If you’re pregnant with twins or recently gave birth, chances are you’re bombarded with advice. From how to schedule your twins’ day, to whether to sleep train, even how to dress and feed your babies, opinions abound (and often conflict). No one knows what makes sense for you better than you, though. Every baby’s different. Every family has its own dynamic. And some words of “wisdom” might even do more harm than good. After surviving my twins’ first year with everyone relatively thriving, I realized pretty quickly when it made sense to ditch the advice. Here are 6 times it’s okay to say thanks, but no thanks.
1. When it makes life harder
My mantra as a working mom to infant twins and a toddler is “do whatever makes life easier”. The first year with twins is a lesson in survival, so anything that saves time, money, or sanity works for me. Take out 4 nights in a row because you’re too exhausted to cook? Sure. Dress the babies in footy pajamas 24/7 because it’s easy and practical? Yup. Get groceries delivered to avoid stressful trips out? Check.
Breastfeeding, too, seemed like it would help make things easier. No bottles to feed or formula to mix and warm. My twins were born at term without complications, and I’d successfully nursed their big sister for a year. I felt pretty good about at least trying. But after delivery, a well-meaning lactation consultant concerned about my milk supply advised me to pump after every feeding. That didn’t sound right to me, but I followed her advice without question. Not having yet mastered the juggling act of tandem feeding, I embarked on a cycle of feeding one baby, then another, then pumping, with maybe 30 minutes or so to rest until it all had to be done again. I was a miserable, exhausted, anxiety-ridden mess. When my milk came in I dealt with painful oversupply, so I stopped pumping after a few days and just fed my babies as it made sense to me. My supply eventually adjusted, but following my instincts from the beginning would have saved me the pain, worry, and unnecessary complications.
2. When it’s at the expense of something important to you (like privacy or comfort)
You’ll hear this one a lot: say yes to all help! Cousin Suzy wants to come over and empty the dishwasher–yes! Your best friend wants to bring dinner–yes! Coworker Connie wants to hold a baby…but not if he’s crying or wet. A neighbor wants a selfie with the twins but doesn’t want to change a diaper. Your college friend wants to look at baby clothes and read you her Facebook updates.
Wait, what? Not all “help” will actually help. It’s likely you’ll get lots of offers, and most will be genuine and wonderful. But few people truly understand the intense, nonstop caretaking involved in having infant twins. Some don’t realize that you’re embarrassed by your godforsaken mess of a house and don’t want company because that precious time between naps will now have to be spent clearing off the couch, making coffee, and finding a presentable top. If you sense that the help will hinder or make things weird for you, then it’s ok to decline. Accepting help doesn’t obligate you to welcome a parade of visitors into your home at the expense of your own comfort and rest. I loved the help of cleaning or cooking, but was horrified by the thought of someone folding my laundry (and encountering my postpartum panties).
If help doesn’t mean change diapers, prepare food, or soothe a crying baby, then it may even make things harder for you (see #1). When a few weeks postpartum I found myself frantically scrubbing the bathroom and shoving laundry in closets while searching for a non-milk-stained shirt all to prepare for someone to come over to “help,” I learned to say no thanks, we’re good.
3. When it’s dated
When the blue-haired lady in the grocery store peers into your double stroller and suggests you rub whiskey on your fussy babies’ gums, it’s easy to smile and run. But when that friendly fellow mom you always liked suggests you may be “spoiling” your baby who is only content when bundled up in a carrier, you might feel a niggling sense of self-doubt. One of my boys was born weighing just over 4 and ½ pounds. He was skinny and fussy, and my husband and I joked that he would have stayed in my uterus for a solid month longer if it weren’t for his much pudgier brother, who came out first. This little man wanted nothing more than to burrow into my body and snuggle. So there he stayed safely strapped into my Ergo. For about 3 months. He was happy, and I was hands-free. He’s now an independent, active 1-year old and a great sleeper. Spoiled be damned.
4. When you just don’t care
Shower, dress, and put makeup on every day! You’re worth it! Some women just don’t feel human until they’re showered, dressed, and coifed. That swipe of mascara or blush can make a world of difference. I am not that woman. I have 3 children under 3 and work full time. Give me a nap over a shower any day. Dry shampoo and ponytail again? Fine. Ripped t-shirt and yoga pants? Yes. Comfort and convenience are my top priorities these days. Aside from being reasonably presentable for public appearances, I don’t care about looking good right now. I feel like I’ve earned my sloppy outfit and messy hair. Maybe for you, it’s letting the laundry stay unfolded or leaving the dishes to soak for the third night in a row. Maybe your mom thinks it’s appalling you’ve let chores slide in favor of lying in bed cuddling your babies. You don’t have to do it just because someone else says it’s important. If it’s not important to you, let it go.
5. When the logistics don’t work for your family
You’ll likely spend a lot of time obsessing about your twins’ sleep in the first year. Keep the babies in your room! Move the babies to their own room! I spent more time researching baby sleep habits than I did my graduate school thesis. But because our house is a cape cod with the kids’ rooms upstairs and our master on the lower level, sleeping arrangements boiled down to what made sense logistically. I’d wanted to get the boys into their own room by 3 months before I returned to work. But they weren’t yet sleeping through the night so moving them upstairs meant trudging up and down several times a night and risking waking my daughter on the way. Since that would have made life harder (see #1), I let go of my rigid timeline and kept the boys in our room in easy reach until they were solidly sleeping through the night, after which they transitioned no problem. Even the best advice may just not suit the logistics of your particular situation.
6. When it hurts
Twin pregnancy is one of the most physically demanding and perhaps painful experiences you will endure. Pelvic pressure, back strain, joint issues–chances are you experienced them all. Then you give birth and encounter a whole host of new hurts: incisions, tears, episiotomy recovery. So when that article in your favorite magazine on getting your pre-pregnancy body back suggests a squats routine that makes you wince just thinking about it, please chuck that thing right out the window. There’s plenty of time to get back on the fitness wagon when you feel up to it, and you’ll be getting impromptu workouts in no time once your twins are mobile. If you start exercising and it feels good, by all means continue. If you and your partner could barely wait until that 6-week mark to have sex, do it big. But if it hurts, your body might just not be ready. You’ve been through a lot, and you deserve to be free of pain.
Sometimes, though, the advice you resist is worth embracing. I was a little reluctant to accept the offer of a meal train from coworkers after the twins were born. Worried about my professional colleagues seeing me all sloppy postpartum, I almost said no. Those meals were such a welcome help during the dark and foggy newborn days. I’m glad I listened to my instincts (and my husband who never says no to a free meal). It was advice worth taking.
Johanna Schmitter works in publishing and has 3 children 3 and under. Daughter to a twin and mom to twin boys, she considers herself doubly lucky. She lives in happy exhaustion with her family in Maryland.