Having twins can be doubly exciting and exhilarating but exhausting too. To make your parenting journey more fulfilling, here is what works and doesn’t when there are two little people at home!
By Divya Sreedharan
“I don’t want flowers Amma, I want butterflies on my tee shirt!"
“Amma, I don’t want a skirt, I want to wear my pink dress again!”
Two little voices are raised in unison. Two little girls are making their choices heard, loud and clear.
For their mother, Radhika Vishwanathan, this is a daily ritual. This is because her nearly-four-old twin girls are very specific in their choices — be it food, clothes, or even, play!
“Okay, let’s choose a tee with butterflies for you,” she tells Sarayu.
“And shall we see if the pink dress is clean enough for you to wear,” she suggests to Leela.
“If she likes a particular outfit, Leela is quite capable of wearing the same thing for days!” says the mother ruefully.
For this young mother and her husband, Avinash Krishnamurthy, it is quite a task dealing with each twin’s particular likes, dislikes and choices, every day. Often, much gentle persuasion and negotiation is involved.
But then, such incidents are quite familiar to all parents of twins. For, if being a parent is full of highs and lows, having twins to look after, makes things that much more challenging. So, how can you make this parenting journey more fulfilling for you and your twins?
Here is advice and practical tips from veteran twin parents and our in-house parenting expert:
Be prepared: Getting help is vital. And, this must start even before your twins are born. “Start the preparations and set up a support system from the moment you know you are expecting twins,” advises Arundhati Swamy, Counsellor and Head, Parent Engagement Programmes, ParentCircle. “As an expectant parent, acknowledge to yourself that you are afraid of the changes in store. Accept that it is okay for you to feel this way. Yes, every expectant parent will feel this anticipatory stress. Do a reality check, address all your worries before your babies arrive. It is a good idea to talk to other parents of twins so you know what to expect,” she adds.
Self-care is essential: After the babies are born, the first few months will be physically, emotionally and mentally draining. Sleep is going to be a problem. “Ensure that you take time out for yourself,” says former Olympian and swimming champion, Nisha Millet Chatterjee who is mother to four-and-half-year-old twin girls, Ariana and Adele. “Get help. Have a nanny, and if you have family support, make use of it,” stresses Nisha. Arundhati concurs. Self-care is extremely important, she observes. “Even a few moments by yourself or some me-time will help you re-energise physically, mentally and emotionally,” says Arundhati.
Nursing the twins: As a new mother, nurse your twins only as long as you are able. Do not feel pressured to continue nursing them. Rather, switch to bottle-feeding when appropriate. “My twins were given formula when they were babies. Now, they are slim but very active children. And yes, both love swimming and other sports!” smiles Nisha.
Support each other: It is difficult and practically impossible to manage the twins on your own. Nisha and her husband Bikranjit are equally involved in raising their twins. The same goes for Radhika and Avinash. The first two years are often the most demanding, says Nisha.”That is when small things get to you. When your babies are small, both parents are caught up in an exhausting cycle of looking after them — feeding, changing, cleaning them, rocking them to sleep, and so on. It can feel never-ending at times,” points out Nisha.
Flexible working hours: If circumstances allow you to take a break from work, make full use of that. But if you have to go back to work, if possible, opt for flexible working hours, says Nisha. She and her husband run a swimming academy together so they work around their childrens’ schedule. Similarly, Radhika quit her full-time job and is now an independent consultant in the social development sector, while her husband continues to work full-time.
Reach out to other parents: There are several twin-parent communities out there. Make sure you stay in touch, exchange and compare notes. Such communities are full of practical tips and advice for twin parents — is it worth the expense to buy twin strollers, cots or car seats, how can you get the twins into a good sleep routine, how to potty-train then, how to prepare them for play school and beyond, so on!
Twin tantrums: Twin tantrums can be difficult, to say the least. Nisha says setting limits is important. “My twins know there are things they cannot get away with”. Radhika says with her twins, negotiation often works. “When it comes to clothes, allow them to wear what they want. Sometimes, both will want to wear the same thing. Then, be practical. I know Sarayu likes polka dots, so I will offer it to her first else Leela might say she wants to wear it too,” explains Radhika. According to Arundhati, tantrums can feel overwhelming at times. "Observe and learn what are the triggers for each twin. Also, take tips from other parents too. Telling yourself that this too shall pass, is a good mantra,” she adds.
Different but alike: “Your twins are two individuals. They are distinctly different personalities. Never forget that,” stresses Arundhati. Nisha agrees. She observes: “My twins are super-close. But Adele is a tough girl, a tomboy. Ariana is quieter and likes mothering things. They differ in their food habits too.” Radhika too says her twins are very conscious of their identities. “Leela likes to draw and Sarayu likes to colour. Also, Sarayu is very motherly, unlike Leela,”’ she says.
School-wise: When your twins are old enough for school, put them in the same class, advises Nisha. “Else, there will be too much for you to handle. You will have two sets of teachers to meet, two sets of homework to supervise and two sets of birthday parties (including two sets of friends to invite) to organise,” she points out.
Enjoy your twins: Don’t be so caught up with looking after your twins, that you forget to enjoy being with them. Have fun with your children, indulge in silly play and laugh out loud at their antics. As Nisha observes: “We are now more relaxed as parents, because the twins are changing. Now, they eat better, sleep better, they want to do things on their own. One wants to go with mama, the other wants to be with papa. We are really loving this stage. It is a good phase, right now”. Radhika agrees: “Our twins are forging their own identities. It is beautiful to watch,” she smiles.
As a parent of twins, you get to participate in a unique journey with your children. Yes, it can be incredibly challenging at times, but intensely rewarding too. For, you get to watch your twins as they grow into two alike but utterly different, little people. What’s more, you get to participate in that process. Happy parenting!
Help, my twins are refusing to eat!
ParentCircle Expert and Paediatric Dietician Anuja Agarwala comes to the rescue.
Q: What can parents do if each twin has different eating habits, likes and dislikes?
A: Raising twins is stressful and challenging for parents. And if they have different food habits, likes and dislikes, it can be a problem. After all, parents cannot spend the whole day just feeding or trying to make the children eat! Evolve or adapt to the situation. Identify or make a list of some foods that they both like, so that both twins eat healthy foods. But remember, you need to make a list of nutritious foods. Also, I believe you must talk to your children about how important it is to eat nutritious foods; tell them they need to grow big and strong; tell them about the goodness of foods, so on. At the same time, parents need to think of tricks to make the twins eat. If some foods are essential but your twins refuse to eat them, then disguise those foods! Think smart and offer it to your picky eaters in another form.
Q: Should parents offer twins a choice of foods, to get them to eat?
A: Too much choice is not a great idea. Be practical, don't make promises you cannot keep (or foods that you don't have the energy to make!). Choice is good but be sensible. The foundation should be wholesome and healthful. Of course, today, kids want to eat different foods so with older children, there is no harm in eating out once a week or once a fortnight. With twins who have different likes/dislikes, tell them that once a week, you will make or eat what one twin likes. And that the next week, the other twin gets a chance to choose what she wants to eat. This is a good way to help them learn to share and accept each other's choices. And respect each other, too.
Q: What if one twin is healthy, while the other tends to fall sick? Please advise.
A: Parents should remember that it is not their fault when this happens. It could be linked to lower birth weight for that twin because of inadequate nutrition of the mother or other adverse events during pregnancy. Focus on providing high-calorie and nutritionally-dense food. Mothers can keep a track of growth velocity by plotting a chart for both children. Look at the height-weight-age ratio, If the child is height-deficit for the age he is at, then ensure there is more protein in the food (chicken, pulses, nuts, so on). You could add powdered nuts or dry fruits to his diet. For proper utilisation of proteins, provide adequate amounts of good quality fats and carbohydrates in the diet. You could add an extra dollop of ghee or butter or cream too. You could give supplements too but ensure this does not become the only source of nutrition. Natural foods are the best.
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