Hello Again Friend!
This is a very important blog post in my mind for any new parent. But I think it's extra challenging for twin parents. I call it the newborn twin timewarp. It's something I wish someone could have tried to explain to me BEFORE I had the twins and then reassured me about it once they were born and we were in the thick of it. And I read books and articles and I feel like even they didn't touch on this...
So let's dive right in. What do I mean by timewarp? Well, when babies are born they have no sense of time - of night vs. day. They eat, sleep and poop/pee whenever they want or need to. That sounds so simple and logical but I just didn't realize it. And so you may be up ALL night feeding. They don't know it's night. They are just hungry. The timewarp part comes in because YOU know night from day and so does your body. Suddenly you're whole sense of time is thrown out of whack. Big time. And the lack of sleep and lack of familiar routine/sleep pattern does things to you. I remember one (I'm not sure if it was day or night) when I was awake with the girls thinking my life is over. It's never going to be okay again. I felt despondent. I loved my girls so much but it was overwhelming. I just needed to know in that moment that yes, life would resume and become normal - albeit a new normal - but normal again. But you see - you don't know that when you're in the thick of it.
It wasn't post-partum depression. It was the lack of routine and familiarity that I had prior to the birth. In just a few more months they were sleeping through the night in their own cribs and while I still had to get up a few times in the night it was quicker and less often - usually once a night per baby. Suddenly mornings were mornings again and there was a "bed time." Oh how you take those things for granted before you have those babies!
When we brought the girls home from the hospital we were so excited! Then that first night home how they did cry!! My husband took half-day paternity leave that week but it was the last two weeks of the school year and he had to get up for work in the mornings. My mom was there but I was trying to breastfeed. So I tried to do it all. I'd feed a baby and then when they'd drift off I'd feed the next. It was insane. And I cried - a lot. I cried because they were so beautiful and I loved them soooooo much. I cried because my boobs hurt. I cried because I was tired. Don't underestimate all those hormonal changes in your body!
Eventually we all hit rock bottom. I had to formula feed (see my breastfeeding journey here) and then my husband was off for the summer (he's a teacher) and we did 6 hour shifts. I remember putting them to sleep in the living room and I'd hang out and doze and feed them as needed for 6 hours while my husband slept a full 6 hours. Then I'd wake him up and we'd switch. Their crib was in our bedroom at the time and we decided it was best to keep them in the living room (of course we didn't usually prop them on pillows - they were flat with no suffocating items nearby) so as not to disturb the one getting the sleep. It worked so well to get us over that hump.
By the time summer ended and he was ready to go back to school they were sleeping through the night pretty consistently. We began to do outings and life started to have a rhythm again.
I've read many conflicting things over the years about what's "right" to do with baby and what's "wrong." And here's my take - especially concerning twins. Do what you have to to get through. If you have to formula feed or stretch feedings or if you breastfeed on demand or if you take shifts or whatever it is - do what works. You are NOT going to screw your babies up. If they are healthy and thriving and you're able to manage then you are doing good enough. No-one is even going to remember 1-2-3 years down the road.
In the daytime I did stretch feedings a bit and tried to do more tummy time and engage with them so they would sleep through the night more. They do need some help getting on a routine. But that wasn't until probably a month and a half in. It was pure survival before that. Newborns sleep a lot and it seems they are more awake in the night because you're not used to being awake all night! And of course in the day I wanted to shower and clean up and feel like things were normal but I was exhausted. We had my mom with us for the first two weeks and I wanted to soak that visit in and we had a steady stream of visitors. We had meals provided for the first 20 days! It was amazing. But we lived overseas in a teaching community and once summer hit everyone left for home visits or to travel. We were suddenly very much alone with two brand new babies. Survival I tell you - survival.
But you CAN do it. And you WILL do it and it WILL get easier to manage and you will find your new routine and rhythm and day will be day and night will be night once again. You will be okay.
Eventually they settled into a routine where they would go to sleep around 6-7pm and then wake around 11-12 and then sleep until around 6 am. Then they'd be up until 9 am and go down for a nap in their cribs. I'd then do a quick clean up and shower. They were usually up by 9:45-10. Then we'd leave for a mom's group or outing. Then we'd be home by noon and they'd be down for an afternoon nap from like 1-3 or 3:30. That was the long nap. I'd do a few things and take a nap myself. Then they'd hit their witching hour at about 4:30-5 where my husband and I would end up wearing them in our Ergo carriers and pacing the flat or taking walks. They'd just cry and fuss for no real reason every evening at that time. Woodwards gripe water and lavender oil helped a lot with that (see my resources section and my oils section). Then it was a feeding and diffuse lavender and off to sleep. Then my husband and I could catch up for a bit before we headed off to bed.
One more word of advice for you. Have grace for your spouse. In your sleep deprived states you'll say and do things you wouldn't normally do. If you start to fight - drop it. Take a walk. I'm serious. What happens in the newborn twin timewarp stays in the newborn twin timewarp.
* note - if you find yourself wanting to harm yourself or your babies or you find yourself withdrawing and not able to bond please seek help immediately. This is probably post-partum depression. There is no shame in this game. Seek help from your doctor and your family and friends. Please.
Hi! I'm a mom of 5 year-old fraternal twin girls. While I'm by no means an expert - I do have stories to tell and ideas to share.