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What Should I Know About Caring for Irish Twins?

Some people refer to the parents of Irish twins as having "two under two."
Siblings born within 12 months of each other are sometimes called "Irish twins."
A baby sling makes it possible to care for an infant while having hands free to help an older child.
Giving Irish twins individual attention can cut down on sibling rivalry.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 December 2014
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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.

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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.

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anon952192
Post 14

Oh now I know what Irish twins are. I have two sets of twin boys 11 months and six days apart, and it's hard sometimes, but we know what to do from the first set of twins.

Also, I have a 6 year old daughter who helps out and plays with her brothers. My older twins are 13 months old and my second twins are 2 months old. I love all my kids and I don't treat them any different. I conceived both sets of twins naturally. No drugs or anything. I'm happy what I have and not ashamed that they are close together. I was blessed.

anon942167
Post 13

I have three children, two of which are a day shy of 11 months apart. Our third baby was very much a surprise and in the middle of tears and post-postpartum, I searched the web for an article or blog telling me that everything would be okay and not the don'ts of raising Irish twins and how hard it will be, and how everyone will judge you.

The newborn stage/one year old stage was joyous. Sure, you have to be tough (this job is not meant for the weak or whiny), but the strength is worth it; people think you can do anything if you have it all together.

Our lives are amazing and if you are reading this after finding out you are joining the "Irish twin" club, just remember that your experience will be what you make it. Instead of changing one baby, you change two. Believe me, as a parent who is doing it right now (a six year old, a 20 month old and a 9 month old): our lives are pretty simple and full of happiness. Hold your head up high and be positive. You can do this and it will be one of the most amazing adventures of your life.

anon359325
Post 12

I am a mother of pretty much Irish twins (13 months apart), as well as an older daughter (5 years older than my middle child). I have to agree with the article. My last pregnancy was horrible. I was supposed to be on bed rest but couldn't really do it. I had a subdural hematoma, which caused me to almost lose my baby, and then later on had gestational diabetes, high amniotic fluid, and anemia.

At any given time, if I stood for more than 5 minutes I felt like I was going to pass out. But, I still had a 5 year old (not so difficult to care for) and a baby (very difficult to care for). I also had a c-section with my middle, and an infected scar that came open and took longer to heal, so my stomach killed me as that not so old scar was stretched.

My house was a disaster, it was all I could do just to take care of my kids. I had my husband buy me a stool so I could cook, because they had to be fed. If my pregnancy had been a little later, I could have really taken care of myself and my unborn baby better. I kept telling everyone if I could just make it through the first year, I'd be OK for the rest of their lives. Hah! The first year was actually easy. We kept youngest in our room, so she didn't ever wake her brother. Fortunately, he was a great sleeper, and was already sleeping through the night when she was born. But he would make a lot of noise during the day, and she didn't ever get enough sleep.

The time now is way harder than that -- he is 3 and she is 2, and what one of them doesn't get into, the other one does. I call them the terrible twosome. They share a room now, and mentally they are more like twins. I try to never rush my children growing up, because I know I will never have this time back, but a 4 and 5 year old sound great to me right now.

anon311649
Post 10

Thank you for the article. It was well thought out, empathetic and supportive for those who have/are or expecting to raise "Irish Twins".

My beautiful boys are four and five, and although I wouldn't trade them for the world (and now often gloat about the advantages that come with siblings born within a year of each other), it has been tough! And, we still have issues which arise primarily,(I would suggest) because our boys are "Irish Twins".

As the article suggested: Be organised (bottles etc.), find convenient ways of compromising your time with both babies/toddlers/preschoolers ( baby slings" play pens, individual mummy and daddy time) and, most importantly, do what works for you!

We as parents will never get it perfectly right. We will get tired and be short tempered, but as the article reminds us " be kind to the self".

This article is understanding, not judgmental.

anon274807
Post 7

I am so very glad to hear that others disapprove of this article. I just recently found out that I am pregnant with my second baby (will be 11 months after my first) and this article made me feel like my new pregnancy is a mistake. I got a lot more information from the comments than the article itself.

anon246852
Post 6

I totally disagree with this article. I have two boys 11 months apart. The bond they have is great. We say the speak twinese - they have their own little language. I did not find it difficult to manage both - you soon get into a routine and bathe them together, feed them together and put them to bed together. They are now 9 and 8.

I might also mention I had a three year old at the time the middle boy was born. So I had three boys under four years of age.

I am not a super mom by any means, but it is actually easier because you can do things all at once, and not twice.

anon234402
Post 5

I must say I am not impressed. Whoever wrote this is not writing from experience. They are on the outside looking in shaking their head disapprovingly.

Oh, and in my opinion, the baby sling is by far the most dangerous thing we own. More than once I have had to stop my "big girl" from pulling her brother out of it. They are 11.5 months apart and I love it. As far as one on one time, I know my kids get plenty.

We fed into the crap while we were pregnant with Ace, set up a support system and everything, and we have never used it. We do just fine. Someone really should rewrite this. Maybe someone who has done it.

anon229325
Post 4

I am an Irish triplet. My oldest brother is 11 months older than my sister, and she is 18 months older than me. It was wonderful growing up with my siblings so close in age. We had built-in playmates and were never bored or lonely. As adults, we remain very close and have a very warm, loving extended family.

anon211046
Post 3

I have Irish triplets and I think this is a very honest account of the complexities of bringing up children close in age. However, it doesn't mention the joys and closeness that comes with it and how quickly the older child learns to help and give to the others. It doesn't talk about how they learn to share from day one, and how they are fuller, rounder, happier people for it!

anon176406
Post 2

I am a mother of irish twins. My son and daughter are 10 months apart. They are 32 and 22 months old. Although life has been difficult sometimes, I wouldn't trade it for anything! Good moms find a way to take care of their two needy children.

This article is pretty much saying that people shouldn't have twins or irish twins and I have taken offense. There are many things in the world that are way harder than raising twins.

My husband is an over the road truck driver and I am a stay-at-home-mom that cares for my ailing father-in-law, two toddlers and a newborn. I take care of my irish twins and my one month old by myself and don't find it at all too difficult to handle!

anon147328
Post 1

So glad this article exists. I guess I will build a time machine and go back in time and stop the sperm from reaching my egg so I won't have Irish twins.

What a negative article. little to no help.

Oh yeah, and is it not wise for people to have twins either? I say one twin should legally have to be removed because "it could be hard to change diapers/feed/sleep"

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