Twins, triplets or more – wow! It’s hard enough being the new parent of one baby. Imagine doubling, tripling or even quadrupling that. Here’s a look at some of the more daunting challenges of taking care of multiple babies.
Parents of multiples need help in the first few weeks at home with their new babies and in the months beyond. You may not be accustomed to asking for help; you may not even want to – but trust the majority of parents of multiples when they say, “You’ll need help.” Don’t know where to begin? Consider these options:
• You can often request unpaid help from church groups, Girl Scout troops, high school childcare programs or even quality babysitting classes. While you may not be able to leave your babies alone with younger helpers, they are wonderful to have on hand to hold the babies, help with feedings or play with them. You can also ask them to do other chores for you, including grocery shopping, doing the laundry, or even starting dinner while you spend time with your babies.
• When friends offer to help, don’t refuse them. They wouldn’t offer if they really didn’t want to. Enlist them for help in folding laundry, cooking meals in advance, or staying with the babies so you can head out for errands or some much-needed “alone time.” Even just inviting a friend over for an afternoon can be helpful, since this will mean an extra set of hands around for the babies and a confidante who can provide a listening ear and support.
• If you can afford it, consider hiring help. Local childcare agencies can provide an experienced caregiver for however long you need one during the day or even living in your home.
• Contact area support groups for parents of multiples with any day-to-day survival questions. No question is too basic for these groups! Contact your local La Leche League with questions and concerns about breastfeeding.
How Are We Going to Afford This?
Having twins, triplets or more brings plenty of joy to new parents. It also brings plenty of tension with regard to family finances.
Leslie Power, a Tewksbury, Mass. mother of triplets and three singletons, is the founding member of Triplets, Moms and More. “Having multiples represents a bad equation,” she says, explaining that often a mother expecting multiples ends up losing her job midway through pregnancy because she has to be on bed rest. She may then decide to remain at home to care for her multiple babies. “So now you’ve lost a career and added (more family members).”
Ironically, after a family loses half of their income, they then find that they need to buy specialized – and expensive – baby equipment. A sturdy, new, multiples stroller can run from $200 to $600, depending upon how many children you need to seat. You’ll need two or more cribs and two or more times the baby clothes, diapers and formula.
Less Expensive Options
“I had to breastfeed because I couldn’t afford the formula,” says Pam Pace, a mother of triplets and one singleton, who runs Keeping Pace With Multiple Miracles, a support organization based in Bridgewater, Mass. “I know it was best for the babies, but it was called survival for us. I nursed the triplets for eight months. I would nurse two at a time and then the third baby would get a pump bottle. It is doable, and we will assist anyone who wants to do that.” Other inexpensive alternatives to buying brand new baby items include:
• Used or hand-me-down clothes and equipment – These are a necessity that few families with multiples can afford to refuse. Many organizations supporting these families offer help in this area. Pace’s organization runs what she calls a “store” filled with used baby clothes and used, good-quality equipment offered free to families with multiples. While some may believe multiples receive plenty of promotional items from large retailers, it’s really organizations like Pace’s that offer the most free relief.
• A cloth diaper service – Disposable diapers are a major expense for families with multiples. If there’s a cloth diaper service in your area, it may be worth looking into. Services charge a flat fee for one child and a smaller fee for additional children; the services tend to be cheaper than purchasing disposable diapers for multiples and they handle the drop-off, pick-up and cleaning of the diapers.