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Surviving the fourth trimester with twins

Since the twins turned 3 months last week, we’re just emerging from the fourth trimester. We survived it! And, if I may say so, the babies are not just surviving, they’re thriving. The linguist in me finds the term fourth trimester slightly awkward (how can a period of time with TRImesters have four parts?); however, I do like the idea behind the term. 

It refers to the fact that human infants are still so heavily dependent on their primary care giver(s) in the first few months after birth. This means the babies like to be constantly close to me (or Tom, though he doesn’t have food for them 😉 ) and won’t settle easily very far from me. This is normal, a survival instinct. Here’s my list of the essential things that have helped us all through this trimester….

Slings:

I would say this has been the most essential one. We don’t have a pram/buggy, so the twins have come everywhere literally wrapped on to me. With two older boys to run around after, we do a lot of walking. And actually the twins nap best when walked outside in the sling, so it’s not just with the boys that we venture out. I have three woven wraps – a size 6, a size 7 and a ring sling. The 6 and 7 I’ve used for tandem carries, and the 6 and ring sling for single carries when one needed holding closer than the other around the house or if I’ve had another adult to carry the other. Babies love being held close and warm to us in this position and moving because it reminds them of the womb, so helps them transition to life outside the womb. It’s no wonder they sleep best here.

Twin breastfeeding cushion:

I’m so pleased that I bought a twin feeding cushion, because it’s such a big help when I’m on my own with the babies. There are a few different brands, but the one that suits my body shape best is the Peanut and Piglet. They don’t always want to feed exactly at the same time, but it’s still good to be able to have them both there next to me, and they both nap well there after a feed. This just means I’m stuck on the sofa for longer – not always practical, but sometimes I do just that, and it’s what I’m doing right now as I type. If there’s another pair of hands around, I do more single feeding as the other baby can be held/jigged as I feed one. 

We made it to 3 months of exclusive feeding at the breast! Our homemade supplemental nursing systems have been brilliant, and the babies have fed well, meaning they haven’t needed to have any bottles. I estimate that they get roughly 50/50 breast milk and formula each on average. I actually think it would be harder to bottle feed twins on my own, at least in a properly paced manner, because it would be hard to hold two babies and be responsive with two bottles at the same time. Instead I can set up the SNS, stand it on the cushion, and let them feed as an exclusively breastfed pair of twins would. 

Practical help from family:

We would absolutely not have survived as well as we have done without a lot of help from my parents and Tom’s parents. I give a huge hats off to parents of twins who do it without family or paid support. We are blessed with this extended family village that many families have lost these days, and it helps that 3 of the 4 of them have recently retired meaning they have more free time to spend with us. They have helped in practical ways such as looking after the older boys, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and even planning a garage conversion so we have room for the twins to sleep when they move out of our room! This has meant that I have been able to give the twins so much of my attention, instead of having to split it between all these things. It helps too that Tom has such a short commute and a flexible job, so he too has taken on a lot of jobs around the house that I would usually do, which he’d done when I was so sick in pregnancy anyway.

Acceptance that life is chaotic:

I think my expectations for life with newborn twins were pretty low – I knew it would be chaotic and I knew we wouldn’t be able to attempt to just carry on as normal. So this helped me, even before they arrived, to embrace the chaos and not worry about it. We get by on the minimum of housework, and just work on getting everyone fed, toileted, and to the right place at the right time each day. We have managed the odd day trip out together as a family, but only with extra help from extended family (see the above section!) and I certainly wouldn’t attempt that more than once every couple of weeks or so because even then it’s pretty full on. I know it won’t be forever, and lots of time around the house and just doing plenty of local walks has really helped me feel like I’m enjoying the babies and this time with them so young.

A smart phone:

I’m typing on this right now, in the notes section, and will squeeze in a few minutes on the laptop at some point to publish the blog post. I use it to watch TV in the middle of the night to keep me awake whilst tandem feeding. I use it to do bits of online shopping. I use it to chat with other people via social media, particularly other mums with twins who know exactly what life is like at the moment, at any hour of the day or night (there’s always someone up!) – it’s a virtual “village” of solidarity. I use it to keep up to date with the news and to check the weather (do I need to take my umbrella with us everywhere today?) I use it to keep an eye on how my business is ticking over whilst I’m on maternity leave. One of my favourite features is the camera, so I can quickly snap all sorts of moments I want to remember as they occur, and the pictures automatically appear on our cloud back up so I can do something with them at a later date. All these uses are found in one handy device that fits in my pocket. I didn’t have one when the boys were babies, and used to wonder if it was worth it. My conclusion now is that it definitely is. So I’m very grateful that we are blessed with the means to be able to afford one.All these things have helped us so much over the past three months, and I’m sure they will continue to do so as we head on out into the next three and beyond….

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