After being “womb-mates” for approximately 9 months and coming into the world together, multiples have forged a strong attachment to each other. Several studies have shown that multiple’s have the ability to comfort each other. In one study, researchers observed the interaction of twins in utero. They found the twins’ movements and behaviors to be in synchrony 94.7% of the time! Ultrasounds have also shown that womb mates touch each others’ faces and even suck on each other’s hands in utero. When multiples are born, and leave the safe confines of the womb, they are sometimes separated. This separation can be stressful because they are so used to each other’s presence. Keeping twins or multiples close to each other after birth can also help regulate their breathing and heart rhythm. (Robin 1996)
Development of the Parent-Infant Bond in Families with Multiples
While multiples develop a distinct bond with each other, they also develop a special bond with their caregivers. For primary caregivers of multiples, this bond can be more challenging to develop simply because of the time and work it takes to care for multiple babies. External factors, such as each baby’s health status, can also affect the development of the mother-baby or caregiver-baby bond. Oftentimes multiples will come home from the hospital at different times based on their health and feeding status. This can be challenging for parents because they have a baby (or babies) at home to care for and a baby (or babies) at the hospital to visit and care for as well. Thus, it makes perfect sense that parents would forge a bond with each baby at a different pace. (Robin 1996) Be patient, the bond will form, it just may take longer than you planned it to.
To cope with the overwhelming burden of caring for multiples, caregivers develop patterns or routines to curb the chaos. While we recognize that routines are important , this study showed that sleeping and feeding routines were carried out uniformly in 80% of the families by one year after birth, without consideration of the children's individual needs or patterns. (Robin 1996)
After delivery, allow other close family members or friends to spend one-on-one time with each child. This will not only allow them to create a special bond with each baby, but it will allow you to spend time with each baby individually as well. (LaMar 2004)
I know this is a common recommendation on our blog, but help is essential when caring for multiples. In one study, almost ¼ of mothers of twins refused help after their babies’ birth. (Robin 1996) Coping with different sleep, feeding and crying patterns in 2 or more infants can be overwhelming and exhaustion is common. We know sometimes it’s hard to ask for help, but keep in mind that levels of depression and fatigue are higher in caregivers of multiples. (Thorpe 1991) Developing a support network will be invaluable.
Recognizing and responding to each baby’s individual cues will help your babies feel safe and happy. Remember, babies get better at communicating their needs to caregivers when they get practice giving cues and having their caregivers respond appropriately. For more details about responding to infant cues, click here.