Each year, around 1,000 Kiwi couples welcome twins, triplets or other multiples into the world.
The arrival of these babies brings excitement and joy, but also added challenges. Night feeds and day excursions take on a whole new dimension, and parenting multiples can be physically-demanding and emotionally exhausting – especially in the first years.
Fortunately, help is at hand. Multiples NZ supports parents who are expecting and raising multiples, and to get a sense of what the organisation does, we spoke with its new president, Heather Ben.
Heather is the mum of 10-year-old Amelia and six-year-old twins, Kaitlyn and Cameron, so she knows a thing or two about the challenges of having multiples and the benefits of a strong support network.
Thanks for your time, Heather. It can be a shock to find out that you’re expecting multiples. What are some ways that parents-to-be can prepare for their babies’ arrival?
It’s natural to feel a combination of emotions when you first find out that you’re having more than one baby. Feelings of surprise, joy, fear, elation and worry are common, so as soon as you find out that you’re expecting multiples, I really recommend that you make contact with and join your local Multiples Club.
There are 14 around New Zealand and they’re run by volunteer parents of multiples, so you’ll get first-hand knowledge, local information and access to a great support group.
We encourage you to learn about multiples, so that you understand how to make good decisions and care for yourself and your babies when they arrive. Do a little planning too, doing things like setting up your home, organising help and preparing any older children for their siblings’ arrival.
Multiples NZ offers many resources to help you prepare for your new parenting journey. There’s lots of information at MultiplesNZ and you can find a Multiples Club in your area and complete a membership form on the website too.
How do Multiples Clubs support parents practically and emotionally?
All Multiples Clubs are run individually by volunteers, so the services offered might differ slightly from area to area, but local clubs provide opportunities to join a social network, share experiences, access information and use helpful resources.
Specifically, most local clubs provide:
- A friendly contact person to answer your questions about what the club does and other services in your area
- A Buddy System so you have someone to turn to for help, advice, advocacy, support or just a friendly chat
- Playgroups or coffee mornings to bond with other parents of multiples
- Websites and/or a Facebook page, plus a local club newsletter
- New Parent Packs, containing information for parents and a range of samples
- A free box of Huggies nappies
- A range of hire equipment for multiples
- A club library, stocked with books about pregnancy, birth and raising multiples, including the range of information booklets published by Multiples NZ
Larger urban clubs, like those in Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington, can offer an even greater range of services. It’s common for them to:
- Hold regular social activities/events for mums, dads and families. These fun social occasions aim to prevent feelings of isolation and promote networking, support and friendship between members
- Organise multiple-specific antenatal classes
- Offer parent education, e.g. a New Parent Evening where you can learn about a particular parenting topic or take a first aid course
- Organise a hospital visiting team, if you like. This means that a club member will visit the hospital soon after your children’s birth to offer support and be a first contact for finding out further information
- Provide bereavement support
- Deliver meals for new families, and in some clubs, a grocery hamper
- Offer free, or very cheap, second-hand baby/children’s clothing
Aside from Multiples Clubs, what other organisations can be helpful for parents of multiples?
Bellyful is a national non-profit organisation that delivers frozen, pre-cooked meals to families with newborns (or those with sick children) and it can really ease the burden of meal preparation when you have new babies.
Multiples are often born early, so it’s also good to know that The Neonatal Trust supports families with premature babies, providing in-hospital and at-home support and information. They also hold playgroups for parents of premmies.
When it comes to over-the-phone advice, the PlunketLine provides free parenting advice (call 0800 933 922 anytime) and the government’s HealthLine provides free health advice (when you call 0800 611 116).
What financial support does the government provide for parents of multiples?
Raising twins, triplets or more children of the same age puts extra pressure on families’ finances, but the good news is that there are various government payments that can ease the cost of bringing up multiples:
- Work and Income Home Help payments help parents or carers with the cost of domestic support to complete household tasks (like cleaning, cooking or laundry) or training in parenting skills.
The 2021/2022 hourly gross rate for home help is $21.06 (excluding holiday pay) or $22.74 (including holiday pay), and how much you get, depends on your circumstances.
- Inland Revenue Working for Families Tax Credits are available to families with dependent children, and parents of multiples may be eligible for the:
- Family Tax Credit, which is a means-tested payment for families with dependent children
- In-work Tax Credit, which is available to all families who are in paid work and are not receiving an income tested benefit or student allowance
- Minimum Family Tax Credit, which is a top-up payment for families earning $30,576 or less per year (after tax). Couples must be working at least 30 hours a week between them, and single parents must be working at least 20 hours a week
- Best Start, which is a payment for parents of new babies. It’s paid at $60 per week per baby up to the age of one, and is then paid on an income-tested sliding scale till they turn three
- Work and Income Childcare Assistance helps many families pay for child care via the:
- Childcare Subsidy, which can fund up to nine hours a week of pre-school child care if you’re not working, studying or training, and up to 50 hours a week if you are. This subsidy is means-tested and your children must be under the age of five (or under six if you get the Child Disability Allowance for them) and be attending an approved early childhood programme for at least three hours a week.
- Out of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR) Subsidy, which can help families with the cost of before and after school care for up to 20 hours a week, and school holiday programmes for up to 50 hours a week.
- Flexible Childcare Assistance, which can help single parents pay for child care if they have to work when services are closed (e.g. weekends or nights).
- Ministry of Education 20 Hours ECE pays for up to six hours a day and 20 hours a week of early childhood education for all three-, four- and five-year-olds attending an ECE service or kōhanga reo that offers the subsidy.
- Work and Income offers a range of additional financial assistance to help with things like accommodation, school costs, living expenses, emergency costs and transition-to-work expenses.
- And the Ministry of Health Children’s Spectacle Subsidy administered by Enable New Zealand to help eligible families pay for vision services for children (e.g. eye examinations and glasses).
Multiples Awareness Week is happening from 24 February to 1 March. What special events are happening that families can take part in?
Many of our clubs hold events during Multiples Awareness Week. The theme for 2020 is ‘Share the Journey – Stronger Together’ and it’s best to check with your local club or keep an eye on our website for information about what’s happening in your area.