Hello Annie, We have 17 week old fraternal twin girls and I have an unhappy baby. We just moved the family to Calgary, where we have no support network or friends…and we seem to have a problem with one of the girls. While twin A is always content and happy (and easy to pacify), twin B tends to get in a bad mood about 5 minutes after getting up and thing deteriorate from there. Generally, twin B is crying uncontrollably for long stretches between her naps. The problem is probably made worse by the fact that she doesn’t like taking naps and generally increases her crying when put in her crib for her nap.
Both girls are on roughly the same schedule: they go to bed (no problem) at 7 PM and generally wake for 1 feeding each and get up at 7 AM. They bottle feed every 4 hours (and do not appear to be overly hungry…). The problem is really between feedings…
The crying is really taking a toll on my wife who doesn’t know what to do (nor do I). Our instinct tell us she is tired (although that is hard to believed only 15 minutes after waking, but she is also generally in a very crabby mood and very touchy…). Twin B probably requires 90% of our combined efforts… This is made harder by the fact that, while she likes the pacifier, she can’t hold on to it; it constantly fall out of her mouth…
Can you help? Daniel
Here are my thoughts. You’re at that stage where your twins are just making the transition from their early months to settled babyhood, if you will. Your twins are obviously two very different characters, one being much more labour intensive and generally hard work than the other. This is likely to stay as part of the picture and how you react now will set the stage for that future.
Assess the problem
If twin B is always moody and thus gets a disproportionate share of the attention, she will grow to expect it. The extra attention may have a minor effect on her mood but it will eventually have a larger effect than you might think on the behaviour of twin A. Think forward to when they’re toddlers and you’ll see that twin A will eventually clue in that being ‘low maintenance’ results in less attention. Children love attention and will take the negative kind if perceive they are getting the short end of the stick. Therefore, it’s likely that twin A will eventually ramp up her displeasure to compete with that of twin B.
Figure out the plan and then stick with it
Ok, so what we have here is a situation where it’s important to start the way you mean to go on because patterns set early on tend to stay with you. Having said that, first you should make sure that nothing is physically wrong with twin B. In other words, that there isn’t a physical reason for her misery. I would talk to your physician. If you can’t find anything, what you have to do is to find those moments when she’s happy, which admittedly may be few and far between at the moment. When you find a happy moment, give her lots of attention. Sing, coo, play peek a boo. Once she gets cranky, start to withdraw your attention. Focus on twin A. Twin B will likely get extraordinarily cross and the trick will be to let her. If you can start this perhaps on a weekend, your wife would have your support and that will help. Babies don’t tend to have much staying power at 4 months of age, so at one point she will likely fall asleep. When she wakes up, act as though you expect her to be happy. If she isn’t, give her a reasonable opportunity to be pleasant and then withdraw your focus. Provide fun for twin A but remember your long term goal is to even out attention between the two of them and teach both to be happy to entertain themselves for short periods of time. Keep doing the above as long as is necessary.
Make her part of the activity but not the focus of it
Sometimes when you get an unhappy baby you can try wearing her for periods of time, say in a backpack. Sometimes this calms them down and being close to mom is soothing. Just make sure you offer the twins equal opportunity to enjoy you carrying them around. I like back packs because baby is with you but your are not continually focused on her and that is key. Don’t worry to much about the pacifier. If she really needs it she’ll find a way to make it work. What you want to avoid is you always having to soothe baby. Sometimes you want them to soothe themselves as it’s a skill we all need to learn as we grow up.
Make the routine work
Napping is certainly very important for children the age of your twins. It’s very hard to leave a child to cry in their crib. However, learning to fall asleep and relax for naps is something they need at this age. If you feel really uncomfortable go in at five, ten, fifteen, and then twenty minute intervals. Say hello in a low deep calming voice. (It’s hard the stress out of your voice but necessary) Don’t pick up baby but just reassure her with a sentence that you are still around. Keep it minimal and then leave and come back later. She may get extremely mad but the key is to stay calm as nap means nap. She will get the idea eventually as long as you don’t give in.
The proviso in all this is to have a medical check beforehand. I don’t know your family and I can’t possibly be aware of all the factors you’re dealing with therefore it’s sensible to check with your family doctor. I wish you the best of luck and hope this has been helpful. It’s never easy raising children in a new city and without family support. If you’d like further information or support, please visit my services page to see the options available.
All the best,