Q. "My son and daughter-in-law are expecting twins! This is exciting of course, but a diapered duo is going to be a handful. Any information -- to share advice and excitement -- would be appreciated."
-- A grandmother from Phoenix
A. Several parents of twins somehow found the time to say "congratulations" and to share their strategies.
"When my husband and I found out that we were expecting twins, we felt like we had won the lottery," says Terri Thiessen of Sebastopol, Calif. "Whenever I hear of someone expecting twins, I heartily congratulate them."
More and more parents are facing the challenges and joys of raising twins -- the number of twin births has risen 50 percent in the past 20 years. This week's column includes top twin tips from readers; next week's Parent to Parent focuses on helpful resources.
"My best advice for extended family and friends is to follow the parents' lead," says Katie LaPorta, a mother of twins in Oceanport, N.J. "The experience is thrilling, yet it can be overwhelming. Your son and daughter-in-law will need some help. They will also need to establish their own routines."
One of LaPorta's tips hints at just how many little extras the parents of twins have to consider: Decide before you go to the hospital whether you want their pictures taken alone or together.
"There are a lot of things that other people can tell you about how to raise twins, but until you do it, it's a different story," says Sandi Bolinger of Palatine, Ill., who has twin 5-year-old girls.
A popular tip among readers: Put the babies on the same schedule -- even if that means waking one baby up, Bolinger says.
"My best advice that will get them through many different challenges is to get them on the same schedule and stick with it," suggests a mother from Beachwood, Ohio, who says her twins "feed together, nap together, sleep at night together."
Sheryl Barlow of Rehoboth, Mass., keeps a chart on the fridge for each of her triplet girls, with what time they ate and how much, their bowel movements and any medications.
Another top tip: Accept help.
Several moms say they turned to friends and relatives to make it through the latter months of pregnancy and the first three to four weeks after delivery. But one couple with newborn twins opted for a longer-term solution: The parents changed jobs and relocated to Cleveland to be near both sets of grandparents.
"Above all, don't be afraid to ask others for help. Meals are a wonderful gift," says Diane Fonner of Richmond, Va., a new mom of twin boys. "The house doesn't have to be cleaned, but you need to eat. Learn to love lasagna and pizza. You can always add a salad for extra nutrition."
Michael Scott, a father of twins in Sonoma County, Calif., agrees. "My advice is that you start a 'dinner wagon' for the parents-to-be. A church group that one of my fellow employees belonged to did this for us, and it was a godsend," he says. "Someone would show up on our doorstep, every night for over a month, with a hot meal for the family. This was an incredible gift, one I'll always be thankful for."
Other ideas from readers:
Hand-me-down clothes will help solve the problem of "twice as much laundry and half the time to do it," one mom says. And they don't have to match.
From Judy Hackbart of Buffalo Grove, Ill.: "Start a family journal. Write in it whenever you can. The first year will fly by as you will be very busy, but later in life you will want to relive the happy moments."
Don't buy two of everything until you know you'll need it -- you may find one twin loves the bouncy seat and the other hates it. "Let your twins be your buying guide," an Ohio mom suggests.
Can you help?
I'm concerned about my 12-year-old granddaughter's jealousy problem. She's an only child and receives so much attention from her parents and us relatives. But she's still so jealous of everybody. I hope someone has a solution, because this could cause her a lot of unhappiness.
-- A Grandmother in Seattle