When I found out I was going to have twins, one of the things I was most excited about was trying out slings with two babies. I learned a lot about tandem babywearing during my School of Babywearing peer support and consultancy courses, and I had worked with a few twin parents prior to getting pregnant, so I knew that there were a lot of different options. I was looking forward to finding out what worked for us, and I was excited about trying out different slings from birth, as I mainly used a Moby Wrap or Bali Breeze with Lucas until he was around six months old.
Since I am often asked, I wanted to write about my experience so far, both of carrying my own twins, and through working with local twin parents as a babywearing consultant. I would love to hear your experiences so please feel free to share in the comments section, or email me on [email protected]
Babywearing is not a particularly risky activity if you do it safely. The TICKS Rule and ABC are a good start and are easy to remember – you can find out more about babywearing safety on the Sling Pages website. If you are carrying more than once child, there are of course additional safety concerns. It sounds obvious, but make sure you are aware of both babies, particularly ensuring their airways are clear, chins are off chests, and backs are supported – not slumped.
If you are using two separate carriers, the safest way to combine them is to put each on separately, rather than threading one through the straps of the other. Slings and in particular mei tais and soft structured carriers are designed and tested to bear the weight of a child in the panel of the carrier – not by the straps alone. There is no guarantee that the carrier straps will stand up to bearing the weight of the second child if used in this way.
Wearing from birth
Many of the twin parents I meet are looking for something practical that will help them cope with the logistics of dealing with two babies. When you have two (or more!) newborns, it can feel like a constant juggling act to meet everyone’s needs and using slings can be a huge help. In addition to practicality, babywearing from birth offers many benefits, including helping to establish a secure bond, encouraging the production of hormones for breastfeeding, and settling baby during the fourth trimester.
There are many slings that can be used from birth. In my personal experience, nothing beats a stretchy wrap for the first few weeks. I loved the Moby Wrap with Lucas but when I saw this JPMBB Basic stretchy, I knew we had to have it! I am a huge fan of JPMBB products and the Basic has fast become my favourite stretchy (I should probably save my fawning for another post or this will become extremely long!). You can use a stretchy wrap with either one or both twins – like most options, there are advantages and disadvantages to wearing both. You can settle both babies at the same time, but you may find it cumbersome having both on your front. You can quickly put babies in and out of a stretchy, but you may find it less supportive as both babies grow heavier.
Sadly, we were admitted to hospital the day after Aurora and Jake were born, which was a very upsetting experience for all of us. My first experience of carrying them in a sling was on the children’s ward at night. They were both crying and I felt really nervous handling them as they were quite small (under 6lbs each) and Jake was very wheezy. I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I put the stretchy on in a pocket wrap cross carry, before putting one baby in each pass. It didn’t feel as tight as I’d have liked, but they immediately calmed down and snuggled in to me and each other. It was a really emotional moment, as it was the first time since birth that Jake stopped wheezing, and I realised how much he needed to be close to me and to his twin sister. I felt a huge rush of love and protective instinct as I looked down at my tiny babies, not yet 24 hours old.
Do I have to tandem-carry?
There is a huge range of options for parents wanting to tandem-carry their twins. Which options/combinations suit you will depend on many factors, including the age/developmental stage of your babies. While it is possible to tandem-carry with one newborn on your back and the other on your front, new babywearers may prefer to gain confidence before back-carrying as there are additional safety considerations, particularly with young babies. Many of my clients have preferred to get to grips with slinging one baby at a time, keeping the option of carrying two for times when both need immediate attention. Although many twin parents assume that you ‘need’ to carry both babies at the same time, most find that wearing even one baby at a time can make life easier. Anyone who has ever tried grappling with a double buggy will likely agree!
Some of the tandem carries I tried in the first couple of months were: both in one stretchy wrap, both in one woven wrap (in a front wrap cross carry variation), one baby on my back and one on my front (in woven wraps), and both babies in one podaegi. These are just some of the options available and they each have advantages and disadvantages. In reality, my husband and I often carried one twin each when we were both out and about – he was keen to babywear too, and it really helped him to bond with our new additions.
When I’m talking about tandem-wearing, I usually refer to it as one of the tools in your twin-parenting toolkit. Just like tandem-feeding, it is often assumed that you will always want to carry your babies at the same time. In reality, you are more likely to adapt your approach to each situation – sometimes you may want to carry both babies; sometimes you may prefer to carry one. For the record, it is often the same with tandem-feeding!
Our son was just two and a half when our twins arrived, and was used to being carried in a sling. We were really keen for him not to feel displaced, so I often carried him on my back in our wrap conversion mei tai, and a twin on my front in a woven wrap. The other twin would be in a carrycot in our buggy. It wasn’t what I imagined my early tandem-wearing experience would look like, but I really feel it helped Lucas to adjust to being one of three – it can’t have been easy for him.
When your babies move past the newborn stage, they inevitably become bigger, heavier, and much more wriggly! Tandem-wearing can be both a lifesaver (particularly during teething periods) and a burden (literally – two babies can get heavy) with older babies and toddlers. If you get into slinging once your babies are older, you might find you need to build your strength up gradually – it is unlikely that you will be used to carrying two babies in-arms (although I think we’ve all been there…).
If you choose to tandem-carry your older twins, there is no reason why you cannot continue to use the option/s that suit you (with the exception of the stretchy wrap as you may find this lacking in support for two babies). There is also the exciting world of back-carrying, and with this the possible combinations of carriers widen almost infinitely!
There is a distinct lack of twin-specific carriers on the market, I think because it is difficult to achieve two comfortable carries using only one sling (with the exception of a woven wrap!). I am often asked about the TwinGo Carrier. It’s a cleverly-designed buckled carrier that comes in two parts, the ‘base’ and the ‘attachment’. Each part can be used separately (e.g. by two parents) and they combine to allow the carrying of two children, without the bulk of two waistbands and two sets of shoulder straps. It has advantages and disadvantages (of course!): it’s relatively quick and easy to use, and is comfortable as there is only one set of straps. Some people find that the child on the back is a bit lower than they would like – this is because the front and back parts are on the same ‘level’ when the waistbands are clipped together.
My friend Phuong is my twin-wearing idol. She is teeny-tiny, yet she makes carrying her big and beautiful twin boys look effortless! She mainly uses woven wraps and always looks happy and calm in her photos – I would love to look like that! In reality, I end up looking sweaty and feeling frazzled if I try and tandem my twins in one woven wrap – it’s just not for us. I prefer to use two separate wraps or a wrap and a mei tai – it’s no better or worse than one woven wrap, it’s just what’s right for us.
It is entirely possible to learn how to use various slings/wrap carries by reading articles and watching online videos. Tandem-wearing is usually considered a ‘special circumstance’ and you may find it beneficial to visit a sling meet/library or see your local babywearing consultant for a one-to-one appointment.
I have found the below resources invaluable in my own twinwearing journey:
Twin Sling (Facebook group)
Tandem Babywearing (Facebook group)
Wrap Your Baby (wrapping twins resource)
Wrapping Mamma’s YouTube channel
Wrapabyebaby Twinsling’s YouTube channel
Sling Pages (local listings of sling libraries, meets and consultants)