Sharing night duty is crucial, even if one parent is going to work in the morning—the stay-at-home parent has a hard day's work ahead as well. Try to get on a schedule and stick with it.
Orchestrating that schedule, though, requires near-military precision. Nursing moms often pump so their husband can give a bottle at night, or they supplement with formula. Many couples wind up taking shifts: Each parent is on one night, off the next. A twist on this idea is that each parent claims responsibility for a particular feeding. That way, both Mom and Dad get four to six hours of sleep in a row.
For many families, figuring out how to maximize parental sleep is a process of trial and error. My husband and I eventually discovered that taking turns feeding our twins worked best in the early months; later on, as the feedings stretched out and our babies develped their own individual patterns, we each took care of one child throughout the night (and got so attuned to "our" baby's needs that we didn't even wake when the other one cried.)
Don't be shy about asking visiting relatives to take a shift: If you go to bed right after the 9 p.m. feeding, your mother-in-law takes the midnight shift, and your husband handles the 3 a.m. call, you might actually all manage to get something resembling a full night's sleep. If you can afford one, a night nurse can be very helpful during the early weeks.
Out and about
By the time she made it out of the house after her kids were born, recalls Mary Adcock, former executive vice-president of NOMOTC and the mother of identical twins, "roads had changed, stores had moved, and life had gone on." Finding a window of opportunity in between naps and feedings is such a challenge that many moms wait weeks or even months before they cross the threshold. But it's worth the effort to get out. "Getting the babies out the front door can change your whole mood," says Adcock. "It can change their mood, too, because they're seeing something different." For major expeditions (say, lasting an afternoon), or any outing once your children are mobile, nothing beats bringing a friend along to act as an extra pair of hands. For solo outings, decide what mode of transport will make things easier. Sometimes a stroller will be best—a trip to the mall or a nice long walk to the park—while a carrier is well suited for a dash to the corner store. However you get outside, do it, because watching the world react to your bundles of joy is something you don't want to delay.