The challenge of multiple births
While we fawn over the cuteness of it all, we must admit to smiling sheepishly at the mum of multiple births and wondering, how on earth does she do it? Having one baby is hard enough; it’s difficult to imagine doubling or even tripling the load.
Multiple births are on the rise in New Zealand, due in part to the increasing age of mothers and the use of fertility drugs. According to Statistics New Zealand 1950 children were multiple births in 2007, compared with 1051 in 1977.
There is no question that raising multiples presents some unique parenting challenges. Amanda Meikle of Halswell is mum to six-year-old twins Liam and Aden, plus big sister Mikayla, who was just 20-months-old when the boys were born.
Amanda tells how she has coped with some common twin challenges:
Sleep: “We got them into a feeding routine fairly quickly, which helped us get some sleep. Generally, one would be more awake than the other at each feed, but we tried to keep them on the same schedule. You can’t demand feed with twins or you’ll be up half the night feeding them!”
Breastfeeding: “I found it quite easy as I have a lot of milk. I had a tri-pillow across my tummy and I used a rugby hold to feed them both at once. I fed them like that until four months, then I had to feed them separately because they got too big. I breast fed until five-and-a-half months.”
Sibling bonding: “They’ve always had a bond. They had twin-speak when they were really little. They would jibber jabber to each other and you couldn’t understand what they were saying, but they’d be laughing. Sometimes they would fight over a toy but you just let them figure it out.”
Individuality: “They are very different. Liam is fast and sporty – he doesn’t sit still. Aden is a little bit more chilled. Aden has a disability, Sturge-Weber syndrome, which makes a difference. If he didn’t have that I think they’d be more alike.”
Separation anxiety: “They’re in the same class at school but don’t have the same friends. They keep an eye on each other and know where each other is. On occasion when I have to take Aden for hospital appointments overnight, Liam likes his sister to sleep in his bedroom so there’s someone else there. Same with Aden when Liam is away.”
Support: “I had support from my mum. Also we got a nanny when I went back to work because it was easier and cheaper to keep them at home rather than putting them all into preschool.”
The hardest thing? “Juggling their wants and needs, because when one comes at you the other one comes at you. They tag team you I think. Making myself available for both of them, as well as my daughter, was the most difficult thing.”
Advice: “Get as much information as you can from people who can help you out, such as the Multiple Birth Club. Twins are definitely fun but it’s a lot of hard work. It’s the same as having one, but twice as much demand – you’ve just got to be patient. The first two years go really fast. Having a good support network and asking for help when you need it makes it a lot easier.”