Breastfeeding Fathers/Partners

On the surface, it doesn’t appear that Dad’s or Partner’s role could be very important in the breastfeeding department. But the truth is a Father/Partner’s role is essential to successfully breastfeeding multiples. Detailed communication between the parents before the babies’ arrival and a commitment to give them the best start in life, sets the stage for a successful breastfeeding experience for the whole family.

Here are some hints and tips to guide you in your breastfeeding support role:

  1. You and your partner have discussed in detail that you want to give your babies this important start to their lives. Reinforce this decision whenever it is necessary, to other family members, friends, to each other.
  2. Consider asking for extended parental leave from your job so that you can be available in the first few weeks after your babies are home. Even if your workplace doesn’t offer extended leave, ask anyway. Explain why this extended would be an asset. Each time an employee asks for this type of extended leave, a seed is planted. Companies are often rethinking employee benefits and extended leave for the parents with multiples might become automatic.
  3. Bring your partner a nutritious snack and a glass of water each time she breastfeeds. Help to get her comfortable by putting pillows under her elbows, behind her back and a stool under her feet.
  4. Actively involve yourself in the care of the babies. Don’t wait to be asked. You may change diapers before breastfeeding and burp, cuddle and talk the baby who finishes first so that Mom can focus on the other (next) baby.
  5. Take breastfeeding classes, ask questions and check out the vast array of books on breastfeeding. Learn how to put babies to the breast, and about proper latching on so that you can assist your partner at those important first feedings. You will be a big support during those initial attempts at simultaneous breastfeeding.
  6. With the birth of multiples, it isn’t unusual for there to be a shift in the family roles, especially if the babies were delivered by c-section. A c-section is major surgery and it takes at least six weeks for recovery. Dad/Partner needs to be prepared for a variety of duties: grocery shopping, laundry, childcare for other children and food preparation, for some examples.
  7. As breastfeeding progresses and the milk supply established, Mom can express breast milk so that you can feed one of your babies with a bottle, if this works for the both of you.
  8. Breastfeeding is a learned art for both a mother and baby. Don’t stay on the sidelines. Get involved, offer encouragement and problem solving techniques to your partner as they are needed.
  9. It is important to remember to look after your relationship with your partner. Try and do something together at least once a week: Go for a walk or for a coffee and conversation. Arranging time together as a loving couple will help reinforce your togetherness and decision to breastfeed.
  10. You may need to reevaluate your feelings about your partner’s breasts. While initially you may have thought of them sexually, after a birth, things turn can around as those same breasts become a source of nutrition for your babies. Be aware of your feelings and keep the lines of communication open with your spouse. These conflicatual feelings are normal.
  11. It isn’t unusual for a father/partner to feel jealous of the mother and babies’ physical connection. Try not to feel rejected or displaced. You continue to be an important person and a leading role player both with your babies and with your partner.
  12. If you feel that Mom is having difficulty with breastfeeding, encourage her to attend a La Leche League meeting or arrange for a consultation with a Lactation Consultant. Some of the latter make house calls and with a quick consultation, matters can quickly be rectified.
  13. It isn’t unusual for multiples to arrive early, i.e. before their due date. One of the amazing miracles of breastmilk is that each mother’s milk is specifically suited for her child’s gestational needs. During the early days after your babies’ births, you may need to provide encouragement and support as Mom pumps for your babies, if they are unable to breast feed independently.
  14. Have faith in yourself and your capabilities. These are your children too and looking after yourself as well as your partner and babies, will help you all have a satisfying breastfeeding experience.

For more information about fathering, parenting, breastfeeding:

www.dadscan.ca
www.fathers.com
www.fathersforum.com
www.lalecheleague.org

Reviewed and with very helpful input provided by Erin Shaheen, Child Birth Educator and Social Service Worker, Ottawa, Ontario.

Breastfeeding: How will I recognize if my babies are drinking enough milk?

The following breastfeeding information is provided for healthy, average term babies.  If you feel that your babies are not eating well, drinking enough milk, or taking in enough nourishment, contact your doctor for feedback on your personal situation.

There are several ways to determine whether or not your babies are eating well and the most obvious is by what comes out the bottom end.

  • In the first two days after birth, on average each baby should have 2 wet diapers and 1-2 soiled diapers.  Right after birth, the first stools will be a thick black consistency.  This is called maconium.
  • On days 3 to 5, each baby needs to have at least 2 wet diapers a day and 2-3 soiled diapers.  Stool colour will be green, yellow or brown in colour.
  • From 6 days to 5 weeks, look for each baby to have 6 heavy, wet diapers per day and 1 or more soilings of a yellow colour per day.

Some signs to let you know that the babies are getting enough milk:

  • are sucking strongly, slowly and steadily
  • has a strong cry and moves actively
  • your breasts feel softer and less full after each feed

When baby is full:

  • will break the latch and let go of the breast of his own accord
  • hand lies gently and open against your body, showing contentment

In the initial days after birth, sleep overtakes a full tummy, especially for preterm or low birth weight babies.  They just don’t have the stamina to keep on feeding.  If your baby falls asleep at the breast after a few sucks, you will need to try and wake him up.  This can be done by stretching him by holding him up under the arms, try to get a good burp out of him, move him around your body, don’t let him snuggle, and some parents will undress the baby to stimulate him to continue eating to fill his tummy.  If babies do not take in enough milk, you will be back to feeding them again in a very short time frame.

Babies’ approximate tummy sizes:

  • Up to 2 days after birth, is about the size of a chickpea
  • 2-10 days about the size of a hazelnut
  • 10 days to 1 month about the size of a walnut.

This is what you are trying to fill at each feed so it is helpful to make sure the tummy is as full as possible each feed.

Bottle Feeding

As with many parenting issues, the pendulum of public opinion swings from one extreme to the other over time. In the breast versus bottle debate, breastfeeding is enjoying a renaissance, and ads in magazines, bus shelters and on television can be seen encouraging breastfeeding as the optimum (the only?) method for feeding your baby. So much emphasis has been placed on promoting breastfeeding in recent years that it has become virtually impossible to find information on how to effectively bottle-feed your infant.

My own feeding story began with a strong motivation to breastfeed our twins exclusively for at least six months, more likely a full year. Thanks to the availability of material through a comprehensive public health campaign and my friend Carole, a committed breastfeeder, I had stocked up on all the pro-breast propaganda, and was convinced that anything other than exclusive breastfeeding would constitute my complete failure as a parent. So persuaded was I that I was rather rude to a woman in my office who gave me a “starter kit” of bottles as a shower gift a month before the arrival of our twin boys. How dare she jeopardise my plans to give my little babies the best start in life! Didn’t she know that studies show breastfed babies are healthier, happier and smarter? Obviously, we wouldn’t be needing any bottles in our home.

It wasn’t long after the birth of our little ones that I realized this was a more complex issue than my pre-purchased nursing bras and perfectly sub-sectioned breastfeeding information binder could address…

As per our carefully constructed birth plan (of which we had distributed multiple copies to any and all health-care providers we came into contact with throughout the pregnancy), Alex and Simon were placed on my body within an hour of their birth by Caesarean-section, where they quickly snuggled into my chest (skin-to-skin, just as the literature had suggested), and began rooting, as predicted. Simon even found a breast and immediately got to work. Great, I thought, he’s a ‘boob man’! This is going to be a cinch!

By the end of the first 24-hour period, however, both boys were still losing weight, and things were getting pretty sore at the feeding trough. Furthermore, Alex and Simon were doing lots of screaming and crying. And by now the novelty of the birth had worn off for me, and the early effects of sleep deprivation combined with major surgery had definitely kicked in. Yes, I was feeding often, yes, I had several people “check the latch”, yes, I continued to breastfeed and hope for the best.

When my physical pain became so unbearable that I tensed up all over at the mere thought of feeding, I began applying various ointments and magical creams which my breast-militant friend had procured from Dr. Jack Newman, guru on the womanly art. But I didn’t quit. Yet. I did all the “right” things—I learned how to feed from a little cup so that the boys wouldn’t suffer “nipple confusion” by using a bottle. When another nurse arrived at shift change, she suggested we try finger feeding with a tube, since that would help the babies developed the suck reflex for when I was ready to let them back on the real thing. In the meantime, I was advised to pump, since it would be gentler, less painful, and would encourage my milk to come in. I did so every two to three hours.

The tube/finger-feeding business was a complicated affair, and required many skilled hands and about 35 minutes per baby. Then there was the pumping to keep up between finger-feeds. We proceeded for another 24 hours. Sleep deprivation consequently grew worse. Post-partum depression set in and was joined by tremendous guilt when we finally gave Twin A the first bottle of formula (oh how he sucked it back, the poor starving child!)

Finally, on Day Four, we elected to move entirely to bottles, despite the damage this would inevitably incur on our psyches and our wallets. While my dear husband fed the boys each a bottle of formula and then wheeled them in their bassinet down the hospital hall for a little “walk”, I slept for a glorious three hours. Delightful! The road to recovery could begin. When hubby returned, I was awake enough to count my babies’ fingers and toes for the first time since their birth several days earlier. They each had twenty in total. Now I knew.

The following weeks were difficult ones, as readers who have recently gone through the birth and early parenting of multiples can surely relate to. In addition to the chaos of bringing home more than one baby and acclimatizing to the accompanying lack of sleep for the next six months, there was the unexpected twist of having to learn about bottle feeding: Buying formula (thank goodness for those crack-open, ready-to-feed cans—they are worth every extra cent on the line of credit), washing and preparing bottles (wisely, we had kept the unwelcome shower gift from a month ago and now my husband scrambled to find where we had stashed the box we never thought we’d use) and calculating how much formula to feed….

But another, more disturbing aspect complicated our early months as parents, and that was the barrage of uninvited comments from strangers with regards to our feeding methods.

Once a judgemental non-parent myself, prone to give dirty looks to bottle-feeding mothers on the bus or subway, I now found myself the object of scorn for precisely the same reason: I remember attending a baby shower for a friend of ours with a singleton when our boys were about three months old. While we were there, it was feeding time, and out came the bibs, burp cloths and bottles. As my husband was warming the formula in the kitchen, I wandered out to the garden with one of the babies. Immediately I was surrounded by aunties and grandmothers who wanted to meet “the mother of the twins”. I patiently answered the usual battery of stupid twins questions, and was mid-sentence when one old battle-axe called out in a rather loud and matter-of-fact voice, “you’re breastfeeding of course”.

I should have ignored her or told her as politely as I could that it was none of her business. But that pressure-induced guilt inside of me welled up, and I felt compelled to explain myself.

“Actually, we’re not,” I responded tentatively.

“Oh?” was her open-ended reply.

“Yes, well, we had a lot of trouble at the beginning.” I continued, “having twins posed different challenges than I had anticipated.”

“My niece had twins, and she breastfed for months and months”, responded the battle axe.

“I had a C-section, so there were come complications”, I meekly offered.

Wouldn’t you know it, the battle axe’s niece had also had a C-section, but of course she had had no trouble at all with breastfeeding. I burst into tears and rushed back into the house, where my husband took one look at me and was ready to kill someone. Instead, we fed the babies (bottles), packed up, and went home.

This emotionally draining experience and many others prompted me to do some research around bottle/formula-feeding so that I could do it “right”, and also so that I could be armed with data, should I need to defend myself in the future. When we had first come home from the hospital, I had called our public health nurse, who naturally knew nothing about bottle-feeding, though she did encourage me again with the breastfeeding, reminding me that it really was best for the babies. I then looked up bottle-feeding in one of our baby books, and found a chapter on how to sterilize bottles and prepare formula. (Already figured that one out from the instructions on the package.)

Finally, I stumbled across a glorious little book called “When Breastfeeding is Not an Option; A Reassuring Guide for Loving Parents” by Peggy Robin.

The more research I did on breast and formula/bottle feeding, the more I began to wonder: “Is breast really best?”

At issue are the claims that breastfeeding increases intelligence, lowers incidence of childhood illness and increases the mother-infant bond. I can assure you that our rocky but determined beginning did little to increase any type of bonding as I was so exhausted and freaked out, I barely knew which end was up on my babies! As for the other two claims, I began to have my doubts on their simplistic validity. After all, the baby formulas of today are scientifically formulated to emulate breast milk as closely as possible. All include essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and many now boast DHA and other ingredients hitherto only found in breast milk. In fact, the more I looked into the studies on breastfeeding and its positive effects on babies, the more I questioned whether it was the breast milk itself, or the act of cuddling and holding a baby close (which could easily be done with bottles) that caused the benefits in question.

In particular, I was intrigued to learn that infant massage, which has been studied in the West since the 1970s*, claims to produce similar benefits to breastfeeding: Weight gain (especially in preemies), neurological development, decreased hospitalization and improved digestion are all qualities noted in children who have experienced habitual infant massage. Perhaps most exciting for parents of multiples is that unlike breastfeeding, infant massage (and bottle-feeding) can be done by both parents and other care providers, a real advantage with more than one baby in the mix. (Why wouldn’t you want to sharethe joys and burdens of feeding more than one at a time with willing helpers?!) Indeed, other than the antibodies found naturally in breast milk, I really couldn’t find hard data that proved the superiority of breastfeeding as an act in itself for the babies.

My research aided me in charting a course that would best meet the needs of my family, and my husband and I made a pact when we moved to bottles: As often as possible, the babies would be held and cuddled when being bottle-fed. We wanted to emulate the physical closeness of breastfeeding as much as we could, and so we wanted to learn to bottle-feed well, to become “bottle-feeding experts”, if you will. (We also began incorporating a daily regime of infant massage into the bath time/bedtime routine, and I am convinced that it was this daily opportunity for bonding through physical touch that helped Alex and Simon grow healthy and strong, and assisted us in growing more attached to our new babies, despite various other challenges.)

Having lived through this new parent experience, I am concerned now with the multitudes of mothers who—for whatever reason—do not end up breastfeeding, but have little support in alternative feeding care. Sure, the formula packages include instructions on how to prepare the formula, but there is little guidance on how to lovingly administer the bottle to your baby. Did you know, for example, that you are actually supposed to hold the infant slightly upright when feeding, in order to prevent ear infections? And knowing what we know about the benefits of skin-to-skin contact in newborns with their parents, why not bottle-feed naked? (In a warm room with a blanket, of course, and perhaps not publicly!) The emotional high that comes from snuggling with your little ones while you feed not only transfers to the babies, but also builds confidence in the parent who knows she has fed her babies competently.

One of the many reasons I decided to become a prenatal instructor was so that I could present objective, comprehensive, research-based information on feeding options to parents expecting multiples. Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for breastfeeding, when it’s a good fit for a particular family. But the first few weeks and months of life with new twins, triplets and more are so wrought with anxiety, I feel it is important for parents to be knowledgeable about some different feeding scenarios, so that whichever option or combination of options they choose for feeding their little ones, they will be confident in the knowledge that they are “doing it right” and that it is good for their babies.

Breast- or bottle-feeding shouldn’t be a decision based on pressure from those around us. Every parent is an expert on his or her own family, and has the responsibility and the right to make an informed decision about how best to meet the feeding needs of their newest family member(s). And now that we have more comprehensive data on different factors that can impact newborns’ physical and emotional health, I hope that future public health campaigns and also individuals who mean to help will focus on supporting all appropriately-researched feeding methods to the best of their abilities in order to provide the best start for our youngest members of society and their emotionally vulnerable and sleep-deprived parents.

* for more information on infant massage, see the work of Vimala McClure and others

Websites:

Article is by Vera Teschow. Vera is a full time teacher, and the mother of Alex and Simon. Visit her online at www.verateschow.com.

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.

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.

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!

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.

 

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.

Clothing & Equipment Suggestions for Twins and Triplets

SUGGESTED COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT FOR A TWIN AND TRIPLET MULTIPLE BIRTH

NOTE: The writers of this Website do not accept any responsibility for the purchase of any of these items nor do they recommend one product over another. In order to ensure the safety of your children, please check out all safety regulations before you make your purchases, especially for secondhand or borrowed items.

aAll of the items contained on this list are suggested only. (Higher number represents triplets.)

You may not need or want each and every item.

  • Car Seats – babies MUST be in properly installed car seats even when being brought home from the hospital. IT’S THE LAW!
  • Appropriate stroller[s] , could be a combination of twin and/or triplet strollers (see Multiple Births Canada’s Strollers Fact Sheet for greater details on stroller brands, types and details.)

JUMELLE: The Best Baby Tracker App Keep easy track of which baby did what, when and for how long. Hints, tips and ideas for coping with 2 or more babies.

  • Single stroller(s) in case you wish to take only one child out at a time
  • Rocking chair
  • One crib can do for at least the first few weeks or possibly months. Purchase other(s) as needed. The babies initially won’t bother each other, and this purchase method spreads out costs and saves on laundry. Be sure that all mattresses are of a good quality.
  • 1 or 2 Playpens- especially important if you have an older child(ren) or large pet. While travelling or visiting, playpens can double as cribs.
  • 1 or 2 Baby Swings. They can take up a lot of room when set up and are difficult to store. Not all children like swings, so try to borrow extra if you need to.
  • Change table – not always essential. A low dresser and padded top will also work fine!
  • Sunshades for vehicle windows
  • 2 or 3 day cradles
  • 3 to 6 dozen cloth diapers (also useful as shoulder burp cloths)
  • 12-18 pairs of plastic pants (or current outer-style plastic pants)
  • 4-6 packages of newborn size disposable diapers
  • Diaper inserts or liners
  • 1 or 2 diaper pails. Diaper pail rinse (1/2 cup white vinegar per half pail full of water as a presoak works as urine neutralizer in diaper pail)
  • Handiwipes – soft wash clothes work just as well and are cheaper in the long run. Some babies have a skin reaction to what is in handiwipes
  • 8-12 receiving blankets
  • 6-9 baby blankets
  • 8-12 bibs
  • 8-10 fitted crib sheets
  • 10-12 quilted pads, plastic on one side
  • 3 per baby, Nighties – you may wish to use nighties until the umbilical cord stubs fall off.
  • 4-6 baby towels, complete with hoods if you wish – you can use regular towels
  • 8-12 small, soft face cloths
  • A few comfortable outfits each for visiting
  • Sweaters, bonnets, bunting bags, socks, booties, hats – amounts dependent upon the season
  • Snowsuit per child. If your babies are born in the Spring, wait until Fall to purchase suits so you will purchase correct sizes.
  • Rectal/digital thermometer
  • Large diaper bag, convenient sized bag or backpack (allowing your hands to be free), for outings – check out the Luggage Department as some carry-on baggage may suit your needs
  • Mild baby soap, Vaseline, Q-tips, rubbing alcohol (for naval), Penaten/Zincofax cream, baby shampoo, mild laundry soap, baby nail scissors, baby oil/lotion (Purchase small sizes initially in order to ascertain whether or not your babies will have any allergies)
  • A batheze leaves your hands free to wash the baby (bath rings are not recommended as the suction cups can easily come detached while in use).
  • A plastic bathtub, should you wish to use one. The large tub area frightens some children and a plastic tub can fit directly into the bathtub to make the area smaller. Can be recycled as the children grow – put on the lawn with water in Summer for play, to hold toys, bathe dolls.
  • Appropriate crib toys and age-appropriate colourful toys.
  • Nightlight(s), baby room monitor
  • Padded head rest per baby (fit into car seats to stop babies’ head from rolling around)
  • 1 or 2 Baby Snuglis, one for each parent and the third baby in a stroller
  • Large horse-shoe shaped pillow for feeding two babies
  • 6 large bottles per baby. These can be used for pumped breast milk or if formula feeding
  • small bottles for pumped breast milk, water or juice
  • 4-cup measuring cup (for measuring water for formula)
  • Bottle and nipple brush
  • Formula is available by the case at drug stores and supermarkets. Shop around for the best prices. Try to make a deal with the store manager to buy larger quantities and receive lower prices. Prices change week to week, even at the same store. These are called ‘Lost Leaders.’
  • 1 baby book per child to record day-to-day milestones, camera/video camera, computer back up stick so photos are not lost

NOTE: Bumper pads and Baby Quilt Comforters are not recommended due to concerns regarding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) related to crib deaths. This is be a big concern when dealing with premature infants. Their inability to throw off the baby quilt should it cover their face or push away from the bumper pads puts them at great risk of smothering.

Multiples and Speech

Chances are you want to provide a wonderful environment for your children to learn and grow. But life is busy. Your multiples (and maybe singletons too) need to be bathed, dressed, fed and nurtured. And when you’re not caring for your little ones, there’s housework, shopping, cooking, and laundry. Perhaps there’s a job too – and the resulting runs to the sitter and daycare.

Luckily, all children learn to talk. It’s something that comes naturally, right? Not always. Some children talk late. Some children need speech therapy. And all children need help from their parents to reach their highest potential.

Learning to Talk – What to Expect

Multiples acquire language just as single-born children do, however, sometimes they develop it at a somewhat slower pace. Even though multiples tend to make sounds and gestures early on to each other, they often say their first word (other than “mama” or “dada”) about a month later than most single born children.

Studies have shown that some multiple born children are prone to early speech and language difficulties and later literacy problems.  Even if your children are developing speech and language skills normally, research tells us that between three and five years, twins may be six months behind their single-born age peers. The good news is that by age five, twins, who do have speech and language problems, differ very little from their single born age peers.*

To multiples, language is a way to bring closeness and intimacy with each other, and can often be very rewarding. In some cases, they appear to talk together using words and sentences that only the two of them can understand. Research has shown this “twin talk” is not a private invented language, but actually a persistent use of immature or incorrect speech patterns. Many children often create some words of their own, or use incorrect vocabulary, grammar, and syntax when they are learning to talk. Since multiples spend a lot of time together, and have a strong desire to communicate with each other, they listen to each other saying words incorrectly. Sometimes, these troublesome words grow more and more distorted and, as a result, the multiples are the only ones who are able to understand their communications.

Twin language is not a cause of language delay, but may be an indication that your child may have a difficult time learning to talk. A British study showed that approximately 50% of twins who have speech and language difficulties may use twin language. Only 11% of twins who are developing language on schedule use twin language. If your multiples are using “twin language” to communicate with each other, it is very important they are also developing the communication skills that are necessary to communicate effectively with others. Therefore, your multiples need to be understanding and expressing new words at least every few weeks and using these words to communicate with others.

Taking Steps to Avoid Delays

It has been documented that speech and language difficulties are more common in multiples than in single born children. However, this certainly does not mean that your multiples will have speech and language delays. Experts believe that sometimes these delays may be due to the social and biological factors listed below that can effect any child, born a multiple, or not. Language is learned by a baby watching the adult’s face, in particular the mouth move and change shape for the different sounds of the expressed words. With twins, triplets and more, finding time to address each child individually in order to give them the best chance to learn proper speech is a challenge but not impossible. Having knowledge of the risk for speech delay in multiples is half the battle. Following are some very easy ideas to help you help your multiples with their speech…..then watch out as they all get gabbing! You probably won’t get a word in edgewise

  1. It is helpful to understand that multiple-birth children are behind their singleton counterparts from the get-go. They, by the nature of their birth, share the available maternal nutrition while in utero and this sharing isn’t always equal. For twins it could a sharing of 50/50, or 70/30, or 60/40 or anywhere in between. For triplets and more, it can be determined by their various birth weights, that not each received equal portions of the available nutrition. As a result, each multiple-birth child begins life from a different position and their progress will not only be different from each other, but will cerainly be different from their singleton counterparts who received 100% of the available nutrition.Solution: Remember never to compare your babies or toddlers to each other and especially to your neighbour’s toddler of the same age. Even though multiples arrive together, they will not necessarily reach the same stage at the same time. As well, there can be differences between boys and girls. As long as each child is progressing, this needs to be your benchmark.
  2. Multiples don’t have as many chances as single born children to interact directly and individually with their parents. Twins can participate in conversations in which they communicate with either the parent or the other twin. Triplets and more can choose within their own group whom they will converse with, as well as their parents.Solution:Try to schedule as much time as you can talking and playing with each child alone. There is no need to schedule special outings if that is difficult (e.g. in the Winter), but instead, use your daily routine activities. While bathing, feeding, or dressing your child, count toes, sing songs and rhymes, and talk with your child. Take a little extra time to change a diaper and chat with each baby as you do so. Take one child to the supermarket. As your child sits in the cart facing you, this is a great time to talk about what you are seeing, feeling, doing, and touching. If one of your multiples has a tendency to talk for the other(s), this will give all of the children an equal opportunity to practice talking.
  3. Multiples often copy each other’s poor syntax and mispronunciation of words. This is because when communicating with each other, they often omit the beginning and ending sounds of words and use short phrases.Solution: Some parents think that their multiples’ mispronunciation of words is cute. Instead, it is wise to give your child many opportunities to hear words pronounced correctly. If your child says a word incorrectly, don’t ask him to “say it again.” Instead, say the correct pronunciation, emphasizing the word or sound with which he had difficulty. For example, if your child says, “Me do to pool,” try saying, “I g-go to the pool.” Emphasize “I” by saying it louder and emphasize the “g” sound in “go” by stretching it. Expand your child’s words or phrases into full sentences. Repeat what your child says and add one or two words. Don’t change your child’s meaning, but, instead, make her remarks slightly longer.

For example:
Child: “hat.”
Adult using expansion: “Yes, blue hat.”

  1. By the nature of their birth, multiples have a unique closeness or bonding. The group offers built-in playmates and as such, parents may not feel so pressured to socialize their multiples as they would for a singleton child.Solution:Give your children many opportunities to interact separately with other children. Try to arrange play dates. These can provide wonderful opportunities to develop social and language skills. Your child may begin to model the speech of other children and communicate effectively with his age peers.
  2. Twins are often born premature and subject to developmental delay. Triplets and more are born even more premature and their developmental delays can be even further, well, delayed.Solution:If you have any questions about your child’s development in any area, at any age, it is important to seek professional help. Expecting too much, or too little, can both be harmful. You might start by expressing your concerns with your pediatrician. This may set your mind at ease if you learn that your children are developing as they should, or get needed help at an early age. There may be some options in your community. If your children are two years or younger, you can call your local school district for a referral to the early intervention services in your area or find listings in your community by looking in the government pages of your phone book under Education or Health Department. If your children are three-five years of age, call your local school district to request an evaluation.

Other ideas for improving and encouraging language development in your multiples

  • if your children are 24-30 months or older with very little language or do not turn towards you as you address them, have them checked by their pediatrician to ensure that they are healthy and have no hearing problems.
  • feed the children in their highchairs with a space between them for example, one highchair to your left, one in the centre, on the right. When the chairs are set beside each other, we tend to talk ‘between’ our toddlers rather than make eye contact with each child. Further we may be looking down at whose eating what and how much rather than looking at the child, thus not providing each with ample opportunity to focus and watch our mouths move.
  • involving other adults, such as grandparents, in the care of your children can take some pressure off of the parents and give the toddlers another chance at meaningful conversations.
  • because we are so busy looking after the babies and perhaps other siblings too, we tend to rush through the tasks and “talk into the air.” Pick times and jobs (e.g. grocery shopping with one toddler) when you can slow down, make the necessary eye contact, talk about what you are purchasing and why, thus giving for each child and opportunity to learn and improve.
  • it isn’t unusual to have introverts and extroverts within the group. As a result one may try to speak for the other and one could hold back, waiting for his co-sibling to do the actual asking while reaping the benefits, without speaking a word. If this is your experience, don’t let one child speak for the other. Encourage each child to speak for himself. Praise him when he does.
  • when your child is struggling to ask a question, don’t interrupt or finish it for her. Offer encouragement to complete the sentence (e.g. saying, “I’m listening.”) and then offer praise when she does. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Take the opportunity to repeat the right sentence and/or expand on it.
    Child: See a doggie!
    Adult: Yes, I see the brown dog too!
  • it isn’t unusal to have one (or more) multiple progress rapidly and the other, for example, may have a prounounced tongue thrust. It is complicated when one child moves forward and another doesn’t. Don’t despair if this is your experience. Having the tongue thrust professionally assessed and with timely speech intervention, things will soon be back on track.
  • reading out loud helps a child hear the sounds of words and watch your mouth as words are formed.
  • repeat, repeat, repeat important words and phrases.
  • offer encouragement and positive feedback for a job well done when each child speaks.
  • don’t act instinctively to your child’s needs. Let each voice his needs and wishes.
  • encourage each to tell stories: “Tell Daddy what you did today at swimming (the park).”
  • remember that your children are individuals and will not necessarily do the same things at the same time. Avoid comparing them to each other.
  • several parents have successfully taught their toddlers sign language before they are able to speak. Signing helps them to identify what they want and not become frustrated by not yet being able to form the words. While it is difficult for small babies and toddlers to learn recognized signing, Hildy (mother of twins) introduced her girls to simple signing beginning at age 6-1/2 months. They began picking up the signs by age 9 months and signed their needs until their language skills took over. As Hildy explained: “’ Drink’ or ‘eat’ might be the motion a flat hand towards the mouth.” She noted that her girls were less prone to tantrums, outbursts and fusiness than her friends’ children of similar ages, whom couldn’t always successfully make their needs clear.**

All parents, no matter how busy they are, want their children to grow fully in each stage of development. In order for your children to develop a love of the spoken and written language, it is important to read, sing, and talk to them often. While driving all together in the car, at diaper change or at bathtime are good times to sing and tell stories. When you create a learning environment that is fun, loving, and nurturing for your children, the benefits will last a lifetime.

Bibliography

Double Duty: The Parents’ Guide to Raising Twins, from Pregnancy Through the School Years , Christina Baglivi Tinglof
The Art of Parenting Twins , Patricia Maxwell Malmstrom and Janet Poland
Discussions with Hildy Lesh, mother of twins who used sign language with her babies from 6-1/2 to 19 months old.

Reference

*The Relationship Between Multiple Birth Children’s Early Phonological Skills and Later Literacy
Langauge, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools
Volume 29, Issue 1, Pages 11-23.

**Web Sites for Baby Signing Information

www.signingbaby.com
www.mybabycantalk.com

Multiple Birth Support Sites

About the Authors

Dorothy P. Dougherty, M.A.,CCC-SLP is a Speech/Language Pathologist who has worked with children and adults in clinical and private settings for over 25 years. She is the author of Teach Me How to Say it Right: Helping Your Child with Articulation Problems (New Harbinger Publications, 2005) and How to Talk to Your Baby: A Guide to Maximizing Your Child’s Language and Learning Skills (Perigee/Putnam, 2000). For more information about speech and language development or to contact the author, please go to www.1speechproblems.com .

Lynda P. Haddon, Multiple Birth Educator, mother of 3 daughters, including twins. Working with multiple birth parents, grandparents, researchers, healthcare professionals for over two decades. Author, speaker, multiple birth prenatal educator, writer, bereavement support, creater of her own multiple birth support website at www.jumelle.ca.