When it comes to mealtime, feeding baby twins is a big challenge for parents. Often, they are both hungry at the same time, and they’re not very patient about waiting their turn while their sibling is eating. After mastering the skill of feeding two babies at the same time while breastfeeding or bottle feeding, parents face new challenges when transitioning to solid food. Most families find that it is most efficient to feed both babies at the same time. No one has to wait, and no one has to suffer the consequences of an impatient, hungry baby’s wails. Food can be prepared in one shot, and the process of cleaning up is consolidated into a single event.
Feeding Twins Solid Foods
While the timetable is different for every baby, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that babies will be ready for solid food at about six months of age. However, parents of multiples should consider their babies’ adjusted age when evaluating developmental milestones. As many multiples are born prematurely, they may require some extra time to catch up and won’t be ready as early as babies born closer to their due date. Check with your medical caregiver to determine the right time to start introducing solid foods to your babies. And remember that multiples are individuals. They might not be ready at the same time.
About.com’s Guide to Pediatrics offers the following signs as criteria for food readiness:
- The ability to hold their head steady and sit with support
- Reaching for and showing interest in food
- Opening mouths at the sight of food
- Ability to take in food and swallow it, rather than thrusting it out with their tongues.
- Turning heads away when they are full
First foods are generally single grain cereals mixed with breastmilk, formula or water. Pureed vegetables or fruit usually follow. Introduce only one new food at a time, separated by a couple of days, to be sure that the babies tolerate them. Again, remember that each baby is an individual. They may not like the same foods, or one may experience allergies. Even identical (monozygotic) twins can have different reactions to foods, as allergies are necessarily not a genetic condition.
While older babies can sit in high chairs for mealtime, bouncy seats or infant carriers may be more secure for younger babies who are less steady while sitting. In either case, you’ll want to situate the seats or chairs close together, and sit or stand facing both babies so that they are within easy reach. Secure both babies first, so your hands will be free to prepare the food. Another option that works, especially when feeding on the go, is your double stroller.
Hygiene fanatics will protest, but most families with multiples agree that it is most efficient to feed their babies from the same bowl or jar, with a single spoon. Obviously, this is not advisable if one of the babies has an illness. However, under normal conditions, follow your instincts and do what makes sense to you. Ignore any criticism from your mother-in-law or nosy neighbor; their well-intentioned advice is probably based on their experience raising singletons, not twins or multiples. They probably also discouraged you from keeping the babies on a schedule and told you to never wake a sleeping baby in order to feed them both at the same time. You’re the expert on your babies, and you’ll establish the strategies that work best for your family.
Feeding twins can get messy! Eating is a sensory experience for babies. Beyond how the food tastes, babies will explore what the food feels like ... on their face, in their hair, and sometimes on each other! Make cleanup easier by positioning a plastic tarp underneath their seats or high chairs, and keep a damp cloth within easy reach to wipe up spills before they can be smeared or splashed. Bibs are a necessity! Forgo the fashion in favor of sturdy plastic bibs that offer plenty of coverage. Dressing for dinner may be the height of elegance for adults, but you can count on babies making a mess of their dinner attire. Forget about etiquette and allow babies to dine in their diapers in order to lighten your laundry load.
As your babies grow, develop, and become more interested in self-feeding, keep them occupied and content by putting food directly on their high chair trays. A scattering of Cheerios cereal or other finger foods will provide a distraction, giving you an opportunity to attend to a co-twin. If they grab at the spoon when you approach their mouths, give them each their own spoon, or even a soft toothbrush to hold while they're eating.