Twin Talk: Surviving the Early Years

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I have identical twins who are 6. They are best friends, they are smart and silly, and they make me laugh every day. They also fight over the most ridiculous things and drive me crazy on a regular basis.

While they are still a lot of work, these days feel like we are in a sweet spot. They are more independent, they can entertain themselves, and we have a lot of very interesting conversations. They may not always follow directions, and they make a LOT of messes, but I no longer worry about them running straight into ongoing traffic or shoving macaroni up their noses.

The infant and toddler years – now THOSE were hard. Especially once they were mobile! So if you have young twins, know someone who does, or have them on the way, here are some tips for surviving the early years:

Get on a schedule and stick to it. I mean, we were practically militant about naps and bedtimes for YEARS. We did not mess around when it came to sleep. Period.

If nursing doesn’t work, give yourself some grace. I didn’t even make enough milk to feed one baby, let alone two. The NICU sent us home with instructions to follow each nursing session with a bottle of high-calorie formula. It was just too much to try and feed each twin two different ways, followed by pumping. The best thing my lovely lactation consultant ever did for me (and she did a LOT) was gently tell me it was okay to stop.

For the infant days, we used a formula pitcher and made a big batch at a time, then divided it up into the bottles for the day. Having the bottles prepared somehow helped me feel calmer, even though I probably could’ve made a bottle in less time than it took to warm up the pre-made ones. It made me feel in control, and when twins join your world, you desperately need whatever control you can get.

Color code your kids. As soon as we learned our twins were identical, I was so afraid I wouldn’t be able to tell my babies apart, I had little anklets made with their names on them. I never used them once. My boys were preemies, so they had designated NICU beds and hospital bands. They also had a significant size difference, so that made it easy to tell them apart. As they got bigger, my husband and I still never had trouble, but color coding their STUFF was so helpful. I used color-coded labels or stickers on bottles, saline nose sprays, sippy cups, snack cups, and shoes. I have one son who has a closet full of blue shirts, while the other has tons of orange, plus some green and red (blue shirts are plentiful; other colors aren’t as easy to find). For a long time, there were people who could only tell my boys apart if they were in their “signature” colors. It was tremendously helpful in preschool.

Get them different winter coats. This took me a couple years to figure out. When an identical twin goes zooming by you in his coat, even mom and dad can’t tell which one he is – unless he’s in his own color. My boys have had different colored coats for four years now. It’s one of the best hacks I’ve figured out. Same for brightly colored sun hats – easy to tell who’s who from a distance. These hats are my favorites!

Keep them in cribs as long as you possibly can. Trust me on this. We made it to just before their 4th birthday, when Twin B decided to reenact Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall. Previously, they would chat with each other from their own beds and fall asleep pretty quickly. Once they could actually get to one another, it all changed. They’d have bedtime parties for hours. We ultimately moved them to separate rooms because the party animals were wearing us out every single night.

When going anywhere, assume you will have several unplanned stops from well-meaning people wanting to talk about twins. Everyone knows someone with twins, wishes they had twins, or wants to know if twins run in your family. They will have no shame asking if the babies are “natural,” and they want to know who was born first. Many will comment on how full your hands are. Some will say very weird things. One woman argued with me about which of MY kids was born first.

Embrace the minivan. We got ours after someone parked too close to us, and I couldn’t get the door open wide enough to get the car seat in. My husband was there, so I could stay with the babies while he moved the car, but I don’t know what I would’ve done if I’d been alone. Those sliding doors are a game changer when you’ve got two infant seats! Hesitant about the van? These mamas might convince you!

This baby gate was awesome. We actually got two of them and created a large area where they could safely play. I could dash to the bathroom without worrying someone was going to get hurt. When things got really TWINtense (see what I did there?), I could take a breather while they happily played in their safe baby zone. I am short, so the door was a great perk for me; I can’t just step over a gate without hurting myself. When they no longer used this, we still took some of the panels with us to block off areas on vacation.

Remember that it’s going to get easier. That’s hard to keep in mind when you have two 2-year-olds running in opposite directions, both headed for danger. But it will get better, and when they are happily playing together by themselves, it’s pretty amazing. I love the special bond my boys share, and I have never been more thankful for the twin bond than right now. Social distancing is a whole lot easier when your best friend lives with you.

Do you have tips that made the early years easier with twins?

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