Multiples with a Singleton

Having twins is difficult enough, but if you already have young children it can feel pretty daunting. On top of the usual worries about how on earth you are going to cope with having more than one baby at the same time there is the additional concern about how your singleton child is going to react to the new arrivals.

Here are a few tips from some of our members who have already gone through this. Thank you to Kate Meakin, Kelly Sehgal, Ola Knott, Yvonne Choat and Christine Madigan.

  1. Make your singleton children feel included not excluded.

Most children will feel pushed out by a new arrival however when that arrival is a group of babies those feelings can be intensified.  Simple things like referring to them by their names rather than as “the twins’ can avoid the singleton feeling left out of this label. Make sure friends and family know to do this too. Also not dressing the twins the same avoids the singleton seeing them as a package they are not part of.

One very difficult situation that occurs and is out of your control is when you are out and about in public. For some reason, multiples are perceived as public property and as a result your twins will attract people like flies to the honey pot. This can be difficult for your singleton and you will need to be their advocate. Feel free for example to state, “This is Sarah who is very helpful with her brothers”. People don’t mean to leave them out but twins simply attract a lot more attention and often they don’t even see the other child.

Involve them in as many things as possible. Kate for example gets her girls to introduce the twins to new people and Christine got her son to play the role of mummy’s best helper with nappy changing and getting them dressed. She also bravely let Thomas choose one of the names and says that if the name is not so great it could always be a middle name!!

Another great way for them to feel excited and positive when the twins arrive is for them to have presents and cards they have chosen/made to give to the babies. Kelly read “The House Inside Mummy’s Tummy” to her son who bought the babies a teddy each. Also his nursery helped him make the card allowing him to share the excitement with his friends.

  1. Make Time for your Singleton

Easier said than done with twin babies however everyone who contributed to this article emphasized how important this was. Ola has a lovely way of doing this. They have a jar at home full of post it notes with various activities from something as simple as ‘go to the park’ through to bigger trips like ‘go to the zoo’. When the opportunity to do something arises her daughter gets to pick out one of the cards and that is the activity that she gets to do without the twins. Kelly says that one on one time is extremely important and even if it’s just 20 minutes playing in the garden whilst the twins sleep it really helps.

  1. Feeding Time

Feeding twins is hard enough but trying to do so whilst looking after a young child is extremely challenging. Kelly and Kate recommend keeping a range of quiet, easy activities that they can do in the area where you feed the babies. Sticker books, reading books and iPads are particularly good. Kelly used to feed her babies one at a time and therefore was able to use her other arm to cuddle up to her son whilst they read a book or played on the iPad.

  1. Bath and Bed Time

Bath time can be one of the most challenging times. Kate describes a typical evening for her. “For the twins bath time is often their witching hour and they are kicking off wanting to cluster feed. The bigger kids need a bath, some attention, cuddles and stories. I have bouncers set up upstairs so there’s somewhere safe to put them while I’m bathing the kids etc. The rocking helps calm them (if only a little bit!!).

  1. Early Routine

In this situation routine is important and introducing it earlier than normal helps with trying to deal with multiple newborns, toddler demands and even school runs. Kate has also set up alarms on her phone for the babies’ feeds. “It’s so easy to get completely distracted running around after a toddler and if the twins are sleeping I could easily forget feed times.”

  1. Getting Around

When planning how on earth you are going to get anywhere with twin babies and older siblings some of whom may not be able to walk very far buggy choice is key. Kelly’s eldest was only 22 months when the twins were born so she still needed buggy transport for her son. She chose the out n about as it could grow with them all and when she was alone with all 3 the answer was to have one toddler and one baby in the buggy and the other baby in a carrier. As her son got older she could also add on a buggy board. Kate has been using the UppaBaby Vista, which works a treat, and she can actually sometimes fit 2 children on the buggy board. Yvonne chose the Mountain Buggy Duet and in the early days she even managed to have her toddler in a seat, one baby in the bassinet and the other baby clicked over the top of the bassinet in a car seat!!

  1. What Car?

Often a car is simply not able to accommodate 3 car seats along the back. Kelly to start with had to put her toddler seat in the front whilst she squeezed between the twins in the back. They soon got a bigger car! Whatever car you go with Kate recommends that you must get mirrors so you can see the rear facing babies. She found that the older sibling who sat in-between was often tempted to poke at their faces or even feed them any snacks she had!!

  1. The House – any room in there?

Never mind all fitting in the car often going from a family of 3 to 5 in one go requires a re-arrangement within the home. Whatever needs to happen it is recommended that the changes are made before the babies arrive rather than when it become absolutely necessary. If the older sibling is going to need to change rooms for example don’t wait until the babies are ready to move out of your room. This will make them feel pushed out. If they are moved to their new room before the babies arrive they will see it as a new adventure just for them rather than because the babies need their old bedroom.

  1. Be realistic regarding your time

There are only 24hrs in a day so don’t feel bad that you cannot get everything done that you used to. Kate highly recommends internet grocery shopping and given that you still want to give your child friendly healthy meals each day allow yourself to use a company like “Cook” who sell healthy home-cooked tasty meals specifically for children that you can keep in the freezer.

10.           Safety
Kelly recommends that you re-look at where you leave your twins when your toddler is around. Unlike when you had your first there is now a small person who runs round the house, like a bull in a china shop rarely aware of anything that might be in their way. Kelly only laid the twins on a mat when their sibling was napping or having supervised quiet time. She kept her Moses baskets to the side and out of the way so they couldn’t easily be climbed into. You may not have used a playpen the first time round but being able to place the babies in a place protected to some extent from your toddler might prove useful. Yvonne actually kept a large cot downstairs, which she placed her twins in when she needed to be able to put them down safely.

FINALLY – enjoy. Of course such a sudden large increase in the size of your family will be challenging however the bond between all your children is really special and a joy to see (well, most of the time!!)