and/or still suffer) from depression and they have gone and/or are still in therapy/counseling. One twin expressed, “When he died, I was absolutely gutted and still am. I felt a small identity crisis when he died. People say that when you lose an identical twin it is like losing an arm. This is true but I also feel that a large part of my soul died with him.” They feel obligated to live their life for their twins. To cope with the losses of their twins, they keep themselves busy, write letters to their twins, and take one day at a time. Some of them turned to alcohol and then realized that was not the best way to cope. A couple of twins talk to their twins and ask them to be with them on special days or when they drive alone in bad weather. Family is extremely compassionate. One twin writes, “I have a very supportive family; I would have committed suicide if not for them.” Twins remarked that it was such a blessing to live life with their twins. “I would say that my greatest joy in life was being a twin but it was also my greatest loss.”

Common Ground Among Early loss, Childhood loss, Teenage loss, and Adult loss

There are several similarities among the twin loss groups. All twinless twins feel that it is a blessing to be a twin; yet they all feel half of themselves is gone. Journaling and writing about or to their twins is something Early loss, Childhood loss, Teenage loss, and Adult loss love doing. For the most part, family is very supportive, although they acknowledge they don’t know what it is like to be twinless because they are not twinless. Twinless twins find comfort in talking to their twins and they believe they will be reunited with them in Heaven.

Conclusion

My hypothesis was correct. No matter when someone’s twin dies, it is an extremely difficult loss; however, because Adult loss twins had the time to develop and nurture their relationships, their losses have a greater impact than Early loss twins’ losses. Early loss twins struggle from the beginning of life – they ask numerous questions and always live with this feeling of incompleteness. They find it difficult to describe the impact the loss has had on their lives and they find it a challenge to communicate their experiences and feelings with people who are not twinless. Yet, because Adult loss twins had a number of years to develop and maintain strong twinships, they are more impacted by the losses. Many go into a deep depression and they question their identities. The results showed exactly what I wanted to test. No mistakes were made because this project involved connecting with other twinless twins and communicating with them. I would not do anything differently – this project was challenging, but having the constant communication with twinless twins and discussing their experiences was amazing for me. The results did not stimulate any new hypotheses. If I had had more fraternal twin responses, I might have been able to compare identical twin losses to fraternal twin losses, but with the results I was given, this was the best hypothesis.

Bibliography

1. Guestbook, Online (Brenda, twinless twin)
http://bradstwin.tripod.com/guestbook.shtml
(found messages and emails from twinless twins and contacted them)
2. Guestbook, Online (Karen, twinless twin)
http://dreamofyou.twinstuff.com/fsguestbook.shtml
(found messages and emails from twinless twins and contacted them)
3. Guestbook, Online (Linda, twinless twin)
http://www.geocities.com/HotSprings/Spa/7546/geobook.shtml
(found messages and emails from twinless twins and contacted them)
4. Pector, Dr. Elizabeth A. family physician
http://www.synspectrum.com/survivors3.doc
(Early loss twins and mirror fascination)


“Two in One: Once a Twin, Always a Twin”

I was inspired to pursue “Two in One: Once a Twin, Always a Twin”, a study on twinless twins, because of a personal experience. Seventeen years ago, my identical twin and I were born just under 26 weeks. My twin, Jacqueline, was 1 lb 14 oz, and I weighed 1 lb 4 oz at birth (and then was less than 1 lb at a week old). My head was smaller than the size of a tennis ball and a wedding ring could slide all the way up to the top of my thigh (see picture below). Jacqueline survived 27 hours. I have wondered why I survived and she did not. At birth, there were many complications and doctors told my parents I would probably not survive and that if I did, I would have serious medical problems; it is amazing I am alive and healthy. Yet, losing my twin has been very difficult for me; half of myself is just gone. This is a loss that will be with me forever.

This past summer, I decided to locate some of the doctors and nurses who fought so hard for the survival of my twin and me. I connected with one of my dear nurses, and she and I spent a day together at the Intensive Care Nursery (ICN) at University California San Francisco (UCSF). I was surprised to meet one of my doctors from 17 years ago while I was there. Since August, when we reunited, we have gone to breakfast. I have been searching endlessly for answers about why things happened the way they did. One of my thoughtful and caring doctors has taught me about some of the diseases my twin and I endured; his assisting me has helped me tremendously.

I would like to give my deepest thanks and appreciation to my Physiology teacher, Mr. Jon Dick. You brought this project to me, talked to me about it, and then you showed an amazing unconditional support and care. This means the world to me. Throughout the entire experience, you were there for me. What a blessing you are in my life.

I volunteer at UCSF ICN, which shared physicians with Mount Zion (where I was born) – UCSF and Mount Zion merged ICNs in recent years. Volunteering at the ICN is important to me because it gives me opportunities to help other premature babies fight for their lives and to step outside myself and share my gift of life and love with others.

Meeting other twinless twins has truly been a blessing. They understand me and it is comforting to know that I am not alone. It is amazing to communicate with other people who have been through and are living with such a similar tragedy.

I would like to acknowledge all twinless twins who assisted me in my project. What a joy it has been to correspond with each of you and to hear your experiences and stories. You have all been so supportive, understanding, and loving and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

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A Successful Breastfeeding Experience: PRICELESS!

An interesting breastfeeding issue sporadically presents itself over my desk in a variety of ways: from new breastfeeding parents (those new babies are doing the breastfeeding, not the parents….LOL), friends with multiples, and several participants in the Ottawa Twins Plus Prenatal Classes which I co-faciltate in Ottawa. Dismay and feelings of insecurity abound when family, friends and professionals, including doctors, nurses and pediatricians, offer opinions which, even inadvertently, can sabotage breastfeeding in spite of the babies growing by leaps and bounds and a satisfying breastfeeding experience.

In this day of enlightenment about the benefits of breast milk, one wouldn’t think that such would be the case but I am surprised – no, make that saddened – by how many parents share their frustration and confusion as a result of such feedback. Parents are left questioning their motives and wondering if they should stop breastfeeding. It doesn’t make sense that negativity can be attached to a successful experience, but parents are telling me that that is exactly what is happening.

Here’s an example:  Kathy’s babies were born at 25 weeks and a couple of days. Kathy, with her husband’s full support and encouragement, copious amounts of milk for her sons until they were able to go directly on the breast. At 5 months, they were round, happy, smiling, very content little boys and Mom had an appointment with her sons’ female pediatrician. At this check-up Mom was told, “Breastfeeding is going very well at the moment, but expect to have to supplement at some point.”  Mom left the appointment with many different feelings, including sad, fearful, and upset in spite of how well her babies were doing.

The doctor might as well have said, You are all doing really well, but don’t expect this success to continue.”

One doctor reportedly indicated to a Mom pregnant with twins, “You are not superwoman. Just bottle feed.”

“You can’t breast feed twins,” was my own experience from a nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Add to the mix comments from family and friends and one’s confidence can barely remain intact: To one family with 3-month old twins where breast feeding was also going very well. “When are you going to stop breastfeeding?”

A variation on this theme goes:  “Surely you are thinking of stopping [breastfeeding] shortly?”  It isn’t unusual to breastfeed a singleton child for up to two years, so why would things be different for twins, at least beyond 3 months?

Or how about, “You can’t be exclusively breastfeeding. Surely you are supplementing.”  And how about the twin Mom whom had planned all along to breastfeed her babies but was encouraged by the hospital staff to take home 2 cases of formula when they left the hospital.  Talk about frustrating, discouraging and confidence-shaking!

Twins and triplets were born and survived in the many hundreds of years before now. If there was no formula around before the last, say 55 years, just how did these babies grow and thrive if they weren’t breast fed? Many of us have multiple-birth relatives over the age of 55 years. How does anyone think they were fed? Even taking into consideration that royalty and upper classes usually hired Wet Nurses (i.e. lactating servant women hired to breast feed their babies as well as their own – rather like breastfeeding twins……), we can rest assured that many less well-off families could not afford to hire a Wet Nurse and therefore successfully breast fed their own babies, no doubt for months if not years. So why has the current view changed and the opinion prevails that breastfeeding our babies, let alone for weeks or months, cannot be done today?   It’s all quite thought provoking and in fact, this shift in thought doesn’t make a lot of sense at all.

A suggested solution is to use the situation as a teaching experience. Rather than responding angrily, or zapping back with a tricky ‘slice and dice’ phrase, how about changing tactics?

We know we are left feeling upset by such confidence-shattering remarks, and a successful breastfeeding experience doesn’t guarantee we won’t get stung, so let’s take back our power, point out the logistics, and hand back the hurtful and negative opinions. Let’s regroup and get these folks doing some serious thinking before they open their mouths with thoughtless rhetoric. Here are some ideas for consideration:

  • When the decision has been made to breastfeed, reinforce the decision when (if) necessary.  Make eye contact, perhaps hold up a hand, say,“Excuse me, but we have decided to give our babies the best beginning we can and breastfeeding is what we have chosen to do. We really appreciate your support in our decision.” and Smile!  End of story.
  • If a professional makes an unsettling remark, quietly but firmly call him/her on it. ” I’m not understanding what you are saying. You have acknowledged our breastfeeding is going well and the babies are thriving and yet you throw in that our success won’t/can’t continue. I beg to differ. It is possible to breastfeed multiples because breasts adjust to the supply and demand and I’ve got two perfect examples right here! (you can either point to your breasts or to your babies – whichever suits you)” ….and Smile!
  • A remark such as “Surely you will stop breastfeeding soon” might encourage the response, “We will stop when we are ready.” and of course….Smile!
  • And the one about not being Superwoman, how about, “I disagree. I AM Superwoman and my babies are going to have the best start possible with my Super Breast Milk.”   And everyone together now…..Smile!

Offering educational feedback and speaking up is a way to ensure change. It is so upsetting to hear from parents who not only love their children and are doing a great job breastfeeding, but to learn of their uncertainty as they begin to question their motives and ask themselves, “Am I really doing the best thing for my babies?” especially after the powers that be offer failure for the future.  You can set the record straight and perhaps give the next multiple-birth family an easier ride. Speak up, gently express your feedback, set your boundaries and let others know how you feel about their comments. As Martha would say, “That’s a good thing.”

May your breastfeeding go well and your babies grow, develop and flourish. When you are faced with the necessity of teaching others about breastfeeding multiples and how to treat you, may you rise the challenge with humour, confidence and love.

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Bereavement: What Can I Do To Help Myself?

With the loss of one, more or all of your precious babies, you may feel as if you are falling into a deep, dark abyss and being pulled inside out, both at the very same time. The denial is there – this is all a bad dream and when I wake up, I will have my babies. And there is shock – this is not a part of the plan! This can’t be happening to me! It is not easy to go on.

At this very painful and vulnerable time, you will need to take special care. The following are a few tips that have helped others travel this rocky path.

  1. Learn everything you can about grief. There are many good books available on loss, grief and the journey to recovery. Many bookstores carry books on grief, the funeral home can provide a list as can your local library and any grief counselor. It is important to remember that grief is a journey and not a destination. Grief is very personal and there is no right or wrong to grieve and no time frame.
  2. Give yourself permission to grieve. It is okay to grieve, to cry. You have suffered a tremendous loss. Don’t try to block or push away the pain. It doesn’t work that way. It will be necessary to take the time to grieve.
  3. Be patient with the process and with yourself. You are adapting to a new reality. You are not the same person you were before the death. It will take time. Grief is different for each person, including for men and women. In other areas of your life you may expect immediate results, but this is different. Take the time you need, when you need. Be patient and gentle with yourself.
  4. Get plenty of rest and eat nutritiously. When we are grieving, one of the first things “to go” is our appetite. It will be necessary to get proper rest and to eat nutritiously. If you can only manage a snack, that is fine. Make sure it is nutritious.
  5. Treat yourself occasionally. Indulge yourself from time to time. A massage, walk or exercise workout may work wonders.
  6. Find caring people with whom to share your loss. Don’t keep your feelings and pain bottled up inside. There are many caring people to support and assist you: clergy, doctor, counselor, good friend, funeral director. Multiple Births Canada has a Loss Support Network, helpful support literature, a quarterly newsletter Forever Angels and confidential Angel E-Mail Connection between its loss members.
  7. Reflect on your life. It may be helpful to reflect on the relationship you had, however briefly. How will this change you? How will this guide you? So often with loss comes growth. Compassion, understanding, empathy. No matter how brief the life, their impact remains.
  8. Faith can be an important support. Many people find comfort and support from their spiritual or religious roots. Your faith may be an important comfort and cornerstone for you.
  9. Accept help. If someone reaches out to you and wants to help, tell them what you need: a cup of tea, a shoulder, a drive to a doctor’s appointment, quiet company. People want to help so if there is something that will be helpful to you, accept their help.
  10. You may find comfort and solace with your local support Chapter. To find the Chapter nearest you in Canada, check out Multiple Births Canada’s Web Site at http://www.multiplebirthscanada.org

Adapted from a brochure by Ontario Funeral Service Association

Other Resources:

The Lone Twin, Joan Woodward, Free Association Books, 1998
When a Twin or Triplet Dies, Multiple Birth Foundations, London, England, 1997 Living Without Your Twin, Betty Jean Case, Tibbutt Publishing, 1993
The Worst Loss: How Families Heal from the Death of a Child, Barbara D. Rosof, Henry Hold and Co., 1994
Bereavement in Multiple Birth, Part 1: General Considerations, Elizabeth A. Pector, MD; Michelle Smith-Levitan, MD, The Female Patient, Vol. 27, November, 2001
Bereavement in Multiple Birth, Part 2: Dual Dilemmas, Elizabeth Pector, MD; Michelle Smith-Levitan, MD, The Female Patient, Vol. 27, May, 2002

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Breastfeeding and H1N1

With all the news regarding H1N1 and how to stay protected, there is some concern for lactating mothers and their babies. Here are some ideas, which can help both you and your babies continue with a productive breastfeeding experience.

According to Dr. Jack Newman, it is NOT necessary to “pump and dump” breast milk, should Mom have H1N1. As Dr. Newman notes,

” By the time the mother has symptoms she has passed the virus on to the baby [or babies]. So the baby’s best protection is to continue breastfeeding. Even if that weren’t the case, that the baby already has the virus, the baby’s best protection is breastfeeding. What do those people think all those immune factors in the milk are for? To put on medical school exams? No, they protect the baby.”

For Mom

Don’t cough on your babies either while nursing or when you are close. Turn your head away should you need to sneeze or sneeze/cough into your elbow. If you are feeling ill, consider wearing a mask while nursing. If you are really feeling badly, try pumping and have someone whom is not sick feed the babies pumped breastmilk. Wash your hands before breastfeeding, or use an alcohol based sanitizer. Wash your breasts and hands carefully after feeding. Keep your fluids up, eat nutritiously and get as much sleep as you can.

For Babies

Babies breathing passages are very small and it can be difficult for a sick baby to nurse and breath. Using a humidifier to keep the air moist may help. If one, both or all babies are too sick to suckle, try using an eye dropper full of your breast milk or sippy cup. Sick babies need lots of fluids and breast milk is a great way to make sure their fluid levels are kept up.

In General

Mother’s milk is full of antibodies which, as we are all aware, are very beneficial to babies and help protect them from viruses and other illnesses. Continue nursing so that the babies can benefit from the antibodies. If Mom is sick, her body continues to fight the virus and nursing babies can benefit from the antibodies Mom passes along to her babies.

For Further Information

Some of these sites also contain information for pregnant women and how the H1N1 virus could/might affect your pregnancy.

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Choosing a good nursing bra

Finding a good fitting bra at the best of times is a challenge and so many women are, in fact, walking around in an ill-fitting bra.  Most of us have two different sized breasts and it is important to fit the larger breast rather than the smaller.  Having a good fitting bra (and some might add attractive too) when you are nursing your babies, is an essential part of the process.  A nursing bra needs to provide good support for enlarged breasts, be comfortable, easy to undo when it is time to nurse and helps us feel good about nursing.

Here are some tips on choosing a good nursing bra

  1. Have someone else do the measuring for you so that you can be sure the measurements are correct.  Looking down and measuring can be a challenge to do correctly.  You need two measurements:  one around the fullest part of the breast (i.e. over the nipples and level around the back), and one just below the breasts on the rib cage.
  2. Inhale deeply each time before measuring.
  3. For your bra size, measure your rib cage and add 10cms. (4ins.) to the measurement you get, e.g. if you are 710.2cms. (28ins.) around the rib cage, add 10cms. (4inches), making you 810.3cms. (32ins.).  If your rib cage measurement is an uneven figure, e.g. 730.5cms. (29ins), then add 12.5cms. (5ins.), making you 860.5cms. (34ins.).
  4. To obtain your cup size, measure around the fullest part of your breast. The difference between the the rib cage measurement and the breast measurement, provides the cup size:

Less than 2.5cms (1in.)   – A cup
2.5-5cms. (1-2 ins.)   – B cup
5-7.5cms. (2-3 ins.)   – C cup
7.5-10cms. (3-4 ins.)  – D cup
10cms. (4ins.) or more  – DD cup

  1. When you are trying on the bra, try to undo the cup flap and do it up again with one hand.  Many a nursing mother has found her other arm engaged in quieting, holding and/or positioning a baby as she prepares to nurse.
  2. There are many new styles of bras out now, some resembling a stretchy tank top (e.g. Bravado) or bathing suit top.  Many women like these as they are comfortable, stretchy, easy to arrange for nursing and come in great colours so if anyone notices, it is no big deal.
  3. Remember that your cup size may change as you continue to nurse your babies and your breasts swell to accommodate the demands of feeding two or more infants.  If your bra is feeling uncomfortable or tight, you probably need a new size (usually larger).
  4. You will no doubt need some nursing pads to catch any leaks so your clothing won’t be soaked.  In case you weren’t aware, ANY crying baby will stimulate your milk letdown so if you are in the mall and another baby begins to cry, with nursing pads you are prepared.  Nursing pads come in disposable and washable/reuseable.  The downside of the former is that you may not feel when they are wet, and therefore run the risk of getting sore nipples as it rubs against you or thrush* which can be transmitted to your babies.
  5. There are conflicting views on underwires.  If these are not bothering you and you would rather that your bra have some, then go for it.  It needs to work for you.
  6. Most Lactation Consultants can help fit you for a proper sized nursing bra.

*Thrush

Thrush is common term used to describe candidiasis of the mouth and throat. The formal term used to describe Thrush is Oropharyngeal Candidiasis (OPC). Oropharyngeal Candidiasis or Thrush is a fungal infection that occurs when there is overgrowth of candida fungus. Candida is normally found in small amounts on skin and/or mucous membranes. However, if the conditions inside the mouth or throat become out of balance, candida will multiply and cause symptoms of Thrush to start to appear.

Source:  www.infoforyourhealth.com/Common%20Diseases/Thrush.htm

Reviewed and input by Erin Shaheen, mother of 4, including twins.

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Unwanted Advice on Raising Multiples

Once upon a time a hurt, tearful and frustrated friend of mine recounted a story. Her sister was pregnant with her first child and my friend was wishing her the “worst behaved little child ever born”. The reason for this comment was because her sister had always given my friend feedback and advice on how to raise her 3-year old monozygotic girls. This feedback was offered under the guise of “advice” and often went something along these lines: “You should be stricter. They are out of control.” “You are too soft with them. You let them get away with murder.” “If they were my children, things would be different!” “If they were my children, they would be sleeping through the night by now.” An alternative to the last comment is,“…they would be toilet trained by now!” Do any of these sound familiar to you?

Over the years, many parents of multiples have expressed anger, frustration and guilt as a result of “advice” meted out to them from well-meaning family and friends, who, I might add, were also NOT parents of or raising multiples. Several mentioned that the feedback began even while they were pregnant, “You’re not resting enough… eating properly… how come so many doctor’s visits?…” The main gist of the “advice” was judgmental and negative, leaving the distinct impression that, given the same circumstances, the unsolicited advisor would be making far superior decisions and is the much wiser parent.

One of my own experiences came in the form of a neighbour blessed with a 4-year old and a newborn while I merely juggled two 18-month olds and their sister, nearly three. On the surface, her words were benign enough, “You have no idea how busy I am!”, but that was not how I received them. In a split second I was on a downhill slide and felt defensive, angry, a failure, ridiculous and ready to kill! I find that these helpful folks usually fall into one of three categories, a) childless; b) have singletons either many months or even years apart; or c) are family members and as such, feel completely justified in providing feedback in the name of Love. The majority of ‘Ann Landers Wannabes’ tend to fall into the latter category, i.e. family members who are long on “advice” and short on empathy or practical experience.

There are some suggested plans of action for handling this situation:

Plan A – Kill the Offender(s) – NOT RECOMMENDED!

You will notice where Plan A appears on the list but this Plan needs to be scrapped about as quickly as it develops in your mind. Although very tempting, implementing it will drastically reduce your “hands on” approach and availability for parenting. Plan A is legally and morally unacceptable and while it may appear to have its satisfying side, is neither recommended nor endorsed.

Plan B – Ignore the Advisor

This Plan, while on the surface, may sound appropriate and even doable; there are some drawbacks. When the Advisor is met with silence, even a stony one, they don’t always “get it” and could interpret silence as 1) agreement with their advice; or 2) you want (need?) to hear more advice. With many witnesses in attendance, ignoring the Advisor may work in the short term. Be prepared, however, to have to implement another Plan in the future in case the Advisor feels your silence is a result of your agreement with their “advice.”

Plan C – Humour

This is an excellent Plan and can alleviate feelings of rancor, bitterness and resentment in one well-expressed and well-timed retort! You may need some practice or some run through scenarios in front of the mirror beforehand, as you rehearse your responses. Here are some samples for specific occasions:

Comment: “If they were my children, they wouldn’t act that way.”

Response: “Show me the adoption papers! ”
Or: with an added a tinge of sarcasm to your response: “Thank you, for that very helpful advice.”

Comment: “Better you than me!”

Response: “Hey, no contest! I couldn’t agree more!”

Comment: “Boy, do you have your hands full!”

Response: “Yes, and I love every minute of it.”

Comment (to a Dad of triplets): “How many times did you have to do ‘it’ to get triplets?”

Response: I am afraid you are on your own with this one but I have every faith in you to come up with an appropriate response. I never did hear back how Dad responded to this individual who obviously had no background in Biology.

Plan D – Tell it Like It Is

There is no real answer as to how to avoid the inadequacy that others can make us feel as we parent our multiples. While I relied very heavily on Plan C, I didn’t always feel humorous nor have time to practice my deliveries. As a result, my responses were ‘less than I would have hoped for’ as I gave in to my emotions and snapped back a response, broke down in tears or felt genuinely inadequate for long periods of time. In order to cover as many situations as possible and to end up retaining as many of my good feelings about parenting as I could, I also developed a Plan D. I sometimes responded to the Advisor, being sure to make eye contact, “You may not agree with how I am handling my children but I am doing the best that I can, not the worst that I can.” This direct response often humbles the most critical of Advisors, at least for a little while.

I sincerely hope that you will not be humbled, feel inadequate or ‘break down in tears’ to unrequited feedback on your parenting style. Go for ‘The Humor’ and feel very comfortable in educating your well-meaning critic that you are, indeed, feeling very comfortable with your parenting style and would appreciate it if they would ‘hold a baby’ rather than offer unwanted advice.

If you need further proof that you are ‘doing a great parenting job’, be sure and join your local Multiples Support Group. Here you will find compassion, consideration, and lots of excellent advice, no judgements and respect as you all travel the road of living with multiples (and their siblings?). After all, no one knows better exactly what you are going through and feeling than someone else sharing ‘your road.’

Good luck and enjoy your children!

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Grief, How Can I Help?

Question: My neighbours lost one of their triplet sons. I feel helpless and don’t know how to help. How can I effectively support the family at this very sad time?

For several reasons grief is very difficult to deal with: Grief has no time line; Grief is very personal and everyone grieves differently; and there is no telling what may trigger sad and painful feelings. Additionally, grief, for the same individual, becomes different as they walk along its rocky and difficult path. The individuality of grief and where a person in his grief journey, makes it difficult to know exactly how to aid and support someone attempting to heal. Another factor which can impede helping someone is our own inhibitions regarding death and in not knowing how to approach a grieving person. It may be easier for some of us to ignore a grieving person, perhaps with a mumbled “Hello”, no eye contact and then to get on with our own lives.

The following has been prepared in order to assist you when you come into contact with someone who has suffered a loss. I hope that you will find it of assistance.

NOTE: “Loss” is defined as any major loss – e.g. loss of employment, house fire, divorce, as well as bereavement. This article deals with loss by death.

  1. Step forward and approach the bereaved individual. Put out your hand or offer them a hug, if the situation is appropriate. Make eye contact and say, “I am so sorry!” Often that will be enough to allow the person to speak of their pain.
  2. Be a good listener. This rule applies in so many different areas of our lives and is extremely important when listening to a bereaved person. Don’t add to their situation by recounting horror stories of your own. It is not a time for one-upmanship of stories. This is their time and a time for you to listen, to perhaps once again say, “I am so sorry.” Or “It just isn’t fair.” Don’t take up this time with yourself but give freely of your listening skills. Don’t be afraid to use the deceased’s name during the conversation. If you don’t know what they name the baby(ies), ask them. They will appreciate the validation of their baby’s existence. Families need to speak of their lost one(s), including using their names.
  3. Be prepared to make yourself available. Make sure you don’t give them the impression of “hurrying” or speeding them along because you need to be elsewhere or because you feel uncomfortable.
  4. Try to accept the words shared with you. A grieving individual may rail against life, G-d, the doctors, the world. Don’t make harsh judgements. Just accept the words as they come. In an effort to get rid of our pain, it is not unusual to make rash and/or harsh statements.
  5. There are many concrete ways in which you can assist – take care of other children for a while, bring over a meal, send a card, make a donation to an appropriate charity, attend the wake, funeral or memorial service, make a cup of tea for the parents. Ask how you can help.
  6. Don’t minimize the loss – “You can have more children.” “It’s better this way. Your baby was sick.” “She has gone to a better place.” “G-d needed her more than you did.” None of these remarks are helpful to a grieving parent. Children are not interchangeable and “having another one” will not replace what should have been and “a better place” is here with her family. Families who have survivors of multiple birth children are often not given the proper space to grieve their loss. In a bereavement counselling group session, parents of a surviving twin where yelled at by a mother who had lost her singleton child, “Why are you here? You have a baby, I have none!” Minimizing anyone’s loss does not help.
  7. Don’t forget to acknowledge the father’s grief too. Too often the Mom is consoled while Dad is expected to “Hang tough.” Some people ask Dad how Mom is doing and don’t even think of asking him how he is. Dad too, has lost a child and experiences feelings of loss and pain. He has the added burden of society’s expectations that he can “cope.” He may be split between a child(ren) at home, a baby in the NICU, his job, planning a funeral, and his wife recovering from a c-section. He will also need your support.
  8. There are no shortcuts through grieving. Any attempt at a shortcut can only make things worse. Try and allow the bereaved person as long or as short a period as they need. Be patient. Avoid tell the person how they “should” feel or act or what they “should” do to make things easier. Also avoid saying “You are handling it so well” as this puts people into a box. Remember that there is no time limit on grief and several months down the road, these families still do not feel “normal”. They are trying to adapt to a new reality. They have still lost their child(ren) and nothing will ever change that.
  9. Encourage the bereaved person to look after themselves. To eat properly (it is not unusual for a bereaved person to stop eating and drinking), to see to their own needs and not to make important decisions right away. They need time first to grieve and heal.
  10. Remember that you are not responsible for this person’s pain. You didn’t cause it and because your children are alive and healthy, try not to feel guilty about it.
  11. Remember that you cannot take away their pain but you can assist them over the rocky path. You can be supportive and caring. You will not have all of the answers and, often there are not any answers at all. Life happens with no apologies or excuses and sometimes, it can be quite unfair. They did nothing wrong to deserve this.
  12. You may find it prudent to recommend some professional counselling, a physician, religious figure, grief counsellor or therapist. The library has books on death and dying and there are workshops, seminars or support groups that can also be of assistance. Your local funeral home will also be able to guide you in this area.
  13. One way a Chapter can be of assistance is to donate Multiple Births Canada’s Loss Booklets to the funeral homes and neonatal hospital units in your Chapter area. Such a donation will assist the professionals in being aware of the family’s unique needs.

Additional Resources:

  • Empty Cradle, Broken Heart, Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D., Fulcrum Publishing
  • The Worst Loss: How Families Heal from the Death of a Child, Barbara D. Rosof, Henry Holt and Company
  • On Children and Death, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Collier Books
  • Life After Loss, Bob Deits, Fisher Books
  • Men & Grief, Carol Staudacher, New Harbinger Publications
Did you do something special by way of support for a bereaved family and would like to share that idea with others? Write and let me know how you helped someone deal with the loss of their precious child(ren).
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Useful Safety Tips for Parents of Multiples

Having two, three, four or more toddlers and preschoolers around the house can make keeping them safe a challenge.  There in no way cover all of the possible dangers of having more than one child of the same age and of the possible safety difficulties that might develop.  Following are some safety tips to help you keep your children safe.

Remember that NO precautions are foolproof in the face of more than one determined child.

THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR RESPONSIBLE, ALERT ADULT SUPERVISION AT ALL TIMES.

In the Home

  • Childproof your house every day.  It is a good idea to crawl around the house in order to view it from a child’s point of view.
  • If you don’t want it broken, remove it!
  • Make sure that you have a house key hidden outside of your house.
  • Make sure where you visit is childproofed e.g. Gramma’s, sister’s house, etc.
  • Never leave the kids alone in a bathroom or in a bath.
  • Toddlers can be very rough with pets.  Teach children to respect them.
  • While dealing with a crisis with one child, remember that you are still responsible for the safety of your other children.  STAY ALERT!  This is where those “eyes in the back of your head” can come in very handy.
  • Important for partner and any other caretakers to be equally safety conscious.
  • Tape electrical cords to the floor/walls for the time the kiddies are exploring their environment.
  • Make sure that your hot water heater is not set too high.  Kids have been scalded when a sibling has turned on the hot water.
  • Watch for loose air vents in your home.  Small children can slip down them and they make good receptacles for toys, bottles, food, etc.
  • Dresser drawers make good climbing stairs. Purchase very low dressers, bolt a higher dresser to the wall or turn the drawer side into the wall until their climbing stage is over.  Children can be fatally or seriously injured when two or more children try to climb dressers.
  • Ditto for bookcases, turn them to the wall and anchor them.
  • Check out accessibility to fireplaces (e.g. one twin pushed his co-twin up into a chimney and he got stuck), appliances (e.g. fridges, dryers, ovens, etc.)
  • Do not place cribs near windows.  Screens can be removed and toddlers tumble out.
  • Two (or three) children can push a chair across a room to climb up onto countertops or reach higher objects.
  • Safely secure medicines and cleaning chemicals.  “Child-proof” containers are not so “child-proof” when set upon by two or more determined children.
  • Many issues occur at nap-time because children often share the same room and “encourage” each other in their creativity and exploration.  E.g. peeling off the wallpaper, emptying dresser drawers and climbing them, taking screens off windows and climbing out, finding the talcum powder and emptying it all over (makes breathing difficult), and the list goes on…  Using a portable intercom may reduce potential hazards.  If you wish to rest at the same time, as the children, place the intercom right near your ear.
  • Put safety catches on all cupboards, drawers, screens, kitchen doors, etc..
  • Put covers on electric plug outlets.
  • Stereos and TVs can be pushed off entertainment centers.  You may wish to either put them higher or bolt them down securely.
  • Use gates and locked doors to seal off areas of the house where you don’t want them to go. E.g. laundry rooms, garage, etc.
  • No shoving, pushing or running on the stairs.  Many siblings have been pushed in play.
  • When walking down the stairs with the children and carrying something such as a laundry basket, keep it to the side so that your view of anyone on the stairs is not impeded.

Equipment

  • Make sure ALL baby equipment is in good repair.  Check them at regular intervals.
  • Make sure clothing and blinds have no long cords that can entrap and choke.
  • Never assume the suggested age-range for baby equipment is appropriate for your children. Check each one out carefully and individually.
  • Make sure the kids are harnessed into swings, car seats, highchairs, etc. Kiddies can easily undo each other and then get into further mischief.
  • Security gates receive an extensive workout when 2 or more are climbing, shaking or pulling on it.  Check it regularly to make sure it remains securely bolted into the wall.
  • If your children are weight discrepant, change their seating location each outing in the stroller in order to give it equal wear.
  • Cribs need to be dismantled when the kids begin to attempt to climb out.
  • Check second hand equipment very carefully.  Look for outdated safety features, cracks, or rips.
  • A baby backpack (with frame) should only be used after a baby can hold its head up.

Toys

  • Purchase toys that appeal to kids and encourage play.
  • Toys belonging to older siblings can be a source of danger.
  • Always check out second hand toys very carefully prior to purchasing.  Look for small pieces, sharp edges, and broken parts.
  • Crib mobiles are not toys and need to be removed from the crib when a baby can reach it.
  • Regularly check the toys for missing parts, chips, and cracks.  Our children put a lot of play, stress and strain on toys and as a result, the toys may not last as long as if only one child was playing with them.

In the Vehicle

  • Teach everyone to stand clear when closing ANY doors.
  • Discourage the slamming of doors.  Someone could get hurt or fingers caught.
  • While fastening one child into a car, the other(s) can disappear in a flash.  Put all the children loose in the car, and then buckle in one at a time.
  • NEVER leave children alone in a running car.  They can get loose and put the car in gear.
  • ALWAYS put your car in “park” or turn it off when someone is disembarking.
  • If you have to leave the car while escorting one child up to a friend’s house, take the ignition key with you.
  • Play a road game of teaching the kids to identify road signs, e.g. danger, one-way signs, railroad tracks, etc.
  • Be aware that with everyone sitting close to each other in car seats, it is very easy for one to reach over and undo the buckle of the next one.  If you find that one of children has unbuckled the other DON’T PANIC!  Use your voice to tell your child to stand still.  Pull your vehicle over to the side of road, stop completely and then deal with putting your child back into his seat.
  • Do not “store” articles on the floor in front of your children.  In a crash these items become flying objects and can inflict serious injury.

Water

  • Place your children into swim classes at your earliest possible convenience.
  • When swimming with your children keep alert.  Accidents occur when the adult is distracted with one child.
  • Do NOT leave your children in charge of an older sibling.  An 8 -year old cannot properly “watch” two two-year olds.
  • Discuss safety equipment and why we need it, e.g. life jackets, pool equipment, etc.
  • NEVER let them swim without an adult who can swim being present.  If you are hiring day care and you have access to a pool, you may wish to ask if the applicant can swim.
  • No pushing or shoving around water as small kids love to do.
  • NEVER leave the kids alone in a bathtub.  If the phone rings, leave it!
  • When your home is one side of the fence around your pool, make sure that the door to the house has a high and sturdy lock on it.
  • If you are taking several children to the beach/pool, determine ahead of time who will be responsible for whom.  This way each adult knows who will be watching whom.

Complacency

As the children are older, a level of complacency can be experienced by parents when their multiples are with each other.  This level of comfort can too easily create a feeling of safety and security that does not necessarily exist.  “Oh, they are together, it shouldn’t be a problem.”  Some times this is when kids can get into the most trouble.  This is particularly true of the middle, pre-teen and teen years.

General Safety Precautions

  • Stress staying together on outings.  The kids, too, have a responsibility not to get lost.  Train yourself to count heads every few minutes.
  • Practice, practice, practice, e.g. Look both ways and holding hands while crossing a road, reading road signs, danger signs, etc.
  • Repeat safety rules to them on a regular basis, e.g. knives and scissor are sharp, remember to keep an eye on Daddy/Mommy while we are out.
  • Dressing your children in bright colours makes them easier to locate while out in public.
  • When walking in unconfined areas (e.g. store, shopping mall), keeping everyone in a stroller or on a wrist harness may be the way to go.
  • Stress to them that they shouldn’t cut each other’s hair.  Don’t say you weren’t warned!
  • Firm reminders of safety rules with consistent “time out” reinforcement or infractions.
  • Remember that some things are just not negotiable, e.g. car seat belts!
  • Teach them identifying landmarks in the neighbourhood so they can find or direct someone home.
  • Teach them their phone number and area code as soon as they are able to learn.  They also need to know your first names and their last names.   If someone gets lost, it is important for them to know your first and last names.
  • When completing a difficult task, e.g. climbing a climber, encouraging them to “concentrate” on what they are doing helps them not to be distracted.
  • Multiples often attempt to “change” each other’s diapers.  Be aware!
  • Remember that your younger children are NOT the responsibility of your older children.  A ten-year-old cannot adequately look after and make responsible decisions for 2 or 3 four-year-olds.
  • Never carry your stroller up the stairs with babies in it.
  • Never leave babies alone in a stroller.
  • Make sure everyone is holding hands BEFORE you cross the street.
  • NOTHING beats constant, alert, vigilant adult supervision.

 

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Toilet Training Tips for Multiples

The good news is that by the time the children head for the altar, they will be toilet trained. However, the time in between, i.e. when they are ready to be trained at about age two and the time they set out for the alter, can be a challenge.

Some of the most asked questions:

  • What if one (or two) is ready to be trained before the other(s)?
  • When is the best time to begin or even think of beginning training?
  • Should they be compared to each other to encourage a slower one?
  • Is it true that boys are slower to train than girls?

The following tips have put together in an effort to assist you and your multiples in making this all-important step an enjoyable one rather than guilt-laden or down right unpleasant.

Usually parents begin to think about toilet training around their child’s second birthday or when the child shows an interest in training. Two long years of multiple (pardon the pun) diaper changes and the light is at the end of the tunnel! But don’t rush it. Proceeding too quickly can make the whole attempt unpleasant and worrisome for your child(ren) and they quickly pick up on your anxiety. If things initially don’t work out, stop the whole attempt, relax and try again at a later time.

Before beginning, look for some positive signs which will indicate that each child is ready to begin. When one or more of the following occur, then it is time to begin thinking about toilet training:

  • less diapers to change during the day;
  • dry through nap time;
  • wet during nap time but dry for long periods during wake time;
  • dry overnight.

It is recommended to have a potty per child. In this manner, each child can have possession of their own potty, may practice together or apart, can progress at their own rate and not have to challenge their sibling for a chance to sit on a potty, or when two or more need to use it at exactly the same time.

  • Remember to assess each child’s readiness individually.
  • Don’t compare the children to each other or place blame regarding readiness or performance.
  • Don’t make a child who is ready to toilet train wait for his/her sibling(s) to be ready. This could be quite a setback for the one whom is ready.
  • Work with each child individually and be pleased with some one-on-one time if your children are ready to proceed at different times. With boy/girl sets of multiples it is not unusual, for example, for the girls to be ready in advance of the boys, so expect a difference in readiness time. But you can remain assured that when each child is ready and their proper muscle development has been reached, in no time at all they will toilet train.
  • Relax, don’t add pressure or anxiety to the situation.

Some parents have good luck commencing toilet training with the bowel movements. If you notice that your toddler has his bowel movement at a set time each day, you may wish to introduce the potty just prior to that time and encourage him to try and use the potty. If it doesn’t work right away, don’t worry. It is not unusual for a child to have to get used to the prospect of using a potty and having the right attitude to your child’s efforts will assist him in feeling comfortable about this new experience and in trying to make it a part of their daily schedule.

Some parents like to try to begin toilet training during the summer months, when clothes are few and loose fitting and the child can run around in training pants. Training pants can be helpful to use because:

  • when he sees urine and feels it running down his legs, he can better relate to what you are talking about;
  • training pants are less bulky, speedier to pull down and more comfortable than a diaper;
  • they are like grown-ups pants and freedom from a diaper.

When choosing a potty, make sure it is comfortable and not tippy. Falling off can be embarrassing and scary and impede the process.

You can look at free standing models, one with a tray or one that fits directly over the toilet. If you get one that fits over the toilet, be sure to have a small stepping stool handy for your child’s use. You may wish to ask your friends which they would recommend before deciding which one to invest in. Most have a shield (sometimes removable) for use with little boys. The shield can get in the way and hurt the boy when trying to get on or off the toilet. Teach them how to get on and off the seat without hurting themselves on the shield. Most parents remove the shield and teach their son to point his penis downwards to urinate.

Some parents take a toy to the training session, something the child can focus on rather than on “performing” into the potty. Realize that whatever you do choose to take, may end up in the toilet. When your child is successful and does urinate or have a bowel movement in the potty, be encouraging. Use lots of praise and positive feedback. You may ask him if he wishes to flush it down. He may wish to “admire” his efforts for some time before flushing and this is quite normal.

Be prepared for the fact that your child may be startled at the sound of urine or stool falling into the potty. You may need to explain away his fears if such is the case.

Be prepared for some interference from the child(ren) who is not ready to train. He may want the toy that his sibling has or cause a disturbance to try and attract your attention and focus. Try and explain to him what his sibling is doing but if it doesn’t work, you could either postpone the potty attempt for that day or remove him elsewhere.

Avoid power struggles as they will only compound the situation.

Be prepared for your child to either focus on his own genitals or his sibling’s. This curiosity is natural. It may be a good time to refer to the proper names of your child’s sex organs and get them used to hearing the proper terminology.

There may be things within a small child(ren)’s life which can cause a setback in toilet training: the arrival of a new baby, a trip away from home, moving house, to name some. When there is a major upheaval in your child’s life, expect for there to be some regression in his/her training. Just go with the flow, don’t put any pressure on your child(ren) and he will soon be back on track. Remember, they are all trained by the time they are ready to go to the alter!

A reminder as children are training: Children tend to wait until the last possible moment before they actually decide they need to go. They don’t recognize the cues that they need to go and/or do not wish to leave the toy/game they are playing. As a result, when they need to go They Need to Go and it’s a mad rush to the potty, undoing pants along the way. I called this “The Pee-Pee Dance” when my girls were training. You will begin to recognize each child’s “dancing style” and can offer some guidance and assurance the toy will be there when he/she returns. If an accident occurs, be patient, be helpful, speak softly and reassure your child. Both of you will benefit.

Try and make this time as pleasant as possible for everyone. Don’t worry about your neighbour’s singleton child who was trained at 20 months. That child did not have the distraction of two or three other siblings her own age and had her parents’ full attention all of the time. When your children are ready, and with the proper encouragement and positive feedback, the natural will happen.

Adapted from Toilet Training…With Love: encouraging toilet habits with singletons, twins or triplets, by Lucille Proulx Jodoin, 1983.