“I’ve looked after twins before,” I said to the nice young mother and her husband on my first interview. “They were just older than yours.”
“Oh!” she said. “So you have some experience with it?”
“Oh yeah,” I said, never knowing exactly what looking after twin newborns was going to mean for me. “I’ll be fine. It’s all about time management!”
Famous, stupid last words from a nanny who really had no idea how much work goes into newborn twins! SaraBeth over at Multiple Momstrosity was the mother I interviewed with a year ago, and her girl/boy twins, Diva and Footballer, are now a year old. When I met them, they were tiny little 3-week-olds who slept angelically in old-fashioned cradles and were never awake longer to eat, poop and maybe cry a little. I thought, erroneously, that this would be fairly easy. I mean, they were staggered in their schedules – I’d only have to look after one at a time. And anyway, it’s nice to cuddle newborns. In my prior experience, they simply slept in my arms while I watched TV or read.
Diva is aptly named because, well, she’s got a diva-like personality and she has a voice that could rival most opera stars. Combine that with early colic and I joked to SaraBeth that I worried the neighbours were going to think I was hurting the baby. She screamed non-stop – on your shoulder, over your knee, lying on my stomach face-to-face with me, in her cradle, on the couch tummy-down (though this sometimes helped) and in every other position imaginable. We also learned that Diva doesn’t always LIKE to be held – in fact, she is a kid who really needs her space. But couple that with Diva also being a kid that needs a lot of stimulation, even at the tender age of a month old, and I had my hands full. When she slept, I would smile wearily that I only had Footballer to deal with.
He was a tiny, quiet little baby with one vice – a ferocious need for food. The kid ate more breastmilk and formula combined than any three newborns at once that I’d ever looked after. And when he was hungry, he would scream. So hard he’d lose all his breath and turn bright purple, actually. We would joke that he had an “old man wheeze” during this time, and you could actually picture Footballer 80 years later, his face bright purple, waving a stick at kids on his lawn. It wasn’t the relaxing time I thought it was going to be. I was busy.
It really helps when parents schedule twins, but some don’t, and that’s okay, too. Just be aware that someone is always going to have to wait – and that someone is never going to be happy about it. Because of Diva’s siren screaming, it was mostly Footballer that had to wait, and he wasn’t always happy to have to play second fiddle to his loud big sister. Sometimes, I would make Diva wait just because she had tricked us into thinking that everything was an immediate emergency, and oh, I don’t think my ears have recovered since from her unique and unheard-of notes in the scale!
Now, Diva is a calmer kid. I don’t run around sweating, trying to satisfy both children at once. Instead, now I’m making sure they don’t kill each other in what we like to term “Baby Cage Matches” or get into something dangerous. Footballer is called that because he has a build like a linebacker. He’s got broad shoulders and heavily muscled legs and arms for a baby – and he’s fast, and strong. In fact, he doesn’t know how strong he is – and he derives great pleasure from smacking his tall, thin, yet very tiny sister with anything he can get his hands on.
When you’re looking after twins, the biggest tip I can give is to play to their personalities. Footballer has always been a calm, jovial little boy. He loves to cuddle and he is the first to greet me and give me a big smile at the door. I always make sure to pick him up, give him kisses and cuddles, and pay him some attention even if his sister is attached to my hip. Diva is less demonstrative, but she shows her need for attention in other ways. She is the only one of the twins who is really showing any separation anxiety, and that culminates in wanting to be in my arms 24/7 for about an hour after her parents leave. I have developed the enviable skill of being able to carry two ~25-lb babies at once, which has helped me a lot when both kids need cuddles and attention.
Staggering feeding, changing and bedtime also helps me out as a babysitter. When you’re only focusing on one child at a time while the other plays on the floor near you, it makes your job a lot easier. Diva and Footballer both hate to be changed, so they’ll twist and struggle and try to get away. When I’m trying to deal with both at the same time, it can be hell on earth. I prefer to settle one child with a toy while I deal with the other. It keeps my stress level down and cuts down on the tears, as well. Now that both twins can hold their bottles by themselves, feeding time is much easier, but if both were hungry at the same time when they were tiny, I would prop one bottle for a few minutes while I fed the other twin, or I would plop both kids in two different bouncy chairs and hold one bottle in each hand. Luckily, I never had to do that often – and if you do prop a bottle, never take your eyes off the child who is drinking from it. It is a choking hazard and should never be done unless you’re in dire emergency (like looking after a screaming Diva who won’t lie still in your arms!).
Having a routine has saved my life when looking after twins. SaraBeth is a planner – and she and her husband have always made it very easy for me to look after the kids without a problem. There is always a changing station set up on one of the couches so that I don’t have to drag two kids upstairs for a poopy diaper, the bottles are set out with the formula and boiled water on the kitchen counter, and the pajamas and other items for bedtime are always in plain view. It really helps when you have parents who understand exactly how hard it can be to look after two wiggly babies!
I know better about looking after twins, now, but it’s only made me want to do it more. Diva and Footballer are two of my favourite babysitting charges. It’s never a dull moment with them!