Having babies close together can be a handful but it can also be a joy. We spoke to three mothers to find out what the reality of having 'Irish Twins' is really like.
Esther Groarke Powell is a 36-year-old midwife from Kildare. She and her husband Brian, a sales manager, welcomed their twin sons, Ralph and Louis in December 2010 and four months later realised she was pregnant with their third son, Dexter.
"The twins were delivered in December 2010, when I was 35 weeks pregnant," recalls Esther.
"Then a few months later, I noticed I was nauseous with certain smells and felt dizzy a lot. I thought it was due to tiredness from being up at night with the twins -- but when I was in a pharmacy I saw half-price pregnancy tests and nearly fainted as the penny dropped. Dexter really was a huge surprise."
Esther was eight weeks pregnant when the twins turned six months and although she still has her hands full, she believes her sons' proximity in age will be beneficial in years to come. "I'm still very much in the thick of things as Ralph and Louis have just turned two and our baby is 11 months.
"But I found it effortless having another baby to care for, because I was still making bottles and changing nappies, so one more wasn't difficult.
"The big boys didn't start sleeping through until they were 18 months, which coincided with them starting to walk, so I was used to broken sleep when the new baby arrived. And they didn't understand or care when we brought Dexter home so he glided into our family like he was always there.
"I can't really think of any negatives about having babies close together but the hardest thing for me was when the twins were sick with bronchiolitis.
"First one got sick, then the other did and then it was Dexter's turn.
"So I spent a lot of last winter and spring in and out of hospitals with them. As with all three being under two, their immune systems were still developing as were their teeth. That was rough going as we had three small babies who completely depended on us.
"It's not easy having children so close in age. Everyone tells me they will be great friends when they grow up -- although right now the twins are at the "MINE" stage, so it's tears and tantrums. But it is getting easier. Maybe Brian and I just have a good routine or maybe we're just getting used to the chaos.
"But either way we wouldn't change it for the world. Life is just very hectic right now but definitely, it's very enjoyable and I'm sure there will be lots of benefits when I look back in years to come."
'i'd love to need an alarm or read the paper at breakfast'
Niamh Breslin is a software engineer and she and her husband Stephen have two daughters under two. The family house in Greystones is a busy place, but as time goes on, looking after their little girls is getting easier.
"We have two daughters, Meabh, who was two just before Halloween and Orla, who will have her first birthday on Valentine's Day," says Niamh. "I'm a software engineer working in the online poker industry and my husband is studying full time for a masters in Creative Digital Media in DIT.
"There are just 15-and-a-half months between the girls and Orla was a bit of a surprise. We were living in a two-bed apartment at the time and were already tight for space. My job was under threat and Stephen was just planning to start studying again so all in all the timing seemed pretty bad.
"We stayed in the apartment until Orla was three months old and then rented a big house where we've lots of space and a garden. Our apartment is rented out but is in negative equity so we won't be selling it anytime soon. But the house has allowed us to get an au pair to mind the girls during the day while I went back to work and Stephen was studying."
But despite the difficulties, the Wicklow woman says her daughters are great company for each other.
"Orla and Meabh are pretty funny together and it's great to see them interacting," she says.
"Meabh is very bossy and loves telling her little sister what she can and can't do.
"But Orla loves following her big sister around and trying to do what she's doing. Hopefully, they'll be best buddies as they grow up.
"But they're hard work. I'd love to need an alarm clock, or to be able to sit and read the paper over breakfast.
"The hardest time was at the start when I was feeding Orla round the clock and Meabh was finding it hard not being the only one getting attention. However, it is getting easier all the time as they both get more independent.
"I try not to sweat the small stuff and get as much help as I can from grandparents and friends. It can be difficult, but it's worth it."
'DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE HOUSE GETTING IN A MESS'
Niamh Healy is an antenatal teacher with Cuidiu (Irish Childbirth Trust) and co-author of Bump-2-Babe, the consumer guide to maternity services in Ireland. She has both professional and personal experience of coping with babies born close together.
"My first two children were born 16-months apart so I know what it is like trying to juggle two small babies at the same time," she says. "And I was working part-time so I know how hard it is trying to get out in the mornings, but there are some simple tips which can make things easier, particularly for those who are lucky enough to be at home." These include:
Ask for help, don't try and do everything yourself.
Don't worry about the house being a mess -- it's not important and will get sorted out eventually.
Turn the baby's feeding time into a special time for your older child -- read a book to him or have an 'extra special' box of toys which only comes out at this time. This will turn feeding time into a positive experience.
Let your older child get involved with the new baby -- ask him to help you choose clothes or fetch a nappy for his younger sibling.
Don't expect too much of your older child -- he may seem much bigger than the newborn, but remember, if he is under two, then he is still a baby and needs attention, too.
For more advice visit www.cuidiu-ict.ie; www.meetmums.ie and www.bump2babe.ie