There's no doubt about it, caring for multiples is a 24/7 job. Where parents of singletons can afford the luxury of being flexible to baby's demands, parents of multiples can't risk the unexpected. "You need a schedule to contain the chaos," advises Patricia Malmstrom, co-author of The Art of Parenting Twins and president of Twin Services Consulting.
The key, says Malmstrom, who is the mother of grown twins and an internationally recognized advocate for the improved care of multiples and their families, is to be methodical but not rigid. "Don't fall for the illusion that you're in control — it's your babies who are." You're simply being organized about accommodating their needs.
Timing Is Everything
Your first goal as the parent of multiples is to get all your babies eating and sleeping on the same schedule. If your newborns have spent any length of time in the hospital NICU (which is typical, since many are premature), they're likely to arrive home operating like clockwork. That's because NICU nurses are experts at getting newborns on a manageable schedule. Whether parents will keep to it once their babies come home is a personal choice.
Regardless, says Maureen Doolan Boyle, a mother of triplets and executive director of MOST (Mothers of Supertwins) Inc., an international support network for families of multiples, healthy babies have somewhat predictable schedule demands that you can build upon:
- Babies weighing less than 6 pounds tend to require feedings every 2 to 3 hours
- Once they reach 8 pounds, babies may go as long as 3 1/2 hours between feedings
- By 10 pounds, at the earliest, babies may be able to "sleep through" the night (4, 5, sometimes even 6 hours straight)