This has got to be one of the things that parents of twins or triplets dread, the stuff nightmares are made of ! Its only fair to say that the first few months in particular of your twins or triplets life are going to be stressful for you. Babies cry, it is perfectly normal for them to cry. There may not always be a reason for the crying ‘my baby cries every evening’ or ‘my baby cries same time every night’ This is frustrating because as parents we want to comfort our babies, making sure they’re content all the time. But when this crying is multiplied twice or three times, its enough to make you cry too. My triplets were my first babies, everything was going to be perfect, I would be the perfect mother and they would coo and smile and life would be idyllic.
There was a point during their first 6 months that I just wished they hadn’t been born… I was shattered, getting very little sleep and I thought I simply could not carry on. However, I did, my triplets thrived, eventually sleeping more and crying less. I survived, and you will too.
The crying and your lack of sleep is not a permanent state of affairs, frustrating, tiring, but I am going to show you how to cope with it, by explaining the processes of your babies crying, why it is normal, the reasons your babies will cry, and how you will manage it. I will also explain what to do when the
crying becomes too much and also what NOT to do when the crying becomes too much too! I hope that when my post is concluded, you will have ‘tools’ in your arsenal that will give you the strength to cope with two or three crying babies, until the time things settle down, that life will become a little less fraught, so you can dry your tears, this is the beginning of a the next chapter !
So you are blessed with twins or triplets. They have all arrived safely and are perfect. The utter joy that your babies have arrived safely after possibly a few months of anxiety about their birth, you might even have been in hospital for the last few weeks, on permanent bedrest so the arrival is something you have very much been looked forward to. ‘Will they be okay?’ ‘Are they going to be premature?’ ‘Can I cope with the labour?’ They’re here and the relief is tremendous! Maybe they need a few days in NICU or they’re quite premature like mine were, so spend several weeks in hospital, this brings a different kind of anxiety and all you want is to get them home. However once the euphoria has worn off and you are home, with two or three babies that need your constant care, its daunting journey made worse by the fact you are becoming more and more tired as the days go on, with the night feeds. This is exacerbated by the sound of multiple babies crying.
Researchers have estimated that babies spend approximately 1-3 hours a day crying, so that x2 or x3 is an awful amount of wailing !
Crying is all part of being a normal baby, your babies are communicating. They can’t talk yet so this is the way they tell you there is something wrong. This is a much better way of interpreting their crying, much less frustration for you, you just need to interpret what they want! Twins or triplets just make the whole situation much more complicated, they will each have their own needs, and style of expressing it. Try to respond to them as individuals. I found this tough, if one had a dirty diaper, they all got checked !
Crying is NORMAL
Crying is a part of life when you have babies, but I must admit the noise of triplets crying gets so frustrating especially at night. It is the sheer number of crying babies that is the problem though, because they’re probably not crying anymore than any other baby. One may be crying at one moment, another at the next so to you as a parent, have a constant crying baby! This is exhausting and can be distressing for you too. As a parent you want to do something practical to soothe them, you feel you should be able to cope with it.
When you multiply the hours of crying for twins, triplets or more, that’s an awful lot of howling in one house ! It can be very difficult for parents of new born twins and multiples to find any joy in their babies when there is a seemingly never-ending stream of crying. But it is normal, especially in the first three months. Gradually. it will become easier for you to work out what each of them is trying to tell you. but in the meantime. here are some ideas that might help.
Why Do Babies Cry?
There are the usual reasons for babies to cry and as a first off, you would generally work your way through them. However, in the first few weeks this doesnt seem too bad, you work through the likely causes, which I had detailed below, but there will come a point when the crying escalates. There is a period of time between 8-16 weeks when they may well cry for no reason at all.
Babies have very small stomachs so cannot hold a great deal, when their tummies get empty they start to grizzle, then cry. Before they were born this would be a feeling that they would not have, so now, they cry when they’re hungry which for a newborn can be anywhere between 2-3 hourly, day and night. Frequent feeds are likely if your babies are quite small as mine were even when they left NICU. They may only take 2-3oz at each feed, no where near enough to keep them going for any length of time. But this improves as they grow!
Colic starts to increase around the 8 week mark and this is a very good reason for your babies to be upset and cry. Colic is painful and as a baby they are not able to get the wind up themselves. So try using one of the anti colic bottles and see if this reduces the crying. Always wind your babies well, reducing the amount of air left in their tummies. Try the Infacol medication before each feed. These are all strategies to reduce the wind they may swallow and so reduce the amount of crying. You may not notice a difference straight away with the measure suggested here, but persevere and over a few days to a week you will notice some improvement and any improvement is worth it!
Too Hot or Too Cold
If your babies overheat, they will cry. They can’t take clothes off or wriggle blankets off themselves. They don’t have the built in understanding that this is what is required, so they will cry. Likewise if they’re too cold, they will let you know ! The best solution is to have a simple room thermometer in their bedroom. The bedroom should be around 18 degree Centigrade (65 degrees Fahrenheit). Always use cellular blankets in their cots, you can add more layers or take them away as necessary. Do NOT use a duvet, quilt or pillow, or any other loose bedding as this can suffocate. They have also been linked to sudden infant death syndrome. Babies should be at least a year old before they have duvets or pillow. If you are worried that your babies are too hot, take their temperature. You could use one under their armpit, or buy a more expensive one that takes the temperature in the ear. Do not put any thermometer in your babies mouths.
This sounds weird, how can this make babies cry? Any stimulation of the senses can be too much for babies, particularly if they’re very young, so even undressing can upset them. Bright lights can be just too much and they will howl ! There will come a point in the day too when they’ve just had enough and need to sleep, they will be grumpy and don’t want to be played with or rocked or talked to, they simply want to switch off. Babies tend to rub their eyes when theyre getting tired, this was my cue to collect all three babies and settle them down for a nap.
Straight forward enough really ! Just another consideration because they can’t adjust their clothes or tell you they are too tight or rubbing. One of my baby girls was extremely fractious one day. I had done all the things I could think of to settle her but she was inconsolable. It was only when I noticed that a thread had come loose on one of the babygro cuffs and had wrapped itself around her finger, very tightly. It was cutting the circulation off ! Fortunately as soon as I removed it, the colour returned ! That could have been devastating !
Your babies can be lonely or fed up, wanting some entertaining, just like everyone else! This doesn’t mean that any of them are demanding or attention seeking, simply in need of some socialising, just as you would be if you had been tucked up in bed most of the day! But remember the amount of socialising depends on the age of your babies, its no good playing and entertaining a two week old baby for hours for example. Its all related to their age as to how much entertaining they can cope with.
Every baby is different when it comes to reassurance, some need more than others even in a twin or triplet set. We are comforted by kind words, but babies need the safety of physical contact and the feeling of security. One technique I found that was particularly comforting to my triplets when they were very young was to swaddle them. They found this very soothing.
There are several trains of thought about swaddling. and baby sleep products that are available to parents. I didn’t buy any of the products particularly designed to swaddle babies, I simply used a cotton sheet. But there are safety issues about swaddling that you must be aware:-
- Ensure that your babies do not become over heated as they are not able to move their bedding off themselves. Always use breathable baby sleep garments.
- Once your babies can roll onto their side or front, you must stop swaddling, so watch your babies when they’re at play.
- I stopped swaddling at around three months, simply because I did not want the swaddling to become an integral part of going to sleep. This would have led to swaddling beyond the age that it is safe to do so.
- There is a train of thought that swaddling can affect the development of the hips. I didn’t swaddle tightly around my babies lower body, it was more really to keep their arms from flailing around, so mainly the upper body was snuggled and it certainly worked. They were definitely more settled.
Something To Suck
Babies are soothed by sucking, and some babies have a very strong need to suck, gaining a lot of comfort from sucking, its not that they’re hungry, its simply the act of sucking. Of my triplets, I had two that were much more settled when sucking, neither were able suck their thumbs and I must admit I did try to encourage them to do this rather than a dummy but they couldn’t, so I have to admit I gave them dummies. I was dreading the day I would have to get them off them, but when you have two babies screaming their heads off, it was a necessary evil ! When it came time for the dummies to go, it actually wasn’t as terrible an experience as I we expecting !
This is an obvious one really. They will cry, the only way to tell you that they need something, and I would suspect that this will be one of the easier ones to work out. If its a while since they slept, they’re probably tired ! They will also rub their eyes which again for me as a tell tale sign. A normal state of events at the end of the day but maybe not so obvious earlier in the day. My triplets would have a nap in the morning, which wasn’t problematic for me to manage myself, I would put them into their stroller and go for a walk. Worked every time !
Your babies will get ill at some point. A cold which blocks their nose so feeding is difficult, or they pick up a virus and have diarrhoea, or some other bug that they have to cope with. This will make them fractious and grumpy and they will want comfort and reassurance. As my triplets were very prema
ture, I was more concerned about them getting chest infections and this developing into bronchiolitis. This is not normally something that full term babies are prone to getting, more likely in babies that are premature. My son did get bronchiolitis and required two weeks in hospital, but he bounced back and whilst he was the smallest and weakest as a baby, you wouldn’t know that now!
Be aware that your babies will cry more when ill, take their temperature and use the over the counter medications such as Calpol, in the dose recommended to help them get over what ever bug they have caught. If you are at all concerned, if your baby has a high temperature, you must call your midwife, GP or take them to your local walk in clinic and get them checked out.
What is Normal Crying? Why Does My Baby Cry So Much ?
Why does my baby cry so much? Babies cry. They communicate their needs by crying, and we have several ways of soothing them to stop them crying. But sometimes regardless of what you do, they will still cry. Its not that you are doing anything wrong, or your baby is in pain. It is a normal feature of young babies. This tends to start at around 8 weeks, there is no reason for their crying, they just cry inconsolably.
Ron Barr PhD, an expert in paediatrics at the University of British Columbia says ‘ Do not assume you can stop all crying. Some crying is unsoothable and thats okay, your baby is fine.’
You may fee that their crying has gone on for weeks, theyre inconsolable and because its getting worse, there must be something wrong with them. I was a high crier, an inconsolable crier. My mother took me to the doctor, she was convinced I had some sort of brain damage, I didnt ! I just cried a lot.
There is a pattern to this sort of crying. There have been studies into the incidence of early increased crying and there are a pattern of features to it.
The peak pattern of this increased crying has been noticed in all the studies performed on inconsolable crying in young infants. It is even present in cultures where parents do everything they can to soothe their babies, where their babies are carried around with them permanently. This pattern of crying occurs then too. There is increased evidence that it happens in the animal world too.
Even premature babies will have the pattern of increased crying, usually around the time they would have been if they had been born at the right time.
There is no increased risk or prevalence of illness or disease later on in the infants with increased crying so please don’t think that because your babies are going through a stage of crying a lot, they are going to be sickly children or have developmental delay. I worried about my triplets crying a lot, one of them had had a hydrocephalus when she was in NICU and I was convinced that if she cried too much it would make her head swell. Of course it wouldn’t but it is so distressing to hear them crying so much, you feel there must be something wrong with them.
The increase in crying is not due to disease, poor parenting, or anything wrong with your babies, it seems to be an inborn characteristic. It is very frustrating, because it gets worse regardless of what you do. If we only knew ahead of time when it would end, it would make it easier to bear, but believe me, it will end, your babies will start settling again around the 3-4 month point. It is a phase that just about all babies go through in some degree or another and like me, there are some that really do test their parents patience. My brother was three when I was born and he said to my mother ‘ Can we put Helen in the dustbin please mummy, I don’t want a sister anymore’ ! The cheek!
Pattern of Inconsolable Crying
This is the sort of pattern you will see in your 8 week old -3 month old baby. It is not so common in babies older than this age and if your babies are still unsettled over the age of 6 months, I would suggest seeking further advice from your healthcare professional.
- Baby can cry for 5 or more hours a day and still be perfectly well and normal.
- Starts getting worse in later afternoon, early evening over several weeks.
- No evidence of illness.
- High pitched cry with back arching
- Nothing will comfort them – unsoothable.
- The crying starts and stops for no apparent reason.
- Unrelated to anything you do.
Coping with Inconsolable Crying
If you are anxious about the level of crying in your twins or triplets, the first suggestion I would make to settle your mind that there is no organic cause for their crying is to see your general practitioner, paediatrician or healthcare professional to get advice and rule out any treatable cause. There are some tests that they can perform to determine whether there is a cause for the crying. Be sure to tell them if there are any symptoms such as diarrhoea or fever or weightloss.
Once you have ruled out any organic cause, the next stage is to set about minimising the crying to a level you can cope with, so you can get some sleep to manage with it through the weeks until it subsides, which it most definitely will. We are talking of a window of time roughly from 8 to 16 weeks approximately when this crying is at its worst. Frustratingly it usually happens late afternoon/evening/nighttime, just when you’re at your lowest ebb, tired, hungry, wishing for some peace and quiet ! So a few strategies for coping !
- Try singing or put on some soothing music such as lullabies, something that is calming and they can focus on. I always used music when I was putting my babies to sleep. The music would play for around an hour but it was part of their bedtime routine. Im not sure in the beginning that it helped but it was certainly more soothing for me than three babies screaming !
- Take them for a drive. The repetitive motion of the car can have a soothing effect and help to ease the constant crying. It is a thought if you get desperate but the idea of driving around every night because they’re howling, is not something we decided to try.
- Put them in their stroller and go for a walk. Again the rocking motion of the stroller will soothe. I adapted this. I would stand in the doorway of my sitting room and hallway, pushing the pram over the doorway edge, this rocked them backwards and forwards. I spent every evening doing this, for several weeks. Once they were rocked asleep and not crying, they were parked by the radiator in the hallway, lights out and they would sleep there until their feed at midnight. It worked for me, we got some quiet time and gave me chance to be calm.
- Try swaddling – as previously discussed, following the guidelines for this. It will give them the security and comfort.
- Sucking a dummy. As we discussed earlier, it is soothing and anything that will reduce the crying is worth a try.
- If things are getting really bad, try and get some help at this time of day, someone else to come and rock your babies to give you a break. It is all very tiring with triplets and even if you can’t get a nap, to have another person there taking over even for a short time will give you a break from the noise.
Something that I felt was particularly helpful to me with my triplets was a bedtime routine. Even when they were very small, we would go through the same routine and again this is very comforting for babies, a predictability to events that they get used to and seek solace in those routines. Whether it reduced the length of time they cried, I will never know but we got through it by following the steps above and having a routine.
The bedtime routine started around 5pm. I would get back from the afternoon walk around the park, and they would play on their baby mat for a little while. They would be undressed so they could kick around with their chubby legs for a few minutes. I would then take them upstairs where they would have a bath. I had a changing station that had an integrated bath. Whilst I was washing one, the other two would be in their cots, usually crying but with music playing it wasn’t so bad. They weren’t really dirty enough to need a bath every night, but this was part of the calming down routine, warm water and lavender baby wash. I would then get each dressed in their night clothes and downstairs for their final feed. Generally I had a helper to feed one. They would be fed, winded, and then lightly swaddled, then put into the stroller. I would then rock them back and forth over the doorway until they fell asleep. This was quite successful and over a period of a week, we started to notice that we would have a quiet evening. We did struggle with the settling after the 4am feed for a longer period of time but we stuck to the routine and as they got older it paid off, they were much easier to settle once we got to the 16 week – 20 week age.
It is tough to see a light at the end of the tunnel but it will all come to an end and you will survive it.
Am I The Reason My Babies Won’t Stop Crying?
Your babies will react to your moods. If you are speaking harshly to them because you are exhausted, resentful that they are not sleeping and crying all the time, they are likely to be more unsettled. To try and cope with this without support is going to be tough. Remember that it could well be that they’re not crying any more than a single baby would but you have two or three babies to cope with. All is not lost. Do not be hard on yourself, it is natural that you will be feeling overwhelmed, neglected and possibly isolated too. I did, but I still nurtured a loving relationship with my triplets despite my exhaustion, it took time, but we were in it for the long haul!
What to Do When Crying Gets Too Much
Crying is part of life when you have a baby. This is particularly hard when you have two or three babies to care for. The crying can be overwhelming. It is extremely difficult to cope with it, especially if you are feeling totally shattered, sleep deprived, and utterly miserable. At this point I can fully understand that parents get to the end of their tether.
You must learn to recognise your limit and this is the point where you must walk away. Make sure your babies are safe and walk away for a few minutes. Go outside, get some fresh air, go have a cup of tea for a few minutes, do something, anything but remove yourself from the nursery. Take some deep breaths and slow your heart rate and calm right down.
I am absolutely not suggesting you would harm your babies, but there could be a point where you have simply been pushed over the edge. Shaken Baby Syndrome is a real risk at times like this, its not something you mean to do but you have been pushed too far, no one will fault you for walking away for a few minutes. Its takes strength to recognise that you are on the brink of losing it, so take yourself out of the situation. Do not for one second feel guilty, every mother goes through this, I did, I would go stand outside and scream REALLY LOUDLY ! I gave myself laryngitis once by doing this! But I did feel better. Be reassured that you are not alone, but you can cope with this. It gives you chance to realise how close you might have come to losing your patience, you can reset and start again without anyone being worse for it.
This phase of unconsolable crying is time limited, so be reassured that if you can keep it together and work through it, in a few weeks your babies will settle down more and the crying will start to lessen. You do NOT need to be perfect, parenting is not about being perfect!
Shaken Baby Syndrome
I am not talking about this to scare you, but to give you the facts about Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is as it sounds – when a baby is physically shaken by a parent or caregiver. It bursts the delicate blood vessels in the baby’s brain. Each year nearly 1,000 babies die from shaken baby syndrome.
Shaken Baby Syndrome can lead to brain damage, mental retardation, seizures, blindness and death.
When a parent or caregiver becomes frustrated/angry that they are not able to stop their babies from crying. This is usually loss of control due to severe sleep deprivation in most cases.
Panorama on BBC television this evening (Monday March 15 2016) showed a programme about this very subject, it is well worth watching. Click on the link above to be taken directly to the station to watch.
Its tough at times when you hear other mothers talking about their babies and how easy they are, that they sleep all night, they are content and don’t cry. It used to depress me listening to how perfect their newborn baby was and I had three that were anything but perfect. Give yourself a break! Mothers over exaggerate when it comes to their offspring. But you must not compare, every baby is different, even within your twin or triplet set, they each will have their own characters and its unfair to yourself to think your babies are not as good as someone elses.
All this will create negative feelings, especially when youre tired and not thinking straight. At one point when my triplets were 4 months old, I went to see the optician because my eyesight was blurry and I thought I needed to change my contact lenses. There was nothing wrong with my eyes, or contact lenses, it was simply the tiredness I was experiencing!
If you need help, someone to talk to when it just gets too much and you are worried that you might harm your babies there are professionals that you can call. I have put the numbers below for the USA and UK. You will not be judged by calling and wanting help, they are there to support you whilst you go through the peak crying period of time with your babies. They may also be able to put you in contact with professionals or support groups in your local area that might be able to help. I lived in London when my babies were born and my local council sent me a home help for 3 hours a day for the first year of their life. She would come in a morning and do all the practical things like washing, cleaning, changing their beds, making up the feeds for the day. I loved Maidie, she was a mother herself and it was reassuring having her there.
So dry your eyes, take a deep breath, this is such a short period of time to cope with, it will end, and you will get your life back in order in a few weeks when theyre not crying so much and you can get some more sleep. I will be doing an article about sleep training soon !
In the U.S.:
24-Hour Parent Helpline: 1-888-435-7553
Crying Baby Hotline: 1-866-243-2229
Fussy Baby Warmline: 1-888-431-BABY
In the UK:
Parentline: 0808 800 2222
Parent Lifeline: 0114 272 6575