Irish twins is a derogatory name referencing the fertility of the Irish or their adherence to Catholic laws about birth control. Essentially Irish twins are babies that are born within 12 months of each other; some people extend that by a few months, and the phrase “two under two” is also used. Clearly there is much advice about how to handle the extra parenting work involved in raising siblings that are this close in age.
From a health perspective only, having Irish twins is not wise. Most obstetricians recommend women wait at least full year after birth to conceive again. What this potentially means for the mother who has children this close together in age is that she can expect to be physically exhausted prior to getting to the parenting part. Even before baby #2 is born, she is handling the needs of an infant while her body copes with the rigors of pregnancy. This naturally brings up the first tip; for best parenting, women should have a support system that give them opportunities to take breaks. Ideally this system should be in place before the second baby is born.
One of the difficulties of having Irish twins is that particularly in the first few years, children will have similar needs, and they might have them at the same time. It’s quite possible for both kids to need diaper changes, need to be fed, and et cetera, simultaneously. When breastfeeding, this challenge might be particularly difficult, because mom is essentially tied to younger baby for 15-20 minute stretches, several times daily. This would suggest that one thing required when raising Irish twins is planning.
At night or in the morning before kids wake, make certain to have things that can be quickly obtained: bottles of breastmilk or formula for baby or toddler, snacks for toddlers, wipes for quick clean-ups, diapers nearby for fast changes, amusing toys that will entertain toddler. The easier it is to get things, the less a parent has to work or interrupt care of one child to give it to another. Even with these plans, it will be necessary to occasionally ignore the needs of one child to help another. Clearly, parents should treat this like triage; fulfill the needs of the child most in need and then move on.
It can also be good to have a way to port the younger child around while seeing to needs of the older child. Perhaps one of the most useful things for this is a baby sling. These take a little getting used to, but they provide a nearly hands free way to complete other tasks, and as the baby grows, it can move from lying down position to sitting on the hip. On the topic of baby supplies, another good investment is a double stroller, which is an easy way to get parent and children out of the house for needed breaks.
One thing mentioned by parents of kids close in age is the challenges that come from getting everyone to sleep at night. It can be particularly hard to get the older child to sleep if the younger one is waking up and crying. Tips here could include using white noise. Others solve this problem by making sure the kids don’t share rooms, and yet other parents recommend sleeping with both kids, in which case they should sleep on either side of a parent and not together.
Another issue at hand for kids this close in age is the minimal alone time they may have to spend with either parent. This is truly needed and can help fuel their development. Provided there is help in the home from friends, relatives, or others, it is a good idea to plan on regular alone time with each child. Ideally both parents should plan for this. As much as these children are often considered “twins,” they’re certainly not, and having this alone time together helps reinforce understanding of each child as a separate and wonderful individual. Giving this time may additionally cut down on sibling rivalry.
Lastly, raising Irish twins can be tough, and parents who are exhausted are much more prone to make poor decisions and lose their tempers. In whatever way is possible, the parent still needs to have some self-nurturance and breaks from the process. Again, having some supportive help is typically the best way to be able to obtain this. Consider the possibility that the parent who is able to enjoy the occasional relaxation is likely to be a better parent the rest of the time, and look for ways to schedule in time to be kind to the self.