All mothers respond to their babies in different ways, whether they have one baby or four. Some are immediately besotted with them, others initially indifferent. Both of these responses are normal.
Some mothers worry that they will not be able to bond with more than one baby at a time – or that they will have a favourite. And some babies appear more loveable than others.
However you feel at the beginning, your babies will grow on you. Try to make time to cuddle and get to know each of them individually. Bonding with higher multiples can be especially difficult as you have proportionately less time with each baby.
Try roping in some help. Even if it is only once a week, ask a trusted family member or friend to take one or more babies out for a stroll in the pram while you have some special time with just one. Switch babies each time so they all get a turn.
If you are separated from one or more babies – for example, if they are in neonatal care – you may find it hard to believe that the babies are really yours. This can make you feel a little detached, but try not to worry. When you start to look after the babies yourself it will begin to feel real. In the meantime, display photographs of the babies in your home and show photographs to friends.
Below Norland Early Years Consultant Claire Burgess talks what kind of activities you can do with your multiples, and dad Chris talks about what it's like to be a father to more than one.
The first step to treating the babies as individuals is to be able to tell which is which. The differences between them may be obvious – even if they are identical, one may be larger or louder than the other – but in the beginning, some parents find they need labels to tell their babies apart. If you find yourself in this situation, do not remove the identity tags attached to the babies at birth. Experiment with dressing the babies in specific colours as a sort of colour coding, or painting a toenail on each baby with different colournail varnish.
You can help your children to achieve a sense of their individuality by dressing them differently in their own clothes. In the first few months, you will probably be too busy to care what they are wearing. But even something as simple as sticking with different colours for each child may help you keep them separate in your mind.
Try to incorporate some individual attention into your everyday routines. You could talk to each baby separately at bath-time or during nappy-changing time. Make eye contact, address your baby using their name, and concentrate your attention only on the baby you are talking to.
Here are a few more tips for encouraging your children’s individuality right from the start:
1. Take photos of the babies separately as well as together, and label your baby photos, especially if the babies are identical. Display them in separate frames.
2. Talk to each child individually, using their name and making eye contact.
3. Encourage friends and family to treat the children as individuals – and help them do this by giving them clues to tell the babies apart.
4. If you want to dress them in the same clothes, try not to do it all the time. You could dress them in the same style but different colours, or in the same outfit but not at the same time.
5. Ensure that each baby has an individual medical record and child health book and ask for individual appointments for their medical and development checks.
Names are important to a person’s sense of individuality, and should be chosen with great care. This issue of individuality is especially important for multiples, who will in any case be growing up with a strong sense of being one of a pair or group:
• Beware of choosing names that rhyme, sound similar or are easily confused with each other – and consider any likely abbreviations, too. For example, Timothy and James are very different, but Tim and Jim will cause confusion.
• Avoid choosing names that begin with the same initial. Think ahead: how will you label their belongings or sort out the post when the children are older?
• When they grow older, the babies will not thank you for calling them by names that sound like a joke, such as Tom and Jerry.
• Avoid choosing names that suggest the children come as a single unit, such as Amber, Jade and Ruby.
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For more on bonding with your new babies and getting them off to a good start as confident individuals, download Tamba’s free guide, Twins, Triplets and More: The First Year. If you have any concerns about bonding with your babies, you can call Tamba’s confidential Freephone support service Twinline on 0800 138 0509 between 10am and 1pm and 7pm and 10pm.
Follow the links to find out more about managing in hospital, coming home, feeding, sleep and co-bedding, concerns and development.
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