It’s been a rough winter illness-wise for our family so far: pneumonia, stomach bugs, sinus infections, we’ve had every single cold and sniffle that’s gone around. And while it’s never fun, it is so much easier dealing with sick kids times three now that they’re old enough to tell you their ears hurt instead of waking up crying every 45 minutes during the night. Life with infant twins, triplets, or more involves a special sort of balancing act and when germs strike, all of those spinning plates can come crashing down. So here are a few tips that I’ve learned along the way that might help make things a little easier if you find yourself surrounded by sick babies.
1. The best offense is a good defense. Visitors are lovely and everyone wants to come see tiny babies, but if they’ve even had a sniffle in the past few days, you’re better off rescheduling. What may seem a mild cold to an adult can have serious implications for an infant. Set whatever guidelines work for your family and make sure all potential visitors are aware of them. And for those deemed healthy enough to come by, hand washing is non-negotiable. Obviously it’s harder controlling your environment when out and about, but don’t be afraid to speak up if admirers are getting too close. Pro tip: bug netting over your car seats/stroller creates a fantastic barrier between your babies and the world that allows you to still see everyone and can be used regardless of the temperature.
2. Determine your strategy early. Do you prefer dealing with a potentially long, drawn out battle or are you willing to get it over in an intense 72 hour conflict? The first time my trio got sick was right around the winter holidays. I thought we’d been careful enough with visitors and hand washing but apparently some hardy bug slipped through our defenses. One of my girls got sick and our pediatrician said to try to quarantine her in hopes that the other two wouldn’t catch anything.
So she was confined to a pack ‘n play in a corner of the playroom, anything we thought that she had touched in the past 24 hours had been removed for decontamination, and countless meltdowns that ensued as I ran to wash my hands between picking up each baby, apparently not quickly enough. Quarantine lasted until I came back from the bathroom to find my sick lady and my up-until-then-healthy lady licking each other through the mesh sides of the pack ‘n play and giggling hysterically.
We did away with all attempts to contain illnesses and now subscribe to the “if you’re going to get it, get it quickly” school of thought. Does that sometimes result in three puking children? Yes. Do those days really suck? YES. But honestly, I think it’s better than running ragged trying to prevent the spread of germs that they probably have already been exposed to and then prolonging the misery by having a different child sick for three weeks of a month. So figure out what works best for you, your babies, you and your partners’ work schedules, the kind of support you can call on and stick with it.
3. Stockpile supplies at the first sign of trouble. The only thing worse about running out of clean sheets in the middle of the night, is realizing that you’re out of laundry detergent in the middle of the night surrounded by vomit-covered sheets. Treat an illness as a nor'easter preparedness drill- make sure you have enough food/toiletries/cleaning supplies/whatever to hunker down in your house for at least three days.
4. Ask for help. Friends and family are usually quick to offer help when they find out you’re pregnant, regardless of the number of babies you’ll be having. Now is the time to call them. It’s hard when you have multiple sick infants who all want to be held 24/7. As a parent, all you want to do is comfort your children, but realizing that you haven’t eaten more than a few handfuls of cereal since yesterday means it’s time to call in reinforcements. You need to take care of yourself so that you don’t end up crying alongside the babies.
5. This too shall pass. Chalk it up to one of the less charming parts of parenting multiples and try not to let it get you down. Take some gruesome satisfaction from the fact that you can simultaneously balance three different throw up buckets and know that you’ve valiantly earned every gray hair on your head.