Ask the Moms, part 8 – Sleeping through the night

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Categories Ask the Moms, Overnight, Sleep10 Comments

From the early days of round-the-clock feedings, you dream about it: “someday,” you think. “Someday, my kids with sleep through the night.” It feels like it will never happen. Your small, incomprehensible babies seem to think midnight to 4AM is prime party-time. And then, they start to slowly figure it out. They sleep more at night than during the day. The overnight feedings start to spread out a little bit. “Aha!” you think. “Any day now, they’ll just drop those last two feedings and sleep through the night!” You talk to friends, and their babies started sleeping 10 hours at a stretch at 12 weeks old. “Well, OK, mine are 16 weeks old… but they were a month early! Surely, any day now…”

And then five and six months roll around, and the kids still want a bottle or a nursing session once or twice a night. Your pediatrician assures you that they’re physically able to go a 10-12 hour stretch at night without eating, but your kids seem to disagree. Some of the time, they wake up screaming bloody murder, apparently starving. Wasting away in their cribs, in fact, if you take 30 more seconds to arrive with the food. You groggily make a bottle, and are insulted when they only take a paltry two ounces before passing out. “WTF?! I thought you were starving!” And that is when you begin to smell a rat. You begin to suspect that those nighttime bottles are more because they’re used to eating, rather than because they need to eat. But what’s a mom to do?

OK, maybe not everyone goes through this exact train of thought, but many of us arrive at a similar point with our five-, six-, even nine-month-olds. How can I get them to sleep through the night? The months of sleep-deprivation are getting really old, and you find yourself sick with jealousy when you hear about the “easy sleepers” who just kind of did it on their own. You wonder why you didn’t get those kids, or what you’re doing “wrong.” Fear not, you are far from alone. Maybe some kids are just easy sleepers, maybe some moms (intentionally or accidentally) do certain things that engender good sleep habits. Who knows. But there are things you can do to drop that last bottle and have your kids sleeping through.

Let me pause and say that this can be an incredibly controversial topic. There are lots of different theories, methods, and viewpoints out there. Only you can decide what is the right approach for you and your kids, and the moms of How Do You Do It? do not ever mean to imply that there is one “right” way to do something. We all have to what we feel is best. Also, we do not necessarily advocate any of these things for babies younger than 4-6 months old. Check with your pediatrician, trust your instincts. Now, onto some potential strategies…

If you want to cut out an overnight feeding, probably the first thing to try is to make the bottle progressively smaller (or the nursing session shorter). If you’re usually making a six-ounce bottle, try making it five ounces for a night or two, then four, then three… once you hit two ounces, some babies will just stop bothering to wake up for it. I definitely found that, once overnight feeding was eliminated, my kids’ daytime bottles got bigger and they finished them more consistently, so don’t worry about them “missing” calories. They’ll make up for it. And for some babies, this is all it takes. If it works for you, huzzah! Congratulations! For, ahem, some of us… not so much.

Some babies will grudgingly tolerate the reduced (or even eliminated) bottles, but still want your help in getting back to sleep in the middle of the night. You can rock them, snuggle them in your bed, cuddle with the pacifier, etc. But eventually, this too will probably grow old. As delightful as baby cuddles are, you’re going to want to spend an uninterrupted night in your own bed, maybe even cuddling with that familiar-looking man next to you (have we met? oh yeah, we’re married… nice to see you again!). Again, for some people, gradually shortening the amount of time spent rocking in the chair eventually just works. The babies decide it’s not worth waking up for. And, again, some of us are not so lucky.

Indeed, an unofficial survey of the HDYDI moms found that, for those of us who were not fortunate enough to have the “easy” sleepers, many of us got to the point of the controversial and oft-maligned “cry-it-out” method (“CIO”). Whether consulting Weissbluth, Ferber, or the Sleep Easy Solution (TraceyS says it’s “Ferber for dummies”), we decided it was the way to go. And we all say this: before you say it’s absolutely the wrong (or right) thing for you, read the book. There’s a lot of misinformation and hype out there.

We got there through a variety of ways. LauraC felt comfortable with CIO as more of a last resort, having exhausted a variety of other methods. TraceyS might have preferred something that seemed a bit gentler, but found that having two babies made the relatively quick duration of CIO “training” was preferable. I found that, with my kids, the more intervening methods just made things worse. One soothing method cascaded into another until I was cuddling. rocking, shushing, and feeding (and possibly jumping on one foot, I’m not sure) all at the same time. And so, CIO became the method of choice.

We feel strongly enough about reading the book for any of these methods, that we will not actually post all of the details for how to “do” them. I know, I know. You don’t have time to read a book. But we promise that you don’t even have to read it cover-to-cover, just the relevant chapters. The most important things to pay attention to, though, are sleep associations. This was a big “aha!” moment for me. The point of the CIO methods is not that there’s something good or magical about the crying. It’s all about teaching your kids how to go to sleep, in such a way that does not require your intervention. We all wake up a bit overnight, toss and turn, and go back to sleep. Babies are no different. But if we’ve taught them to go to sleep with a bottle in their mouth (that would be me), or rocking, or whatever, then that’s what they’re going to want in order to get to sleep every time. “Aha!”

So, if you’ve read the book (yes, I’m going to keep harping on that point) and decided that one of these methods is for you, then here’s the rest of our recommendations:

  1. Fully commit to your method of choice. It requires 100% follow-through to be effective. Yet again, this is part of why we recommend reading the book. You really have to believe in why you’re doing it and do it all the way. If you don’t believe in it, don’t do it! Commit to doing it at least 3-7 nights straight, so that you have time to see any results.
  2. All of the adults in the household need to be on board with your choice. Crying in the middle of the night does not lead to the most… productive of adult conversations. If one person, at 3AM, is going to suggest that you “feed him, just this once,” you’re in for trouble. Everyone has to agree, and has to be on the same page. Talk about it ahead of time, not at 3AM. Trust us.
  3. Decide whether you’re going to work with your kids one at a time or together. This is really up to you. Some of us felt as though we already had one good sleeper, and didn’t want to disturb that one, so we put the babies in different rooms. Some of us felt as though one of the key things was teaching them to sleep through each other’s noises, so we kept them in the same room. Think ahead of time about which way you’re going to go with that one, because again, you don’t want to scramble in the middle of the night.
  4. If you’re doing a method with timed check-ins (like Ferber), get a kitchen timer or stopwatch. Two minutes can sometimes feel like forever, and I found it helpful to have a kitchen timer to keep me on track.
  5. Try to do something else when they’re crying (and I don’t mean try to sleep!). Sitting and listening to them cry, while staring at the clock, just makes it worse. Time passes more slowly, the cries seem worse than they really are. I found it easier to have one ear on the monitor, set the timer to go off in however-many minutes, and then distract myself on the computer or watching TV. When they were up in the middle of the night, I did the same thing: came downstairs and distracted myself. Much less frustrating than staring at the clock and wishing I could go back to sleep.
  6. Take heart. Listening to your child cry is not easy, but committing to the process really does result in pretty quick changes. Most kids will sleep through on the 3rd or 4th night. Some will continue to wake up periodically for a while longer, but will still get themselves back to sleep on their own within a pretty short period of time. And if you’re like me and LauraC, you may find that the baby who fights sleep training the hardest will actually become your better sleeper!

Pretty universally, we’re all glad we did it. (If you want a play-by-play, I documented my attempts at Ferber on my blog – prologue, nights 1, 2, 3, and 4, and epilogue – just note that my son was abnormally stubborn…) We have disruptions, sure. Travel, illness, teething, or even big developmental changes (like learning to crawl) can throw things off a bit. But having established good sleeping habits, it’s easier to get back on track. Good sleep is important for babies and moms. Not only will you have crabby babies (and mommies) on your hands if no one is sleeping well, but there are even studies that correlate poor sleep with obesity, depression, and a variety of other ills. (See this article from Time magazine…)

And if CIO isn’t your cup of tea, there are lots of other methods out there. The No-Cry Sleep Solution and Secrets of the Baby Whisperer are two of the many alternatives. Some people also find co-sleeping works well for their family. Some people do find that, though one of those methods would have been their ideal in a one-baby world, they’re arguably less practical with multiples. Whatever works for you and your kids, this is just one thing that worked for some of us!

So, readers, do you have a different favorite “method” for getting the less-than-easy sleepers to manage the coveted “through the night?” Post away in the comments. Please, just remember, we’re all friends here. One method works for some people, and something else works for others.

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Far from home

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Categories Family, Infants, Travel7 Comments

This Friday, our little family of four will embark upon our fourth set of round-trip flights. That’s right, fourth. And my kids are only eight months old. And their first trip wasn’t until they were four and a half months old. We’ve pretty much had a trip every month since Christmas. There always seem to be events, holidays, or some other reason we simply must go somewhere. In part, the issue is further complicated by the fact that M’s grandmother, the kids’ great-grandmother, is really in no shape to travel from Florida to the frigid North. (She was freezing when she came to see them when they were born in August.) And so, fly we will.

I’d like to say this will get better with the summer and warm weather. But in my head, we have the potential for four more flights before Labor Day. And this is why, every so often, I think about moving back home to Chicago.

I was always a homebody as a kid. Cried my way through the first week or two of first grade (I missed my mommy), hated the two weeks I spent away at Girl Scout camp (I missed my mommy and hated platform tents). I even transferred colleges to be closer to home (missed my mom and my then-boyfriend). But somehow, at the end of college, I decided a change of scenery was in order. I came to Boston, met M, and eight years later… here I am. Though I’m in some ways more ambivalent about it than I’ve ever been, I also am now very acutely aware of how hard it is to be away from my family.

I have a very large family. Mom is one of seven, Dad is one of nine. Tons of aunts, uncles, cousins, etc live in the greater Chicagoland area. (M’s family is smaller and more spread out, so I’m obviously focusing on “my side,” here.) We’re really into get-togethers. Sunday dinners at my mom’s house, barbecues at my dad’s house (they’re divorced, yet live a mile away from one another… good times!). It has long made me kind of wistfully sad when I’m on the phone with my mom and she talks about my brother and his wife having everyone over for dinner, or when my dad says everyone is going to the White Sox game together. But never more so than now, when I have kids.

I can tell my parents miss them terribly. My aunts and uncles are always asking when we’ll be in town next. I know how much fun it was to grow up in that environment, and I’m sad that my kids aren’t in the middle of all that. And while I’m sure flying with one kid would be plenty of work, flying with two seems somehow exponentially harder. Being unencumbered by a work schedule, I theoretically can go any old time I want. But flying by myself is pretty much not an option, so we are restricted by M’s available vacation days. We discovered that we really aren’t up for the challenge of “lap infants,” so every trip is four increasingly expensive tickets. Ugh.

So I think about packing up permanently for the great, flat Midwest. But of course it isn’t nearly as easy as that. Not only is there the small matter of finding M a new job and selling our house in a terrible real estate market, though that would be daunting enough. But now that I have kids, and the pull to be “home” is as strong as ever, the great irony is that I finally have a social network here. New friends, things I’m involved in… all thanks to the “twin thing.” I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I don’t think I would have nearly the same social support as a stay-at-home-mom if I didn’t have twins. Three cheers for the Moms of Twins club. Not only has it helped me find other MoTs in the area, but it has given me social outings (monthly “support” meetings), a sounding board (yahoo group listserv), and a way to get involved (oh yeah, I’ll be on the board starting in May). I’m hopeful that I’d find something similar if we ever moved, but now that I actually want to move more than ever, I have more that I would be leaving behind.

At the moment, I’m staying put. We have no plans to move any time in the foreseeable future. We will fly to Florida on Friday for a week-early Passover (it was too expensive to fly for the actual holiday). We will go to Chicago this summer, possibly twice. We will keep flying. But maybe, one of these days, we’ll actually live near our (my) family, and save the frequent-flier miles for something else.

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Ask the Moms, part 7 – Finding a pediatrician

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Do you have a question for the How Do You Do It? moms? Ask away in the comments or through our Features page!

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Today’s question is about finding a pediatrician for your not-so-terrible twosome. What are the most important factors? What things should you look for? What are red flags to look out for? Everyone is going to prioritize the different criteria in their own way. You may have your own “trump card,” like an office with a separate waiting room for sick visits, or a lactation consultant on-site. Someone else might find those things less important. As with any decision to be made, it’s probably wise to sit down and think very hard about what your top “non-negotiables” are, and what things you’re more willing to compromise.

In my opinion, one of the most important things has to do with the intangible “fit.” While I don’t think any doctor should simply tell you what you want to hear, it’s important to find a doctor who has an approach that meshes with your own. Breastfeeding? Maybe avoid someone who is very pro-formula at the first hint of a problem. A compulsive list-maker? You might not want the more laid-back doctor. Some of these things can be gleaned from a short consult visit, which some offices will do before your baby is born (like an interview). Sometimes, though, you don’t discover a mismatch until the situation arises.

Starting your search, one of the fundamental questions you must ask is whether you are looking for a family practitioner, general internist, or a pediatrician. While you can absolutely have a great family doctor or a terrible pediatrician, the HDYDI moms tend to favor a pediatrician. As twins (and certainly higher-order multiples) are often preemies and may have more health concerns than the average infant, we like that a pediatrician is always in the infant/child mindset. Then, find out how the office visits are structured. Do you see any and all of the doctors in the practice, or do you have one who is “your” doctor? If you’re seeing multiple doctors, how is patient information communicated?

It is also definitely worth considering the balance between the ideal doctor and the practical convenience of his/her office. With two children, especially two newborns who might go in a little more frequently at the beginning (weight checks and the like), think about what the experience of going to the doctor is like. How long is the drive? What’s the parking situation? Is there an elevator? Can your Double Snap N Go fit in and out of the office? While any one of those should not be a deal-breaker if you have found a doctor you love, it’s still worth thinking about. And don’t forget, the friendliness of all of the office staff (receptionists, etc.) has an impact on your experience. If they’re rude to you, think twice.

As for twin-specific requirements, check to make sure that the office will schedule your kids together, or have two back-to-back appointments. Taking them to see the doctor at different times, especially for well-baby visits, is just plain out of the question. Ask how sick-baby visits are handled with two kids. I know I was relieved at how my pediatrician handled a case of pinkeye. My daughter got it, but my son had no symptoms. However, we were leaving town, and we all know how contagious pinkeye can be. My doctor thankfully wrote a prescription for two weeks of antibiotic eye ointment, even though I was only supposed to give it to Rebecca for one week. She knew the likelihood of my son getting it (which he did, eight days later!), and was not going to make me come back in. This isn’t necessarily appropriate with all ailments, but it was nice that she would accommodate me when reasonable (without having to shell out twice the copay for the office visit or the prescription).

Definitely find out how the office handles sick calls and visits, as well as evenings and weekends. Is there a nurse who calls you back when you have a question, or is it your doctor? If you need to go into the office, will you see “your” doctor or whoever is available? You may prefer to always see “your” doctor for the sake of continuity, or you may want the option to see anyone in the practice who has time for your vomiting 5-month-old. How are questions handled after-hours, or will you automatically be sent to the hospital if it’s not 9-5 on the weekdays? Is there a separate waiting space for sick kids? (Nothing is better than taking your preemies for their first well-baby weight check and having a curious 4-year-old coughing on them…)

Whenever possible, try to schedule an interview before your babies are born. Not all practices do this, or you may have to be a little pushy if it’s important to you. I will admit to not doing this, but I got lucky and love my pediatrician, anyways. But if you can get in, even for 10 minutes, make sure you use the time well. Think ahead of time and write down what your most important questions are, so you can be sure they’re answered up front. If you end up with time to chit-chat, great, but you don’t want to leave and realize you don’t know your doctor’s stance on solid foods (or whatever issue is important to you).

And finally, remember that this is your decision, and you have to pick who is right for your family. There are a million big and little things that go into a productive doctor-patient(-parent) relationship, some of which you can anticipate ahead of time, and some of which you can’t. Just because someone is highly recommended or well known does not necessarily mean they will be the one for you. And if you ever feel as though you and your kids are not being treated well in any way, speak up, and don’t be afraid to find another doctor if it comes to that.

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Goodbye, Graco

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Another day, another milestone in my house! Daniel in SnugRideSaturday, after returning home from our new Sign & Sing class, I removed our trusty Graco SnugRide carseat bases from the minivan. I had been leaving the seats themselves in the car for the last week or so. It has just become too heavy and cumbersome to lug them in and out of the house with the babies in them. While the kids aren’t particularly close to the stated size limits (22lbs and/or 29in), it just felt like time to be done with them. Maybe if I had just one kid I’d hold onto it longer… but not with two.

[As an aside, I can’t imagine purposefully getting one of the seats with even higher size limits… not only are the seats, themselves, even heavier, but lugging a 30-lb baby around in a carrier?! Good lord!]

This also, of course, means saying a fond farewell to our Double Snap N Go. Ah, the Snap N Go. My constant companion. You just can’t beat having a carseat stroller frame. It literally was used almost every day. It has gotten to the point, though, that I have sort of a love-hate relationship with it. Convenient and essential though it was, it also drives like a bus and can be kind of awkward and clunky.

Rebecca in MarathonTaking the place of the old equipment are two Britax Marathons (purchased on sale from Amazon.com last month, at a better price than Babies R Us, even with the twin discount), which are enormous but should last us a good 3+ years. For the stroller, we’ve been using our Peg-Pérego Aria Twin off and on all along, but now it’s the primary go-to set of wheels. The best part about it is that it’s quite lightweight. The downside, as is the case with many standard strollers, is that it can’t handle much more than flat, dry, unobstructed pavement. I’m not much of an outdoorsy-type, but I do like to take nice walks and could see the benefit of a more terrain-friendly stroller. So, I’m stalking Craigslist to see if I can find something (the Mountain Buggy Urban Double, if I’m lucky) for a more reasonable price than the $650+ for a new one.

Daniel & Rebecca are outgrowing (physically and developmentally) a bunch of things recently. The swing hasn’t been used in nearly two months, bouncy seats even longer. And today, we wave goodbye to their main mode of transport for the last eight months. In truth, we’ll use them once more when we fly to Florida in two weeks, but that’s the last of it. I have an email partially composed, ready to send to my MOT club listserv, to unload all of this baby gear on someone else. It has been good to us, and it’s all still in darn good condition, but I’m ready to see it go. There’s plenty of other stuff taking up space in our house right now.

If I sit and think about it, it’s a little bit bittersweet to think that my babies aren’t such little babies anymore. Coming home from the hospitalI think about how tiny they used to be in those carseats they’re now outgrowing. I think about how the Snap N Go was a lifesaver, that I wouldn’t have been able to leave the house without it in those early weeks and months. But then I remember what those first weeks and months were like. And I quickly snap out of it and remember how much happier I am now, with fun and nearly-mobile eight-month-olds, than in the hazy, hellish days of eight-week-olds. Yeah… see you later, newborn stuff!

Cross-posted at Goddess in Progress

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Ask the Moms, part 6 – 'Equal' time

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Categories Ask the Moms, Family, Infants, Mommy Issues5 Comments

Do you have a question for the moms of How Do You Do It? Ask away in the comments or through our Features page.

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This week’s question comes from Lyna, who has a 3-year-old and 10-month-old twins. She’s concerned about not spending enough time with her twins. After a long day of work, she comes home emotionally and physically exhausted, and finds it difficult to spend time with her two babies. She worries the twins are not getting enough from mom, and that she might be favoring her firstborn at their expense.

First, Lyna, cut yourself a little bit of a break. Being a mom is great, but it’s also hard, frustrating, tiring, and comes with a lot of internal and external pressures. It’s easy to get caught up in what you think you “should” be doing, especially as it relates to things you don’t think you’re doing “enough.” We all deal with it, whether we have other kids or not, whether we work outside the home or not. You’re far from alone.

Also, words of wisdom from LauraC, via her moms of twins club: “Your babies do not know any differently than what you do with them. They do not know that singletons get held more or got more attention. They only know their own reality. The babies have no expectations of you – you have expectations of yourself.” Your twins do not know that they are having a different experience than their older sister had at their age, and frankly, they don’t care. They have learned from day one that sometimes they have to wait their turn (though they might not be happy about it, of course!), and are not automatically emotionally scarred because they were not held as much as their big sister.

Now, on to strategies. First, as is a common suggestion from the HDYDI moms, have you joined your local moms of twins club? Many of them offer some kind of new mom/mentoring/big sister program, so you may want to try to connect with nearby moms who also have an older child and infant twins, or have already gone through it. It will help to see, first-hand, that your experience is not so unique.

Second, just jump right in there. Don’t let your worries about “not being able” to play with or hold both twins deter you from playing with either of them. Ten months is a great age, as they can play more independently, they can sit and probably crawl, etc. They will love it if you just sit on the floor with them, read a board book (or five), play peekaboo. Heck, they even get a kick out of playing with a basket of laundry that needs folding. Like TraceyS talked about last week, consider changing your outlook. Redefine “quality time” in your own mind. It doesn’t have to look the same as it did with your singleton, and in fact, it’s impossible for it to look the same. It doesn’t have to mean lots of holding and carrying, which can often be quite impractical with two babies. It can mean all of you singing silly songs together, or whatever.

Third, divide and conquer. Cynthia likes to switch off which boy she puts to bed each night, while her husband takes the other. A nice little dose of quiet solo time with each baby to cuddle, read stories, etc. And assuming your 3-year-old goes to bed a bit later than the 10-month-olds, that still leaves special time for her after they’re down for the night. Carrie and others are all about having “dates” with one child at a time on the weekends. Trade off with your husband who has which kid(s), and then have an outing. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Go to the coffee shop, go to the grocery store, just go for a walk. But taking time to focus on each child one at a time, even if it’s only once a week or so, can go a long way.

Some other recommendations include, while your twins are still a bit young for family dinner time, postpone adult dinner until after the kids are in bed. That allows you to use as much of their awake time as you can to focus on them instead of other things. Consider a carrier, such as the Ergo, for carrying one baby hands-free (whoever is fussing more or enjoys the carrier more). That allows you to pick up the other when necessary, or play a game with your toddler, while one baby at a time gets some close contact.

While this particular variety of mommy guilt (I’ve heard it referred to as “second child syndrome”) is amplified with twins, it’s not unique to moms of multiples. Anyone with more than one child, especially if you’ve had a singleton first, has to come to grips with the fact that the younger child(ren) will not have the same “infant experience” as your first. All of us with twins (or more) have worried that maybe we aren’t holding them enough, singing to them enough, or any number of things we feel we’re “supposed” to be doing. We each have more than one child, but there’s still only one mommy. Learning to play independently, or to entertain each other, is a good skill. You don’t have to, nor can you, entertain each of your three children precisely equally at all times.

There you have it, words of “wisdom” from your fellow moms. Cut yourself a break, and redefine in your own mind what constitutes meaningful interactions with your kids. Find ways to play with all three of them at once, encourage them to play with each other (I bet the 10-month-olds get a huge kick out of playing peekaboo with big sister!), and try to set aside time with each of them individually, even if you can only manage it with one child per week. It will pay off for the kids, it will pay off for you, and it will allow you to get to know each of your children as well as you know your first. Good luck!

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Under construction

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Dear readers, forgive the How Do You Do It? moms as we mess around with our blog template. We’re trying to make it as reader-friendly as possible, including making clearer the author of each post. So, if things look a little wonky over the next day or so, rest assured that we’re trying to make it pretty again. Thank you for your patience!

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Big kids

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Anyone following the NCAA Men’s tournament? Anyone watch the Stanford vs. Marquette game? Brook LopezThey couldn’t stop talking about the Lopez twins (no, not Lopez as in J.Lo). Robin and Brook Lopez are sophomores at Stanford. They are apparently stars of the team, and it was Brook’s incredible shot from a step behind the backboard that gave Stanford the last-minute 82-81 overtime win. Oh, and did I mention that they’re both seven feet tall? Holy crap. My kids aren’t even walking yet, and they take over the house. I can’t imagine two 7-foot-tall teenagers in the house.

As usual, the commentators couldn’t stop talking about the “Lopez twins,” as if they were a single unit. Sports commentators are not immune from the twin fascination thing. Admittedly, there they are… both extremely tall, both athletically gifted in the same sport, both at Stanford. But still, I can imagine that teeny part of me, if I was their mom, being simultaneously extremely proud of my sons, and cringing just a little bit every time they were referred to as a single unit instead of two individuals.

Yes, I’m probably over-doing it here. I mean, you can’t blame people. And they aren’t incorrect, these two guys and my kids and the other kids of moms on this site are, in fact, twins. It’s the truth. And here these two are, playing the same sport together, both talented and dominating. Yet every time the ESPN guy kept referring to the “Lopez twins doing this,” or the “Lopez twins doing that,” a small part of me was annoyed. He doesn’t talk about other players two at a time. Or if he does, both of their names are said “Jones and Smith run up the court,” etc. I think I just worry sometimes that the individual accomplishments of my children will get slightly dulled because they’re always talked about together.

Then again, I think the likelihood of both either of my kids playing Division-I sports is, shall we say, slim. So I guess I won’t have to worry too much about the ESPN guys not giving them enough individual credit…

(photo credit: AP/Kevork Djansezian, via ESPN.com)

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Ask the Moms, part 5 – Pregnancy discomfort

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Do you have a question for the moms of How Do You Do It? Ask away in the comments of this post, or through our Features page!

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Today’s question comes from Jen, who is somewhere in her 30+ weeks of twin pregnancy, and also has a toddler at home. She wants to know if we have any suggestions for alleviating discomfort.

Oh, Jen. That sound you heard was the collective groan of remembrance and sympathy from the HDYDI moms. Some people swear you forget things about pregnancy and childbirth. But we twin moms will never forget how uncomfortable those final weeks were. We literally feel your pain. And while we have some suggestions, the hard truth is that the only cure is delivery. We hope the next weeks fly by.

There are some ways to take the edge off, however. Some of our favorites:

  • Pillows, pillows, and more pillows. Send your husband to the guest room if need be, because there will be more pillows surrounding you than you thought humanly possible. Between the knees, under the belly, one to hug, one behind you (so you don’t roll onto your back)… etc etc etc.
  • If heartburn or sleeping position are an issue, lots of people spend the end of their pregnancy sleeping (or at least attempting to sleep) in a recliner.
  • Warm baths or showers for that aching back (though if it’s already “out,” consider cold instead of heat. I found that if my back had already “gone out,” the heat just further inflamed the injury. See what works for you.)
  • Go for a swim. I was a terrifying sight to behold at 35 weeks pregnant in my blue gingham maternity bathing suit, but the relative weightlessness and freedom of movement in the water is really nice. Just beware: you feel extra heavy when you then have to get out of the water.
  • Check out those belly support belts they sell at maternity stores. Sometimes it takes just a touch of the strain off of you, carrying that immense load in front.
  • Just keep drinking a ridiculous quantity of water. Yes, you have to pee every 25 minutes, but you’re going to have to do that anyways, so better to be hydrated and stave off extra swelling and contractions. Rest, drink, pee, repeat.

As for caring for a toddler, all we can say is to get as much help as you possibly can. Mothers (-in-law), sisters (-in-law), cousins, neighbors, friends. Hire a middle- or high-school mother’s helper if you can. There’s no real tricks to make it easier at this point, and it may be wise to have a setup in place before your twins are born. So your toddler is used to her “special friends” who come over just to shower her with attention.

Unfortunately, Jen (and the rest of you nice pregnant ladies out there), there’s only so much we can offer as help on this one. The late weeks of a twin pregnancy are just plain awful most of the time, and you just have to try out every single position you can think of to try to get a few minutes of relief. All we can say is “hang in there, you’ll make it.” Oh, and try not to kill people who say genius things like “enjoy your sleep while you still can!” We know what it’s like. You haven’t slept for months. I remember thinking that first night in my hospital bed post-cesarean was the best night of sleep I’d had in the better part of a year. No joke.

Good luck to you, and we can’t wait to hear about those babies! (And we’ll try to address the car issue, too, maybe next week?)

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Sliding doors

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Categories Mommy IssuesTags , 11 Comments

Sometimes I think about what a crazy bit of chance it is that I’m the mom of seven-month-old twins. I think about big and small decisions I have made (or have been made for me), and wonder about the butterfly effect they had to get me to this point. What if I had decided to go to graduate school in Washington, DC instead of Boston? I would never have met M. What if we hadn’t decided to buy our house when we did, stayed in the apartment, and delayed trying to get pregnant?

The one I’ve been thinking about this week has to do with my other pregnancies. If the first one had stuck, I’d be talking about planning my child’s first birthday party (my due date would have been March 23, 2007). But only four days after the positive pregnancy test, it was over. I was bummed, but not devastated. I had hardly believed I was pregnant in the first place, so I didn’t get too attached to the idea.

If my second pregnancy had worked out, I’d have an almost-10-month-old (EDD 5/24/07). We called it Kermit. Saw the heartbeat on ultrasound not once, but twice! Everything I read said, “don’t worry! Once you see the heartbeat, your risk of miscarriage goes down to 5%!” Ten days later, I started bleeding, and there was no mistaking the absent heartbeat on the ultrasound. I was so sad. I had to un-tell my family, and go to the hospital for the D&C. Not good times.

But this post isn’t about sadness or loss. It’s about the fact that this was somehow meant to be. Sure, if either of those pregnancies had worked out, I wouldn’t have had to be sad about losing them. I wouldn’t have had to un-share the news with my previously overjoyed parents. I might not have had to insist on bi-weekly ultrasounds during the first trimester of my next pregnancy, just so I could keep what little remained of my sanity. I wouldn’t have had to be hugely pregnant in the middle of a hot summer. I might have found a way to go back to work part-time, and I would not have had to figure out a way to cram two cribs into one room. But I wouldn’t have had twins.

Even on the terrible, awful, no-good, very-bad days, I adore my two-at-a-time kids, and wouldn’t trade them for all the world. I dream about how much easier some a lot of things would be if I had a singleton, for sure. But if I hadn’t had twins, I actually don’t think I would have the same support system that I now do (thank you, MOT club and fellow twin bloggers). Moms of multiples are a tight bunch, and we look out for one another. Without twins, I don’t think I would be as laid-back as I am (more time to freak out over one baby), and I wonder if I would actually feel somewhat less confident as a parent (helps to have the constant side-by-side comparison of two babies in the same environment, doing different things). I wouldn’t be a proud member of the secret society of twin moms.

While there’s nothing especially productive about wondering what my life would have been like if I had decided to go into marital/family therapy instead of school counseling, or even if we’d had sex on this day instead of that day last December ( 😉 ), I still think about it. NICU PolaroidMostly in wonderment about how the accumulation of large and small decisions, seemingly unrelated, can bring you to a particular point. That going through a loss can not only make you stronger (and more paranoid), but can result in an even bigger change in your life. Who knows, maybe I was destined to become a twin mom, regardless of where I lived or what college I chose. But it’s still amazing to me, sometimes, that I’ve ended up right here. Right were I’m supposed to be.

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Ask the Moms, part 4 – Newborn 'schedules'

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Categories Ask the Moms, Feeding, Infants, Napping, Overnight, Sleep8 Comments

Today’s question comes from the Campos-Nelson family. As a mom of one-month-old twins, she’s asking about getting twins on the same schedule. Whew, now there’s a topic right there! Before we start dishing advice, let me just say that we’ve all been there (and made it through to the other side), so hang in and it will get better soon.

Note that the following tidbits of advice make it sound like we all knew what we were doing. Don’t believe it for one second. We were clueless too, and figured things out by trial and error. Hindsight, though, is 20/20. May you avoid some of the mistakes we collectively made…

First, we would all note that one month old is a little early to be talking about any kind of real by-the-clock schedule. Still, though, there are practices you can begin to employ that will eventually pay off. As a group, the moms of How Do You Do It? are very much in favor of trying to get your babies doing the same things at (roughly) the same time. You need at least a few minutes every day when both babies are sleeping, lest you lose what’s left of your fragile mind.

Feeding together

Feeding at the same time is a good first step, whether it be tandem nursing, tandem bottles, or even one right after the other. In the very early days, most babies will probably sleep most of the time between bottles, anyways. In general, we are largely in favor of feeding the second baby, even if (s)he doesn’t yet seem hungry, when the first baby eats. Those of us who experimented with simply feeding each baby on demand found that it made for seemingly constant feeding and extra exhaustion for mom. When there’s more than one baby to take care of, sometimes you need to take charge of the situation a bit more than that. On-demand nursing may be important when initially establishing breastfeeding, but once you’ve got the hang of it, we do recommend feeding them at pretty much the same time, even if you don’t tandem.

Many (though not all) of us also applied this reasoning to overnight feeding. When one baby woke up to eat, we would feed the other (at the same time or immediately after, depending on your feeding method of choice). Especially in the earliest weeks and months, it’s a sure thing that if you feed one and let the other sleep, the second baby will wake up as soon as you attempt to return to bed.

This gets trickier, of course, as you begin to approach the magical time of dropping an overnight feeding. Some moms are loathe to wake the second baby, if there’s a chance they’ll just drop that feeding and come close to sleeping through the night. Others take the approach of, “it does me no good if only one sleeps through the night, since I still have to get up anyways. You’re both eating now so I can safely go back to bed.” (OK, that was me.) There’s no known right answer to this one (or almost anything else, for that matter), but it’s an internal debate we all have.

Sleeping together

NICU Sleeping

OK, feeding at the same time is easy, VERY easy compared to having them sleep at the same time. That is the hard part, but it’s also arguably the most important.

Daytime sleep

Our original poster mentioned that one of her twins (at one month old) is sometimes awake up to six hours during the day without so much as a yawn. This is not a good thing. A baby under the age of one should almost never be up that long, much less a newborn. Many of us are fans of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, which asserts that a baby under four or five months old should not be awake more than one to two hours at a stretch. I know that I had to come to the realization that my kids would not just fall asleep when they were tired. It was my job to try to get them to go to sleep when it was time. Watch the clock and put them down after they’ve been awake no more than two hours (sometimes much less if they’re fussy/sleepy). Also, in those early months, do what you have to do to get them to sleep. Swing, wrap/sling, bouncy seat, carseat, car ride, walk… believe me, none of us will be judging you. We’ve all done it. (Exhibit A: the time I drove to New Hampshire during a prolonged nap strike.) And finally, it can be argued that a nap “doesn’t count,” or isn’t restful enough, if it lasts less than 30-45 minutes (again, under about 3-4 months). I used to call it the “90-30” rule. No more than 90 minutes of wakefulness, no less than 30 minutes of sleep.

Most critical to sleep, especially daytime sleep, is putting the babies down at the same time. Or, at least, close to the same time. Sometimes it’ll work, sometimes it won’t. But eventually it will pay off. Sometime in the 4-6 month range is when you might start seeing two or three naps per day, at the same time most days. Before then, definitely go with the 90-30 rule, and put both babies down together.

Pack & Play at home“Now wait,” some will say, “just because they’re twins doesn’t mean I must treat them as a single unit! I must respect their individual needs!” Yes. You should. But there’s someone else’s needs you need to respect, as well: yours. You may very well have one child who goes down for the nap easily, while the other fights it. One who wakes refreshed after a mere 47 minutes, and another who needs at least an hour and 15 minutes. That’s fine, you should be aware of that and respect that. But still do whatever you can to have those different styles overlap, and have naps at the same time. If you know that one of them will take more effort and time to get to sleep, that’s fine. Factor it in. But do everything in your power to get them to sleep at the same time. You need that time to have a moment of peace, to throw in a load of laundry, to eat some lunch, and maybe even go to the bathroom.

Nighttime sleep

I’ve read that newborns do not begin to differentiate between daytime and nighttime sleep until at least 6-8 weeks. But that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage those distinctions. As with anything, being consistent and persistent will pay off. Eventually. We swear.

Double baby bathtimeAs soon as you feel ready (and we don’t think a month or two is too early), create a consistent nighttime routine and bedtime. Dim the lights, quiet the noise. Incorporate whatever soothing elements you want. A bath, some music, a story, a massage, a bottle or nursing session, etc. Change into pajamas, swaddle or put on a sleep sack. Whatever you want your routine to be, make it no more than about 30 minutes long, and make sure it ends on a good note in your overnight sleeping venue of choice (nursery, pack & play in your room, whatever). And put both babies to bed at the same time. Bedtime is best on the early side (say around 7PM, give or take an hour). Then, designate 10-12 hours (say 8PM-6AM) as “nighttime.” Do things differently during nighttime. Keep the lights low, keep interactions quiet. When one or both babies wake up, make the goal to feed and then get back to sleep as soon as possible. They will not always oblige, but this is a way to start setting up the expectation. They’ll come around. In my house, once we had a clear and consistent bedtime routine established, we found that it was a great way to sort of “reset” the twins’ schedules if they got a bit off during the day.

The same applies for starting the day. Make it clearly different. Go downstairs, turn on the lights, change clothes, go outside (weather permitting). If one wants to sleep longer than the other, painful as it might be, try not to let them get too far off from each other. It’s hard to salvage the day when they begin it an hour “off” from one another.

Swaddled babyTruly, the moms of How Do You Do It? sympathize. Managing the ever-changing sleep habits of two infants is arguably the very hardest thing of all, and also the one that will have the biggest impact on quality of life for the whole family. Well-rested babies (and mommies!) are happy babies and mommies.

Recommended Reading

As with any of the myriad baby theory books out there, use the following as tools, not necessarily gospel. Integrate things that work for your family, modify or throw out things that don’t. But don’t be afraid to try.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Dr. Marc Weissbluth – Many of us are fans, but particularly useful are his chapters by age. Helps to understand what is normal for a baby of a given age, and what you can reasonably expect or aim for.

Happiest Baby on the Block, by Dr. Harvey Karp – As far as I’m concerned, this should be required reading (along with viewing the DVD) for all new parents. Critical skills and techniques for soothing (and helping get to sleep) babies under the age of about four months.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, by Tracey Hogg – LauraC was not a huge fan of this book in general, but found the “personality quiz” contained therein to be quite useful. It’s very important to learn each baby’s “style,” and in your sleep-deprived, befuddled state, it can be helpful to have something external (like a book) help you to figure it out. Nothing like two newborns to make it so you can’t see the forest for the trees.

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