Toddler Thursday: More on Gardening

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Our garden has been in the ground for more than a month now, which gives me some fodder for a follow-up and more pretty pictures. Some of my original plants haven’t thrived as well as I’ve hoped, so we’ve made a few updates and generally expanded. As I’ve been working in the dirt and using trial and error to make progress, I’ve had some time to think of more tips that I might want to pass along to others who might like to try gardening with their toddlers or preschoolers. So here are a few.

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Start small. My recent gardening has been largely limited to a flowerbed that has existed since before we even bought our house seven years ago. It had become overgrown the past several years, so I’ve been slowly digging the saplings and weeds out of the bed and expanding my planting space. The goal is not to grow so quickly that I can’t maintain what I’ve done. And allowing my garden to expand as I clear the space gives me some motivation to keep up with the less interesting part of gardening.

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Give your kids a job. Last weekend, we went to the nursery and I assigned my kids to choose four plants each from the annuals table. It allowed them an opportunity to practice their counting and color-identifying skills, and they got to make choices about what we’d add to our garden. Then at home, they each had a trowel, and I had them dig holes for our new plants. Full disclosure: they lost interest long before everything was planted, but that gave me an opportunity to fix plant spacing and group things in ways that I found aesthetically appealing.

A wheelbarrow full of green shiny rocks.

 

Leave room for walking through your garden. Kids never use stepping stones. Ever. So leave them some room to step between plants. And as corollary: Don’t worry too much if things get squished. Most plants will bounce back.

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Use what you have on hand. I’ve got several animal-shaped planters and pieces of yard art. It made a lot of sense to bring them all over to the kids’ garden, where they could add a bit of whimsy.

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Happy Gardening!

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Toddler Thursday: Gardening with Twins

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Categories Activities, Lifestyle, Parenting, Parenting Twins, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers1 Comment

Fall has finally arrived here in Central Texas, though you’d hardly know it by the hot, dry weather we’ve had lately.  Still, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as we approach the middle of October. My twins turn three this month, and they are very interested in playing outside and being involved in everything I’m doing. It’s put me in the mindset of starting a garden with my kids this fall – a goal I’ve had since before I even had kids. (In the northern climes, most gardening happens in the spring, but here in Texas, where are summers are far more extreme than our winters, the best gardening happens in October and November.)

Gardening is a great activity to do with toddlers as they start to develop their gross motor skills. It allows them to get fresh air and some sunshine, it’s physical, and, with a bit of luck, they can watch their work blossom into fruition! (See what I did there?)

It’s a good idea to consider a plan for your garden before you break ground. First, it might be helpful to choose a theme that appeals to you and your kids. You could choose edible plants, like herbs and veggies, to encourage your kids to try new flavors and eat more plant-based foods. You could decide on a garden full of plants that attract beautiful butterflies or hummingbirds. You could choose all the purple plants you can lay your hands on.  In our case, the garden we’ve been working on is inspired by the sense of touch – plants with interesting textures, herbs that emit lovely smells when the leaves are rubbed, and generally anything that allows kids to get hands-on with the garden.

Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)
Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)

You’ll also need to think about the conditions of the area in which you’re planting. We’re working in an existing bed which happens to be located in a shady part of my yard. I’ve done some research to determine which plants with interesting textures would grow well in that environment in my region, and when I went shopping, I took a list with me. Herbs are great for a touch garden, but most herbs require lots of sun, so I had to adjust my list accordingly. Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantia) is a great choice, and one that I have experience growing. It has thick, velvety leaves and spreads into an attractive ground cover. It even has a pretty purple bloom! I also chose Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), which blooms feather-soft in the fall,  globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa), which has a bright papery bloom, and a few mint plants, which give off a lovely smell and flavor when touched. (Note: mint is inclined to go wild under favorable conditions. I planted mine in a pot which I submerged in the ground to reduce those tendencies.) Leave a little room open in the budget for getting new ideas once you get to the nursery, and consider a few inexpensive annuals to fill out your garden with colorful blooms. Your kids can help you pick out some plants that they find interesting, as well – however, you’ll want to be mindful not to buy anything overly toxic. This is often noted on the plant’s information tag.

Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima)
Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima)

Plants grow best in soil that has organic matter mixed in. The easiest way to achieve this is to dig your bed and mix the dirt with compost. Your children can help by using a scoop or a pot to pour compost onto the dirt as you turn it, or by using a trowel or small shovel to turn one corner of the bed. Once your dirt is prepared, you and your kids can dig holes for the new plants, pre-watering the holes, spreading the roots a bit as you pull them out of the pot, and depositing them in their new homes. Watering in the plants is also, not surprisingly, a very popular pastime in my garden.

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Fairies throw parties in our little garden every night after bedtime.

If you have some space and are interested in adding a visual element to your garden, you might consider adding a fairy garden. I found a local nursery that sells inexpensive fairy furniture, but you and your kids can make your own fairy decorations, as well. Consider painting a rock or a pinecone and leaving it as art for your garden’s faeries to enjoy! Place a marble in the ground as a gazing ball. If you have older kids, they might enjoy building and painting small wooden structures (like you might find at a craft store), or even making their own with twigs and bark. You’re limited only by your imagination!

Keep your plan a little flexible. Let your kids have as much control as is feasible over the placement of items in your new garden, even if it doesn’t match your mental image. With my three year olds, their attention span runs low before the work runs out, so I can do a little bit of editing to their work, but this is a shared space for us, and I want the final product to reflect that. Ultimately, if you’re gardening with kids, the final garden is secondary to the process of creating it.

Garden in progress.
Our work in progress.
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Twinfant Tuesday: Loving My Babies Differently

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Categories Guilt, Love, Parenting Twins, Twinfant Tuesday5 Comments
Quality time with my son.
Quality time with my son.

Before I had kids, it was hard for me to understand how or why parents would play favorites with their kids. My relationship with my future hypothetical kids was going to be one of mutual respect and lots of unconditional love. It’s worth noting, perhaps, that my future hypothetical kids were good-natured, agreeable, and their thought processes aligned with mine remarkably well.

When my actual babies were born, I was dismayed to find out that they weren’t altogether agreeable, and that, especially with two babies, bonding wasn’t an immediate, natural thing.

This is part of twin parenting that I don’t see mentioned often; I don’t think it’s unique to my experience. Parents of one baby have time to really get to know that baby, feel comfortable to varying extents with spending time alone with that baby, and are, I think, able to bond more quickly with that single baby thanks to that individual focus. With twins, I found myself constantly having to give each baby just enough so that I could meet the needs of both. It was harder for us to spend the quality time it took get to know one another and build our relationships with one another.

Early on, I felt a very strong bond with my daughter, spunky and independent and favoring her mama in the looks department, but I had to work on my bond with my son. I had always envisioned having a daughter someday, and I felt like I knew what to do with girls. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with a boy. My son was needier in the early days; he really wanted to spend all his time with me, snuggled up to me or nursing, while my daughter was willing to be held and fed by someone else, and to an extent, I resented the time that I couldn’t spend with my smiling, inquisitive daughter while I soothed my fussy, needy son.

I worried a lot that my daughter would feel less loved or wouldn’t bond as well with me because I spent more time with her brother. Likewise, I worried that my son wouldn’t socialize as well because he was bonding only to his mama. I worried for his relationship with his father, that they’d never really become attached, that the way we were dividing most baby duties, assigning one parent to one baby, wasn’t normal. Obviously, I’m a worrier – and post-partum hormones certainly accentuated that trait.

Over time, I reconciled myself to the idea that the time I was spending with my son was time that he really needed, and that the idea of “equal time” was something that would have to work itself out in the long run. And all that time spent one-on-one with my son really did help me to bond with him over the first few months. My needy newborn son turned into a generally laid-back, chill little guy who loves his mama fiercely, and I feel a lot more secure in my role as his parent as we navigate the waters of toddlerhood.

My daughter wound up being the baby who struggled more when they started daycare. I was surprised by that at the time; she was so much more social in home settings. But ultimately, she’s an intense little thing who requires more time to adapt to new situations than my breezy little boy does. She builds stronger relationships with people, but it takes her longer to do it. And thanks to several mama-centric phases in her later infancy and toddlerhood, I’m fairly sure that the “time spent” scale is much more balanced between the two these days.

Over time, I’ve come to find that bonding with my babies is a lot like falling in love. It doesn’t always happen at first sight – though it can happen that way. Sometimes chemistry kicks in quickly, but sometimes, love starts with a friendship and blooms over time. I’m still surprised every day at how different our relationships are, and at how they change constantly.

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Siblings Without Rivalry – A Book Review

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Categories Behavior, Book Review Theme Week, Book Reviews, Discipline, Family, Individuality, Parenting, Parenting Twins, Siblings, Theme Week6 Comments

A mother of twins reviews Siblings Without Rivalry

Siblings Without Rivalry is by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk. If you missed my review of How to Talk… you can check it out here to get a sense of the prevailing philosophy behind these books. In a nutshell, Faber and Mazlish promote empathetic communication between parents and children and collaborative solutions to conflict.

While Siblings Without Rivalry is NOT a book centered upon the unique challenges of raising multiples, its sibling-centric focus does make it very applicable to most parents of twins. The authors wrote it as a follow-up to How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk because they felt they had not had sufficient space to fully explore sibling conflict in the first book.

The most important prevailing theme throughout Siblings Without Rivalry is that parents should acknowledge and respect children’s feelings, particularly toward their siblings, without minimizing or sugar-coating them.  If a child says, “I hate Owen! He always ruins my stuff,” then rather than saying, “Be nice to your brother,” a parent might say, “You really seem angry at your brother! You wish he’d take better care of your things.” Allowing both children to express anger and validating their feelings can help them to work through the conflict on their own, increasing both their autonomy and their sense of belonging within their family.

Other Interesting Takeaways:

  1. Wherever possible, parents should stay out of conflicts between children, and instead provide them with tools to work through their disagreement together. The general formula prescribed for intervening when necessary is:
    •  Acknowledge each side’s anger: “John, you want to watch Curious George, but Kristen wants to watch Elmo, is that right?”
    • Appreciate both sides of the conflict, and express faith in their ability to come to a fair solution: “Wow, that’s tough. There’s only one television, and both of you want to use it. But I know you can come up with a solution that works for both of you.”
    • Walk away.

    I admit that I find this approach a little hard to fathom. My children are two, and while they can express (loudly) what they want, they don’t grasp the idea of compromise. Or patience. But I really like the idea of giving kids the tools to work out problems on their own without requiring Mom or Dad to resolve them. (Note that the book DOES provide a different approach for handling violent conflicts. A parent would never be advised to walk away from a fight that could cause real harm to either child.)

  2. Resist the urge to compare. I think that as twin parents, we generally know better than to do this, but comparisons can pop up in unexpected places sometimes. (“Look, your sister ate all HER food…” for example, or “Your sister put HER jacket away…”) Rather than comparing one child to another (“Why can’t you put away your toys like your brother does?”) describe the behavior that you see: “I see your blocks on the floor.” Or describe what needs to be done: “Please put your blocks away.” Likewise, be careful of comparing one child favorably to the other. Rather than saying, “You are a better eater than your sister,” describe the behavior that pleases you: “I see that you ate all your carrots!”
  3. Don’t allow your children to be locked into roles or personas. People seem really inclined to do this with twins. People often make references to one of my twins as “the shy one” or “the artistic one”. And when they were small babies, a stranger once asked me which was “the good one.” Never tell your kid, “Why are you always so mean to your brother?” The child walks away thinking, “Yes, I know I’m mean.” A better approach is to set a positive expectation for the child: “I know you can be kind to your brother.”
  4. Rather than treating children equally, strive to treat them uniquely, according to their needs. Instead of focusing on doling out identical servings of food, ask, “Do you want a little bit of _________ or a lot?” Instead of saying, “I love you both the same,” say, “I love you because you’re you! No one could ever take your place.” Give time according to need, as well. “I’m spending a lot of time helping your brother with his project right now. It’s important to him. As soon as I’m finished, I want to hear what’s important to you.” And then tune in and engage with the other child.
    This idea really resonated strongly with me. I remember being aware that one of my children really “needed” me more when they were small babies, while the other was more independent and able to accept help from others. I felt guilty about that at the time, feeling that I had somehow neglected the more independent child or affected our bonding. Now, with the space of time, I’m aware of how my relationships with my children have evolved, and I worry less about how much time I’ve spent with each and more about the quality of the time I’ve spent with each.
  5. Set expectations about boundaries of conflict. If kids hit or use name calling, say something like: “You sound mad, but I expect you to talk to your brother without hitting or calling him names.” And then provide some alternative strategies. “Rather than hitting, draw me a picture of how you feel.” “Rather than hitting your brother, go hit this pillow.” But note that insisting upon good feelings between children can lead to bad feelings or lingering resentment. Allowing bad feelings between children can help them to work through those feelings and have a more positive relationship in the long run.

 Overall Impression

As with How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, a few ideas in the book made me think, “Well, that sounds nice, but what do you do when THAT doesn’t work?” In general, though, I found Faber and Mazlish’s philosophies on how to treat and talk to siblings to be intuitive and thought-provoking. I was even able to (tactfully) suggest alternative ways to think about  and talk to my twins to other family members. All in all, I found it to be a very interesting and helpful read, but as with any parenting book, one should approach it willing to apply what makes sense and ignore what doesn’t.

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How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk – A Book Review

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First published in 1980, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, is a book that I’ve seen referenced over and over in parenting conversations online since before my kids were even born. Now that R and J are two, I’m much more anxious to find and implement consistent parenting strategies that will work well for us and promote a spirit of cooperation, rather than constant discord, in our household. How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk largely fits the bill.

Because How to Talk… was first published over thirty years ago, I found many of the philosophies and parenting strategies it suggested to be fairly commonsensical. The book primarily promotes empathy with children, encouraging parents to acknowledge their child’s feelings rather than dismissing or ridiculing them. This seems like a parenting philosophy that is more mainstream now than it might have been in 1980, and it has been reinforced over the years in educational television programming like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” “Sesame Street,” etc.

But while much of the book seemed fairly straightforward and self-evident, the authors pointed out a few things that well-meaning parents often do that might undermine their children’s feelings without ever even knowing it. For example:

  1. Parents often try to reassure their children by saying, “You’re alright!” or, “It’s okay!” if a child falls or encounters a minor mishap. While parents are trying to diffuse the situation and cheer up the child, he or she may not feel alright, and parents may seem unsympathetic. Instead, the book suggests acknowledging the child’s feelings and letting them know that it’s alright to feel what they feel. The parent could instead say, “Oh, you fell and scraped your knee. That looks like it hurt!” to a child asking for comfort and reassurance. Expressing sympathy builds trust from the child to the parent. Another pitfall that well-meaning parents sometimes fall into is immediately turning the situation into a teaching moment. While our impulse might be to immediately say, “This is why I told you not to run on the sidewalk,” kids can perceive that you haven’t “heard” their distress.
  2. Parents often try to solve a problem or resolve a conflict on behalf of their child, rather than giving children the tools to do it themselves. This is a problem we face a lot in my house, where my kids are struggling to assert their own autonomy but lack the skill to do everything by themselves. Rather than jumping in to help by saying, “Here, let me open that for you,” the authors suggest showing respect for the effort and tools for success, by saying, “It can be hard to open a jar. Sometimes it helps to tap the lid gently on the counter.”
  3. Parents can provide harmful praise. Instead of evaluating or categorizing your child, the book suggests describing what you see. If a child brings home a good grade on the spelling test, rather than saying, “What a smart boy you are!”, try describing what you see: “You put a lot of work into studying this week, and it really paid off!”

I found many parts of the book to be helpful, and I’ve been working over the last few weeks to put some of them into action. As the mom of two-year-olds, it can be challenging at times. My kids aren’t quite old enough to understand cooperation and collaboration, and because frustrating moments come about pretty frequently in our house, I don’t always have the wherewithal to think through my initial (often negative) response and replace it with something more constructive. I did find myself asking myself, “Okay, but what happens when THAT doesn’t work?” as I read through the suggestions and examples.

How to Talk… is largely opposed to punishment as an outcome, preferring solutions allow kids to have some input into the outcome. A lot of these solutions are ideas I’ve heard before, like asking children to choose between two outcomes the parent can deal with, or allowing the child to experience the natural consequences of their actions. But the book also suggests some very collaborative problem-solving, involving brainstorming solutions and choosing a combination of solutions that work for everyone. I really like this idea, as it gives kids buy-in into the final outcome, but my two-year-olds don’t really grasp the concept yet.

Overall, I found How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk to be a good read, though perhaps not a complete, bullet-proof parenting strategy. I appreciate the book’s philosophy of treating your children as people to be respected and heard, and I’m continuing to work on implementing some of the ideas I’ve read in my own home.

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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

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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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Ask the Moms: How to Organize Kids’ Clothes

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Categories Ask the Moms, How Do The Moms Do It, Multiple Solutions, OrganizationTags , , , 7 Comments

Reader Manojna P., currently expecting twins, asked us how we organize our kids’ clothes. Organization is key. Manojna, you’re already on the right track by asking the question!

That said, reader Michelle W., who has two sets of twins, commented, “Organise… what’s ‘organise’??” Several other readers made similar comments. There are times when you need to dress your kids right out of the clean laundry hamper and that’s okay too.organize

Modify your system as children grow

Ask any two parents how to organize kids’ clothes and you’ll get two different answers, even from parents who share a home! Different organizational systems work for different families. Different systems work for the same family at different times. Don’t be afraid to change things up if what worked a month ago isn’t cutting it any more.

Some siblings share all their clothes. Others have separate clothes from day one. There is no wrong way or right way to approach this.

Early on, RachelG dressed both her son and daughter in gender-neutral stuff, so keeping their clothes apart didn’t matter. Sadia‘s girls share clothes to this day, at age 7. Wiley‘s girls are slightly different in size, but she upgrades them both at the same time. Little Allie always looks like she’s growing into her clothes, but it’s worth it for the simplicity.

Reader Kristin G. wrote, “When my [quadruplet] daughters were first born I had everything organized in drawers labeled by the type of clothing: onesies, sleepers, socks, etc. Around preschool they started picking out their own clothes, but I realized that they were only picking from the clothes at the top of the drawers. I now hang all of their tops in a closet and, because I once worked retail and can’t fathom hanging any other way, the tops are hung by color (ROYGBIV). It makes it easier for my girls to figure out what will match with their pants and skirts. For whatever reason they have figured out which tops and dresses are “shared items” and which tops belong to a specific sister (given to them for birthdays, Christmas, etc) and so far there have been no arguments over one sister wearing another sister’s special top. This, I am certain, will change once they get closer to their teen years!”

Find an organizing principle

Photo Credit: MT_bulli
Photo Credit: MT_bulli

Keep things predictable so you don’t have to scrounge up brain power in the middle of the night when a baby needs a new outfit after a diaper blowout. Keep like with like, whatever that means to you.

For Beth, organizing is her closet hobby (ker-ching!). She reorganizes closets and drawers as often as once a month, searching for that perfect set up. She’s still searching, but the process of seeking order works for her. Check out the great closet section dividers she made.

Jen Wood has always hung all her boys’ clothes except for diapers and underwear. When they were in infant sizes, she organized clothes by size with dividers. She stores similar/coordinating outfits together.

SaraBeth has one drawer for pajamas, one for tops and one for pants. She has two separate drawers for fall/winter clothes in the next size up and spring/summer clothes.

Sadia has one small drawer of pajamas, one small drawer of socks and panties, one large drawer of tops, one large drawer of bottoms and dance clothes. Dresses, jackets and dress-up clothes are hung on a clothes rack inside the closet, since the built-in rod is too high for her daughters to reach.

RachelG doesn’t have a dresser. She confesses that she lives out of bins and baskets and is unsatisfied with the current arrangement.

A note of caution. What makes sense to you may not make sense to your spouse, other caregivers or even the (older) children themselves. Balance the effort of finding a compromise with the effort of finding the clothes you need. If you’re the primary caregiver and your spouse only needs to look for baby clothes every few days, do it your way. If you anticipate a more equitable division of duties, talk it through until you find a mutually agreeable system. If your children are old enough to be responsible for dressing themselves and/or putting their own clothes away, let them have a say in how things are organized. Sadia‘s daughters tried sorting everything by colour alone before they agreed that it wasn’t a sustainable system.

Systems by developmental stage

Infants

Infant clothes may be the easiest to sort because you don’t have little hands constantly undoing your work. They’re also the hardest because you don’t really know what to expect. Aim for convenience. If you’re going to be changing your babies’ diapers and clothes on a changing table, store clothes and diapers within reach of (or inside) the changing table. If, after the babies show up, you realize you’re more of a sit-on-the-floor changer, move the clothes around to put them within reach. Don’t forget to have a convenient laundry hamper nearby for the dirty clothes!

Make sense of a jumble of baby paraphernalia by storing like with like. Photo Credit: unfurl
Make sense of a jumble of baby paraphernalia by storing like with like. Photo Credit: unfurl

Itty bitty clothes may not be worth folding. If you’re the type of person who folds your panties, fold those preemie and newborn shirts and pants and bloomers to your heart’s content. If you think that’s ridiculous, consider storing onesies, burp clothes and cloth diapers flat (or even crumpled, if you have the room) while hanging footie pajamas and other outfits. MandyE hangs just about everything that can be hung.

We all streamline where we can. For pants and onesies that went together to make a single outfit, Sadia used to place the pants flat on the onesie, fold both in half together once, and place them in the drawer. There was no need to search for the pieces of the outfit because they were always stored together.

RebeccaD started out with the top drawer for daytime clothes, the second drawer for nighttime clothes and the third drawer for bundling layers. When her fraternal boys got to be different sizes, she switched her system. Her top drawer became for diapering stuff, medicines, and the like. The second drawer was for Baby B and the third drawer, for Baby A.

Hanging clothes can be a nice alternative to folding and stacking them. Photo Credit: katypearce
Hanging clothes can be a nice alternative to folding and stacking them.
Photo Credit: katypearce

Beth uses a closet and tall dresser for her boy/girl twins. The top drawer has 3 baskets, one each for her socks, his socks and hats, bibs, and whatever else lands in there. The next drawer down has her pants on the left and his on the right. The next drawer down is clothes they will grow into soon. Most baby clothes go in the closet, with each baby having his or her own rod. Within each section Beth groups onesies, then shirts, then overalls and dresses and, finally, pajamas.

Mytwintopia takes a minimalist approach. She limits her daughters’ wardrobe to enough everyday clothes for one week. That way she doesn’t procastinate with laundry or end up with too many clothes. She hangs almost everything, and hangs the clothes complete outfits on each hanger to avoid the struggle to match clothes in the morning. The underwear and socks go in bins or drawers in the same closet. For now, the girls do decide who owns which item without parental intervention.

Toddlers

An alternative to stacking folded clothes in drawers is to place them vertically, with the fold up. This allows you to see all your kids' clothes at once. Note that this system is frustrating for kids who put away their own clothes. They can retrieve their favourite item easily, but putting the clothes away and keeping them folded requires some mature dexterity. Photo Credit: peyri
An alternative to stacking folded clothes in drawers is to place them vertically, with the fold up. This allows you to see all your kids’ clothes at once. Note that this system is frustrating for kids who put away their own clothes. They can retrieve their favourite item easily, but putting the clothes away and keeping them folded requires some mature dexterity. Sadia uses this technique, but needs to tidy her daughters’ drawers at least once a week because items have come unfolded.
Photo Credit: peyri

Toddlers’ clothes can be tricky. You may find yourself needing to toddlerproof your clothing storage if clothes turn out to be an obsession. Sadia had to put child locks on her daughters’ dresser drawers because of midnight organizing extravaganzas on the part of her daughter M. Shoes had to go in a childproofed drawer too, after Sadia caught both girls trying on different shoes in the middle of the night.

Generally, though, infant clothing organization strategies still hold.

Your kids’ growth will probably slow and you won’t have to switch to the next size up quite as often. However, as your toddlers lose their baby pudginess and begin to run around, you may discover that you need to be pickier about finding clothes that will stay on and be comfortable. Around this age, those of us with slimmer children can find that pants and skirts with adjustable waists work best.

If your kids share clothes, there’s no need to find a system to keep them separated. Many boy/girl twins, though, will have separate clothes, especially as they get older. Also, your twins may end up being drastically different sizes such that they’re wearing different sized clothes. They may simply have different preferences, or you may choose for each twin to have individual clothes. In each of these cases, it may be simplest to organize all your multiples’ clothes similarly, for the sake of consistency, as Beth described doing above.

Preschool and school age

This is exactly what an elementary schooler's closet often looks like. Clothes are hung and shoes paired and in their place. Sports jersey are up and out of the way because it's winter. Everyday clothes are within reach of their wearer. There's overflow on the floor, which is why Mommy needs to come in an enforce cleanup every so often. Photo Credit: master phillip
This is exactly how an elementary school kid’s closet often looks. Clothes are hung and shoes paired and in their place. Sports jersey are up and out of the way because it’s winter. Everyday clothes are within reach of their wearer. There’s overflow on the floor, blissfully ignored by the kids in question, which is why Mommy needs to come in and enforce cleanup every so often.
Photo Credit: master phillip

Reader Nancy C. commented on our Facebook page, saying, “When they shared a room, each had a dresser and half the closet.  Although identical, my boys did not wear the same clothes as each other. In fact, they would adamantly protest if I had accidentally put one of their brother’s shirts in with their shirts.”

Mommy Esq. started out with her boy/girl twins splitting their closet. One had the upper half, the other the lower. Each had a drawer. As she points out, “That only works though for the ages/stages where mom dresses them. Now everything has to be at their height since they pick their own clothes.

Sadia’s daughters, at 7, are old enough to dress themselves. They share everything but panties and socks because they have different preferences for those items. All their clothes are within reach of the children. They have a clothes rack inside their closet since they can’t reach the built-in rod. They share their drawers. Their socks and panties get lumped together; they know which belong to whom.

Sadia is working toward giving her girls complete ownership of their clothes, apart from wash/dry time. She still helps them fold clothes, but putting them away is completely the children’s responsibility. If the girls complain that they can’t find room for things, she encourages them to purge items they no longer wear to make room. Sadia no longer answers the question, “Where is my [insert name of clothing item here]?” mostly by responding with, “I am out of the business of knowing where your clothes are. Your clothes, your business.” If a child wants to be sure a particular item of clothing is ready to wear on a certain day, she must give Mommy at least 24 hours notice.

Claroux also has 7-year-old girls. She writes:

They share an 8-drawer dresser. I have these nylon bins from Ikea in each drawer to separate the sizes since they wear two different sizes now. That is, the underwear drawer contains a bin for M’s panties, a bin for C’s panties and a bin for undershirts. The same is true for socks, pajamas, leggings and tights).

Everything else is hung by type (dresses, pants, skirts, tops) and then grouped by color. That makes it easier if one is looking for their ‘purple soccer shirt’. As far as ownership of each item, they just know what fits them and what doesn’t.

Teens

The oldest of our combined kids is Sundy‘s son, making her the resident expert on all things teen. In short, teenagers are old enough to take care of their own clothes. Arrangements can run the gamut from the teen being required to wash, dry, fold and store his or her own clothes to being required to honour Mom’s organization scheme. As above, you’ll make more headway partnering with your child to develop a system that’s mutually agreeable than by decreeing a system from on high.

Children of different ages

Several of us with multiples often have kids of different ages living under the same roof.

When Wiley‘s oldest son, Trajan, outgrows things, they are stored in boxes for his younger brother Chiron. Once Chiron has outgrown those clothes, with a few exceptions kept for his younger twin sisters, they are immediately evicted to find new homes with children that fit them.

For day to day storage, Elizabeth uses dressers in each room. Her two older boys share a room so their clothes are kept together. They wear the same shirt size but different pant sizes. They each know what size they need and check the tags. She puts labels on each drawer so they can put away their own clothes. Mom doesn’t care if the clothes are folded but the drawer has to be able to close. Key to making any system work is knowing which battles are worth fighting!

Elizabeth’s 2-year-old Oliver’s clothes are in a labeled dresser in his room. The boy/girl twins share a dresser. The top drawers are boy clothes and the bottom drawers are girl clothes.

All the kids’ shoes and socks are kept in baskets by the garage door. Elizabeth’s house has a mud room with a bench and shelves, so storing them there is easy. Backpacks, Elizabeth’s purse, the diaper bag, and infant carseats are also kept in the mud room. One shelf in the mud room is filled with kids toiletries (brush, hair spray, lotion, tooth paste, tooth brushes). The children use the half bath in the mud room for teeth and hair. She organized things this way so that everything the family needed to get out the door is in one contained place. She hated running all over the house for shoes and trying to keep up with who still needed to brush their teeth.

By size, season and child

jackets
Winter jackets can be very bulky to store, so consider using space saver bags from which you can suck out the air with your vacuum cleaner hose. The bags will expand some during storage, but not if they’re packed together tightly enough in some out-of-the-way corner!
Photo Credit: dharder9475

Most of us have various sizes of children’s clothes in the house, even if we have only one size and gender of children. Whether we have hand-me-downs from friends and family, clueless friends who bought clothes much too big, or we’ve shopped in advance of the next growth spurt, we likely have clothes that aren’t in circulation.

All the HDYDI moms divide kid clothes in our houses into those that currently fit, those that are too big and those that are too small. Those that don’t fit are separated out and put away. Some of us also sort things by season, putting away bulky coats in the summer and shorts and sleeveless tops in the winter. Let’s talk about how to manage the clothes that aren’t in use.

Clothes to grow into

Photo Credit: if winter ends
You could store future sized clothes with the tag on for easy identification, but it’s wise to wash new clothes before dressing a baby in them, since sizing can irritate delicate skin.Photo Credit: if winter ends

To manage clothes that don’t yet fit, SaraBeth and Sadia both use big plastic bins stored in the garage, sorted by size and clearly labeled. Victoria has a different bin for each size, which makes it very simple to grab the next size she needs. With space at a premium in ldskatelyn‘s apartment, she stores some extra clothes at her in-laws’ house.

SarahP has three drawers in her kids’ dressers that contain both the size they’re currently wearing and the next size up. The rest of the clothes are organized by age in a box in storage. She always has the next size up because she’s found that her kids grow into some items faster than others depending on the brand. Clothing labels that display the same size may be attached to drastically different sized clothing.

Jen Wood keeps the next size of clothing in her sons’ closet. She always has a bin with the next sizes, picked up at clearance or on resale, plus hand-me-downs. She goes through the bin as needed.

Wiley has plastic sweater boxes from the Container Store which are all labelled by gender, size, and type of contents. Current clothes are kept in each child’s dresser or closet. The next size up resides in its boxes in the top of the closets while other sizes are stored outside.

Outgrown

Photo Credit: raffik
Photo Credit: raffik

If you have or are planning to have more kids, it makes sense to hold onto outgrown clothes for the next child. Otherwise, purge, purge, purge!

SarahP and many of the other moms donate their clothes to friends, Goodwill, or other charities. SaraBeth divides her kids outgrown clothes by gender (boy, girl and neutral) to simplify passing them on.

When Victoria notices that items are getting too small, she puts them aside to be donated and take out the next larger size. For instance, if she’s dressing her girls and notices that the pants she tries on are too small, she puts them aside immediately and takes out a larger pair of pants. If she didn’t do it right away, it could get out of control because she’d forget.

Sadia didn’t know any other girl/girl twins in her area who were smaller than hers, so she ended up dividing up all their matching outfits from the first year (except two preemie footies and two Christmas dresses kept for sentimental reasons). She sent each of two friends across the country a huge diaper box filled with baby clothes. She now keeps a donation bin in the kitchen next to the trash and recycling to make it part of daily life to identify things ready to be rehomed.

RebeccaD goes through her kids’ drawers to move out the old and bring in the new about every 3 months. “The key,” she says, “is to get rid of stuff immediately and be realistic about how many clothes your kids really need. Mine are only in T-shirts and diapers unless we leave the house anyway.”

Elizabeth has an especially effective system for handling hand-me-downs. She and her sister-in-law have 5 boys between them, all very close in age. They share clothes. They keep them organized by size in clear plastic tubs with lids. After an item has been outgrown it gets washed and thrown back in the tub. They don’t separate by season.

Once a size has been completely outgrown by one boy, the next mom who needs the size stores the tub. The sisters-in-law use their individual judgment as to when to get rid of an item or replace it. If they have a sentimental attachment to a particular outfit, they either keep it out of the bin or mark the tag with the word “save”. As you might imagine, this has worked really well for them.

Now that the biggest boys are getting older and have an opinion as to what they want to wear, they do find themselves buying and keeping more clothes. Elizabeth still keeps them sorted by size in tubs to hand down to 2-year-old Oliver.

Photo modified from original by Micah Sittig
Photo modified from original by Micah Sittig

How to organize kids’  clothes, in summary

The short version of everything we’ve said is this:

  • Avoid clutter.
    • Sort clothes by size.
    • Keep handy only those clothes that fit.
    • Give away outgrown clothes unless they will be reused in your home.
    • Don’t keep more than you need or have space for.
  • Find a system that works for you.
    • Drawers, hangers, or some combination of those two seem the norm for current clothes.
    • For clothes that don’t fit, labeled bins work well.
    • Pick your battles.
  • Change the system when it stops working.

How do you manage your kids’ clothes?

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Seeking Supplemental Prenatal Care

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Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

World Prematurity Day November 17In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.


When we found out that I was carrying twins, my husband and I were both thrilled and terrified. I imagine this is a common response among expectant parents of multiples. On one hand, I was excited to be able to complete our family in one fell swoop, but on the other hand, I was keenly aware of the potential complications of a multiple pregnancy. In my own circle of friends, I know one mom who lost her twins prior to viability and I’m good friends with Sadia, whose girls arrived at 33 weeks and had to spend some time in the NICU. Meanwhile, I wasn’t aware of many moms of twins who had managed to carry their babies to term.

Between having suffered a prior pregnancy loss and the stress I felt over the possibility of serious pregnancy complications, I dealt with a lot of anxiety throughout my pregnancy, but especially in the early months. My worry led me to do a lot of research on twin pregnancy and to seek out supplemental care in addition to my normal prenatal care.

It is important to note that while my outcome was a healthy pregnancy and two full-term babies, the supplemental care I received did not directly lead to those great results. I happen to have been one of the fortunate ones whose bodies handle a twin pregnancy relatively well. There was nothing I could do to guarantee a healthy pregnancy for myself and for my babies. My goal in seeking out more care was to try to detect and adjust for any major complications as soon as possible. As it turned out, my complications were all pretty minor, but some of the supplemental care I pursued could come in handy to other moms of multiples.

I faced a conundrum when I was choosing an OB practice to visit during my pregnancy. On one hand, I wanted the best care for multiples that I could get. On the other hand, I was committed to giving birth to my twins in a well-equipped medical setting but with as few interventions as possible. To that end, I chose a practice that prides itself on a low rate of caesarian sections, but that has plenty of experience with twin births, as well.  The standard of care is for each patient to visit with all the health care providers in the practice over the course of her pregnancy, and while my twins would ultimately be delivered by a doctor, much of my care early in the pregnancy was handled by certified nurse midwives.

I was generally confident in the care I was receiving from my midwives, but it was important for my elevated anxiety levels to have medical twin experts keeping a closer eye on my pregnancy, as well. To that end, I did a great deal of research on twin pregnancies and discovered that the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, TX, has a dedicated Program for Multiples. For the cost of an insurance copay and a tank of gas, I was able to receive a personalized assessment including a comprehensive ultrasound, genetic counseling, and, most important to me, individualized nutritional advice.

As it turns out, my assessment indicated a clean bill of health for my fraternal twins and me at around 13 weeks of pregnancy. Had I been carrying identical twins showing signs of Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, the ultrasound could have detected it early, and I would have been referred for further treatment and, hopefully, a successful outcome.

My pregnancy was otherwise fairly unremarkable until my blood pressure began to creep higher around 26 or 28 weeks. At that time, I was referred to a MFM doctor in town, who provided more supplemental sonogram to monitor the growth and development of my babies. Each ultrasound indicated that growth was steady and my babies were stable, but by 32 weeks, it became increasingly clear that they were locked in a breech position and didn’t have much room to rotate head-down.  Knowing that my chances of getting them to turn were small, and that my doctor could not deliver them vaginally if they were breech, I had time to mentally prepare myself for the possibility that I would need a c-section after all.

At 36 weeks 6 days, an ultrasound indicated that growth had stalled, and my MFM and OB conferred and decided that my twins would be delivered the next day. My c-section was scheduled, and I was left with about 18 hours to wrap up my preparations and finish up the work I had planned to do before going on leave.  The next day, my twins arrived, weighing 6 lbs 15 oz and 7 lbs 1 oz. They required no time in the NICU.

twins2-sm
James and Rebekah, 6 days old.

Ultimately, beyond listening to our doctors’ advice and taking care of our bodies during a twin pregnancy, we can do very little to control the outcome. According to the March of Dimes, 60% of twins are born prematurely. I was one of the fortunate 40% who managed to carry my pregnancy to term. But I feel it’s important to share my story during Prematurity Awareness Week to let those expecting twins know that a successful pregnancy is possible, and that seeking out supplemental care early on could help you identify warning signs for complications and improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy.

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Grocery Shopping with Twins and More

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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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Twinfant Tuesday: Baby Carriers for Twins

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Reader Kimberly S. asked our advice on purchasing a twin carrier. The Moms put our heads together and came up with some pointers. We’re a mix of proud baby-wearers, occasional carrier-users, and arms-only mamas.

Twinfant Tuesday: Baby Carriers for Twins from hdydi.comSadiawithBabes

Wiley is our resident expert. She regularly wears her 1-year-old twin girls and their 2-year-old brother. Her babywearing even made the paper!

Twinfant Tuesday: Baby Carriers for Twins from hdydi.com

She recommends wearing your bigger child on your back. When her twins were tiny, Wiley started wearing them both in front in a Moby. She then moved to one in a pocket sling in front and one in a Beco on her back. As the girls got bigger, she alternated between Becos front and back or ring slings right and left.

wpid-Photo-Oct-1-2013-811-AM.jpg
Photo: Suji Donnelly

Early on, when she wore her youngest trio–she also has a school-aged son–she put her twinfants in front in a Moby and her son on her back in an Ergo. Next, the two girls were switched to hip carries in ring slings and their brother, 18 months their senior, on Wiley’s back in an Ergo or Beco. These days, she tends to wear her girls front and back in Becos and her older toddler in a ring sling hip carry on top. The benefit of his being on top is that he can get up and down repeatedly with ease.

Wiley’s currently experimenting with the Tula. Perhaps we can convince her to come back and let us know how she likes it!

 has used the Moby, the Björn and the Boba . She still wears her 21-month-olds, who weigh 32 and 27 lb each, although she no longer wears them at the same time, for hikes and city adventures. Her preference is the Boba for its versatility and continues to be her go-to carrier. She notes that the Boba doesn’t require an infant insert to carry small babies, as some other carriers do.

 has used 2 Ergos , both front/back and side/side, but doesn’t do so often. She prefers to wear one child and carry the other. These kids get heavy! She really likes the Kelty backpacks for hiking and long walks. Several of the moms elected to wear one baby in a carrier and carry the other in her arms.  usually uses her Ergo or Björn for one child and carries the other in her arms.

MandyE (in the photo) and Sadia both used the wear one/drive one approach to shopping with twins.
MandyE (in the photo) and Sadia both used the wear one/drive one approach to shopping with twins.

 used to use her Evenflo Snugli for one girl and carry the other in her arms or in a carseat for errands like grocery shopping.

Sadia received a hands free car seat strap from a friend that was just perfect for stroller-free trips to the grocery store. She’d wear one baby in a carrier in front and the other in her carseat across her hips. This left her hands free to load groceries and open doors.

 still, on occasion, carries one almost-4-year-old in the Ergo on her back and the other in her arms. Her adorable boys weigh 30 and 40 lbs.

wpid-Photo-Oct-1-2013-814-AM.jpgKatelyn never wore her twins. They were her first children. She liked having dad hold one, or she’d just carry both, one in each arm. Now that she has a third child, she does wear him.

One of the things we all agreed needs to be considered is the size of your children. If they’re very small, like Sadia’s (1st percentile), you might be able to wear your babies comfortably into the preschool years. If, like RachelG’s twins, yours are 95th percentile, take her advice and encourage walking as soon as they’re ready.

If you’re up for informative laugh, check out DoM Brian Rosenworcel demonstrating (or rather figuring out) how to wear his newborn twins using a Moby wrap.

Please also check out triplet mom ‘ review from 2008. She discusses 3 slings: the HotslingPeanut Shell and an Infantino Sling. She loved her Moby Wrap. She preferred the Beco Butterfly to the Baby Bjorn, but her husband liked the latter. She also discusses the mei tais Baby Hawk and EllaRoo, and notes a couple of places you can find baby carriers.

Did you wear your babies? What worked for you?

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