We often get the question here at Twiniversity:
“How can I help my (daughter/son/friend) who just had twins?”
There is SO MUCH you can do to help! But a lot depends on the parents you will be helping. Every couple is different and while some will be overjoyed to accept your help, some couples might not be so eager. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer! Always offer specific ideas and see if the parents take you up on it. (Some parents might need a little more goading than others.) And now, Twiniversity’s top ways to help a new parent of twins!
1. Feed the family
Preparing meals is the #1 way to help! Everyone needs to eat and the food has to come from somewhere. Why not from you? There are many ways you can go about this.
- Buy groceries for the family and stock up their fridge with easy-to-prepare items
- Cook meals at your own home that are easy to freeze and pop in the oven (consider buying them a deep freezer if they don’t have much freezer space)
- Have meals delivered to their door from local restaurants
- Set up a free online tool to organize other friends/family to bring meals on a specific date (MealTrain and MealBaby are good sites to check out.) This is a great way for people out-of-state to contribute. You can offer details on local restaurants that deliver and include the family’s favorite foods. The friend can call in the order, pay by credit card and have it dropped right at their front door!
2. Clean their house
- Do the dishes
- Sterilize bottle/pump parts
- Do their laundry
- Tidy up common areas
- Empty the diaper pail
- Replenish diapers/wipes/butt cream… the list goes on!
Tidying up the house will help immensely and you usually don’t need the help of the parents for this. To make things easier, I bought a dry erase board and every day I would list chores that needed to be done so anyone who came over to help would know what to do. Make sure that if you come across important documents while cleaning that you put them in an obvious place where they won’t get lost.
Take their older kids out for a day of fun! Take them to a museum, a playroom, a park — wherever they can burn off some energy. If you have the space, have the kids over for a sleepover at your house. Even a couple hours just playing board games at home will give the older children the extra attention they really need at this time. And make sure that when you come to visit the babies that you greet the older children FIRST. This will make a world of difference!
If the family has a pet, take the time to give them some extra love too. Take the dog for a walk before you leave!
4. Help With Late-Night Feedings
Offer to spend the night and sub-in for one of the parents. Being there to help with feedings means that the parents can rotate out and get a few more hours of sleep… which is priceless to a new twin parent! (Note: If the mother is breastfeeding this might not be the best way to help, but it’s worth an ask.)
How to do this? Everyone goes to sleep but you are on baby-monitor duty. When one or both twins wakes up, go get daddy to help and let mommy sleep in. Once the babies are fed, put them back down and go back to sleep. For the next feeding, have mommy help.
Another way to do it (if you’re looking for “Rockstar Helper” status) is to let both mommy and daddy sleep the whole night while you are on baby duty alone. Whichever twin wakes up first, feed that one. Put the baby back down and wake up the other one to eat. Once the second baby is down, you get to sleep! 🙂
Another option is to hire a night nanny to help them out a few nights a week. The cost of this varies based on your location. If the cost is too much for you to handle alone and it’s OK with the parents, call up friends and family and ask that they donate cash instead of giving a baby gift. How to find a night nanny? Contact your local mothers of multiples club, OB/GYN office, or the local children’s hospital.
5. Listen to the Parents’ Needs
Some parents make it clear that they want offers of help. But the reality is that many parents are so exhausted from being in the hospital with twins that they don’t even know which way is up! Most new parents of twins don’t know what kind of help they need until they are in the thick of it. And some want help but they don’t ask for it because they are too overwhelmed, or too proud, or because they just can’t think straight and are living moment to moment!
Be forward with the parents and simply ask if they want your help. Let them know you will not be insulted or upset if they don’t want your help right away. Most likely they will love your offer of help, and at that point you should make specific offers based on what you are comfortable with. The key is to be generous with your offers of help but to listen closely to what the parents actually want. This time is about them and their babies and you want it to be a positive experience for them!
Remember that many mothers (and fathers!) suffer from some level of postpartum depression and/or postpartum anxiety. This is even more common for parents of multiples. Be open to talking with them about their stresses and worries. If you feel that they are in need of more help, urge them to talk to their doctor and seek counseling. Seeing a good therapist, especially one who specializes in postpartum issues, can literally be a lifesaver. Postpartum depression is a very serious issue and early detection is key! (For more info on postpartum depression, click here.)
Being a parent to newborn twins is the hardest thing I have ever gone through. I have never heard of a new twin parent who did not need a confidence boost now and then (or every 5 minutes!) Be generous with your encouragement to the parents, especially if these are their first children. We all need to hear the following statements on a regular basis: #1 – “You are really doing a great job.” and #2 – “It will get better!” So many times when I was drowning in exhaustion and self-doubt, just hearing that “it will get better” from another person (especially from a fellow twin parent!) gave me the boost I needed to get through the day.
When I became a parent, I liked when my loved ones gave me tips and tricks for newborn care. I was able to pick and choose from what they suggested as well as do my own research (books/internet) and listen to what my gut was telling me. But giving baby advice can be a delicate matter. I suggest you drop your tips here and there as a “this is what worked for me, so I thought I’d pass it on” kind of thing. But make sure not to force your opinions on the parents unless you think the children are really in danger. If you notice them brushing you off, don’t take it personally. They might just want to do it their way, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You have to remember that it is their turn — you had your turn and now they get to do it the way they want to do it.
And now that I have divulged the top ways you can help new parents of multiples, there is one more thing I should mention…
Some parents want to be alone with their newborn twins for a while after they come home — anywhere from a few days to a few months. If they ask you to keep your distance, please don’t be offended. They simply want to bond with their babies and start getting them on a schedule. Please respect their request for no visitors so they can do what they feel they need to do. There will be plenty of time in the coming weeks and months to cuddle with those little ones!
In the meantime, mail them a gift card to Target or Amazon, and send them the book “What To Do When You’re Having Two: The Twin Survival Guide From Pregnancy Through the First Year” to show your support. It couldn’t hurt. 🙂
* * *
Are you a new twin parent? Check out Natalie Diaz’s new book “What To Do When You’re Having Two: The Twin Survival Guide From Pregnancy Through the First Year”, available in stores now!
* * *