Twinfant Tuesday: Loving My Babies Differently

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.

Twinfant Tuesday: Ever-Changing Schedules (Birth-4 Months)

Ever-Changing Schedules (1)

Schedules. Some moms love it. Some moms hate it. Some grandmothers think that their daughters/daughters-in-law are sickos for thinking about putting their sweet grandchildren on a dreaded schedule.

If you were a student in my classroom or one of my students’ parents, you will know that I love schedules and routines. By reading some of my extensive lists on my blog Doyle Dispatch, you could probably also tell that I like to know what to expect.

Let’s face it, though. Babies like routines also.

Think about it. They spent 9 months in this cozy, safe environment before getting expelled into this crazy, loud, unexpected world. What in the world is going on? As soon as they get comfortable with the way things work, they go through a developmental change and then POOF they have to re-figure out the world again. Scary! That’s why we swaddle our babies. That’s why we live with white-noise machines constantly humming all night long. That’s why we do schedules and routines. We do whatever we can to help guide our babies through the craziness of life, especially during their infancy.

Routines start simply: The Feeding Routine

  • unswaddle
  • change diaper
  • allow to nurse for about 10-20 minutes
  • supplement with milk that was pre-pumped
  • re-dress
  • swaddle
  • sleep
  • repeat

We do that every 2-3 hours. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. It’s exhausting, but we can make it work.

Then a growth spurt happens, and we think we are losing our minds.

My breasts hurt. My nipples are falling off. My back is killing me. I’m deliriously tired. Can’t we put them back in?

Around 6 weeks, we re-evaluate and realize that, after this growth spurt is over, our perfect little schedule isn’t good anymore. Our babies aren’t sleeping every other minute of every day. They are getting overstimulated when they are held by us, their grandparents, their aunts, uncles, and visiting friends.

Twin Schedules

We come up with a new schedule: The Ideal Feeding Schedule

  • 11 PM
  • 3 AM
  • 7 AM
  • 10 AM
  • 12:30 PM
  • 3 PM
  • 5:30 PM
  • 8 PM

Ha. Like you have enough brain power to stick to that schedule! Think again, Batman!

Playtime within Schedules

You re-evaluate after a week and come up with the Get-Daddy-Back-to-Work Schedule

  • 8 AM: First Feeding
  • In-between: Daddy to work, Mommy and babies 1-1 cuddle or activity
  • 11 AM: Feeding
  • In-between: Babies nap
  • 2 PM: Feeding
  • In-between: Mommy 1-1 cuddle time or activity
  • 5 PM: Feeding
  • In between: Cuddle time
  • 8 PM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep (expect fussiness)
  • 11 PM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep
  • 2 AM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep
  • 5 AM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep

You discover that this one really doesn’t work either. Maybe it’s the fact that your babies are constantly going through a growth spurt or sleep regression. When one stops, the other starts. You give up. You just forget the advice from The Sleep Book (insert whichever theory you are going with now). You give in. You go with the flow. You feed ever hour if you need to. You feel like you aren’t producing enough milk. You are worried that you are starving your babies, but you plug along.

Twin Schedules

Suddenly, you realize that you can predict the type of mood that your baby is in at about 2.5 months. They still hate this thing called “napping,” but you just need a few minutes during the day for your shower/coffee/to clean the spit-up off your 3rd shirt of the day. A natural schedule takes place. It’s marvelous!

The Natural Schedule (Times are adjustable)

  • 6:00 AM Babies wake up and Daddy soothes them/turns on their mobiles
  • 7:00 AM Babies are too hungry and it’s time to eat (Mommy begrudgingly gets out of bed)
  • During the feeding, Daddy gets coffee for himself, tea and breakfast for Mommy, and showers
  • 7:30 AM Daddy takes both babies, changes diapers and enjoys Happy Morning Time
  • 8:15 AM Babies get tired and cranky. Time for naps!
  • 9:15 AM Babies are awake (although this can happen much earlier). Time for play gym, tummy time, singing, stories, talking, and other play activities.
  • 10:30 AM Mid-morning feeding
  • 11:00 AM Happy mid-morning time with activities
  • 11:45 AM 2nd nap
  • When wake-up: Playroom activity time
  • 2:00 PM Afternoon feeding
  • 2:30 PM Happy afternoon time with activities
  • 2:50 PM Nap
  • 4:30 PM Wake-up and playtime
  • 5:00 PM Feeding
  • 5:30 PM Cuddling with Daddy and Mommy after work (“Couch Cuddle Time”)
  • 7:15 PM Baths and Bedtime routines
  • 7:45 PM Final Feeding and Goodnights
  • Possible feedings around 12:30 AM and 3:30 AM (and sometimes at 5:30 as well)

Now, I’m not saying that this is perfect or that this is the schedule that we always stick to, but overall it does what we want it to do MOST of the time. Feed-play-sleep-play is really  a workable routine. There’s a reason that so many moms swear by it.

One other thing that has helped us is this: Whenever David or Audrey shows signs of being tired, we put them down for a nap or let them sleep where they are. If it is in the evening, we will let them fall asleep for a short time wherever they are (in our arms or in their bouncers if it is dinnertime). At this age, we figure that if they sleep, it’s because they need to sleep. Their nighttime sleeping is all over the place anyway, that we just go with it. Napping so close to bedtime hasn’t shown that we’ve had a negative impact on their overnight sleeping. I know that this goes against what the sleep-training advice tells us to do, but it has worked for us, so we stick with it.

Twin Schedules

Lately, I’ve been having some more appointments, whether is it physical therapy for my shoulder (totally different story… you try having shoulder blade issues when you have two babies that want to be held all the time), a class at the gym (free childcare and a hot shower afterwards!), or just sanity visits from other adults. We have tried one more schedule, based off of The Natural Schedule. We don’t have to stick to it everyday, but it does seem to work:

The 4-Month-Old Schedule

  • 7 AM Feeding, Diapers, Play
  • 8 AM Nap
  • 9:15 AM Feeding, Diapers
  • 10 AM Leave for Gym
  • 10:30 AM Class at Gym
  • 11:30 AM Shower and Locker Room Time
  • 12:15 PM Pick Up Babies from Nursery and Go Home
  • 12:30 PM Feeding, Diapers, Play
  • 1:45 PM Nap
  • 3 PM Feeding, Diapers
  • 3:30 PM Out and About (or Home) Activities
  • 5:30 PM Feeding
  • Evening Activities (Walk or Errands)
  • 8 PM Baths, Diapers, PJs
  • 8:30 PM Final Feeding
  • 9 PM Lights Out
  • + 1 or 2 feedings during the night

So, mommies and daddies, do you have a schedule that works? I’d love to hear it! How do you make it work with two babies? Do you hold your breath during “nap time” as well, knowing that one of them will wake up any minute?

Twinfant Tuesday: Finger Foods For Infants

As much as I would love more than anything to remember the infant years of my twins, they have become a complete blue to me.  With a husband who works 80-90 hours a week, I was pretty much left to raise them on my own.  I was completely sleep deprived.  I would even go as far as saying that I ran on 3 non-consecutive hours of sleep a night, at the most, for the first 3 months (I hated that saying “sleep when the babies sleeps”).  But what I do remember is when my twins started finger foods around 8-9 months.

I can still remember the first time I decided to try out finger foods with my boys. As a nutritionist and foodie, I had been looking forward to this stage forever. I remember watching other parents in restaurants giving their toddlers pieces of food they could hold and eat on their own, allowing mommy and daddy to eat their meal. I was so envious as I fed my boys their pureed food and asked for my meal to go. In my brain I sincerely thought the day when my kids started finger foods would be magical. A few months later that day came…and it was NOT so magical. I was all alone and after making and offering many types of fingers foods, all of which were treated like a baseball, the three of us were covered head to toe in food. Since my kids were hungry, but didn’t actually eat any of the food I worked so hard to make, I had 2 screaming toddlers on my hands to boot. What did I do? I cried!!! That’s what I always do when I don’t know what to do next. And I have no shame in admitting it to anyone.  From that day on I developed a fear of giving my kids finger foods. But I did persevere and got through that messy eating phase just like all of you who have and who will.

It can be an extremely messy stage, especially with twins, but it is fantastic for your toddlers’ development and it builds self-esteem.  It also frees up some of your time so you can eat while they are eating (or pick up most of the food your toddler has decided to throw off his or her tray rather than eat, like I do – less cleanup later on always makes my day).

Like I said, extremely messy!!!

Little Fufu has always eaten whatever I put in front of him (and whatever I put in front of his brother).  He’s very pro-food and gets very excited about the thought of eating.  Nibbles, on the other hand, well that’s where he got his nickname.  He doesn’t really like the idea of food and eating too much, although I can’t complain as he is getting much better.  He likes to take his little fingers and tear of teensy weensy pieces of food (almost crumb-size) and veeeeerrrrrry sloooowwwwly put them in his mouth.  So I do know firsthand the frustration of dealing with a picky eater and not being able to come up with ideas to feed him or her can make it even more stressful.

It’s pretty clear from this picture which one Fufu is.  He loves birthday cake just like his mommy.

As a nutritionist and a mom, I was constantly asked what types of finger foods I gave my kids.

Here are some ideas for infants aged 9 months and up:

Dairy:

  • Mild cheeses, cubed or grated (ie: marble, mozzarella)
  • Ceam cheese, goat cheese or ricotta (on bread, crackers or rice cakes or as a dip for steamed veggies)
  • Yogurt (if using a spoon)
  • Cottage cheese, with or without fruit (if using a spoon)
  • Cottage cheese muffins or pancakes
  • Homemade yogurt popsicles

 Grains:

  • Cheerios or other low sugar cereal (ie: Bran Flakes, Rice Crispies, Puffed Corn)
  • Rice cakes
  • Crackers (preferably whole grain)
  • Pita triangles (with or with a dip)
  • Mini muffins (ie: carrot, zucchini, banana, apple, sweet potato, bran)
  • Mini pancakes (ie: pumpkin, blueberry)
  • Waffle strips
  • Well-cooked whole wheat pasta with homemade cheese sauce, tomato sauce or butter and parmesan cheese
  • Ravioli or tortellini, cut into pieces
  • Well cooked noodles (ie: soba, rice, vegetable)
  • Toast, cut into strips (with or without a topping)
  • Rice (squish into small globs to make it easier to pick up)
  • Quinoa
  • Oatmeal (if using a spoon)
  • Corn muffins
  • Homemade rice pudding (if using a spoon)
  • Peanut butter cookies
  • Polenta cakes
  • Naan bread
  • French toast fingers
  • Sandwiches without curst cut into strips or small pieces (fill with egg salad, tuna salad, peanut butter, hummus, cream cheese, mashed avocado)
  • Grilled cheese (you can add finely chopped veggies)
  • Homemade pizza, cut into strips or pieces
  • Homemade cheese quesadillas, cut into strips or pieces (can also add veggies and/or beans)
  • Baby Mum Mums
  • Cookies (preferable whole grain and low in sugar)
  • Homemade fruit and oat bars

 Vegetables:

  • Sweet potato, cooked and cubed or cut into French fry shape (season with cinnamon or chili powder)
  • Sweet potato and black bean patties
  • Roasted vegetables, cut up
  • Mini carrots, cooked
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Asparagus tips, cooked
  • Green beans, cooked and cut up
  • Butternut squash, cooked and cubed
  • Broccoli and cauliflower pieces, cooked (can add butter or parmesan)
  • Tomato, cubed
  • Grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • Beets, cooked and cubed
  • Zucchini, cooked, peeled and cubed or sliced
  • Potatoes, cooked and cubed (can add butter and season with parsley, garlic and/or paprika)
  • Cucumber, peeled and cubed or sliced
  • Pickles, chopped
  • Potato pancakes
  • Roasted sweet peppers, chopped
  • Pureed vegetable soup (if using a spoon)
  • Vegetable stir-fry
  • Veggie and cheese patties or muffins

Fruit:

  • Bananas, cubed or sliced
  • Banana slices coated in pancake batter and cooked in frying pan
  • Avocado, cubed (or mashed and used as a spread on bread/crackers or a dip for vegetables)
  • Apples, cooked and cubed (or cut into French fry shape and cooked/softened in microwave for 2 min, sprinkled with cinnamon)
  • Cherries, halved and pitted
  • Peaches and pears, sliced
  • Mango, cubed or sliced
  • Melon, cubed
  • Kiwi, cubed
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries and blackberries, halved
  • Strawberries, sliced
  • Mandarins and clementines cut into small pieces (can use canned mandarins, drained and rinsed)
  • Plums, peeled and sliced
  • Applesauce with cinnamon (if using a spoon)
  • Grapes, halved or quartered
  • Olives, chopped
  • Raisins (softened in boiling water)
  • Freeze-dried fruit (no sugar added)
  • Homemade fruit popsicles

Meat and Alternatives:

  • Tofu, cubed (marinate to add flavor)
  • Meatballs, cubed
  • Pork, cubed
  • Turkey, cubed
  • Beef, cubed
  • Chicken, cubed
  • Chicken nuggets (preferably homemade)
  • Chicken/turkey/meat loaf
  • Salmon or salmon/potato loaf/patties
  • Tuna patties
  • Fish sticks
  • Cooked fish such as salmon, sole, tilapia, halibut or haddock, flaked (you can use pureed vegetables as a sauce or just some butter)
  • Hard boiled eggs cut into pieces
  • Frittata or omelet with veggies and/or cheese, cubed
  • Egg muffins
  • Homemade turkey and apple breakfast sausage
  • Nut butters (on bread, crackers or rice cakes)
  • Beans (larger ones should be cut in half)
  • Baked beans
  • Lentils
  • Edamame, shelled
  • Falafel balls, cut into small pieces
  • Chickpeas
  • Hummus (spread on bread, crackers or rice cakes or used as a dip for steamed vegetables)

Unsafe finger foods:

  • Nuts
  • Raisins
  • Gum
  • Whole grapes, grape/cherry tomatoes and olives
  • Popcorn
  • Candy
  • Raw vegetables
  • Fruit that isn’t very ripe
  • Thick globs of nut butters
  • Hotdogs and sausages
  • Fish with bones
  • Stringy foods like asparagus or celery or stringy meat

Fufu is so happy with his plate of food, as usual.

Nibbles just poking at his.

Saving Lives by Walking Away from Your Babies

Twins Playing

My husband, Scott, came home from work and found me on the couch staring out the window and our four month old twins on a blanket on the floor of another room screaming.

“Michelle, the babies are crying!”

“I know,” I started to cry, “I just couldn’t take it any longer trying to soothe two of them at once so I had to leave them and walk away.”

Sleep deprived. Overwhelmed. Hungry. At my limit. Alone. Inadequate. Unshowered. I was feeling all of those things in the 5 minutes or so before I had left the babies in the room.

“They won’t die from crying.”

I just remember hearing that advice somewhere from the pre-pregnancy days when you take all advice with a grain of salt and the attitude of, “Well, that won’t happen to me!” But it does happen, especially if you are alone all day caring for two or more infants and your husband or partner is working long hours.

And, this wouldn’t be the last time I would do something to keep my babies safe while I gained some emotional and physical separation. While I reached a point where I could be the nurturing mom, I needed to step away… breathe… take a break.

One time, and I truly can’t believe I did this (but my husband was working crazy hours at corporate headquarters and we had no family within a 1500 mile radius), I took one of the babies to our next door neighbor and handed the little guy to him. The story gets better. The neighbor, a young father of twins himself, was studying for the bar exam.

At this point I had had the second set of twins so I had two newborns and two under two and while I had help during the day, the witching hour between when the nanny left and when Scott came home was long and tortuous. Everyone was hungry or collicky and there was just no physical way I could do it—but I did. This particular evening, though, must have been doubly worse.

I knocked on Rueben’s door holding one of the newborns. “Here. I need you to take this baby until Scott comes home.” And, amazingly he scooped the baby from me and went inside his house. No questions. No admonitions.

I won’t say that Rueben saved that baby’s life. But, I will say that I am still grateful that he opened the door, saw desperation and reached out—with both hands.

I’ve also handed one or both newborns over the chain linked fence that separated me from our neighbors behind our house. “Please, can you just feed them their bottles while I feed the other two and get them ready for bed?” These dear neighbors would feed them and rock them on the back porch swing and I was able to feel human again.

No matter how good of a mother you are and how much you love your babies, there is a point where all of us reach a tipping point. When you are at yours, walk away. Or take them to a neighbor. Even though you think you look like the weakest person they’ve ever seen… you are actually at your strongest and most protective.

It's okay to ask for help. Parents have limits too.

Twinfant Tuesday: A Day in the Life with Triplets-The First Month

When people hear that we have triplets, often one of the first comments is “I don’t know how you do it!” So I wrote this post to give folks a better idea of what our typical day looked like for the first couple of months after the NICU. I figured it was fitting to share this post from our blog here on How Do You Do It blog for Twinfant Tuesday.

We read a lot of triplet blogs during the pregnancy and honestly, not very many people keep up the detailed posts after the babies are born. It is mostly just pictures, which I completely understand! (And obviously, I know that’s why most people follow our blog!). But as we prepared for our trio’s arrival, I found myself searching for the details and wanting to ask each family “No, really, how do you do it?!” So this post will give you some idea what our days were like for the first month or two. Most importantly, for any families who are expecting, or just had triplets, this post is for you!

When writing this post I had a hard time figuring out where to start “the day!” Our days didn’t exactly start at 6, 7, or 8a.m. but it seemed weird to start at midnight too! So I decided to start with a “normal person’s” morning (albeit pretty early for most normal people!) and go from there.

**side notes, so the schedule below makes sense: My wife and I both have “M” names so M&M means both of us are on duty.  Oh, and we’re both breastfeeding because I was able to induce lactation to solve the “more babies than breasts” problem!

Here was our schedule for the first couple of months that I pulled from our blog

  • 5am-Both M&M feed babies
  • 5:30-One of us feeds baby #3 while the other starts changing diapers. (If we have a helper for this one, Michelle usually sends me to bed so I get an extra bit of sleep because the late night/early mornings are the hardest times for me.)
  • 6:00-Swaddle and soothe babies and put them down to sleep
  • 6:15-M&M pump to maintain/increase milk supply and get milk for next feeding’s supplements (We had to supplement each nursing session to get enough calories in)
  • 6:30-Wash pump parts and supplement contraption, prep supplements for the next feeding, & take any extra milk to the fridge
  • 6:45/7ish-M&M eat a snack & lay back down to catch an hour or so of sleep before starting all over
  • 8ish-Babies start stirring again and we start the feed, change, swaddle, pump, clean/prep cycle all over again (We often have a helper for this cycle so it tends to go a little faster…sometimes done in an hour!)
  • 9/9:30ish-M&M eat a quick breakfast and either lay down for another snooze or take a shower or do one small productive task like put in a load of diaper laundry, tidy up the zoo of a bedroom, or do dishes.
  • 11ish-Babies start stirring and repeat. This cycle is either followed by a nap or lunch or breakfast if we prioritized sleep the previous cycle!
  • 2ish-Samesies-almost always followed by a nap-particularly for Michelle whose hardest time is the afternoon.
  • 5ish-Surprise surprise…we do it all over again! Mari might start this one solo to give Michelle an extra half hour of sleep or might do it all alone with a helper handling the diapers and prep.
  • 6:30ish-M&M eat dinner–generally something a helper prepared for us or that we heat up from the freezer. Prep night time nursing snacks and bring them to the bedroom.
  • 7ish-M&M lay down for a short snooze before the 8pm cycle. Or, if we’re not feeling sleepy we might actually hang out with each other, check in, & talk over our plans, if any, for the next day.
  • 8pm-Hungry hungry hippos are ready to eat again (did I say hippos?! I meant babies, of course!) and the feed/change/swaddle/pump/clean cycle repeats. We try to do this one quickly and with as little light as possible, trying to help them get the idea of night time = sleep time. So far it doesn’t seem to be helping and they are just as likely to be wide eyed after this feeding as any other. A helper takes baby duty during this time, soothing them if they stir, so we can both get a nice solid uninterrupted hour or two of sleep going into the night.
  • 11pm-Repeat. Same as 8pm with low light and as quickly as we can manage.
  • 2am-Here we go again…This is the hardest one for me and Michelle has had to wake me up for this feeding some nights! Half the time I feel like I’m sleep walking and struggling to stay awake while nursing. Sometimes I have to stand up and move around the room to keep myself alert and functional.

And then it’s on to the next day!  Whenever we had help, one or both of us tried to go sleep in the guest room so that we weren’t disturbed by the little stirrings/rumblings/cries of one or more babies as they cycled through lighter periods of sleep since they were sleeping in our room. The above schedule is like a rough draft. We were not hard core about the clock and the babies really led the way. Oftentimes our lovely 3 hour cycle was shortened to 2.5 hours because of hungry tummies. And occasionally, they’d stretch it to 3.5 hours! This only happened a handful of times, and of course, only once at night. It was amazing how different that extra half hour of sleep made us feel!  For triplet parents to be, our triplets are now 5 months old and I will tell you that we regularly get more than an hour of sleep at a time, but I’d be lying if I said we got enough sleep!

Our GBG triplets at 2 weeks old!

Our GBG triplets at 2 weeks old!

 

Twinfant Tuesday: What Exactly Is “Sleeping Through the Night”?

Sleeping through the night. A fallacy?

Sleeping Through the Night: A Common Question

“Is your baby sleeping through the night?”

It’s such a common question. We ask it of new parents all the time. It’s a question I hear myself asking constantly. Here’s the bigger question. What do we mean when we ask it?

“Is your baby sleeping through the night?”

It’s a comfortable alternative to the question I really want to ask: “What’s your baby like? Who is he or she?” I find that first-time parents of singletons don’t know how to answer that question, since they lack a personality comparison to describe their child against. It was easy for me to see that J was an independent baby, in comparison to M. It was obvious that M was a chatterbox, in contrast to J.

But I digress.

I kept hearing myself ask new parents whether their baby is sleeping through the night. When I’d get an affirmative answer, I’d congratulate the new parent on his or her achievement. When a parent said, “No,” I’d try to comfort them by telling them that my girls didn’t sleep through the night until they were a year old, but we survived and besides, their baby would sleep though the night much sooner than mine because everyone’s baby is bigger for their age than mine.

Sleeping Through the Night: Do We Mean the Same Thing?

Then it occurred to me. I have no idea if we mean the same thing when we say, “sleep through the night.” Are we talking 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep on the part of the baby? 8? 6? Does a nursing session without actually waking baby count as an interruption? How about a diaper change? What about night terrors?

Medically speaking, sleeping through the night, for an infant, is defined as 5-6 hours of sleep without a meal.

New parents want to know when this magical through-the-night sleep will come. By failing to define my terms, am I setting my friends up for an impossible goal by even asking the question?

Sleeping Through the Night: What I Thought

I defined sleeping through the night as being able to skip one of both babies’ 3-hourly feedings, enabling me to sleep for a solid 5-6 hours without needing to feed, soothe, or change a baby.

My daughters, probably because of their extremely small size, weren’t able to do this until they were well over a year old. Our pediatrician told us that part of the issue was that their stomachs would simply not be large enough to contain enough nutrition to sustain them for 6 hours, the reserves in the body fat inadequate. The recognition that there was a physiological reason for my sleeplessness was a great comfort.

Although I was still married when my daughters were tiny, their dad was in Iraq, so I was responsible for every. single. middle-of-the-night feeding… before leaving for work at 6:15 am. I was a zombie.

Mercedes is in the same boat. At 17 months, her little ones are asleep by 7:15 pm, awake at 10, midnight, and sometime again between 12-5. They’re up for the day around 8. RebeccaD wrote, “For the first year, if we got 4 hours we felt like we won the lottery. On the other side of age one, they are sleeping 11.5-12 hours nightly with only occasional interruptions. It will happen!”

We’re in the minority. Most moms are getting more than 3-hour spurts of sleep within the first half of their children’s first year.

Sleeping Through the Night: Variation in Definitions

I took my question of defining this through-the-night thing to the MoMs of HDYDI.

MandyE and DoryDoyle, like me, defined sleeping through the night as dropping the middle of the night feeding or feedings. Mytwintopia wrote that she, “felt better about [her] life when [she] found out that for [her] pediatrician STTN was 6 hours.” Maritherrien had heard the same thing.

LDSKatelyn was also told that 6 hours was the magic number, but for her, it’s 8 hours. Her twins slept 12 hours through the night around 7 months old. Her singleton son wakes up once a night, every night from about 6 months old. It’s half-way through his long stretch of sleep. She suspects it’s a habit rather than a need to eat.

RebeccaD‘s pediatrician defined it as the first 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep and considered the next 4 hours the first nap of the day. However, it didn’t feel like “sleeping through the night” to her until it her kids were sleeping a full 12 hours, without any intervening feedings or diaper changes.

Liggy, our most experienced mom with 3 older singletons preceding her twins, has always considered sleeping through the night to be 6 to 8 hours. Her twins were sleeping 8 to 10 hours a night at 6 months, eating every 2 hours or so during the day.

For , sleeping through the night will be a 12-hour block of sleep.

Mercedes‘ definition was my favourite: “The mythical capabilities of twin unicorns on a bed of cotton-candy clouds while the mother basks in the sticky sweet nectar of peace and quiet.” And Jen Wood, with her 5-year-olds, said, “I’ll know it when I see it.”

MandyE’s definition changed over time. Her first definition of “sleeping through the night” was about 7 hours, her daughters sleeping 10:30 pm – 5:30 am.  Eventually, she dropped the 10:30 feeding and delayed out the morning feeding. 11 hours of sleep became the norm when her girls were about 6 months old.

Despite the claim in an article on the La Leche League site that 5 hours is the “medical definition” of sleeping through the night, I was unable to find anything definitive using the American Academy of Pediatrics website search. The La Leche League piece doesn’t cite references, so I’ll have to stick with what we MoMs came up with. 6-12 hours without needing a feeding seems to be our consensus. That’s a 100% variation.

As with most matters of parenting, listen to your kids and don’t worry about the averages. Whose kid is average, anyway?

How have you defined “sleeping through the night.” When did your kids do it?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twinfant Tuesday: Tabula Rasa

My daughters have taught me many things, about myself and perspective and life and love and parenting. One of the Great Truths they have taught me is that we all enter the world with many of the basics of our personalities already formed.

A coworker once said to me, “Most people think that babies are tabula rasa, that there’s nothing there until people imprint them. That’s just bunk.”

I used to take a hard stand on the tabula rasa issue, and believed firmly that most personality differences between people were a matter of nurture, not nature.

There’s part of me that had to believe that. My sister is adopted, and we grew up in a country where not only is adoption not part of the culture, national law doesn’t even allow for adoption. I was constantly defending my sister’s right to be in our family, and her right to be treated as I was. I had to believe that the nurture she received from me, our parents, and our grandmother would overcome all the low expectations our culture at large had for her based on her biological parentage.

In the first weeks of our daughters’ lives, I spent hours mulling how to even out the differences in their experiences so that they would both have all the advantages we could give them. Newborn M almost always wanted to be held, but J would squirm to be put down after a limited period in our arms. I thought that this was a direct result of M having received more kangaroo care in the NICU. Jessica didn’t get try to breastfeed in her first 3 weeks because she had a harder time nipple-feeding than her sister and the nurses told us that she needed to conserve her energy. I was convinced that J was going to be permanently scarred by spending time in the hospital without any of her family there in the days after M came home.

As it turns out, J is now generally much more cuddly than M. When we read together, J likes to sit in my lap, while M would rather sit next to me. One of J’s signature statements is, “Snuggles are a need, like food and shelter and water and reading.” J loves to have me lie down with her in her bed while M finishes her bedtime routine, getting her thoughts out without her sister speaking over her or for her. M’s don’t stop flowing when she’s awake, while J would rather communicate with a touch, a gesture, or a look. I no longer believe that any of these traits have to be with the first hours of the girls’ lives outside the womb.

M and J have essentially the same DNA, but they are different people, cut from different cloth. M’s verbal communication style and J’s tactile one are the most noticeable differences in their personalities. They are equally stubborn, but in completely different ways. They have a lot in common, but they are very different children in ways that would take a lifetime to explain.

Tabula Rasa from hdydi.comYes, there are small ways in which their life experiences have differed, but most of their experiences have been the same. They have always been in the same home and school. They have the same friends. They must live with the same set of rules and expectations, and yet they are so very different, with different attitudes, perspectives, moods, strengths and weaknesses.

There are some ways in which they have actively worked to differentiate themselves, certainly. Who my children are is a combination of their choices, their experiences and their inherent natures. I just can’t see how the small differences in their experiences and DNA could add up to the completely different people that they are.

Having identical twins has taught me that raising our children is not about shaping their experiences to turn them into who we expect them to be. It is about nurturing who they already are. I cannot, nor should I want to, shape or change who M and J are. Who they are has nothing to do with my parenting, or their father’s. Our job is to guide our children to make the most of their strengths, to work through their weaknesses, and learn the tools and skills that will make them successful in their lives, all the while embracing the quirks that were there when they were born, and others that will manifest over time.

My sister’s quirks are her own, whether she learned them from our parents, inherited them from her biological parents, or came upon them by happenstance. I still love her, even the parts of her personality that drive me nuts. I will always love M’s and J’s uniqueness too. While I have the honour of guiding them in their childhood, they will be their own people, on their own paths.

In what ways do your children manifest the personality traits you witnessed in utero or shortly after birth? How do you nurture their natures?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school, which is where this post was originally published. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Guest Post: 7 Tips to Nursing Twins Together

The basics to establishing a great simultaneous relationship with your multiples from a certified lactation consultant and mom of preemie twins.

The thought of nursing twins together can be daunting! And yet, a mom of twins or higher order multiples (HOMs) will spend a significant amount of time during the first year of life feeding her babies – no matter how she chooses to feed them. In many ways, breastfeeding can be a much easier and less time consuming feeding method, once a new mom and babies figure things out. So what does it take to nurse twins at the same time?

It might be easier than you think. Here are 7 essentials to establishing nursing with your babies at the same time.

  1. Establish Your Milk Supply

    The majority of twins and HOMs will arrive early. The earlier they arrive, the harder it will be to nurse at the breast in the beginning. There may be prematurity, health issues, low birth weight, lack of buccal fat pads in the cheeks, etc. that make nursing at the breast challenging. But, building a strong milk supply so that you can continue to feed your babies milk once they grow is important. It is critical to transitioning them to the breast so that they don’t face slow let-downs and frustration that keep them from learning to enjoy nursing at the breast and prefer that fast, effortless flow of a bottle teat. If you are pumping, a general rule of thumb is that you want to produce 25 ounces for each baby every 24 hours.

  2. Help Each Baby Individually, First

    Yes, you have two (or more) babies but they are also individuals. One may be an expert at nursing from the beginning while the other may have tongue tie, be too tired to nurse effectively, or a variety of other issues that keep her from breastfeeding at first. Helping to establish effective breastfeeding for each baby individually will make nursing them at the same time infinitely easier. A baby who struggles to nurse well will need both of your arms which will then make nursing two at the same time much more challenging. Take as long as you need to get each baby nursing well with a good latch and milk intake. Then you can transition to feeding both at the same time. There is no time frame for this. Healthy, near-term twins may both nurse great the first day and you can begin nursing together almost immediately. It may take weeks or months to establish this with other twin sets. And remember, if one baby isn’t nursing well, make sure you pump to build/maintain your supply for two babies.

  3. Allow Lots of Time and Grace if Premature, Near Term, or Small for Gestational Age

    Every baby is different. Just because one twin nurses well early-on doesn’t mean the other can or should. Each baby is an individual and it’s important to treat them that way. Babies who are small or come early will almost always need more time to grow/mature before they can breastfeed well. Don’t get frustrated with the slower twin…he will get it.As a personal note of encouragement – I brought my preemie twins, born in Egypt, home from the hospital at 32 weeks/3 days when they were 5 days old, losing weight, jaundiced, and just 3 ½ pounds. One of my boys could have nursed at the breast from the beginning. But the other lost weight nursing and had to have a bottle. Because I was converting a breast pump from 110 to 220 volts I could only pump on the kitchen counter – not conducive to nursing my other preemie at the same time. Therefore I ended up pumping and giving bottles for a couple months before they were able to nurse effectively, and together, at the breast. But, eventually, they did both get it! You can read my story here.

  4. Have Lots of Pillows and a Comfy/Relaxing Nursing Area

    You are going to spend a significant portion of the first year feeding babies. You need to be comfortable. Having lots of pillows built up around you for support will allow your arms to relax and not have to hold the weight of each baby. When you use enough pillows, your babies should be able to rest comfortably on either side (nursing in the football hold for example and your arms should be free to help each baby latch). Once nursing, you can use your arms to stroke, touch, and cuddle each baby. Experiment until you find the right pillow combination for you (whether it’s commercial twin feeding pillows or just regular pillows stacked around you).

  5. Have Support from Family/Friends/Breastfeeding Moms Group

    Having support, encouragement, and a personal cheerleader cannot be overestimated. It is critical to success. Ideally you will gather a team of supporters around you while you are pregnant. If your partner isn’t on board, use pregnancy to read and learn together why breastfeeding is a great (and reasonable) option for feeding twins. Find those in your family and circle of close friends who will support you and not encourage you not to give up. Finally, make sure to plug into a breastfeeding support group while you are still pregnant. Not only will you meet new moms that might become lifelong friends, but you will also have experienced support and help when your babies are born.

  6. Request to Meet with an IBCLC

    Even if everything is going perfectly, meet with the IBCLC at the hospital. Have her watch the latch, or develop a plan to build your milk supply if your babies are premature and not breastfeeding yet. Find out what type of IBCLC support is available in your area once you leave the hospital. If you cannot continue with the one at the hospital find one in private practice. Many insurance companies are beginning to cover this and, even if they don’t, the cost is miniscule when compared with buying formula. A qualified IBCLC (who has experience with preemies, multiples, etc.) can help potential problems from even getting started and make sure you are doing everything possible for success. And don’t be afraid to find another if the first isn’t helpful (just like you would any medical doctor or professional).

  7. Determination is Your Key to Success

    Realize every baby is different so it may take a day or months, but don’t give up. Have your supporters and cheerleaders surrounding you for constant encouragement. Allow others to help with housework, cooking, and older children. Your job is to focus on feeding these new babies. Determination can overcome even the most difficult of situations and is so important for success. Don’t give up mama…you can do it!

KristaKrista Gray is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), La Leche League Leader, and mother of four breastfed children, including preemie twins. At Nursing Nurture Krista shares research-based information and experience to help moms in their breastfeeding journeys. You can also connect with Krista on Twitter @nursingnurture and on Facebook {http://fb.com/nursingnurture}.

Twinfant Tuesday: Napping Routines for Daytime

As most parents know, getting infants and toddlers to nap can be a real challenge. Getting TWO or more to nap at the same time is nothing short of a miracle. A typical day at home with any baby involves up to 3 nap and bedtime routines. Double that for twins, triple for triplets.

During the first two years of Mister and Missy’s life, I was fortunate enough to stay at home with them full-time. That meant dealing with 2 to 3 daily naps until they were about 9 months old, then 2 daily naps until about 18 months, and finally 1 nap each which continues to this day.

Some days (okay, most days) it felt like all my time was spent rocking them to sleep. I would first give each of them milk together in one room. Then burp Baby # 1 (usually Missy as she burped quickly) while the other was in an elevated position either on my leg or a bouncy chair. Next, Baby # 2 got burped and taken to their crib. Because they are fraternal twins, they have different sleeping patterns so we found it better to keep them in separate rooms. For example, Missy tends to take short naps and is a light sleeper during the day while Mister takes longer naps.

It was always a guess as to who would go to sleep first. Some days, Missy fell asleep right after drinking her milk, burped while asleep, and didn’t wake up while I burped Mister. Mister usually took a longer time to fall asleep.

Then, a short 45 minutes later, one or both of them woke up for a diaper change, snack, play, then lunch. Then it was soon time to redo the napping routine again for a (hopefully) longer afternoon nap of up to 2 hours.

Napping routine for twins

Napping routine for twins

With all the naps out of the way, it was time for dinner, bath and bed. This time with Mr. Mama’s welcome help. We were fortunate enough to have our family coming in to help especially in the first 5 months so I often got a break.

And when you are doing baby sleep routines 6 times each day, all you want to do is take a nap yourself!

2cuteblog is Mom to three year old B/G twins where at least one of them still naps every day. For that she is utterly grateful, especially on the weekends. You can follow her on twitter @2cuteblog or read more on her personal blog