Meet a How Do You Do It? author

Janna

Janna lives in Portland, Oregon with a lazy border collie named Cru, her husband and 5 year-old, identical twin boys born at 38 weeks, each weighing over 7 pounds. She works from home as a writer and editor and loves outdoor adventures, holidays, simple living and old historic buildings. She counts list making as a favorite hobby and fully believes the Lochness Monster is real.

Twins and School: Together or Apart?

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Categories Classroom Placement, Parenting, School, School-Age22 Comments

It’s kindergarten registration time for many of you in the US and Canada, and parents of multiples are hit with the age-old question: Together or apart?

Check out our full list of HDYDI posts on classroom placement for multiples.

Historically, many schools have had policies insisting that multiples be placed in separate classrooms. This has been changing in recent years. Likely due to the increase of multiples in the population, there has been increasing awareness of the variation between sets of multiples . Some twins do, in fact, perform better in separate classrooms, but some do better together, as Dr. Nancy Segal points out in her guest post “Separating Twins in School“.

A guide to deciding whether your #multiples will do better together or apart in the classroom. From three moms of twins whose kids have different needs.

We owe a debt of gratitude to parents who have been advocating for each set of siblings being treated individually. A number of laws have been passed around the world putting classroom placement decisions in the hands of parents, who know their children best.

My Twins Do Equally Well Together or Apart: Sadia

I thought very hard about whether my daughters should be in the same class in elementary school. I pushed aside all generalizations about what worked “for twins in general” and looked at my daughters as individuals in a relationship. They were used to being away from home for large stretches of the day, thanks to starting daycare at 11 weeks old. They were accustomed to classroom discipline. Starting kindergarten wasn’t going to be nearly as disruptive to their lives as for children with a stay-at-home parent.

M and J loved being together, but reports from their daycare program indicated that they were as likely to select different activities to participate in and friends to play with as they were to play together. They had the same friends, but different best friends. They loved being twins, but they also loved being “just J” and “just M”. Some kids had trouble telling them apart.

Given all this information, I elected to request separate classrooms for my daughters as they started kindergarten. We were late to enroll in school, thanks to last-minute Army orders, and the school asked if they could be placed in a single classroom, where they could make room. We stood firm. We wanted our daughters in separate classrooms to minimize comparison and to put focus on the girls’ individuality over their twinship.

They did just fine apart. Later in the year, when the school moved them into the same first grade class, they did fine together. When they went to first grade for real, they performed wonderfully, both socially and academically, apart. In the two years since, when they’ve been in the same classroom by their own request, they’ve done well too.

For my girls, it’s just a matter of preference. They’re equally successful being in a classroom together or classrooms apart. They just prefer to be together.

My Twins Are Better Off Together: Janna

We are so fortunate that our school district allows parents to choose whether or not twins should be in the same classroom. We chose to place our identical twin boys in the same classroom when they started kindergarten last September.

Our reasoning: we didn’t do daycare or preschool so this was the first time they were away from me and their dad, other than the occasional day with the grandparents. We didn’t want the first time away from mom to also be their first time away from each other. When at home or at the park or library story time, they had always gotten along really well, without fighting, and we hadn’t seen any negative competitive behavior between them. When they are with other children, they play both with each other and with other kids, so we were fairly confident there wouldn’t be any negative effects with them in the same class.

Also, based on logistics, having them in the same classroom is so much easier. I only send one email with information about absences, illnesses, questions, etc. I can volunteer in just one classroom. They get invited to the same birthday parties and playdates. We don’t have to deal with jealousy because one twin’s class got extra recess that day or other such things (that are a very big deal to a five year old).

And finally, (and really what probably affected our decision the most) we have friends who are 30 year old identical twins. They both agreed that being separated in elementary school made them anxious and miserable. One twin said he specifically remembers being worried while sitting in first grade, because he couldn’t physically see his brother. Because our boys are also identical and very traditionally close, this conversation definitely impacted our decision.

The result: our boys have thrived being in the same classroom. They are both doing well academically, socially, behaviorally and physically. Their report cards look the exact same (which we’ve also noticed at home — they just learn things at the same time and have the same abilities so far). They love school and they love being in the same class. According to their teacher, there are no negative effects having our boys in the same class. They rarely choose each other for their partner and sit at different tables, but they do play together at recess, along with their other friends.  She sees them occasionally looking for their twin and then going back to work during the day. Their teacher was able to tell them apart (based on head shape and a small red mark on one twin) after one week of school. Their classmates definitely have more trouble telling them apart, but so far it hasn’t bothered my boys to casually correct their friends.

This year, based on the recommendation of their teacher, logistics and my boys’ own opinions when asked, we’ve decided to keep them in the same classroom next year for first grade. Would they be okay separated? Probably, yes. But, it’s easier for me if they’re in the same classroom; they enjoy being in the same classroom; it’s easy enough for their teacher to tell them apart; and there are just no negative side effects having these two identical twin boys in the same classroom, so until there are, we’ll continue placing them in the same classroom.

My Boy Twin Needs Togetherness. My Girl Twin Is Okay Apart: Beth

When the idea for this post started, and I decided to participate, I was on the side of twins should be together.  My boy/girl twins were 21 months old and were never apart until he got sick and had to stay home from day care one day.  By then he was fine and spent the day asking for his sister.  Now a bit of background here.  She is a firecracker.  She is independent, headstrong, stubborn, and has a stare of doom that will freak you out.  He is a cuddle bug, and has been since day one.  He is older and bigger, but she has achieved most milestones first, including walking.  Once she started walking, she became even more independent.  At 21 months he is was just starting to walk and was still very unsteady.

My twins were in the baby room at day care.  The next room up is for 2-3 year olds, but most kids move in at about 16 months. At the time of writing this post, my kids were 21 months.  And Miss Independent with the stare of doom was so ready to move up.  So we did it.

And she thrived.  Every morning in the new room was fabulous. She barely waved goodbye to me before going off to check everything out.  She was happy.  So clearly, twins should be separated.

But here is the thing.  My boy was not happy.  Every drop off at day care was a heartbreaking mess.  Whether we dropped her off first or him, he was clinging to me and sobbing for dear life.  I could hear him after I left the room.  (OK, I could hear him crying for hours, which logically is not possible, but moms have that kind of super power.)  Day care promised me that he calmed down each day and did fine, but you know when you just have a feeling….

So I started pushing them to move him up too. But he was not walking well enough for that room.  Fast forward, we came up with a plan…a brilliant plan!  Both babies get dropped off in the baby room.  She (thankfully) was fine with it.  He was fabulous with it. But it did bring up face to face with the idea of separation.

The day care kept telling me that twins need to be separated.  That he was fine, eventually.  And that may be the case.  But not yet.  At 21 months old he was going through some things and needs his sister.  At 21 months old, they were still babies and while she seems to understand and appreciate (and at times accept) logic, he wasn’t there yet.  They slept in separate cribs, sat in separate car seats, and they spend time apart 2 days a week in school (while he was transitioning).  But in school he needs his sister, and that is good enough for me. She helps him walk, she gives him more confidence, and he thrived during this transition.

My twins need to be together in school, at least for now.  Check back with me in 2 years when we need to talk about Kindergarten classes.

What are you thinking? Do you think your kids will be better off together or apart in school?

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MiM: How to make chew necklaces for kids who chew their clothes

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Categories DIY, Make-It Mondays, Parenting, Preschoolers, School-Age4 Comments

One of my twin boys is a shirt chewer. Actually, he was a shirt chewer. I made chew necklaces for him to wear and completely cured him of his nervous habit of chewing on his clothing in about two months. I am not crafty and I can not sew at all. So when I looked for ideas about how to get kids to stop chewing their clothes, I was disappointed to find complicated, messy sensory games or options that required a sewing machine.

Finally, I found an easy, free, no sew option by whining to my friend who is a school teacher. She had seen a few students wear “chew necklaces” in her elementary school.

Chew Necklaces

How to make chew necklaces for kids who chew their clothes:

Supplies –
*old tshirts (that your child has outgrown or already chewed holes in)
*scissors
*regular bedroom dresser
*ability to braid

Steps –
*Cut out three strips of fabric (~25-30 inches long, depending on how long you want the necklace to be. Remember tshirt material stretches) from the old tshirts.

Tie Knot in end

*Tie the three strips together into a knot at one end.

*Tuck the knotted end into dresser drawer.Braid with knot in dresser

*Braid the three strips.

*Tie the end of the braid into a knot.

Tie knot in other end

*Tie the two knots together.

Tie together done

Because they are made out of tshirt material, they feel the same to kids as chewing on their clothes and are likely to be a great substitute. They can also be thrown in the wash with their clothes. They do eventually get chewed through (as evidenced in the above picture; the gray and red one is pretty much done) but it’s easy to make more. And oddly, the best news is that after wearing these for a few months, my son just quit chewing altogether. Now, we don’t need these necklaces and he doesn’t chew on his shirts anymore!

Chew Necklace

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Parenting Inc.: How the Billion-Dollar Baby Business Has Changed the Way We Raise Our Children – A Book Review

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Categories Book Review Theme Week, Parenting, Shopping, Theme Week5 Comments

A week of parenting book reviews and giveaways at hdydi.com Feb 10-14 2014

It’s snowing outside and my husband and our twin boys are playing in the front yard, while I sit inside our warm, small house and drink tea. We’ve owned this home for 7 years. When we bought it, before we had children, we heard from our family, friends and strangers that it was a great starter home, but we were definitely going to have to move to a bigger house when we had kids. But that was never our plan. We wanted to live in this house with our children and make it work. This is a small house, yes, but it is beautiful, charming, renovated by our own hands, affordable and in a great location for our lifestyle.

When our boys were infants, though, if felt extremely small, as did our bank account. We had two babies and all the stuff & expense that comes along with them. We didn’t want to move; we didn’t want to go into debt; we didn’t want to keep accumulating more stuff and spending so much money, but that seemed to be the only way to raise twin babies. I am so grateful that I found the book, Parenting, Inc., by Pamela Paul, at our library. I wouldn’t normally read a nonfiction, journalistic, expose’ type book, but I had extra time to read during the hours I spent tandem feeding and I grabbed this book along with my usual chick lit out of curiosity (and it has an adorable cover). It turned out to be well-written, interesting and most important – it confirmed my suspicion that spending more money on our children is not the way to raise happy, healthy kids. It also made me see more clearly the (disgusting, dishonest, unethical) marketing behind the billion dollar baby/child industry. According to the New York Times Book Review, “An entire industry preys on parental anxiety . . . Paul tries to lead us out of the catastrophization of childhood.”
Parenting Inc Book Cover

This is not a parenting book, per se, and I wasn’t even sure it fit with the Book Review Week. But it occurred to me that this book is one of the most influential books in regards to our parenting philosophy (less is more; children need adventure, fun, books and love – not more stuff, high priced lessons and expensive preschool), so I’m including it here this week. I think all new parents should read it. Actually, I think all parents should read it, even if your babies are already in elementary school. This book will open your eyes and help you make smarter decisions about your family and your money.

Janna lives in a small house in Portland, Oregon with her husband, identical twin boys and the world’s laziest border collie.

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Can We Please Get a Chapter about Multiples?

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Categories Book Review Theme Week, Parenting, Parenting Twins, Theme Week16 Comments

This is not a book review. Rather, it’s a criticism of the parenting/baby/pregnancy book industry and their disregard for twins, triplets and higher order multiples.

A mom of twins calls for parenting book authors to give some thought to what it's like to raise several kids the same age. From hdydi.com

As of 2010, twins accounted for about 1 in 30 births in the United States (source). And yet, most parenting and pregnancy books I’ve come across either completely ignore multiples (Parenting With Love And Logic) or only include a short paragraph (What to Expect When You’re Expecting). I realize that not everyone has twins or higher order multiples and I realize that we can’t expect a parenting book to include them throughout the entire book. However, with the rise in multiple births, we can (and do) expect the books to include a chapter about multiples. Do not completely ignore our situation. Do not give us a short, uninformative paragraph. We want a whole chapter. In my experience reading Parenting With Love And Logic, I was ultimately frustrated because a great deal of the discipline strategies sound ideal for a singleton, but are completely inadequate and impractical with twins. A chapter written addressing how to incorporate the ideas into a multiple birth family would have been so helpful.

Yes, there are books written exclusively for twins, triplets and higher order multiples and those books are important and informative. However, they are usually focused on the pregnancy or early days at home. They also aren’t as specialized. For example, there is no Christian Parenting Handbook for Twins, Triplets and Quads or Happiest Twin Babies on the Block.

Maybe no one who has any influence on the publishing industry will read my rant. But maybe they will and in ten years when someone finds out at the ultrasound that there are two heartbeats and rushes home to read about it in her What to Expect book, she’ll find a whole chapter about multiple birth pregnancy and not just a short paragraph.

Janna lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, almost six year old identical twin boys (who were 18 months in the above picture – gah! where did my babies go?!?!?!?) and the world’s laziest border collie.

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Ask the Moms: How to Tandem Nurse

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Categories Ask the Moms, Breastfeeding, InfantsTags 1 Comment

 has written about how to successfully tandem nurse before, but it’s been a few years. In this post, we share the current HDYDI Moms’ experience with tandem breastfeeding. We hope that this can give you some ideas and insight if you are embarking on the adventure of breastfeeding twins!

Skip to: Tandem Nursing Experiences | Pumping and Nursing Experiences | What Helped | What Hindered | Equipment | Support Personnel | Positions | Tandem Nursing in Public | Prematurity | Twin Nursing Ebook

nurseCanva

What is your experience with tandem nursing? How long did you nurse, and why did you stop?

Janna: I successfully tandem nursed my twin boys starting at 3 weeks old. The lactation consultant told me that we were not ready for tandem nursing. Lucky for us, my mom was at the appointment with me and she thought the advice was crazy. My help was going home when the babies were four weeks old, so she defied the woman’s authority and suggested we just try tandem nursing as soon as I got home from that appointment. It was completely successful and with our set up, actually easier than nursing one at a time. From that point on, I nursed the boys at the same time every time.

RebeccaD: I tandem nursed in the hospital (healthy 38 weekers) but hit a glitch when I was re-hospitalized later in the week with a uterine lining infection. One baby stopped latching altogether. I spent a day in bed with him re-learning how to breastfeed. We were back to tandem feeding by about 10 days old. No lactation consultant was as valuable as my mom and mother-in-law constantly cheering me on, telling me I could do it, and supporting me as I figured out how. Their faith in me helped me trust my own instincts. I tandem-fed for most feedings until the boys were 9 months old; by then they were so efficient and so big and wiggly that back-to-back feedings were easier.

Mercedes: As a pregnant twin-mama-to-be, I envisioned myself breastfeeding with the support of a styrofoam-filled “Breast Friend” as I cradled the heads of my peaceful babes while they suckled and intermittently sought out each others hands. It didn’t work out that way. Uncomfortable and pretty much hating life, I soon decided that individually nursing my twins was much more reasonable, although it did take up all of my time. It was my number one (and two) priority, so I made it work. As the twins got older, tandem feeds actually became easier since they required less effort and orchestration on my part. Now that my nurslings are 15 months, it’s pretty much the only way we do it (unless it’s a nighttime feed), because the nursing jealousy is pretty rampant.

Sadia: I tried for 5 months, but was never able to use tandem feeding as my primary mode of breastfeeding. I really wanted to make it work, because I found myself breastfeeding 12+ hours a day while on maternity leave. I needed another adult (my husband) present to hold the first baby while I latched the second on and held her. With both my babies coming home at under 5 lbs and a month before their due date, they didn’t have the neck control to nurse without one adult hand supporting their body and another their head. No number of pillows seemed to raise them up high enough to not need manual support from a parent. When my husband deployed to Iraq, the babies were 5 months kid and there went my extra hands. Also, J went on nursing strike shortly after Daddy deployed, so I had to switch her to expressed breast milk (EBM) from a bottle. I didn’t even try tandem nursing for nighttime feeds; I didn’t trust myself not to doze off, especially since I was working full-time.

Dory: Whenever I have a second set of adult hands (my husband, my mom, or my mother-in-law), I like to tandem nurse. It is so much easier to get them both done at once (no leaking of the other breast or a crying, hungry, waiting baby) and faster (sometimes as quick as 30 minutes, as opposed to at least 1 hour if one-on-one feeding). Because my babies are 2 months old, I can’t speak to stopping tandem nursing, but I imagine that once they get really wiggly (and big), I won’t be able to keep it up anymore.

RachelG: I tandem-nursed until around 8 or 9 months, when my supply wasn’t really enough to satisfy either twin for long. I dealt with supply issues from the very beginning, despite help from lactation consultants, so we tandem-nursed, then supplemented with bottles of formula.

ldskatelyn: I tried tandem nursing in the beginning. I found it was a great thing to do during those nighttime feedings so that I could get back to sleep sooner (aka, get sleep), but I always needed help getting them set up to nurse, which meant waking up my husband. After realizing that my husband was a blessedly sound sleeper and didn’t handle lack of sleep as gracefully as I did (and who also had to work a full time job), I decided I would stick with feeding them one at a time so that I could do let at least one of us get sleep. I also came to love that one-on-one time with each of my girls, where I could just focus on one of them, even if it meant listening to the other cry for 10 minutes.

Tandem nursing dog pile.
Tandem nursing dog pile, featuring Mercedes and her duo.

What were your experiences with pumping and nursing?

Sadia: I tandem nursed one baby on one breast while pumping on the other pretty consistently. This worked great for me because tucking the flange into my bra left me two hands for the nursing baby and pumping gave me EBM for daycare feelings. I returned to work when the babies were 11 weeks old (4 weeks adjusted) and my output fell precipitously. Once J went on nursing strike, “tandem” nursing with the pump and M was my primary means of getting J her breast milk. I could pump so much more with a baby plus the pump than with the pump alone. I tried many, many pumps, and the Medela Pump-in-Style (with extra-wide flanges) was the best fit for me, but babies just fit me better.

Janna: After our morning tandem feed, I would put the boys in bouncy chairs and tell them stories while I used the double breast pump for about ten minutes. I occasionally pumped again after another feeding session if the boys were otherwise occupied and we knew we needed milk for an outing coming up, but mostly I just fed them at the same time in the brown recliner chair every two hours when they were hungry.

RebeccaD: I pumped when I was in the hospital without my boys (when they were 5-8 days old), and when I felt overly full for about the first month. I demand-fed, so there was no predictable schedule, which made direct breastfeeding much easier. What if I had just pumped and then they wanted to eat? It made more sense for me to cut out the middle man. I worried constantly about not having a big freezer stash, and having to be the one to do every single feeding was very taxing. But ultimately, direct feeding worked best for me and my little ones.

Mercedes: I used the pump only very occasionally in the first several months. Sometimes what I would do is start with the pump on both breasts and then get the babies latched on.

Dory: When I was in the hospital with Audrey and David, I needed to get my milk flowing, so I would pump for 5 minutes before nursing. I would then nurse them until they were finished. Then I would try to pump some more and give it to them in a syringe. Once we got home (4 days old), I would continue this pattern, but I wouldn’t let them nurse any longer than 20 minutes. If they nursed any longer, they would use more energy than they would get in calories. I would then supplement afterwards with whatever I had pumped beforehand. Once they passed their birth weight (after their 2 week checkup), I stopped pumping and supplementing. Now, I simply pump whenever I feel like they haven’t emptied me out completely. I have to say that, at 2 months old, they do a pretty good job, and we have our nursing sessions down to 10 minutes latched on! I really only pump every other day in order to build up a supply for when I go away during feedings.

RachelG: I never pumped while nursing. Both babies always ate at the same time, and for much of my nursing life, my pump was set up in a different room from the one I usually nursed in.

ldskatelyn: I never even thought about pumping on one breast while nursing on the other, mostly because my children were always fed back to back. I usually only pumped at night, right before I went to bed, since they were sleeping through the night (12 hours) and I would be engorged and sore by the morning if I didn’t. It also gave me breast milk to supplement their feedings with if they needed it, or to mix with their baby cereal.

What helped the most with tandem success?

Sadia: My husband’s support was key. Knowing that other MoMs, including a triplet mom in the family and a twin mom from my MoM club had done it before me was very inspiring. My husband had observed his triplet cousins breastfeeding when he was a pre-teen and had a surprising amount of breastfeeding experience to offer. I’m so glad that I researched a ton about breastfeeding multiples before giving birth. I was shocked to discover how many people around me just assumed that it couldn’t be done, particularly since I had a career outside the home. Fortunately, my boss was also a breastfeeding mother; her support made it easy to adjust my work environment to allow for pumping time and space.

twnnurs4Janna: My recliner/boppy set up next to an end table made nursing both boys at the same time so easy. I would sit down in the recliner and position the boppy around my stomach with the ends of the boppy situated up on the recliner arms. Then I would lean down and pick up the babies off the floor and put them in the “football hold” laying on the boppy pillow. Once I got them latched, I was hands free and could pick up the food, water, book, remote control, etc… on the end table next to me. I also had my laptop set up on the other side of me, so I could read blogs and email while nursing. My boys ate every two hours for at least thirty minutes, so being hands free and having other things to do really made it easier for me.

RebeccaD: The biggest factors in my success was the support of experienced nursing women in my life — other MoMs, my mother, and mother-in-law — and my husband. The women helped me to develop my nursing relationship with each of my boys, as well as persevere in tandem feeding. My mom stayed with us for 2 weeks after the boys were born, and my mother-in-law for 5 weeks. They would get up at night to help me get everyone in place for feedings. Then they would tell me stories about nursing their babies. It was so lovely. I felt like I was being admitted into a special, ancient circle of wisdom. My MoMs group had several nursing women, and we shared many emails in the wee hours! My husband showed his support by making nursing a priority, by bringing me food and water, and by showing me so much love as I figured it all out.

Mercedes: Time and confidence. Tandem feeds were not for us in the beginning. Over time they just started happening naturally.

Tandem nursing older twins
Tandem nursing older twins.

Dory: For me, I couldn’t have done it without my husband, mom, and mother-in-law. They are my biggest supporters and helpers during nursing. While I get into position in my chair with my pillows and burp cloths, they get the babies ready (taking off sleep sacks or waking them up enough to latch on). Then, while one baby is finishing up, they take the first-to-finish baby off of me to change and re-dress him/her. In addition, I had a very emotional time during the first few weeks in regards to nursing. I wanted to give up every single time I sat in that chair, but they were my cheerleaders (my husband especially), encouraging me to work through it. I’m so glad I did, too! Now, I love my nursing time!

RachelG: I had a fantastic postpartum nurse in the hospital who helped me figure out how to tandem nurse. She showed me how to position the babies on pillows, support their heads properly, and help them relatch when they took a break. I don’t think I could have figured out how to do it on my own without her help early on.

What were the biggest obstacles to tandem nursing?

Sadia: We faced a lot of challenges. For starters, my 33-week preemies spent 16 and 21 days in the NICU. I wasn’t allowed to try to breastfeed J even once the whole time my girls were hospitalized, so I had no opportunity to try it out until after J was home. I had a full time job to which I returned at 11 weeks postpartum, so I couldn’t breastfeed during the day on weekdays. The exhaustion of single parenting twins with a full-time job took its toll on my supply too. I had a very poor supply with the pump, despite taking fenugreek, pumping on a schedule, and having been able to produce enough milk for exclusive breastfeeding during maternity leave. Add to that my husband’s deployment to Iraq and J’s nursing strike, tandem nursing just wasn’t in the cards for us. My huge nipples didn’t help at all. I used standard size pump flanges the first few weeks, and they ripped my breasts to shreds.

Janna: If I hadn’t tandem nursed, I wouldn’t have been able to continue nursing my boys after my help left at four weeks. The nurses and lactation consultant in the hospital and a different lactation consultant we saw at an appointment at three weeks old ALL told us that I couldn’t even attempt tandem nursing until the boys were older, had an expert latch and I was an expert at single nursing. I am so grateful that I didn’t listen to this advice. Everyone should try tandem nursing whenever they want. If it doesn’t work, fine, then go back to single nursing, but if it does work (like it did for me) you can start tandem nursing right away and not have to figure out what to do with that second baby while you’re nursing the first!

RebeccaD: My own physical health was a big obstacle to tandem nursing. The stress of a long (38 week) twin pregnancy, followed by an emergency c-section, subsequent uterine lining infection, and abscess on my tailbone, made it difficult for me to sit up, let alone try to support tiny heads, etc. I did nurse individually side-lying for a while, but I wasn’t able to sleep that way. Tandem nursing turned out to be the best way for me to get rest and feel connected to my babies. Another obstacle was nursing agitation – an intensely uncomfortable feeling that can happen during tandem nursing. I got through it, mainly by distracting myself, and it greatly diminished over time.

Carolyn: I did tandem for a little while once we were home from the NICU. It never felt comfortable, no matter how I set myself up. It was a “me thing” and not an issue with either baby, my nursing pillows, or where I did it. It just wasn’t for me. I had a very easy time nursing, which is maybe why I chose to breastfeed my boys individually, to get it done as fast as possible and move on to the next thing or get back to sleep. (We were feeding every three hours in the early days). I did sacrifice more sleep than I would have liked to, but I got the job done and nursed for about 9ish months. We had EPM bottled, supplemented with higher calorie formula and nursed for the first several weeks in NICU until the babies were stabilized. Tandem feeding was not a negative experience for me, just not my preference.

recliningMercedes: Setting up my “station” and getting into position on my own, at the beginning was very challenging. The only position I found comfortable was a sort of double cradle while reclining position, and this was not sustainable for very long since my hands were not free to do anything else (like scratch a nose, answer the phone, etc.) Now the challenge is that they are so big they can physically overwhelm me at times! The easiest thing to do is just to lie down and let them have at it.

Dory: Early on in nursing (Weeks 1-4 or 5) I really hated feeling “stuck” in that chair. Once I got in, I couldn’t get up without someone getting the babies off of me (especially when I was recovering from giving birth). I wanted to give up every single time I had to sit down to nurse. I didn’t like being a prisoner of the chair and pumping. I felt like I just wasn’t making enough milk (even though in reality I was making more than enough). I felt like I couldn’t do it (emotionally or physically). I was just in a funk. Then, magically around 6 weeks, when my babies were at their fussiest, it was like a light turned on. I was what they wanted and how they stopped crying. Me! Yes, I was feeding much more often than my normal because of their neediness, but I could soothe my babies, and I loved that feeling. No one else could help them like I could. Everyone else could change diapers, hold, and cuddle, but only I could feed them with the nourishment they needed. It took them being at their fussiest for me to love tandem feeding! Now that they are starting to eat fewer times a day, I really truly enjoy our nursing sessions.

RachelG: I found it hard to figure out how to get both babies onto and off of my lap without help. Once I sat down in my chair and got everyone positioned there, we were stuck for hours until I found a way to dis-entangle the babies and get up again.

What equipment was helpful?

Sadia: My breast pump was my saving grace, an alternative to tandem nursing that kept me from going completely insane. I loved my chair with arms. Since my babies were so tiny, a narrow chair actually worked very well for us. Pillows helped relieve the fatigue on my arms, breastfeeding each baby, as I did, for 45 minutes each every 3 hours. I loved my magazine subscriptions. I read those issues of Time, Newsweek and National Geographic from cover to cover.

Janna: A chair with arms and a boppy pillow to support the boys was absolutely helpful. I needed something to do while nursing, so I didn’t go crazy with boredom. A towel tacked over the high window in the living room to cover it so that the workmen fixing the wall outside couldn’t see me nursing.

RebeccaD: The nursing pillow. The Twin Brestfriend wasn’t perfect, but I couldn’t have tandem nursed without it. If I had it to do over again, I would invest in a big recliner to nest in with the nursing pillow. As it was, I had a pretty good set up – armchair, then loveseat, and finally floor. The armchair + nursing pillow held the boys up high when they were really little. I had to have someone hand them to me once I got settled in. When I moved to the loveseat, I could place one baby in the Boppy, put the pillow on over my head, pick up one baby, sit down, then pick up the other baby and latch both on. Once they could crawl, I sat cross-legged on the floor with the nursing pillow, pulled them both on, and when they were done, they just rolled off and crawled away! I would have gone INSANE without distractions – books, iPad, phone. And I always had a little table with water and snacks nearby.

RachelG: I have a big armchair in my living room that I called, “The Chair of Doom,” while I was in the thick of nursing infants. I rarely left it. It was big enough and had enough support that I could juggle everything I needed to there. I had lots of pillows that I used  behind my back, under my nursing pillow, on the sides, etc., just to make everything the right height. I had a small tray table next to me with a bottle of water, remote controls, snacks, etc. Once I was home alone with my kids, I set up a changing table on one side. My changing table came from Ikea, and my mom cut the legs down a little so it was the same height as my chair. I could use it as a staging area for getting kids put onto or taken off of my lap for nursing.

Dory: There are a few pieces of equipment that I couldn’t live without. First, when I am on the couch, in bed, or in a low-armed chair, I have to use my Twin Z nursing pillow. I discussed it during my pregnancy, and it is just as wonderful as I expected. If you have a higher-armed chair, however, it may not work out well. For our armchair in the  nursery (which has very high arms), I use a My Brest Friend (for singletons- the twin version is too large for this chair) with a Boppy Cuddle pillow on top of it. I then place two burp cloths under the babies’ heads, and they latch on using the football hold.

What role did lactation consultants play? Your spouse? Other MoMs? Friends? Family?

Sadia: The NICU nurses were extremely supportive of my pumping and providing expressed milk to the babies, but were strongly against my trying to latch the babies on because of their prematurity. Lactation consultants were useless. Their attitude of amazement that I was even trying made me feel that they’d already decided that I was destined to fail (at breastfeeding, period, forget tandem nursing). The one exception was a consultant at a local breastfeeding supplies store who suggested a nipple shield to counter J’s strike. It didn’t help, but at least she tried to provide advice instead of telling me to give up. Other MoMs and my husband were far more helpful, although their support was more emotional than informational since their experience was with full-term babies. The only preemie mom I knew never had her milk come in, so I was alone in the preemie nursing boat.

Janna: I concur. Lactation consultants were useless. The ones I had just didn’t have any experience with moms successfully nursing twins. Instead it was my mother, mother-in-law and husband who were incredibly supportive, helpful and encouraging. Also, I had two close friends who were currently successfully nursing their singletons. While their advice and support weren’t necessarily specific to twins, they were invaluable with basic nursing questions. For example, NO ONE (not the pediatrician, lactation consultant, no one) had told me about growth spurts so I was almost ready to give up when my boys started crying and acting starving and demanding to eat extra at 6 weeks old. I assumed I wasn’t making enough milk. My friends emailed me back right away and told me it was the (normal, common) 6 week growth spurt and to just keep nursing them all the time & expect to be exhausted, sore and frustrated for a few days and it would all go back to normal… and it did.

RebeccaD: What I needed: confidence, reassurance that I had the basics, and a twin-specific logistical strategy. What I got: two different programs for each baby. Being a twin mom is all about creating a bridge between your babies’ individual needs and your ability, as one person, to meet those needs. Breastfeeding was a serious crash course in this for me. So, my first lactation consultant was basically awful because she treated my babies like two singletons and made me feel horrible for being unable to be two mothers. Luckily I had other support and figured it out. Six months of exclusive breastfeeding later, I started having supply problems, and a different lactation consultant was a wonderful help. I credit her with my ability to continue nursing to 13 months for one and 15 months (and counting!) for the other. But I came into that consultation with a lot more knowledge and confidence. I could tell her, “That won’t work with twins, what else ya got?”

Dory: Our first pre-baby class was a breastfeeding class for couples. It was amazing! I thought it would be silly to take such a class, as I figured I would get all I could at the hospital. I was wrong! There is so much to learn and think about, and it was helpful to have that base understanding. After giving birth, I can’t stress how important it is to talk to the lactation consultants at the hospital, before you come home. We made sure that we got extra time with them to make sure we were getting all of the hints we could. I asked questions over and over, and they were more than happy to help us. They were so sweet and treated us like superstars (get used to it when you are parents of twins!). The were incredible! We also were able to follow up in our pediatrician’s office during the 1 and 2 week appointments. The woman we saw was a lactation specialist. Score for the nursing moms! She was the one that told us not to let them nurse any longer than 20 minutes early on (any longer and they would burn too many calories).

RachelG: As I mentioned earlier, I had a fantastic postpartum nurse who helped me figure out latch, positions, etc. I worked with lactation consultants, but they focused mostly on helping me increase my supply and improving my son’s latch. They weren’t hugely helpful, in that my supply never increased substantially and my son figured out the latch thing on his own eventually, but at least I had the peace of mind that I had tried everything.

ldskatelyn: The hospital lactation specialist was very good about encouraging me to try tandem feedings, and taught me the different positions. My husband and mother-in-law (who was a nurse) were helpful once we got home.

What positions worked or didn’t work for your family?

Tandem nursing positionsSadia: The football hold worked best. My girls hated to be crossed and I felt like I could support them better football style. Our typical setup was as follows:

  1. My husband sat in the chair.
  2. I picked up both babies, one in each arm, cradle hold.
  3. I sat in my husband’s lap.
  4. He held one baby, cradle style across my lap, while I latched on the other in a football hold.
  5. He held the nursing baby while I latched on the second.

Janna:  I had to use a boppy, in a recliner with arms. I put the boppy around me, with the ends of it rested up on the recliner arms. Then I lay the boys down on the boppy in the “football hold” and both my boys were up at the right level, leaving my hands free (for eating, reading books, emailing, etc…). It was ideal at home. I never did try any other position because this one worked so well for us.

bftwins4Rachel: We used the football hold pretty exclusively while tandem nursing.

RebeccaD: Football all the way. They hated crossing, and would kick each other. When they got older, I sometimes pinned their arms under mine or separated their heads with a rolled up blanket so they wouldn’t bother each other.

Dana: I remember getting extremely creative with the positions of the babies in order to tandem nurse. It was something I was actually quite proud of. I didn’t use the boppy too often, but rather lots and lots of pillows.  I encourage any new mom of twins to get real comfortable with having tons of pillows stashed conveniently around the house. (And don’t forget lots of burp cloths stashed in the couch cushions!) Also, don’t be afraid to stack those kids on top of each other! Here is one position I used often:

468051998_e29e4bb03bJenW: I sat in the middle of the couch with the eZ-2-nurse twin pillow, after starting with a boppy but finding it wasn’t enough. I put a baby on each side of me in a boppy so they wouldn’t roll. I maneuvered them both to the pillow first then got them to latch. By about 6 months they were more efficient so it was faster to do one then the other occasionally. Plus, by then they weren’t as interested in staying on the pillow.

ldskatelyn: When I was seriously, regularly, doing tandem feedings, I generally did two football holds, as it gave me the most control over their bodies, keeping them from rolling, allowing me to position their heads correctly. However, kind of just for fun, when I was no longer tandem feeding, but because they were both starving, my husband and I would put our twins into all sorts of different, not-found-in-books, positions. One these was me lying on my side, and feeding them one on top of the other! Another was me lying on my back, and letting them both suckle against gravity.

Dory: When tandem feeding, I only use the football hold. At the hospital, we tried layering them during one feeding, and I was uncomfortable, they looked uncomfortable, and I was on edge the whole time. Once I switched back to the football hold, I felt like I was able to breathe again. One night I was really sick and couldn’t get out of bed. My husband brought me the babies one at a time and I had them against my body and nursing them while we were both on the bed. I haven’t tried that with two babies though.

Did you tandem nurse in public? How?

RebeccaD: Unfortunately… yes. In order of embarrassment: DayOne, a breast-feeding friendly store where my MoMs group had meetings, in the car (with my pillow), on a public park bench (supported by diaper bags and covered by a blanket), on the lawn of a museum with my top almost totally off (they were starving, I was alone, it was a bad day). I usually nursed one right after the other when we were out.

ldskatelyn: I remember feeding both of them at the same time once while staying at my brother’s house. They were both super hungry, so I put my cover on, and fed them that way. It was not the most comfortable (I don’t think I had my Boppy pillow with me) as I was sure I was going to flash his children. Although, it was super funny when one of my nephews commented that his mom only feeds one baby from both sides.

Sadia: Nope. I never figured it out. I easily nursed one — I loved empire opening nursing tops for cradle hold breastfeeding — while bottle feeding the other by about 2 months. If I was walking with our stroller, I’d just push it with my hip while cradling a baby in one arm and holding a bottle for the other baby with the other hand.

Janna: No. When we went out the boppy didn’t really work without my recliner. It wasn’t high up enough, unless I could find a recliner chair with the right size arms. I never did find a convenient way to tandem nurse outside of my home, so I would either stay close to home and only do short outings, or if we had to be out during a feeding, take bottles with expressed breast milk and feed the boys bottles (usually my husband or another family member or friend would help with the feeding) and then I would pump with a homemade, extra large hooter hider giving me privacy.

Mercedes: Nah. I am all for breastfeeding in public and have done it everywhere from cafes to castles to the stands of a Formula 1 race. But it’s always been one baby at a time. Just easier and less conspicuous that way.

Dory: I don’t tandem in public because I don’t have big enough pillows with us. It is easier to feed one at a time and just hold them or prop my arm on a chair. I don’t have the “mom arms” yet to hold both at once and nurse for an extended period of time.

RachelG: No – I really needed my full setup to be able to tandem nurse successfully. In public, I’d either nurse one at a time or feed them a bottle.

Did prematurity play a role in your attempts to tandem feed?

Sadia: Yes, yes, yes. First, there was the matter of the NICU. My babies were tubefed for their first days, so the pump and I got good and intimate. I was only allowed to try breastfeeding once (M only) during my daughters’ hospital stay, so I couldn’t even try tandem nursing until the babes were 3 weeks old. Their sucks were so weak and their muscles so underdeveloped, each nursling needed my full attention during our nursing sessions. Their tiny stomachs and weak sucks meant that they were each at the breast for 45 minutes at a time. I didn’t exactly have a whole lot of wiggle room to try out new positions because I was terrified that they’d drop back below 4 lbs in weight and have to be rehospitalized. Even during maternity leave, our pediatrician had me keep two meals of high-calorie formula enriched with Poly-Vi-Sol in our routine per day just because they had so much weight to gain. J was 3 lbs 6 oz at birth, M 3 lbs 9 oz. Neither baby had achieved 5 lbs when they were released from the NICU. I’d pump during their formula meals.

Janna: No, my boys were born full term, both weighing over 7 pounds. I do think that this is certainly one reason why nursing came so easy for the three of us.

RebeccaD: My boys were also full-term (5 lbs, 15 oz and 6 lbs, 5 oz), which really helped. Baby A was a champion nurser right from the jump. Baby B had a weak latch that never totally resolved, but my let-down was sensitive enough to make it work. I felt terrible when he had to start formula supplements at 6 months, but the lactation consultant pointed out that tandem nursing helped let-down so much that if he wasn’t a twin, he may not have breastfed as successfully as he did, or for as long. That is a tandem nursing success story!

Mercedes: No. My twins were early term, born at 37 weeks and 1 day, although they were small. My daughter, the bigger of the two, was actually the one with more latching difficulty, and the lactation consultant urged me to be patient as the baby learned. She said that 37 weeks is still early and some babies just need more time.

Dory: We were so fortunate that our twins were 36+5 with no NICU time, so we could nurse right away.

RachelG: Not really. My twins were early term (37 weeks), and while my son did struggle a bit with his latch, we never had serious problems nursing as a result of their delivery date.

ldskatelyn: No. My twins were born a day shy of 38 weeks. They weren’t premature. One of my daughters did need help opening up her mouth big enough, but with help of a lactation specialist at WIC, we were able to figure it out, and I was able to stop hurting.

Twin Breastfeeding Ebook

Manibreasto-Cover-3d-WebWould you like more inspiration, support and tools to make breastfeeding twins work? How Do You Do It? author Mercedes has written an ebook on the subject, Twin Manibreasto. She has a special offer for HDYDI readers! Use the code TWIN5 at checkout to pick up your own copy for $5 (code expires Feb. 10).

We hope that this has helped you get some perspectives on tandem breastfeeding. In addition, you can read about how Dory, who is currently breastfeeding, tandem feeds on her blog, Doyle Dispatch.  If you have any follow-up questions or stories of your own, we would love for you to share them in the comments!

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Clutterfree with Kids, Book Review

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Categories Books, Parenting2 Comments

Children add an enormous amount of stuff to our lives (along with an enormous amount of joy, of course). And twin babies add even more stuff than one, with the inability to hand down clothes, toys and gear from siblings and just the sheer number of large baby items that you need two of – high chairs, bouncy chairs, cribs (eventually) and boppies, just to name a few. Most of us don’t want our houses to look like Babies R Us threw up in there, but it’s hard to organize, declutter and resist over consumption of stuff, when you have twins. Really, I think it’s hard to do when you have just one child, or multiple children of different ages. Kids just come with stuff. Many of us have small houses or small bank accounts or a desire to live with less due to environmental, spiritual or aesthetic reasons. The book, Clutterfree with Kids, by Joshua Becker is both a how-to manual to declutter your house (and keep it that way!) and it’s an inspirational, thoughtful book about an entire parenting/life philosophy about how to live with less, yet live a fuller life with your kids.

Plus, the author is a fraternal twin, so that’s cool. He also writes with a very measured, encouraging, nonjudgmental tone. I don’t want to read any book (whether it be parenting or house related or self help) that talks down to me, which is sometimes the case with counter cultural books. Not here; the author is very transparent, real and kind. He admits he was previously a packrat and has changed his tendencies toward stuff, which is so encouraging to those of us with a mild hoarding instinct.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book, “I’m not anti-toy. I’m just pro-child. So do your child a favor and limit their number of toys.” This is something we’ve already aspired to in our house. There are many inspirational, real-life examples in the book that I loved reading. My only complaint is there are no picture examples, because I like to visually see how someone is living clutter free. So, for this blog post, I’ve included my twin boys’ bedroom. They have a really large room but instead of filling it up with toys and decorations, we’ve kept the space clean and clutterfree, so they have lots of room to run and play (and so the trundle bed can actually come out at night).

Photobucket

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The digital version of the book (Kindle, Nook, iBooks, .pdf) will retail for $6.99. But will be offered for $2.99 this week only. You can also purchase a paperback copy for $10.44 this week.

Full Disclosure: I received an early electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Janna lives in Portland, Or in a small, uncluttered (but somehow rarely dirt clean) house with her husband, identical twin boys and the world’s laziest border collie.

 

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Christmas Cartoons for Young Kids

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Categories Celebrations, Holidays, Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlers5 Comments

Most families already have their favorite Christmas cartoons for young kids, those specials that get pulled out every year and watched with wild abandon during December. In our house though, my twins are especially sensitive to anything scary on TV and we don’t like them to watch shows where kids are being unkind toward others, so some of the classic Christmas specials from my childhood don’t work in our home. The original stop action Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer from 1964 has both a scary abominable snowman that frightens the boys and unkind behavior from most of the characters throughout. The characters in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” are definitely mean to poor Charlie Brown. While the end message is heartwarming and redemptive, it’s just too little, too late for our viewing guidelines. Instead, we’ve found these newer (and a few older) Christmas cartoons for young kids at our local library and they are sweet, wintry and/or Christmas themed and appropriate for two years old and up.

Christmas Cartoons for Kids

Christmas Cartoons for Young Kids, 2+

Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas

This is an adorable, one hour, animated Christmas cartoon about Curious George and the Man in the Yellow Hat celebrating Christmas. As the days pass, George and the Man (and their various friends) prepare for Christmas by shopping for a tree, writing cards, buying a turkey and singing in a holiday pageant. The usual monkey antics ensue and there are a few musical holiday numbers. There is a sentimental subplot where both George and the Man worry about what to get for the other but all is resolved and happy on Christmas morning.

Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The original, classic, animated 30 minute special from 1966 is a charming retelling of Dr. Seuss’s beloved book. It is true to the book’s story and heartwarming moral. It is sweet, funny and engaging. My boys have loved it since they were two and first saw it. We read the book at bedtime on December 1 and watch the movie the next day (and many repeated viewings throughout December). I know the Grinch’s behavior is uncouth and distressing overall, but because he is not involved in actual altercations with the other characters, children don’t actually see simple rude behavior being modeled during the show. When he does interact with Cindy Lou Who, he’s actually very gentle and sweet with her.

The Snowman

I had never heard of The Snowman before Sadia posted about it and I am so grateful she did. This movie is perhaps the sweetest cartoon I have ever seen. It’s a charming, beautiful, whimsical adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ classic picture book from 1982. At only 26 minutes long, it’s brief enough for even a rambunctious two-year-old to watch. There are no words, but the music and scenes are so perfect, words are not needed. The ending made me tear up a bit, but my boys (and the boy in the film) were not bothered at all by it.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Choo Choo Express

Mickey Mouse and his friends get together in this cute, sweet, predictable winter tale to assemble the Clubhouse Choo Choo train. They have to haul Professor Van Drake’s Easy-Freezey snow home from atop the mountain before making the rounds to pick up more pals to join in the fun. This movie won’t become a classic and I doubt my boys will watch it much after this year (they’re five years old) but it’s an easy, educational, non-scary, wintry fun cartoon for the littlest kids.

What are some other Christmas or winter cartoons that your young kids love to watch? Share in the comments section.  

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HDYDI MoM-Approved Toys

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Categories Holidays, ParentingTags , , , , , , , , 3 Comments

It’s that time of year when many of us are thinking about fun and educational things for our little ones.  With so many toys on the market…and SO MANY ADVERTISEMENTS…what things are really worth the money and the space allocation in the play room?

toys

The MoMs of HDYDI have put together a list of some of the tried-and-true toys that have been hits at their houses.  We hope you’ll find this a useful resource as you make your shopping lists!

Infants

Introduce reading without worrying about damaging books!

Cloth books. The best way to instill a love of reading and not go crazy with ripped pages (trust me, pages get torn!) is to get creative. How? Soft books! These come in classics, educational, holiday, and more. We have a few lying around, and not only do they help introduce reading, they make a great chew toy! Getting them by 12/2 will also help benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser. (angelabickford3)

Nesting cups or bowls.  The best $4 I ever spent was on a set of stacking cups.  They were perfect for our girls to grasp as infants…building towers was a great challenge when the girls were 12-18 months…and almost five years later, the cups serve a million different pretend scenarios. (MandyE)

Cooperating to make a tower at two years old.
Cooperating to make a tower at two years old.
Twins playing together with an activity table from hdydi.com
Playing together at age 10 months.

Activity table. I saw my daughters drawn to an activity table in the waiting room of our pediatrician’s office. I looked it up online and was surprised to find how affordable they were. My girls loved to fiddle and twirl all the knobs, levers and buttons. It helped them learn about cause and effect, and the fact that they could play simultaneously was a huge plus. Most models are pretty good for relatively young infants, since they can be used without the legs to keep babies occupied during tummy time. Add the legs, and these toys can keep toddlers occupied for comparatively long periods of time. (Sadia)

A set of 3 soft blocks makes a great first block set!

Baby blocks. Just another block? Nope! These are 5×5 inch blocks that are made of fabric and stuffed with soft material! We love our soft blocks because they can be used as ‘balls’, pillows (I’ve done this a few times), chew toys, and are educational. They also benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser if you buy them by 12/2. (angelabickford3)

One to Two Years

DSC_0540
Step 2 Deluxe Kitchen

Play kitchen.  We got a kitchen play set when our girls were two.  Three years later, our girls still play with it every day, as do any friends — boys or girls — who come to visit.  A wise fellow twin mama advised me to get the largest kitchen our space would allow, and I am very glad we did.  Both my girls can easily play at the kitchen.  The larger set also has room for the many accessories we’ve accumulated…play food, a pastry set, and a tea set.  Those have made great additions at subsequent holidays / birthdays. (MandyE)

Each of our girls had a car.  Many times, they both played...but just as often, they loved to push each other.  Teamwork!!!
Each of our girls had a car. Many times, they both played…but just as often, they loved to push each other. Teamwork!!!

Ride-on toys.  Our girls got ride-on cars when they were a year old.  They played with them for two solid years!  Long after their legs were doubled up to sit on them, the cars served as strollers for their baby dolls, fire engines, and vehicles for their many stuffed animals to drive.  We always used our cars inside, but many of these type toys are suitable for outside, too. (MandyE)

Two to Four Years

Big enough for four to play!
Big enough for four to play!

Train set.  When our girls were three, we got them a wooden train set, and it’s been a great investment.  We bought a Melissa & Doug set, but we’ve added different pieces from Thomas, Imaginarium, and IKEA, as those sets interchangeable.  We opted not to get a train table.  Instead, our girls play with the set more like a puzzle…and the older they’ve gotten, the more complex their set-ups get.  At soon-to-be five years old, they like to see how many loops they can create, or if they can make the set circle around the loveseat. (MandyE)

These kept my kids entertained for hours!

Quiet books and felt boards. Need something to help keep your little one occupied? I love, love, love our quiet books and felt boards. They keep even my busy one entertained and were super helpful for our 17 hour road trip. There are all sorts of choices too, for both boys and girls! And, if you get them before 12/1, you’ll help benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser. (angelabickford3)

Matchbox cars. These are cheap (sometimes less than a dollar a car) and small. They make excellent stocking stuffers and surprise gifts for a long car ride. We have a medium size white bin with a lid where we keep the cars. The boys call the white bin the “garage” and often bring it upstairs and dump out their cars to line them up, pretend race, or just drive them around the house. My boys got their first Matchbox car from my brother for their second birthday and still use them today, at age five. However, I would caution against buying the Matchbox car accessories (the race tracks, the large boat, the command centers, etc…) as they are like most newer plastic toys; they break easily and disappoint the boys after just a few plays. (Janna)

Legos have a lot more variety these days than in our childhood.
Big kid Legos have a lot more variety these days than in our childhood.

Legos.  We’ve probably had our Duplo Legos longer than any other toy. They were a hand-me-down when the boys were 18 months old. They played with them just occasionally in the beginning, but a year later at 2.5 years old, they were building towers almost every day. At five years old, they still play with them, though at this point, we’re planning on passing on the Duplo Legos as they are plenty old enough for ‘real’ Legos. (Janna)

Art supplies. The boys’ bachelor uncle with no kids surprised us all when he gave the boys their own giant watercolor pads and a full set of water color paints and a paint brush. It was the biggest hit that Christmas (at 3.5). Doing art projects with twins can be very messy and overwhelming so while we’d painted occasionally, we hadn’t given them their own supplies yet. They love having their own giant paper and paintbrush and paints. We now paint almost weekly and they also use the large paper for stickers, coloring or other art projects. (Janna)

Twins playing with a sand and water table from hdydi.com
At age two, my girls could be trusted not to try to eat the sand. Staying dry was a different story.

Sand and water tables. Our sand and table was a huge hit with all the neighborhood toddlers, whether it contained water, sand or both. This was the first toy that could quite literally keep my girls occupied for hours. I’d definitely recommend getting a table with a lid if you’ll ever leave it outside. I loved that mine had a drain on each side that could be opened from below to easily empty it for storage. Playgrade sand is easy to find at home improvement stores. (Sadia)

Teach the concept of time with a doll!

TimeIN dolls. These dolls have been a lifesaver for our two! They teach the concept of time and can be used to help potty train, teach skills like zipping, to teach about sharing, quality time with a parent, or other time-related concepts, and are just over-all super cute. They also benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser if you get them by 12/2! (angelabickford3)

Four to Six Years

Blocks. Trio blocks entered our house when our girls were four.  The girls could click them together pretty well, and the way the blocks snap means that the structures are very solid.  The girls can then play with the bird / cat / castle / zoo that they build, without fear that it will fall apart. (MandyE)

From Fisher-Price
From Fisher-Price
Our girls can play with these for an hour!
Our girls can play with these for an hour!

Magnetic pattern blocks.  These have been a prominent fixture since our girls were almost four.

They love creating patterns on cookie sheets, and this mama loves that there is so much inherent geometry at play, too. There are all sorts of pattern cards you can find to prompt designs, and the possibilities for open-ended play are endless.  (MandyE)

Lincoln Logs: We just received these from the neighbors three months ago, and the boys have used them every day to build elaborate log cabin villages. This is currently their favorite toy. Much younger than four, the Lincoln Logs would have probably frustrated their fingers, but for 4+up this is a great creative toy. (Janna)

Games.  For kids 3-6, don’t forget the board games (CandyLand, Chutes & Ladders, Hungry Hungry Hippos) and card games (Uno, Playskool Crazy 8s, Spud Rummy and Go Fish).  They are great for counting, taking turns, and learning to win and lose gracefully.  (Janna)

K’Nex. These building toys are made up of ribs and joints that fit together in 3 dimensions. I confess to having as much fun playing with our K’Nex collection as my daughters. They go back and forth between building everyday objects and abstract constructs. They sell Kid K’Nex, which are a larger and chunkier version of the original designed for smaller hands. I’d definitely recommend looking for K’Nex on Ebay or Craigslist, because it’s quite pricey brand new. (Sadia)

Dress up fun!

Capes. Kids LOVE dressing up, and a custom cape can add to the collection and make adventures more fun. If you get your cape before 12/1, it benefits the Celebrate Carter Fundraiser. (angelabickford3)

Older Children

Get your budding writer their first journal!

Journals. I loved writing as a kid – still do! Of course, I had a diary, a journal, a special to-do list book, etc. etc. I’m still that way. That’s why I think this is the perfect gift for a budding writer. You can choose from one of their pre-printed books (some aren’t appropriate for little eyes) or you can create a custom book. Super cute and they benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser if you get them by 12/1. (angelabickford3)

American Girl Dolls and Books. I confess that when I first heard about these dolls, recommended for age 8 and up, I thought they were an overpriced fad. As it turns out, though, we absolutely love the books that go with them. American Girl makes contemporary dolls with clothes to match their owner, but the ones we love are the historical dolls and the books that accompany them. Each historical doll is set at a particular point in history, and the well-written books allow little girls to explore what life was like for children in different points in US history. I’ve been getting my daughters new American Girls books for several years now, and they have yet to get old. Our local library has a decent selection of these books too. A while ago, a close friend of mine gave my girls her Molly (WWII) clothing and book collection, and my usually doll-averse kids love them.(Sadia)

siennas-locketSienna’s Locket. I really like this book. Not only is it written by a twin mom about her twins, but it’s related to special needs and seeing the world through different eyes. My kids love books already, but this is better geared towards older children (ages 3-12) and is an easy read for a new reader. The illustrations are beautiful too. If you have a special needs child or want to teach compassion to your children, Sienna’s Locket is so cute. If you purchase it by 12/2, you’ll help benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser. (angelabickford3)

Card and board games. Older children are ready for adult-orientated card and board games. My daughters love Monopoly, Scrabble, Boggle, Labyrinth, Mille Bornes and Fluxx. (Sadia)

Write notes to the tooth fairy & get a note back!

Tooth Fairy Kit. If your child likes to write notes and is at the point where they are loosing teeth, this cute tooth fairy kit makes a great, unique gift. This item also benefits the Celebrate Carter fundraiser through 12/2. (angelabickford3)

Make gardening fun!

Gardening fun. If your kids like to be outdoors and are interested in gardening at all, Plantables & Paper offers great seed starter kits that are fun, colorful, and serve a purpose. You can even plant paper and watch it grow. This item also benefits the Celebrate Carter Fundraiser through 12/1. (angelabickford3)

 

Not Quite a Toy

There are some great items for kids that aren’t quite toys, but that will help make life on mom a bit easier. Check out some of the Celebrate Carter Fundraiser items shown in the picture below. These items are available through December 2nd.

These items are for baby & kids to USE, but aren't toys. They're just things to make mom's life easier.
These items are for baby & kids to USE, but aren’t toys. They’re just things to make mom’s life easier.

Experiential gifts and gift cards.  One gift that keeps on giving and is fun for the whole family is a gift membership to the zoo, the children’s museum, or the botanical gardens.  A gift certificate for admittance into the bouncy house my girls think is just great.  They’ve also enjoyed gift cards for the yogurt shop / ice cream parlor.  And they think it’s pretty special to have their own money to shop at the bookstore.  (MandyE)

What are some of your kiddos’ favorite toys?  We’d love to hear your experiences, from one MoM to another!

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Grocery Shopping with Twins and More

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Categories Ask the Moms, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Multiple Solutions, Parenting Twins, PerspectiveTags , , , , , 2 Comments

 

You Can Do This!

Twins in a shopping cart: Grocery Shopping with Multiples from hdydi.com
Yetunde‘s pair are ready to roll!

You can run errands with twins or more, including multiple infants or toddlers. You can do this. Yes, alone. If you must do so alone, or just want to, you should give it a try. We’re going to tell you how The Moms go grocery shopping with kids in tow, from twins to quadruplets, with some singletons thrown in for good measure.

This post assumes that you have access to a car, are walking, or are riding a bike. Taking public transportation with multiples is a topic for another day.

Leaving the House

Plan and Pack

As with most things related to caring for babies, grocery shopping with twins or more starts with good planning. Pick a time that works for you and your kids. Do your babies fall asleep in the car and nap well out and about? Consider going shopping during nap time so that they can sleep through the whole thing. Are they happy and social in the morning? Go shopping then. Make a complete shopping list so that you can minimize followup trips required to pick up things that you forgot during your main shopping haul.

diaper bag and contents from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: dhgatsby

Pack your diaper bag with the things you’ll need. The basics usually include things for diaper changes, something to wipe up spills and messes, changes of clothes in case of mess, something for the babies to eat, and something for them to play with. You’ll also need to have a transportation solution at the ready, whether it’s a stroller-carseat system, baby wrap, wagon, or all of the above.

Twinfant Tuesdays: Errands with Lots of Little Ones from hdydi.com
If your child is old enough to sit in a cart but not big enough to stay propped up, a rolled up blanket can help, as demonstrated by Sadia‘s daughter J at Ikea. M is wearing, or rather worn in, an Evenflo Snuggli. Please see our baby carrier post for our thoughts on wearing twins.

Older kids don’t need all the diaper paraphernalia, but they might need something to keep their hands and minds occupied, like books or toys. A small container of fruit or cereal is a good thing to have on hand for when blood sugar dips and tempers rise. Depending on the ages of your children, you may have traded in your diaper wipes for antibacterial hand gel… although you may find yourself wishing you had wipes, even with school-age kids!

Before you head out the door, make sure that your kids are clean and fed. If they’re just fussy, and you have a constitution that allows you to drive with a fussy child in the car, just move on to loading up. Sometimes you’ll need to drive through the crying to get to your goal.

Don’t forget your shopping bags, cooler or insulated bag, and transportation solution.

If you do make a habit of shopping with your multiples, you’ll need to be prepared to be a minor celebrity. Especially during the first couple of years, when it is obvious that your children are the same age, people will want to stop and talk to you about multiples. Budget extra time for discussion with curious strangers. Arm yourself with standard answers for common questions.

Load Up

3 infants buckled up at home: Grocery Shopping with Multiples from hdydi.com
3 infants in a car: Grocery Shopping with Multiples from hdydi.com Sadia’s daughters and a friend’s son went shopping together regularly. M wasn’t too happy about it.

Put your kids in the car last. That way you’re not distracted by their demands while you pack up. Make sure that they’re somewhere safe, like a crib, swing or playpen, while you pack your car with your stroller (or wagon or baby wraps) and diaper bag and other equipment. Janna kept bouncy chairs in the front room and strapped her boys in on the way in and out of the house.

If you’re using bucket-style infant car seats, it may be easiest to load and strap your babies in in the comfort of your home, then install the seats in your car, complete with babies.

If you’re walking or bicycling, the same general approach holds true. Load the kids last.

Out and About

You’ve loaded up and arrived at your grocery shopping destination with your twins. Now what?

Parking

If you’ve driven to the store, check to see whether they have designated Customer with Child parking spots. If you can score one, it will likely be near the cart return closest to the main entrance to the store. You can maximize your chances of reasonable parking by shopping at off-peak hours such as weekday mornings, but this isn’t feasible for everyone.

Walking and Biking

Janna and RebeccaD walk almost everywhere. RebeccaD purchases only what she can fit in the undercarriage of the stroller. She hits the store with her boys every couple of days. She uses her double stroller for most errands. Janna walks to the pharmacy, grocery store, post office, thrift store. The workout is a bonus!

Once her boys turned a year old, Janna switched to a trailer behind her bike. This isn’t always possible, of course, if your errand is too far away or the weather is too hot or cold, but it works great for her family most of the time.

Implement Your In-Store Strategy

The Moms have a plethora of ideas for containing and transporting kids at the grocery store. Yetunde has actually written about this in the past on her personal blog. If you’re planning to use a store cart, parking near the cart return can make it easier to snap up a cart without having to stray far from your car.

  • A common solution for infants is a double car seat/stroller system, such as the Double Snap-N-Go or Graco DuoGlider. MandyE was once able to run three quick errands within an hour thanks to the ease of baby transfer! Where do the groceries go, we hear you clamor. One option is to use the basket under your stroller as your cart. This severely limits how much you can purchase at a time. Another option is to push your stroller with one hand while pulling a store cart behind you with the other. It looks a little crazy, but it works well.
  • 3-seater cart: Grocery Shopping with Multiples from hdydi.com
    Target has carts that seat 3 kids with ease, demoed here by MandyE’s precious duo.

    More and more stores are offering shopping carts that seat two or more children. In our experience, such stores include Costco, Sam’s Club, Target and many branches of the Texas grocery store HEB. Sadia found it to be worth driving a few extra miles to go to a store that had two-seater carts standard.

    Twin boys crying in a two-seater shopping cart: Grocery Shopping with Multiples from hdydi.blog
    Jen Wood‘s boys don’t seem to appreciate two-seater shopping carts as much as The Moms do.

    Don’t have any stores nearby with carts that accommodate two seated kids? Let your store manager know; the company may simply be unaware of the demand.

    This brings us to another point: “Shop” around and choose stores that work for you. Find places where you can maximize your effort and where you can shop effectively. One-stop shopping is your friend. SarahP typically goes to Costco first, then to Walmart because she can price match there and get all the other odds and ends. Use the grocery store pharmacy. Look for wide aisles. You may find it worthwhile to invest in a cover to keep little fingers off germy cart parts and/or disinfecting wipes to wipe down the cart before transferring your kids.

  • MandyE (in the photo) and Sadia both used the wear one/drive one approach to shopping with twins.
    MandyE used the wear one/drive one approach to shopping with twins. Note that most car seat manufacturers recommend placing car seats inside the car rather than in the seat area. Check your manual!

    You can wear one baby and put the other(s) in the shopping cart. Wiley typically wore her twinfant girls, had her toddler son seated in the cart, and had her school-age son walk. The trick to reaching things on low shelves without spilling a baby is to squat. You’ll have thighs of steel, so that’s a benefit of this approach. Note that many car seat manufacturers advise against placing car seats in cart seats the way MandyE demonstrates and many of The Moms do regularly. Try using the cart strap to secure the seat the way you would with the seatbelt in your car.

  • Twins hiding in the paper towels: Grocery Shopping with Multiples: hdydi.com
    Jen Wood’s guys remind us that our kids are also pretty creative, so be careful when letting them walk in the store.

    Get creative. SaraBeth has seen parents bungee two carts together. Sadia has shopped with her kids in a Radioflyer wagon. SarahP keeps one baby in the car seat in the main area of the cart, puts her 2-year-old in the sitting area of the cart and straps the other baby to herself in a Baby Bjorn. The groceries go under the cart and around the seat. It may look like a circus, but it works! Carolyn – Twintrospectives used her stroller as her cart. When she had too much bagged stuff after paying to fit elegantly back under the stroller, she used a couple of mommy hooks to hang bags off other parts of the stroller. Janna used to hang reusable grocery bags from the double stroller handles.

  • 7-year-olds helping mom push a shopping cart: Grocery Shopping with Multiples from hdydi.com
    Sadia’s daughters can help her steer the cart, although they’re just at the height where they can’t see where they’re going. They now prefer to walk alongside the cart and help calculate the best values and keep mommy within budget.

    Kids don’t have to be contained. If your kids are old enough to walk and trustworthy enough to be free, invite them to help you push the cart or give them carts of their own. Sadia’s kids still, at age 7, walk between her and the shopping cart, embraced within her arms and “helping” her push. If they wish to walk alongside the cart, they are each assigned a spot on the side of the cart to keep a hand on. They are not permitted to let go without explicit permission. SaraBeth determines which twin goes “free range” based on who has been better at listening that day.

  • Twin boys push miniature shopping carts in the store: Grocery Shopping with Multiples from hdydi.com
    Jen Wood’s sons are on a mission. Having his own cart keeps each boy close to mom and focused on shopping.

    Avoid the store altogether. Shop online. Subscribe to a CSA that delivers to your home. Use a drive-through.

There will be days when your kids will be in rare form, screaming bloody murder, and you’ll wonder how essential food really is. We’ve been there. On balance, though, shopping is doable, often even fun. If you treat it like a fun outing, your kids will have fun too. MandyE and Sadia will talk about making grocery shopping fun and educational in a later post.

Ask for and Accept Help

Twins in a double shopping cart seat: Grocery Shopping with Twins from hdydi.com
The Moms love these double seat shopping carts, modeled here by Carolyn – Twintrospectives’ boys. If your store doesn’t have them, see if a manager can order a few. Once they see how popular they are, they’ll get the message!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Janna often asked strangers to hold doors for her. Sadia asks store staff to help her lift things down from tall shelves. Carryout services offered by some grocery stores is golden. If you let the staff member load groceries into your car, it frees you up to load up your kids.

Unique Circumstances

Special Needs Children

Marissa‘s son A was very sick as a newborn and was essentially quarantined until he was 6 months old, by order of his doctor. This meant keeping D in too until he had his 3rd DTaP. Marissa’s husband, mother, and grandmother ran almost all of the errands, since A required extensive care when not hospitalized. We know, we said you could do it, but sometimes it’s best that you don’t run errands with your kids, for their sakes.

Grocery cart with infant seat attached: Grocery Shopping with Twins from hdydi.com
Some grocery stores provide shopping carts with infant seat already (and securely!) installed. If you wear one baby, these are great for parents of twins.

Now A is doing much better, but he couldn’t sit in a shopping cart until he was about 14 months old. Marissa wore him most of the time and had D sit in the cart. In addition, A is tube-fed and she does not let that stop them from participating in any activity, even though people are far more likely to stare than when witnessing public breastfeeding. One of Wiley’s daughters needs to drink thickened liquids to prevent aspiration, so they keep individual servings of thickener in their diaper bags now. Due to the aspiration issue, she had to drink pumped milk, so Wiley and her family had to travel with a cooler even though her twin sister could just breastfeed on demand.

Sadia’s daughter’s frontonasal dysplasia does sometimes force her family to contend with awkward comments and questions, but she has a stockpile of canned responses at the ready. She also talked to both her daughters about others’ perceptions and comments, since keeping them out of earshot is not a realistic option.

Higher Order Multiples

Mrslubby‘s husband loves to take her quadruplets and their 4-year-old big sister shopping, if nothing else to prove he can! He loads up two babies in one cart and two babies in another. With their older singleton standing on the end of a cart, he pushes one cart and pulls the other. While Mrslubby cringes at all the looks she gets from strangers with her brood, her husband basks in the acknowledgment of his juggling skills.

Pregnant MoMs

At the moment, Marissa is too pregnant with her third baby to wear her son A facing out in a front-carry. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like back-carry much, so she usually only take one kiddo on errands. Once again, her husband does most of the errands, because that’s what works for her family. As we said earlier, asking for help is an important MoM skill, as is accepting help when it’s offered.

Single (or Functionally Single) Parents

Janna and Sadia were both functionally single parents when their twins were very young, thanks to Janna’s husband’s extended work hours and Sadia’s (now ex-)husband’s repeated deployments. They had no alternative but to run errands with their kids, so it never occurred to them that it should be difficult. On the other hand, RachelG and her husband share equally in family tasks such as grocery shopping, so there is no need for either of them to master solo groceries. Do what works for your family’s needs.

If you’re a working single mother like Sadia, chances are that you have very little flexibility in your schedule and no one to watch your kids without prior planning. Work a weekly shopping trip into your routine so that your little ones know to expect it. Consider having a backup supply of canned and frozen goods to carry you through if you hit a week during which you just can’t make it to the store. Moms do occasionally get sick. Cars break down. Roads flood. Don’t be caught without food and toilet paper.

Unloading at Home

Unloading your groceries with young kids around can also take some planning. Your multiples and other kids may be especially demanding on returning to the safe environment of home. As on the way out of the door, make sure that you have a safe place to keep them while you bring your shopping inside.

Grocery Shopping with Twins and More from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: malloreigh

Consider using a cooler or insulated grocery bag for frozen or refrigerated items. This allows you a bigger window to tend to your kids before you return your attention to the groceries waiting to be put away. If your store has an especially competent bagger, do what you can to get in their checkout line and avoid careless baggers. Alternately, you can oversee the bagging yourself or simply communicate to the checkout staff that you need your things bagged in a particular order. It helps them out if you load groceries in logical groupings while you’re checking out.

Sadia keeps a tote in the trunk of her car to help keep things sorted. Refrigerator items go in the tote, everything else straight into the trunk. When she gets home, she can pick up everything that needs to be put away quickly at once. The rest can wait.

Not Just for Moms

The post has been written about moms going shopping with kids because we’re moms who go shopping with kids. This advice is for everyone else too, though: for the DoMs who do just as much in the way of home and family maintenance as MoMs, for nannies and au pairs who are out and about with the kids, for grandmas and grandpas, whether the grandkids are visiting or are in your permanent care.

Katelyn‘s husband carries one kid on his shoulders. Marissa’s husband wears a Moby like nobody’s business. Just yesterday, Sadia had a lovely conversation with a dad of 9-month-old twins while he wore one baby and had the other lying in the built-in infant seat in the store cart. When she got fussy, dad just scooped her onto his hip. He still had a free hand for the cart. Wiley’s nanny tends to wear one girl, put one in the cart seat, and put her middle boy in the body of the cart while the oldest is at school.

We all find ways to get things done, even if it takes some creativity.

Do you have specific types of errands, family situations, or location-related limitations on which you’d like The Moms’ advice? What grocery store trip tips did we miss?

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Three Pictures you *MUST* Take of Your Twin Babies

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Categories Infants, Parenting6 Comments

When I was pregnant with my twin boys I got a slew of helpful and practical advice (“Eat tons of protein and calcium” “Freeze meals now” “Lay on your left side and drink water” “Wait until your husband is home from work to take a bath, so he can help you out of the tub”) but one thing I really appreciated and hadn’t thought of was the advice from a 30-year- old male friend who is an identical twin and a professional photographer. He told me to make sure to get these three pictures of our infant twins –

  1. Pictures of the boys in Thing 1 & Thing 2 onesies (blue wig optional).

    Thing 1 and 2 I love Dr. Seuss (doesn’t everyone?) and he perfectly described twins (at least my twins) when he wrote the Thing 1 & Thing 2 characters. Loud, small beings who look alike and show up unexpectedly and completely destroy your house? Yep, that’s my boys! A friend with a twin niece and nephew gave me these onesies as a gift, but they are available in many sizes/styles and I recommend getting some for your babies if no one gifts them to you.
    Dr Seuss Babies

  2. Pictures of the boys swinging together in an infant swing.

    Two babies One Swing I love this adorable picture of my happy, smiling boys (because every time I put them in the swing, they were instantly happy and smiling). And even more than the picture, I love that twin babies fit perfectly in one infant swing. I had never seen this before and if he hadn’t told me about it, I might not have realized this excellent playground containment device for twin babies.

  3. Pictures by themselves.

    This is perhaps the most important picture to take. My friend loves having an identical twin brother and he cherishes all the cute pictures of them together growing up. However, his parents didn’t even get one picture of him without his twin included. When he was asked to bring in a baby picture for Kindergarten star of the day, he had to use one with both babies. Then later in life, when his fiancée wanted to use baby pictures in their wedding, he again only had the pictures of both babies. This isn’t something that I would have thought about while I was recovering from a twin birth and just trying to keep both babies fed, clean and swaddled but I’m glad he mentioned it, so I could be sure to get a few newborn photos of each baby individually. And I’ve continued to take both twin and individual pictures at major milestones throughout their five years.

Janna Holm lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, dog and five-year-old identical twin boys.

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