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Coming home from hospital is a big moment for all of you. For your babies, it is the start of their relationship with a place that will become increasingly theirs to explore and enjoy. For you, it is the start of your independent life as a family together, away from the rules and routines of hospital life.
Help at home
The next few weeks will be incredibly busy. Friends and family may offer to help out. Not only should you accept these offers, but try to make sure they are helping with real chores (laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning etc) so that you can have as much time as possible to rest, enjoy your babies and share moments with your partner.
If help isn’t offered, ask for it. People may well be happy to pitch in if you make it clear you would appreciate their assistance. Do make sure you don’t end up looking after the helper, though. If someone pops over to see the babies, they will certainly be able to make their own cup of tea, and one for you while they’re at it.
In some areas, health visitors will do home visits in the early days, especially for parents of multiples, particularly if you have other children as well. This means the babies can be checked at home and you don’t have to go to the baby clinic.
If you have triplets or more, your health visitor may be able to organise some home help for you, though there is no statutory entitlement to this. Voluntary associations such as Homestart can also help. Colleges sometimes have trainee nurses or nannies looking for work placements. The admin on these things can take a while, so if you are reading this before the babies arrive, it’s worth getting the ball rolling now.
What’s in a routine?
Many parents find a non-rigid routine invaluable in caring for more than one baby. If your babies were in special care they may already have a routine you can continue with, but be prepared to vary it as the babies’ needs change. Otherwise, by thinking about your babies’ needs – such as feeding, sleeping and play – you can develop a pattern that works for you and them.
If you want to encourage them to do something then put it in as a regular part of each day. For example, you might have a bedtime routine of bath, feed and into their cot to help them settle at night. Once they have a routine, work out what tasks you have to do, timetable it round that pattern, then stick to it as best you can. Try allocating tasks to each parent or helper, so for example, one might do the laundry while the other cooks supper. Remember though that as babies mature the routines will need to be adjusted in response to their changing sleep, feeding and wake patterns, especially during periods like growth spurts and teething. While routines can be helpful in organising your activities, try to avoid being rigid and setting unrealistic expectations.
Ask yourself which household chores are essential and which desirable. Until things calm down, stick to what’s essential and when that’s done, take whatever moments are left for yourself, your partner and your babies – or just rest.
Simplify where possible. Babies don’t need to be bathed every day. You could top and tail them for now, or bath each one on alternate nights.
Organise your home so you can find things quickly and easily. It’s worth having one changing mat upstairs and one downstairs, and a bag that is kept packed ready with spare clothes, nappies and wipes etc in case you want to go out.
Try to get out every day and do something you enjoy. Remember that, while you will undoubtedly have bad days, you will also have good days.
While one in ten mothers of singletons suffer from postnatal depression (PND), the stats show that rates are slightly higher among mothers of multiples.
Understandably mothers of multiples have increased demands put upon them by virtue of the practical needs of more than one baby met by limited resources, you are only human. If you have an underlying vulnerability to developing a postnatal illness, this increased stress may trigger it. Likewise, any life changing and stressful event could have a similar effect
Fathers can also suffer PND, especially fathers of multiples who may be both sleep deprived and working full-time. Studies of parental sleep have found fathers of multiples are the group most affected by sleep deprivation in the initial months.
If you think this might be happening to you, please do get help. Talk to your midwife or doctor about how you are feeling, as well as friends or family. You can also ring Tamba’s freephone helpline Twinline on 0800 138 0509. Tamba has produced a Guide on Postnatal Depression especially for parents of multiples. It is full of helpful information, including stories from parents who have come through PND. It may also help to speak to others through our members-only messageboard.
However tough it gets, PND does not last forever and need not blight the early years with your children.Access help, and try to get out of the house every day. Connecting with other parents of multiples can also be hugely beneficial for your emotional wellbeing. Click here to find your nearest twins club, where other parents may have experienced what you are dealing with and can provide understanding and support.
How to help older children
Some children react well to the arrival of young multiples, others don’t. Do make sure your older children know they are loved and cared for, even though the babies are getting lots of attention and keeping you busy. Keep the babies away from their things, and stick to their usual routine as far as possible. Try to set aside a little time each day which is reliably just for them, perhaps when the babies are asleep.
Feeding times can make older children feel particularly left out, so try to make them feel special. Set aside time to read to siblings before the feed is due, and give them a snack to eat while you feed the babies – or give them a doll they can ‘feed’ too. Talk to your children about when they were babies and, if you can, show pictures of them being fed by you.
For more on what equipment you’ll need, transporting young multiples, feeding, sleep, safety, getting out and about and much more, download Tamba’s free guide, Twins, Triplets and More: The First Year.
Follow these links to find out more about managing in hospital, feeding, bonding, sleep and co-bedding, concerns and development.