The Parenting Books That Helped Us Survive the First 2 Years With Triplets

Pinnable image reading “Triplet-Approved Parenting Books.”

I love to read. As a kid, I took a book with me everywhere I went—school, the bathroom, a friend’s house, family outings to MLB games. I changed my major from pre-physiology to English literature halfway through college because my science classes were making me cry. If I was going to cry my way through college, I preferred it to be because I had to balance the reading for my survey course (three anthologies, five novels, and countless printed pieces) with that semester’s five other English courses rather than balance chemical equations. Even now, I usually have more than one book going at a time: a fiction book, a parenting book, and an audiobook.

That’s one of the reasons why the first year with triplets was so difficult. When you’re doing three- or four-hour feeds and working and adulting, there’s very little time in your day for doing something you enjoy. Still, I managed to squeeze a few books in—while holding my eyelids open with toothpicks.

Most of them were parenting books that gave us key insight into what the Tagalongs were struggling with. This post provides short book reviews of the parenting books* that helped us survive the first 2 years with the Tagalongs.

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads

Dr. Barbara Luke

Chris loves to tell the story of our engagement—particularly the “after” part. I’d no sooner had the ring on my finger than we were browsing through the wedding planners at Barnes & Noble. It’s no surprise, then, that I did the same shortly after that grainy ultrasound revealed three fluttering heartbeats. It didn’t take me long to learn that there are no books about a multiples pregnancy on the market.

Then, a fellow triplet mama directed me to When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads. Based on Dr. Luke’s research into the relationship between maternal weight gain and baby birthweight as well as the results from Dr. Luke’s Multiples Clinic, the book provides guidelines on all aspects of multiples pregnancy. I found the chapters on weight gain, nutrition, and dietary strategies to be particularly helpful—especially when my MFM simply advised me to “do the best [I could]” about eating. While Dr. Luke’s recommended 4,000 calories/day proved too much for me, I used it as a baseline from which to determine a daily caloric intake that made me feel like a beached whale—not like a balloon on the verge of bursting. The recipes in the appendix provided me with good ideas on how to help me reach my personal daily goal with nutritious, calorically dense foods that best served my growing body and babies.

The book was met with mixed reviews within my MFM’s practice. Most of the doctors were familiar with it but wouldn’t commit to agreeing or disagreeing with it—except one physician. He questioned the science behind the book but begrudgingly admitted that he didn’t have alternative literature to point me toward. While frustrated at my MFM’s advice on eating, I feel that combining his mentality with the nutrition knowledge I gained from the book helped me make decisions during my pregnancy that contributed to my babies’ good weights and health—despite being born at 28 weeks.

Pregnant woman posing for picture, holding framed picture that reads 27 weeks.
The last picture we have of Marcella pregnant.

The Premature Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Premature Baby from Birth to Age One

The Sears Parenting Library

I wish I’d read The Premature Baby Book sooner. The book covers everything from the machines parents will see in the NICU to the emotional rollercoaster parents will experience to the issues parents may encounter after discharge from the NICU. It’s a veritable bible on the preemie experience. I wish I’d had the book when the Tagalongs were in the NICU just so I could refer to it when the nurses and doctors updated us. Is that the ventilator or the C-PAP, and why the hell is it dinging again?!

Most parents can’t predict that their babies will be preemies, but most multiples parents can. This book is a must for multiples parents—even if your babies are delivered closer to term. If you have a friend or family member who unexpectedly delivers early, do them a favor and gift them this book. They’ll thank you.

For our own survival guide to the NICU, check out our post “The NICU Survival Guide: 5 Tips for Parents.” And when you sign up for our mailing list, you’ll receive a FREE printable of questions you should ask on your NICU tour.

Photo collage of triplets in NICU.
The Tagalongs at 1 week old. Top to bottom: James, Caleb, and Danae.

The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems

Tracy Hogg

I turned to Hogg, aka the Baby Whisperer, around 8 months/5 months, when we started to reap the consequences of having let our babies fall asleep while eating or being held. The term “cry it out” (CIO) sounded inhumane and cruel (I’d later change my tune.), so I’d taken to the Internets to find an alternative. I stumbled upon a blog post that sang the praises of Hogg’s pick up/put down (P.U./P.D.) method, which sounded like a much better alternative to CIO, so I bought the book.

While the P.U./P.D. method was helpful in moving toward teaching our babies to self-soothe and put themselves to sleep, the most helpful sections of the book were those on scheduling. With Hogg’s guidelines, we established a rock-solid schedule that we tweaked here and there as necessary—and still follow to some extent today at age 2.

I wish we’d started implementing what I learned much sooner, so if you think you’d like to explore Hogg’s ideas, I suggest you read this book while pregnant and refer to it once your little ones arrive.

Binder that reads “Tagalongs.”
The Binder of Doom. Marcella put together a schedule based on the Baby Whisperer’s recommendations, and she updates it as needed.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Marc Weissbluth

Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, Richard Ferber

There’s a picture or two floating around on social media from when the kids were about 9 months old. It shows me reading a book somewhere between the hours of 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. while listening to the fusses/cries/screams of one or more of my children. Hello holy 9-month sleep regression. Hello sleep books.

I’m going to talk about Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems in one section because I feel that they complement one another well. They supply eye-opening information on the science of sleep; provide practical solutions for helping your child learn to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own; and address common sleep problems such as colic, night terrors, and medical-related sleep issues. I advise reading one or the other before your babies are born so you understand appropriate age-related sleep and patterns that interfere with your children’s sleep. Which book do you read if you have time for only one? This post on the Baby Sleep Site provides a good comparison of the two.

I’m also going to use this opportunity to step on my soapbox for a short bit …

Ferber is associated with the term “cry it out” (CIO). This term does NOT describe an act in which parents leave their babies alone in their cribs to cry until they fall asleep. This is an incorrect interpretation that I suspect comes from parents who implement a method they haven’t taken the time to look into. Parents, please please please do your homework before “sleep training” your babies. Doing so will make a world of difference.

Please also know that parents who use the so-called CIO method—or any of the other methods described by Ferber and Weissbluth—are not horrible parents. They are parents who want to teach their babies the very important skill of learning to put themselves to sleep. And unless these parents are made of steel, employing these tactics is likely very, very difficult on them. The first few nights we used Ferber’s method with the Tagalongs, I sat outside their room crying along with them as I stared at the clock and begged the minutes to move faster. But I don’t regret it for a minute, and I feel our kids are better for it.

All right, I’m done. I’ve stepped down and pushed my soapbox to the side.

Three pictures of babies sleeping.

Raising Your Spirited Child

Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

The Tagalongs’ developmental pediatrician recommended Raising Your Spirited Child at the kids’ 12-month appointment. “Thanks,” I said. “This sounds like it will be really helpful with Caleb.”

The doctor looked at me strangely. “I was thinking of Danae when I suggested it,” she responded as Danae ran down the hallway screaming in delight at nothing in particular.

Great …

I loved this book. Loved. It gave me great insight into my two (maybe three—the jury is still out on James) children who are “normal but ‘more.’” It helped me understand exactly why my children are spirited and provided guidance on helping them—and ultimately Chris and me—be successful in everything from sleep to transitions to social interactions. The guidance is practical, and I feel that, even though I’m in charge of three tiny people, I can employ a good chunk of the tactics on a regular basis.

My favorite part of the book, though, is the chapter on labels. Although it’s very short—just 12 pages—the message in it is powerful. The labels we slap on spirited kids are not always positive—demanding, defiant, exhausting, stubborn, and inflexible, to name a few. These words, Kurcinka explains, elicit the fight-or-flight response in both children and parents, resulting in a negatively charged environment that can damage the parent-child relationship. Kurcinka instead encourages parents to transform the negative words they use to describe their children into positive words that highlight their children’s strengths. Children who are demanding, defiant, exhausting, stubborn, and inflexible therefore become children who are standards driven, principled, energetic, goals oriented, and traditional. Following Kurcinka’s guidance teaches children to be empowered by their strengths and allows parents to see their children in a different light. This fosters a positive environment in which both children and parents can thrive.

This might sound like a bunch of hooey. Some days it feels like it. Some days, it’s really difficult to think of my whining child as expressive and my “out of control” child as energetic. But then I try to consider how I’d feel if I were described by the sets of adjectives in the previous paragraph. Why wouldn’t my children feel the same way I would? That exercise is enough to change the trajectory of my day—or at least remind me to try again the next day.

Anyways, this book is a must if you’re a parent who feels like you’re the only one in your circle raising a child like your child. Trust me, you’re not alone.

Toddler boy crouched on top of a bookcase.
Caleb on top of the bookcase. Note the baby gate surrounding it.

Positive Discipline

Jane Nelson, Cheryl Erwin, and Roslyn Ann Duffy

Positive Discipline is the exception to the rest of the books. It’s not a book that helped us survive; in fact, I hated it. Well, that’s not entirely true. This book was another recommendation by the Tagalongs’ developmental pediatrician, and because I loved the spirited child book so much, I thought I’d feel the same about this book.

Nope, not so much.

The premise of this book was good: discipline is less about punishment and more about teaching and guiding. But it provided no real strategies to employ. Or maybe I just didn’t like the strategies. Or maybe I thought the strategies weren’t doable in my circumstances.

I mean, yes, I can use redirection and distraction when I’m present with the kids, but what do I do when I’m up to my elbows in dishwater at the kitchen sink and see Caleb try to reshape Danae’s head with a toy car in the playroom? Or how do I handle disciplining James for horse-collaring Caleb off the ridable train, disciplining Caleb for headbutting James for the illegal move, and keeping Danae—who is empathetic, not sensitive—from having a meltdown herself? And how the heck do I discipline a kid who laughs at my attempts and then directs the offensive behavior at me?

How do I discipline positively all the time with three children who are the same age? And how do I do it when I’m on my own—which I am, 75% of the time?

And that was my biggest hurdle with this book. This book didn’t seem relevant to my circumstances. It seemed more suited to parents of singletons or children of different ages or daycare teachers who have a co-teacher because of student-teacher ratios. Or parents who have it more together than I do. All I know is that I got more and more discouraged the farther I got into the book.

There was, though, one quote I absolutely loved in the book: “It takes courage to raise a child; it also takes courage to be one” (viii). That sentence made me stop in my tracks. I’ve thought of how it takes courage to do things as a child—walk, climb, try new foods, go to crowded areas, poop on a potty and not in a diaper, see Santa or the Easter Bunny—but I’ve never thought of how it takes courage to simply be a child, to simply exist as a tiny human. I try to bring these words to mind on days when I’m particularly struggling to give me new perspective and change my attitude.

So I won’t encourage you to read this book. But I won’t discourage you from reading it either. Read it, and form your own opinions about it. If you’re a multiples parent and figure out how to follow the guidance in the book, please make me your BFF and teach me your ways.

Quote reading, “It takes courage to raise a child; it also takes courage to be one.”

It goes without saying, but I’ll mention it anyways: the opinions given in these book reviews are entirely my own. I know multiples parents who’ve been able to successfully employ the ideas in Positive Discipline and multiples moms who’ve found When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads to be a bunch of BS. My family’s needs are not your needs, and my parenting style may not align with yours. Read what feels relevant to your situation, and ditch the information that’s irrelevant or contrasts with what you inherently believe to be true.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, comment below if you want more info. And check out my review of the top baby products we used during the first two years in the post “Baby Products That Helped Us Survive the First 2 Years with Triplets.”

About Marcella Hines

Marcella Hines

Marcella wants to live in a world where she can escape to quiet rooms stacked high with books that come bundled with a brownie cookie dough DQ blizzard and cuddly purr monster. When she’s not finding creative ways to play with cars for the eleventy billionth time or shouting, “Undies! Pants! Sit! Pee!” at toddlers who have the attention span of a gnat, you can find her running to the beats of an audiobook/podcast or assisting writers in crafting their work through her editing business, A to Z Editing. Marcella likes talking about the day-to-day experience of raising triplets, like how to navigate toddler time and a park playdate with three toddlers in tow. Follow her running, English weenie-ing, and ice creaming on Instagram: @hineschica.

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