"We did it!" Breastfeeding Multiples

Whether or not to breast feed is a difficult decision to make and for mothers of multiples because it is also complicated by the need to adjust to caring for multiples.

Tandem nursing our twins with 18 month old big brother supervising

I found that for me, the advantages of breastfeeding far outweighed the disadvantages. Nutritional value and money savings aside, I love how breast feeding allows for closeness between mother and baby. After the babies were born, I never felt like I had the same quality time that I enjoyed with their 18 month old brother. Yes, things were crazy, but the 30 minutes we had together to nurse helped me to connect with the babies. First we connected as a team, “We can do this!” Now that they are bigger and eat much faster, I enjoy my one on one time with each baby.

Physical exhaustion will play a toll and make you want to quit at times, however I felt wiped out just thinking about the alternative pumping and bottle feeding. Things were not easy for us at first. My boys were born at 32 weeks gestation and spend two weeks in the NICU. The best thing you can do in that situation is not to panic when you are not able to breastfeed. I know there is a lot of discussion on the interwebs about people lamenting about how they weren’t able to breastfeed because the baby had to have formula first. Preemies will most likely start out with a feeding tube and progress to bottles, but I want you to know that just because they can’t nurse directly from your breast does not mean that they never will.

Kangaroo Care in the NICU with feeding tubes

 

So how do you prepare once you decide that you want to breast feed your multiples?

Prepare to Pump: The average gestational age at birth for twins is 36 weeks and the average NICU stay for premature twins is 14 days. Mothers who deliver their babies at 40 weeks should consider themselves lucky, although they may not be feeling all that lucky by 40 weeks (Yikes!)

The reality is that your multiples will be born earlier than a singleton baby and will likely spend a week or so in the NICU. If you decide that you want to breastfeed your babies, your first goal should be to prepare to pump because it is very likely that your babies will not be ready to nurse from the breast the minute they are born.

60% of mothers used a breast pump at some time. You will probably need to use a pump. If you can’t afford to rent or buy a hospital grade pump, check with your local WIC department. You may be eligible to use one of their hospital grade pumps for free. If you are planning on returning to work, you may want to consider buying a double electric pump if you can afford it.

Just a side note, you cannot stock up breast milk before your babies are born (well, at least your own). I have heard several anxious mothers express a desire to do this, but your milk will not come in until after the babies have been born. It may take a few days for it to arrive, but keep pumping. I went from having a drop of milk a day after my twins were born to coming home two weeks later with five gallon size Zip-lock bags filled with frozen breast milk containers.

 Plan to Eat: Breastfeeding is a workout girls and you’ve got to be properly fueled for the burn. The nursing mother burns an average of 500 calories per baby breastfeeding. Non lactating women need a minimum of 1200 calories a day so lactating women need to be eating at least 1700 calories a day.  If you find that you are having trouble with your milk supply or you are not losing weight, track your food on a free program like myfitnesspal.com and make sure you are getting enough to eat.

Prepare for challenges: Nursing twins has a whole slew of unique challenges that you will have to work through. I highly recommend synchronizing your babies schedules at first and nursing at the same time once they are able to nurse from the breast. If one baby is not ready to nurse from the breast, you could give him a bottle while the other is nursing. Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More! (La Leche League International Book) is a great breast feeding resource from La Leche specifically for mothers of multiples.

Just because you have twins does not mean that you get a free pass from some of the other breast feeding obstacles. Our boys both had really bad tongue tie that we had to work through before they could nurse. A resources like kellymom.com or even finding a local La Leche group or lactation consultant is a great idea. You may even want to consider getting connected with local lactation specialist prior to the arrival of your multiples. They may be able to help you develop a game plan for breast feeding your babies, and you may feel comfortable contacting them when you need help if you have already met them.

We just made it through our first six months of exclusively breastfeeding and now we are beginning our journey by introducing solid foods. Although it is nice to be able to feed them from a spoon, I still look forward to each one of my ten mini nursing sessions each day (five for each baby).

If you are planning to breastfeed, I hope this article will help. If there are any moms who want to comment with tips for breastfeeding twins after going back to work, please do so in the comments below. I know there are several moms who would love to hear from you.

 What helped you when breastfeeding two or more?

Jamie is the mini van rocking mama to three lively boys, big brother age 2 and identical twins age 6 months. Check out Jamie’s blog and podcast, The Playdate Crashers

Pimp My Ride!

When my husband and I quit our jobs and relocated so that he could go to grad school, we became a one car family. That car was a black ’97 grand am, which wasn’t too bad for a childless couple, but quickly became overcrowded when our first son entered the world one year later.
 A few months after he was born, an act of God happened and we were gently plowed into by the city bus. Our car was totaled and with the money from the insurance we were able to get a Ford Focus Wagon. Upgrade! (Only a mom would think a wagon was an upgrade).

Fast forward one year later, we are expecting twins and have now outgrown our Focus and our new to us ‘00 Jeep. How do you fit three car seats across the back of on row of seats? Trust me; we tried every combination possible and even if we could fit all three seats, the mechanics of getting a kid into the middle would be impossible. There was no way around it; a van was our future.

Did we deserve a brand new Swagger Wagon (Toyota Sienna), you bet! But a car payment on a new pimped out minivan wasn’t realistic for tight budget. We were fortunate enough to find a pretty sweet mini-van that had all the swag of the Sienna, but at a third of the price. However, we learned pretty quickly that there is no perfect car. We had hoped to be able to take out a captain’s chair so we could easily get to the back seat, but because of side air bags the seat didn’t come out.

The car situation can be a major financial burden on families with multiples, especially when your family increases a lot quicker than you anticipated. Once you find the right vehicle, then you’ve got to plan for how your kids will safely ride. It seems impossible to find car seats in stores that you can fit three in a row across the back seat of a car, but with a measuring stick and patience, it can be done if needed.

Now that you’ve got your new ride and the kids strapped in, where do you put the stroller? I was quite depressed when I learned that the luxury limo style double stroller with every option possible (except for how to transport all three of my 3 under 2) takes up my entire trunk. Finding the right stroller can eat your budget up fast. After the twins were born I had at least six different strollers at my house and none of them suited my needs.

It’s easy to waste a lot of money searching for a solution to multiple child transportation. Here are some things I have learned along the way that will hopefully help save you some cold hard cash:

  • You don’t have to have a brand new Honda Odyssey; try to make what you already have work before you go car shopping and look for used gems with similar features.
  • Buy car seats that have a small base and can be used for a variety of ages. Sunshine Radian car seats have a small base and can be used rear facing and forward facing.
  • Pimp out existing equipment that you already own. Stroller connectors are great for connecting umbrella style strollers and they only cost around $12. This is a really great option of you have twins and an older or younger child. We made our son a sidecar on the twins double stroller, he loved it.
  • Go to consignment stores; check Craigslist, and Ebay to find deals on used equipment. *Only buy car seats from someone that you trust, if a car seat has been in an accident it is no longer safe to use.
  • Join your area mothers of multiples club and find out if they have a consignment sale.
  • Not everything has to match. If you have to have your gear “go together” try coordinating colors or look online for handmade seat covers.
  • Give up the dream of owning the perfect stroller, it doesn’t exist.
  • Be realistic about how often you will be going out and about. Does your usage justify the cost?
  • Consign or sell what isn’t working or what you don’t want to use anymore and roll it into other baby costs.

 How have you saved when it came time to pimp your ride?

Jamie is the mini van rocking mama to three lively boys, big brother age 2 and identical twins age 6 months. Check out Jamie’s blog and podcast, The Playdate Crashers

 

 

Trying Times of Twinfancy

Double Trouble?!?!

“Don’t Push me cause I’m close to the edge, I’m trying not to lose my head” – GrandmasterFlash

Life with twinfants in the house is HARD. Most of the time I am so busy trying to maintain the peace, that I’m not aware that we’re raising twins. If I were, I think it would wear me out. We are so close to the edge at every minute that it doesn’t take much for our household to spiral out of control.

It is a delicate balance, one that I have best maintained with the help of a routine. If you’ve ever read my personal blog, playdatecrashers.com, you will quickly learn that Tracy Hogg is my baby guru. I owe all of my baby care survival skills to her.

Around my house we live and die by the routine. Our two year old son is a great sleeper, and I think it is due to us keeping a fairly predictable routine since he was a few months old. Thankfully he still enjoys sleeping in the confines of his crib. I am a little nervous about his inevitable transition to the big boy bed, and the new freedoms he will enjoy with it, but I am sure that when the time comes we will tackle it just like everything else, one step at a time.

With the twins it was a lot easier to establish a routine because they were born 8 weeks premature and spent the first two weeks of their lives in the NICU. Since they came home with a three hour routine, the main thing we had to do was help them learn how to sleep at night, which they do quite well. The first six months (since they were born), have been a lot more manageable that I imagined (not that we haven’t faced a few moments of hopeless chaos here and there).

We have recently entered into dangerous territory, which I will refer to as “the change”. It couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time. For those of you who have yet to experience the joys of “the change” it usually falls between 4-6 months and has something to do with baby’s growth spurts, teething, and new skills. Symptoms of the change are drooling, mood swings, sleep disruptions, and inconsolability. There is a much higher success rate to sail smoothly through this face with a singleton, but for Twinfants (especially if they tend to be synchronized) parents should hunker down and prepare for the worst.

Saturday, things finally came to a head when I had reached the third nap of the day and both babies wanted nothing to do with lying in their cribs and drifting peacefully off to sleep like they normally do. I feel like I should also mention the fact that my back-up had been MIA for the past 36 hours because of school and work responsibilities and was recovering from a church youth group over-nighter.

I remember sitting on the bed with one baby crying in the nursery and me holding the other, feeling like all of our hard work had been flushed down the drain and that we would have to start from the ground up to get back to where we were. My solution: escape the chaos and walk away.

I quit trying to stick to the routine for the day and we loaded everyone into the van and headed out on the town. It worked! Then, on Sunday I discovered that I had not been giving them enough Motrin, and once I gave the right dosage they took a peaceful three hour nap, which naturally moved them to the four hour routine I have been trying to transition to for weeks.

Twinfancy is hard. The best we can do is to try not to lose our heads when we realize that we are in over our heads. We may be close to the edge at every moment, but the solution can and will be found among the chaos.

 What strategies have you found helpful when you were in over your head with your multiples?

Jamie is the baby whispering mother to three lively boys, big brother age 2 and identical twins age 6 months. Check out Jamie’s blog and podcast, The Playdate Crashers

Singled Out: Life as a Red head and Twin Mom

When I was a child, old ladies would often come up and ask me, “Where did you get your red hair?” Too young to fully understand the complex system of genetics, I went with what I knew. “My uncle!” I would proudly reply, since he was the only redhead in the family that I knew of. So to prevent any unwelcomed invitations to appear on the next episode of Sally Jesse Raphael (Yeah, I’m a product of the 80’s), my mother taught me how to say recessive gene, because neither of my parents were blessed with ginger locks.

Talk to any red head and they will tell you that it is both a blessing and a curse. People will notice if you have red hair and they have some pretty strong opinions. I remember being called Big Red on the bus in middle school, I hated it. There have been times where all I wanted to do was be a wall flower in unfamiliar places, like our trip to Cuba, where men would call out at me on the street. However, over time I have learned to embrace my copper top because it has uniquely shaped my whole life.

I feel like my experience as a red head has been preparing me for the public life as a mother of multiples, beginning with these questions:

“Does red hair run in your family?”

“Is it natural?”

“Better you than me”

“I wish I had red hair….”

“My cousins’ third wife had red hair”

Substitute twins for red hair and you may get a sudden feeling of déjà vu. Both twins and red hair are very rare. Around 2% of the population has red hair. Around 2% of the population are twins. Let’s face it, people are fascinated with things they don’t see all the time and they feel compelled to comment.

I know we all want to get in and out with our multiples without drawing undue attention, especially when they are about to spontaneously self-destruct within five minutes of entering the building, but we need to remember what a blessing we have. Mothers of twins, triplets, quads+ have the unique opportunity of getting to hear a choir of baby giggles and coos on a peaceful morning.

When I am stressed out and I have had a rough day with the babies, that is exactly when I want to go out because I am reminded that I am doing what strangers don’t hesitate to tell me they don’t know how I do. I am loving every minute with my two little genetic rarities, hair color TBD.

What unique experiences have helped to prepare you for being a mother of multiples?

Jamie is a redheaded mother of three lively boys, big brother age 2 and identical twins age 6 months. Check out Jamie’s blog and podcast, The Playdate Crashers