Parenting twins

Expectant parents and grandparents of twins have been doubling up their questions about what they need to know when it comes to parenting two new babies at once. Let me see if I can give birth to a few tips on having twins.

While some will say sleep may be less with twins and start-up costs higher - including the possible need for extra living space or a larger car, or a part-time helper in the home - parenting twins has many rewards!

Try to sleep when the babies do, if at all possible, and feed both when one wakes up to try to coordinate their feeding schedules and minimize your own sleep disruptions. You can and should still breastfeed the babies even if you have more than one- some moms have even learned to breastfeed both babies simultaneously. A lactation consultant can help, as can the twin's doctor or nurses, and breast milk should be pumped if at all possible so that dad and other caregivers can help with the feedings.

Speaking of other caregivers, make sure you have a support system in place before the babies are born, and be prepared to call upon that system. You can also look for a support group in your area that can help give you advice and ideas to improve the quality of the experience. Also, remember to take time for yourself and your partner. This is more a necessity for peace of mind than a luxury.

While you may want to dress your twins identically at first, by 6 months individuality becomes quite important, so outfits should begin to differ to allow the individual identity of each child to emerge. Other ways to stress individuality are to give each child distinctly different names, and call each child by his or her name, rather than referring to them as "the twins". Keep their clothes in different drawers, give each child their own toys, have separate gifts and cakes for their birthday, and encourage them to cultivate different interests.

Hopefully tips like this will be twice as valuable when it comes to knowing a bit more of what to expect when you have the pleasure of welcoming twins into your family.

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9 FM and WCAX-TV Channel 3. Visit the First with Kids archives at www.vermontchildrens.org.

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