Parents of multiples face challenges that go beyond just an increased workload. It’s easy for families to become isolated and overloaded with the constantflow of tasks needed to look after more than one baby at a time. This year’s multiple birth awareness week focuses on the importance of the support network surrounding people who have welcomed multiple births. Here are just a very few of the challenges parents of multiple children face, and how you can help lighten the load.
Preparing for a new baby is an expensive time, and at each stage new items are needed. It makes sense that parents of multiples feel even more financial strain. Aside from needing enough items at each stage for each baby – all at once and without hand-me-downs from one to the other, many families need specialised items like prams and even cars to accommodate their new arrivals.
Many parents experience guilt in the course of raising children, but parents of multiples can feel added pressure in this area. One baby might be more demanding or put on weight quicker, parents might not feel they are splitting their time evenly (especially if they have other children), and sleeplessness can make parents cranky.
Post-natal depression can be a real concern and bonding doesn’t always happen instantly – particularly if the babies have had a lengthy stage in hospital before coming home. Outside the home, parents rarely have the time to see friends or maintain a social life, and their relationships can be put under added strain, all contributing to feelings of guilt.
It’s easy for parents of multiples to feel isolated, as simply leaving the house can become an exhausting ordeal. With the added pressure, it’s easy for parents to shut off. However, feelings of isolation and loneliness can also make daily life hard to bear, and the loss of freedom that most new parents experience is even greater with the added care that multiples require.
Life with multiples very rarely has room for much downtime. Parents can struggle with the extra feeds, sleep routines, and nappy changes that they require, often on reduced sleep. Problems with feeding, sleeping or colic can make everyday life overwhelming. Rest time and even time to take a shower become precious.
How to Help
Any help you offer needs to be tailored to the family and to your relationship with them – if you don’t have much experience with babies, chances are they won’t call on you to babysit, for example. However, there are many areas that parents can be supported.
Any good quality baby items that you aren’t using, a shoulder to cry on, an offer to go out for coffee (on you!) to chat, suggesting that they have a quick shower while you keep an eye on the kids for a moment – anything that lightens the load can have a huge effect on the morale and stamina of stressed-out parents. Above all, asking if there is anything they need or need help with is a good strategy to make sure your support goes where it is needed most.
Raising multiples is a wonderful, rewarding task, but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily an easy one. A strong network of supporters can make all the difference to parents who are finding it tough.