Difference Between Parenting Twins and Just One Child

Joe Rawlinson by Joe Rawlinson - September 30, 2019

Today we’ve got a great question from the community of fathers of twins like you. The question is, “What can I expect to be new after twins are born that isn’t what I deal with having just one baby?” So this dad says that he’s helped to raise one child already, and now they’re expecting twins and wants to know in advance what is going to be different between twins and a singleton.

Raising twins versus just one child

It’s a very similar situation to what my wife and I had when our twins were born. When our girls were born, we already had two boys. So we had experienced singleton births before the twins were born. We noticed there were some differences during the twin pregnancy as well as after our girls were born. I talked a lot about how the actual pregnancies are different between a twin pregnancy and a singleton pregnancy back in podcast episode number 34.

Twin Pregnancies Can Be Complicated

Some of the highlights there of the differences between the pregnancies are that you’re more likely to have bed rest for mom. You’re going to definitely have more doctor visits and ultrasounds. You have higher risks of medical complications like pre-term labor, or hypertension, or preeclampsia. Mom is going to be a lot more uncomfortable and physically larger than with a singleton pregnancy. The babies are most likely going to arrive significantly earlier than a singleton — several weeks, most likely — and it will require a lot more hands-on work from you, the father, to help take care of the family and the twins. So if you may want to check out other ways that twin pregnancies differ from a singleton pregnancy.

But the question is around what happens once they get here, once they arrive. Once the babies arrive, how is it actually different with twins versus a singleton child?

Sleep Deprivation

One of the big things that I noticed was different was that there’s really no rest for dad or for mom with twins. I noticed that when our singleton boys were born, because my wife was breast feeding them, she did the brunt of the work feeding and caring for them, especially overnight. Whereas when our girls were born, she couldn’t successfully get the girls to breastfeed after a few weeks, so we switched to bottle feeding, and that required that both of us were on duty all the time to help feed and care for our girls. So intense sleep deprivation was a huge difference from the dad’s perspective with our twin girls versus our singletons. Now, poor mom is going to be sleep deprived either way. That’s definitely going to be worse with twins because there’s more work to be done.

Twin Infants Need Both Parents

Another big difference that we noticed is that both parents are required for basic child care with twins. So everything from feeding them, changing them, helping them get to sleep, soothing them. So that’s going to require all hands on deck. It’s very difficult to take care of even the basic needs of both twins with just one person. So if you were not as involved with the singleton birth as before, that’s not going to fly and not going to cut it with twins. You’re going to have to get involved. You’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

(RELATED: Still expecting twins? Will you be having two boys, two girls, or boy/girl twins? Answer these quick questions to see what several old wives’ tales claim you’ll be having….)

Divided Attention

Another big difference with twin infants versus a single infant is that you have divided attention, whereas with one infant, of course, you can spend all the time that you need with them. So be prepared to be distracted and have your attention divided with twin infants. One twin is going to need something and almost at the same exact time the other twin is going to need attention as well. That’s just not the case when you have a singleton baby.

Twins Require More Resources

Another thing that we noticed that was different was the insane amount of diapers and laundry the twins required. Of course, any new baby is going to have a lot of diapers and a lot of laundry because they’re going to soil themselves. They’re going to spill on themselves, spit up, blow out their diapers, you name it, but what we did not expect really was it seemed like it wasn’t just double. At least, the perception was it wasn’t just double diapers and double laundry, it seemed like a whole lot more than that. So be prepared for a lot more maintenance around the care of your babies than you may have seen with a singleton baby.

Another big difference is that, particularly if mom is breast feeding your twins, she’s going to need to master dual feeding, which is totally possible and doable for many moms of twins. If she can’t feed both at the same time, she will always be feeding somebody. It will be a continual cycle of feeding, and that’s not a good position to put mom in because she won’t get any rest at all.

With a singleton child, you feed the baby and then you move on to other things, change the diaper, put the baby down for nap, and away you go. With twins, the pattern’s the same. You feed, maybe have some activity time, change them, and put them down for nap or for sleep and then you repeat the cycle. However, with twins you need to make sure that they stay on the same schedule. Otherwise, things are going to get really crazy, and you want to make sure that mom is able to take a break between feedings especially.

Twins Need Special Parenting

With twins, you also need to force yourself to treat them as individuals and not as the twins. Don’t group them together; don’t necessarily assume that they’re going to be the same, because they are unique and distinct even though they may look exactly the same. So you need to pay attention to their individual characteristics and personalities and focus on what makes them unique and amazing.

With a singleton child, you don’t necessarily have to look for those differences because you have just one baby, and you can focus all your attention on that one child. With twins it is very hard to give them one-on-one time, unless you make that a priority. We’ve talked about that before.

But you need to build a focus on building a special bond with each of your children individually. Don’t always do everything together with them. You want to build and create individual memories and experiences with each of them. Of course, with a singleton child that’s not really a problem because it’s just you and your baby.

Twins Interact in Their Own Ways

Twins do have a natural bond with each other. It’s very interesting to observe their interactions with each other and how they play off each other’s emotions, habits, and activities. Our girls are best friends and they do everything together throughout the day. Of course, with a singleton child you’re not going to have a built-in playmate, or associate, or a partner-in-crime as you will with twins.

Dad's Guide to Twins Book Bundle

Intense Moments and Seasons

A big challenge of twins is that they will go through the same stages of life at the same time. Big milestones like crawling, walking, potty training, learning how to eat solid foods, teething, you name it, all these things are going to happen around the same exact time. So you don’t have the luxury as you would with a singleton child or a sequence of singleton children of practicing and learning as you go along. This means that you need to get it right the first time. Yes, there will be trial and error, but do the best you can and go forward.

Negative Influences

Now, another thing to keep in mind with twins is that they do play off each other’s mischievous natures. So they will get in trouble together. In fact, if one twin gets into trouble, he or she will pull the other twin into the mix to get them into trouble as well, because trouble oftentimes is very fun to little twins.

(RELATED: Your twins will need a lot of gear. Here's the complete twins baby registry checklist to get ready for your twins' arrival.

What You’ll Experience

So there are a lot of differences between singleton babies and twin babies and the experiences that you will have as a parent in those first few months with infants and as they continue to grow. The pregnancies being different from a singleton to twin pregnancy kind of foreshadows the fact that you’re going to have a very different parenting experience with twins than you would with a singleton child.

This topic was originally addressed on the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast Episode 67: Parenting Twin Infants vs Just a Singleton.

Low Battery Twins Shirt

Picture by Jon Díez Supat

Further Reading

Dad's Guide to Raising Twins book
Don't forget to pick up a copy of the definitive guide to raising twins. "Dad's Guide to Raising Twins" was written for fathers of twins to help guide you through the first several years with twins. Click here to learn more about the book and get your copy.

9 thoughts on “Difference Between Parenting Twins and Just One Child”

  1. Yes, twins are different than a singleton. But I disagree with some of your “have tos.”. For example, the feeding. I’m breastfeeding my twins on demand and usually one at a time. I tried the schedule thing in the beginning, but it stressed me out too much. They are 5 months now, and we definitely have a rhythm that works and is fairly relaxed. And yes, I do have time to do things other than feed them. I think the biggest difference and most important rule with twin is the extreme need to be resourceful and flexible. The “rules” may not work. Your plans may create more stress than is needed. Basically, you have to be uber willing to let go of any expectations you may have had. Roll with the punches. Do what works for you, even if its not how other parents do it.

    • @Shannan – I’m glad to hear you’ve found a good rhythm for your twins. You sum it up well that we as parents of twins need to be willing to let go of expectations and roll with the punches.

  2. “Both parents are required for basic child care … It’s very difficult to take care of even the basic needs of both twins with just one person.”

    I wouldn’t say it’s VERY difficult or impossible for one parent to take care of twin’s basic needs. I assume you wrote this to let dads know that it’s easier for moms if there are more hands to help, but babies won’t suffer if they only have one parent caring for them (laundry and other household chores may suffer though but that’s ok!)

  3. I was freaking out when the doctor said we are expecting twins but this articles (teaching) is helping calm down and trust we can make it when they arrive. Thanks a lot


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