Twinfant Tuesday: Social Life with Infants

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Categories Community, Infants, Other people, Parenting, Relationships, Twinfant Tuesday3 Comments

In case you hadn’t figured this out, I’m quite the friendly outgoing person. I’m extroverted to degree that I max out the extroversion scale on every personality test known to man. Staying home alone with my children all day, every day, simply wasn’t an option for me. I knew that would have been a recipe for resentment, and I’m glad to report that I have never resented my daughters.

J and M came home from the hospital tiny (under 5 lbs each) but otherwise healthy. Their immune systems were immature, although boosted by my breastmilk, and so I initially kept the babies out of large crowds and sick people. Still, once I was clear to drive, we could go to our local outdoor mall and people watch. The fresh air of the outdoors meant that even though there was a good number of people around, the babies weren’t any more exposed to pathogens that in our home. Texas summers get very hot, so these adventures were usually complete by 10:00 am.

Getting stir crazy with a new baby? Go people watching at an outdoor mall.

People watching is fine and all, but getting out of the house was far more fun with friends.

The friends who were easiest to socialize with were those with children of a similar age. They understood why I took forever to get anywhere and would happily breastfeed unobtrusively (or bottle feed less unobtrusively) with me. They had no problem with my umpteen diaper change stops or my need to order two entrees at a restaurant to have enough calories for myself and my two nurslings.

Out and about with other new mommy friends.

They understood my great love for my double stroller system.

Three car seats? That's what you get when you make friends when you're pregnant with a woman expecting twins!

Even while I was getting my extrovert top-up, my girls were learning about friendship themselves. They were learning to interact with children other than their twin.

Interactions with other babies set the stage for understanding social norms.

Once my littles were slightly less little and far more prone to run away on chubby little legs, these same friends had chubby little legs of their own to contain.

The Three Musketeers at the mall. Holding hands keeps them headed in generally the same direction, make moms' lives a little easier.

We quickly learned that requiring them to hold hands kept them all going in the same direction, which made our lives easier.

If you’re expecting and make friends with another pregnant woman, don’t be surprised if that friendship lasts the rest of your lives… and your children’s!

 

 

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Quintessential Twin Pictures

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Categories Friendships with Other Multiples, humor, Infants, ToddlersTags , , 2 Comments

When my girls were born 6 1/2 years ago, I wasn’t on Facebook. I hadn’t started blogging. And — to my knowledge — Pinterest didn’t yet exist. I barely had any mommy friends, let alone friends with twins. (That’s funny to think now, since almost all my mommy friends have multiples!)

I say that to say, I didn’t have a ton of inspiration for pictures. I took a blue million. Now, though, I look around at all the adorableness on social media, and I wish I could rewind the clock, if for no other reason than to take some adorable smooshy baby pictures.

One picture I’m thankful I captured is what I think of as a truly quintessential “twin” picture. I’m not sure where I got the idea back in the day (how old am I???), but it’s one that just makes me smile.

What is cuter than a baby in a bucket swing? Twins in a bucket swing!

Two kiddos, back to back in a bucket swing at the park. How I love those matching hats, baby-soft skin, chunky little legs, and uber-clean tennis shoes…all TIMES TWO.

If you have infant or toddler twins and haven’t taken such a picture: GET THEE TO A PLAYGROUND. FIND THYSELF A BUCKET SWING. Aaaaand GO!!!

These days I’m almost always at the ready with my trusty camera. And a couple of weeks ago, I realized I had an opportunity to sorta-kinda recreate this quintessential twin shot.

No, I didn’t cram my kiddos into a bucket seat at the park. (They’re slight, but I think that would be pushing it.) My dad has a disc swing [there’s probably a real name for this?] at his house. The girls were delighted to play on it last month when we went down for a visit. They were taking turns well enough, but then I suggested they try to swing together. (Oh, and please do so while I find the perfect camera angle… HA!)

Too big for a bucket swing, perhaps, but these twin sisters are never too big for an outdoor adventure.

Voilà!

I still love that baby-soft skin, now with matching ponytails and scruffed up tennis shoes.

I can’t foresee what my next recreation might be, but know I’ll be on the lookout, ever ready to capture the moment.

What’s your favorite twin/triplet/more pose? Share it on our Facebook page. We’d love to see!!!

MandyE is mom to 6 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls. She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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Twinfant Tuesday: What Do You Prioritize During Infancy?

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Categories Balance, Feeling Overwhelmed, Household and Family Management, Mommy Issues, Twinfant TuesdayLeave a comment

I thought I could do it all.

Even though so many books, articles and blogs for new parents told me to prioritize, I really thought that didn’t apply to me. For one, I have never cared about having a spotless home—something that has been an issue for my husband! For me, “doing it all” didn’t mean having a clean home, clean laundry, and dinner ready for the husband, all on top of having healthy and happy kids. That’s not what I strived for.

In my mind, I was already prioritizing.

I wanted to breastfeed my twins, play with them, bond with them, tend to their elimination needs. Yes, we tried Elimination Communication for several months. Of course, I wanted to eat every now and then. Before having babies (and again now that they are toddlers), I enjoyed cooking, but gourmet meals were beyond my grasp for the first year. And certainly, I wanted to sleep. But attachment parenting—breastfeeding on demand and co-sleeping—were higher on my priority list.

And I thought I could do it all. I even blogged about it for a while.

But now that my twins are nearly three, I realize how close I was to crashing and burning. In reality, it was more like I was flying a plane with a severe, smoking malfunction that led to an abrupt landing with screeching, slow-burning wheels.

My question to my new parent self is: What took me so long to see that?

Would it have been such a blow to my pride if I had hired a babysitter once a week while I took a nap or even just a shower?

Yes, we call the first couple of years with multiples “survival mode”. If you are in the thick of it right now, you know it is aptly named. But now when I think of surviving, I think of getting through some difficult challenges. I don’t think it means you get out of it barely alive.

If I could do it over again, I would ask for help. I would prioritize… by putting myself up a little higher on the list.

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Increase Your Breastmilk Supply: Tips from a MoM

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Categories Breastfeeding, How Do The Moms Do It, Twinfant Tuesday6 Comments

Having Twins Isn’t a One Way Ticket to Formula

People are sometimes surprised to realize that it’s even possible for a woman to produce enough milk to breastfeed twins. They just assume that every MoM has to supplement their newborns’ diets with formula.

Twins and more can be exclusively breastfed. I’m living proof.

My babies are 24 days old and were born at 31 weeks, 6 days. I’m currently up to pumping 16 oz each time I pump and sometimes even get 24 oz in one pump session from both breasts. As early as 4 hrs after delivery I hand expressed drops into the little bottles given to me at the hospital and continued to hand express before each pump session. Hand expressing is more stimulating than a pump so I feel these two combinations alone have gotten me to this abundant supply!

I didn’t know we had so much frozen until I pulled it out of the freezer.

Raquel's twins are in the NICU and her ability to produce milk is second to none. She shares her tips for successfully increasing her milk supply.
This is my supply at about 15 days. Of course, it doesn’t include what my babies have been consuming fresh.

NICU staff is in shock at my supply. One nurse said, “It’s like a dairy farm over here.” I will probably donate anything I produce that can’t fit in my freezer. Clearly, I’m in the minority in my ability to produce. It’s a combination of good fortune, hard work, and informed technique. I’m here to share my techniques with you. Maybe you won’t end up filling a cart with your excess supply, but maybe my tips can help you get a few more ounces.

Get Informed

I encourage you to educate yourself about how much milk your babies actually need. “Low Milk Supply 101” by Emma Picket IBCLC is one of the best articles I’ve read about breastfeeding.

It hasn’t been all easy for me, and it may not be for you. I was getting clogged up on the left side and had to massage the engorged breast in order to prevent mastitis. It hurt but we got through it!

My Tips

To all the mommas wanting to breastfeed or pump to be able to provide for their babies, I just want to say: Pump. Hand express. Empty, empty, empty those breasts!

Breastmilk supply tips from a mom who is making more than enough milk for TWINS!

Brush

A coworker’s sister in Denver was encouraged by hospital staff to “brush” her breasts to stimulate milk production. Yes. Grab a comb or brush and brush your breasts as if you’re brushing your hair. I remembered this advice, also a Salvadoran folk remedy, and had my significant other brush lightly as I hand expressed. We did that during the first 4 pump/hand express sessions.

Maximize Skin-to-Skin Contact

Kangaroo care is the gold standard for preemies. Skin-to-skin contact isn’t just good for babies, though. The biological response to your baby’s skin against your own can trigger can be increased milk production. Whether your baby is sick or healthy, premature or full-term, spend some time holding him or her directly against your body, inside your clothes if necessary. After I hold my babies for a couple of hours, I start leaking!

Hand Express

The nurse who originally brought me my hospital grade pump told me that studies have shown that a combination of  hand expression and pumping helps you produce more milk. Just massage your breast to squeeze the milk out of your nipple. Don’t be embarrassed to ask the lactation consultant at your hospital to show you how to do it! I hand express before and after every pumping session.

Get the Right Pump

The Medela Symphony, a hospital grade pump provided by the hospital, has contributed to my incredible supply. I used the insurance provided pump with my other two children and I never expressed this much milk. Between both breasts I think the most I would get after a feeding was about 4 oz from each side and when they were first born.

The hospital told me I could use this pump until babies came home. I am seriously looking to buying one now even if it’s been used. It’s worth the investment.

Don’t Pump for Too Long

I initially let the pump go on its own until it stopped. I started having issues with my swollen left nipple a day or two later. The lactation consultant told me I was pumping for too long. The pump ran for 30 minutes, not the recommended 10-15 minutes.

I was told my milk would level off after about week two. I was exhausted and  unable to wake very often during the night to pump. I slept for about 5 hours straight, then pumped and started getting the 8 oz from each breast.

Keep At It

The first week, I pumped every 2-3 hours around the clock. The second week, I reduced that to about every 3 to 4 hours. The third week is just about same as week two. I’m currently waiting about 4 hrs in between. I’m not getting as engorged as I was in the begining but I really think I was having trouble emptying my breasts enough to catch a break

Empty Your Breasts

If you are still somewhat solid in the breasts after you’ve pumped and think you’ve “emptied”, you could very well have a good amount in there. Since it’s not coming out like it should, your breasts won’t think they have to make more. Once empty, breasts should keep working at production.

I got less out of my left breast when I was pumping for the whole 30 minutes. It still felt hard. I knew that was off and that there might be milk there but just not able to get it out. I had to massage the painful breast. It was excruciating!

I’m not going to lie. There have been moments I wanted to just stop it all. To top it off, my left nipple (which still hurts) swelled up to the size of a smoked sausage while I pumped. It refused to go back down to its normal size! The lactation consultant told me it might be the size of the pumping shield/flange, but I’ve tried different sizes and have better luck with the smaller one. It just seems to expand with the little tunnel and burns towards the end of pumping.

Eat and Drink on Behalf of Your Babies

I drink water like no other. I drink 1-2 gallons of water a day. That’s no exaggeration! I haven’t had to push myself because I find myself more thirsty this time around compared to with my older singletons.

I never skip out on meals and I snack in between. I pack almonds and cheese and ham sandwiches, or peanut butter and PB&J for my daily NICU visits. Did you know that you actually need more calories while breastfeeding than you do during pregnancy? Your babies have to work a lot harder outside your womb than inside.

I had noticed that skipping meals with my firstborn drastically reduced my supply. Stay hydrated and do not run on an empty stomach. I still take my prenatal vitamins and the NICU doctor overseeing the babies told me to take 3 fish oil pills a day and one vitamin D tablet too.

Be Kind to Yourself

I was able to give birth naturally, without an epidural. Your personal medical situation and many other things you cannot control will impact your ability to produce milk. Childbirth is a traumatic experience for your body. A C-section is major surgery. If you can make breastfeeding work, that’s great. If you can’t, that doesn’t make you any less of a mother.

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Twinfant Tuesday: What About the Older Children? Childcare During Childbirth

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Categories Birth Order, Birth Stories, Childcare, Community, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Infants, Older Children, Parenting, Pregnancy, Twinfant TuesdayLeave a comment

We had returned from the hospital after receiving the most incredible news. In approximately six months’ time we were going to become the parents of twins! I was going to be a Mummy to four children!! We felt overwhelmed, excited, nervous, scared, and curious! I think I felt every emotion possible that afternoon.

Looking back to when I become pregnant with my first child, I remember my worries and concerns so clearly:

Was my baby healthy?

Was labour going to hurt?

Was I going to get fat?

What buggy? Cot? Bottles?

Seven years later as a pregnant mother of two children my concerns and worries could not have been more different. In addition to the health and wellbeing of my unborn babies, at the forefront of my mind were my two children and who was going to care for them when I was in hospital giving birth to our twins. I knew at that point that carrying twins meant that I was at increased chance of having a C-section. For me, that would mean a longer recovery time and the need to make extra arrangements for them.

Arranging the care of our older two children was our priority and it was something that we began to plan for more or less straight away.

These are my top tips for putting a plan into place for childcare during childbirth.

Make a List

We made a list of everyone who we could call on for help with the children if we needed too! At the top of our list were our parents. They would have been our first choice, but it just so happened that my in-laws were taking a holiday when the babies were born. My Mum works full time so was unable to take sole responsibility. We filled our list with Aunties, Uncles and Godparents.

We are lucky to have such a big family and support network, but as soon as we announced the news we were pregnant with multiples we were inundated with offers of help from friends and extended family members. We could have filled our list ten times over.

Have a Plan A and B, … C, D, E, and F

The morning I was due to be induced with the babies, we had everything figured out. The children knew exactly where they were staying, who was collecting them from school and nursery, who was driving them to their out of school clubs. I was happy, relaxed, and confident and ready to meet the two newest members of our family.

But I wasn’t induced on that day! They didn’t have enough room or enough staff in the hospital to perform a safe deliver. I didn’t end up giving birth until the following day!

Be prepared for every eventuality. Make sure your children and the people who are caring for them are aware that everything might not go to plan. I was due to be induced so I had an idea of when I was going to have my babies. Still, being pregnant with twins puts you at increased risk of premature delivery. The timing of your babies’ births could be very unpredictable.

I was lucky to get to nearly 38 weeks with my babies but many Mums of Multiples don’t make it that far. Having someone on the end of the phone that you could call upon at short notice or a neighbour who lives close by would be ideal.

Inform School and Nursery

Our daughter’s nursery was fantastic around the time the twins were born. She was able to do extra days at short notice and we were able to collect her later during my pregnancy when appointments at the hospital ran over. My son’s school showed the same support and helpfulness. After the babies were born, the sincere offers of help we received from school were a great comfort. Knowing they were there if we needed them was priceless, especially through those first few tricky weeks.

Be Prepared for a Caesarean Section

The chances of having a normal delivery compared to having a C-section with twins is around 50/50.

Even if, like me, you plan to have a normal delivery, making arrangements for someone else to do the school run and help out with your older children for at least six weeks following the birth is a necessity. I was lucky. I got to have the birth I wanted and was fit to drive and do the school run not long after. Still, my husband had previously rearranged all his working hours for those first six weeks to make sure he was on hand to do school runs and chauffeur our little ones to after school clubs.

We had lots of offers from our children’s friends’ parents, who were eager to help us out with school transportation. Sometimes even now I will get someone to come and sit with the babies whilst I quickly dash out to collect our little boy. Anything that makes life easier is a good thing!!

Prepare Your Older Children for Change

Having made a plan for the care of our children, I felt content and happy with knowing who was going to look after them. My other biggest concern was how my little boy and girl were feeling about the arrival of their new siblings. Our little girl had limited knowledge of what was going on.

She knew that mummy had a big belly and there were two babies living in there. I knew that their arrival was probably going to affect her just as much as much as our little boy, if not more. I couldn’t talk through her worries or her concerns about the situation as she didn’t fully understand.

We read a book called I’m Having Twins by Paris Morris.

I'm Having Twins by Paris Morris can help prepare your toddler for the arrival to two new babies.

It’s a book that tells the story of a family having twins from the perspective of the little girl. It’s a book I would definitely recommend. Both our children enjoyed it. It is aimed at children a little older than our then nearly-two-year-old but our daughter still loves the story 10 months after her twins’ birth!

Our little boy was initially really excited for the arrival of the twins but as my due day approached he expressed concern about how our life would continue as before. We were open and honest with him and explained that life was going to change, but in a positive way. Children are extremely resilient in the face of change.

Although we are always advised of this, as parents we can’t help but worry about the impact that huge life events are going to have on our little ones. As a parent who has already been through this, I can assure you that when your twin babies do arrive, your older children will adapt and they will take all the changes that there new siblings bring in their stride. In fact, less than 24 hours after the babies’ homecoming our eldest two children were more concerned with planning a trip to the park.

Kerry Shaw's older children adjusted remarkably quickly to the addition of two new babies to their family.

We’re ten months on from the birth of our babies. It’s very hard to imagine our life before. Our little girl, I’m sure, does not remember life before and our little boy is the most wonderful big brother. He absolutely adores his siblings and for a child that’s gone from been an only child to having three siblings in less than two years, his attitude and resilience to change is remarkable.

As for all the worrying I did, it was completely unnecessary. If I could give one piece of advice to every expectant mother, it would be to try not to worry. The children you already have will exhibit strength, resilience, and an ability to adapt to situations that really will have you beaming with pride. Maybe you’ll feel, as I do, as much pride in them as you have in yourself for giving birth to multiples!

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Making Room for More

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Categories Guilt, Independence, Infants, Older Children, Parenting, Relationships, Siblings, Singletons, Twinfant Tuesday38 Comments

Every mother worries how her first-born will adapt to life with a new baby. How can we quantify and plan for the way our hearts expand to supply enough love for more babies? When preparing for twins, I wondered how bad it would be to bring twins into a family that already housed a three-year-old.

It turned out not to be a matter measured as, “how bad,” but more “how different.” From the beginning, we were keenly aware of how important it would be, during those first few weeks, to give her a role to play as big sister, and to keep up on our promise to love her. Love comes in cuddles, extra helpings of dessert, shared bubble baths, movie nights and special walks together, at least when one is three years old.

The First Days at Home

My husband and I kept a close eye on how our oldest handled the transition. It was important to involve her in as many of the new changes as possible, so we did: She bottle-fed, sang to them, changed diapers, and drew pictures to decorate their nursery. Anytime a visitor came with a gift for the babies, we made sure to express our gratitude, but not evoke much fanfare if there wasn’t also a gift for the new big sister. This was the beginning of our learning the lesson of being even-Steven with everything in a family with multiple children.

bigsister1

One-on-One Time

We chose to do a combination of direct breastfeeding and bottle-feeding pumped milk and formula, which gave my husband and I some free time to spend one-on-one with our oldest girl. This. Was. KEY. Honestly, having a energetic three-year-old was often more work than having twinfants. She did not care if we were sleep-deprived, and she had more needs to be met than ever before. Initially, this intimidated me, and fed my worry about how I would ever have enough time and energy to satisfy each daughter.

Each day, I took a moment or two to capitalize on time together. If she woke before the twins, we would enjoy a quiet breakfast together, just us two. If the twins happened to nap at the same time, I would take her for a walk, or a quick trip into town. If all were awake, I would pile everyone onto my lap and read books, letting my oldest have a chance to ‘read’ to her sisters.

bigsister3

Let Their Bond Grow Organically

I watched my oldest with our twins and recognized there was a new dynamic in the family that required very little from me. New sister relationships were forming, and I moved out of the way. Sometimes, she was too rough with them, and they would cry or whimper in response. Rather than scold her, I watched her face process the twins’ reaction, and she learned how to better handle them. Giving her the space to learn how to be a big sister to twins on her own has given her the confidence to forge ahead, to the beat of her own drum.

She has learned when to shut them out (kindly), because she needs to be alone and doesn’t want to be a big sister sometimes. That’s her prerogative, and rightly so. In turn, the twins have learned to idolize their big sister, and today at age three themselves, they are elated when they are invited to play with her.

We also let her paint on their faces; It was non-toxic and washable!

bigsister4

When Our Hands Were Full

There were, of course, times I was busy feeding the twins, or rocking them to sleep, and I couldn’t physically respond to our oldest’s requests. I would do my best to explain I could help her with my words, but not my hands. I would sing songs if she had a tantrum, I would play word games if she was amenable. I even took to setting up a pile of stuffed animals beside me as I nursed, so I could throw them at her if she was getting into something she wasn’t supposed to!

Telling her, “I’m sorry, mama’s busy feeding” was heartbreaking and, I’ll be honest, is a guilt that doesn’t go away, although it changes as they grow older. I never feel like I am giving each of my (now four) girls everything they need at all times. How can I possibly? I cannot raise four girls with 24/7 individual attention from their parents, but I am happily raising four girls who have established a true sisterhood. They have learned from infancy the values of cooperating with others, empathy, shared joy, and patience.

Sarah is the mother to four girls, two of whom are identical twins Hailey and Robin. They were born in the Yukon in a very small hospital at 35 weeks, and though they were small, they were mighty. She now lives in Ontario, where her high school sweetheart husband works very hard, and she stays home with the girls, freelance reporting on the side. In her past life, she was a journalist who covered everything from fast-paced federal politics to cats stuck in trees. Her writing has appeared in local newspapers and magazines, and in national publications like the Globe and Mail and ParentsCanada Magazine. She is a yogi, a mediocre cook, an awesome Beyonce dance move imitator, and an avid blogger at Cure for Boredom.

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Twinfant Tuesday: Baby Bottle Care

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Categories Feeding, Formula, Products, Twinfant TuesdayTags 31 Comments

We’ve written quite a bit about our infant feeding experiences here on HDYDI, but I realize that I’ve neglected to discuss my bottle feeding experiences. That realization wasn’t a surprise. As I’ve told you before, much of my identity as a new mother was tied up in breastfeeding. Baby bottles were up there with gavage tubes on the list of things that I’d rather forget.

The fact is that baby bottles are genius.

A baby bottle can allow a father to feed a child. A baby bottle can allow a working mother to provide her child with breastmilk when she can’t be with her baby. A baby bottle can allow the bond of feeding between a mother and child when breastfeeding isn’t an option.

It’s been nearly 8 years since my daughters moved on from bottles, so I’m not the person to tell you about the newest and greatest development in baby bottle technology. What I can tell you is that, like every other aspect of parenting, it’s not just about what you like. You’ll have to take your child’s preferences into account. With twins, that means two sets of children’s preference, and they may like different things.

With M and J, we used Playtex VentAire bottles for formula and Playtex Nursers with Lansinoh storage bags for expressed breastmilk.

Baby bottles are for formula and expressed breast milk alike.

Once I returned to work, J and M went through 6-7 bottles a day, each. Every night, I had 12-14 bottles to wash. During my limited hours home, I had to breastfeed, eat, occasionally shower, complete household chores, and do that thing where you lie down and close your eyes. I’ve heard it rumoured that it’s called “sleep”. That last thing I wanted to spend my time on was scrubbing bottles.

Since all the bottles we used were open at each end, a bottle brush wasn’t a necessity. I didn’t use it much once the babies had outgrown preemie bottles. Instead, I used my dishwasher.

I had three of these handy dishwasher baskets. All the small parts associated with baby bottles and breastpumps fit in the basket for dishwasher cleaning and disinfection. I was a master of placing all the nipples, rings, bottle valves, pump valves, and lids so that each one was fully exposed to water.

This basket holds small bottle parts for dishwasher disinfection.For the first several months, I would take the washed bottles out of the dishwasher and boil them in a pot of water for disinfection, but over time, I grew to trust the High Heat setting on the dishwasher. Before long, the girls’ immune systems had built up to where disinfection was no longer called for. After all, they were getting plenty of immune exercise from their time a group daycare.

For simplicity, I assembled rings, nipples and lips and stored those stacked beside all the bottles. That way, there was no need to spend time unscrewing bottles or pulling through nipples when it was time to feed.

What are your timesaving tricks for life filled with baby bottles?

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Twinfant Tuesday: Are Newborn Twins Aware of Each Other?

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Mothers of infant twins sometimes ask when they can expect their babies to start interacting with each other. Anecdotally speaking, it appears that this is yet another thing that varies wildly between different sets of twins. It seems quite common for a newborn infant to seem quite unaware of the existence of his or her twin.

My monozygotic daughters, though, always appeared aware of each other. They were separated for 20 days after birth. As soon as J left the NICU to join her twin M at home, she made it perfectly clear that she was aware of her sister, at some level.

I placed both babies on a blanket on the floor, a few inches apart.

Newborn twins, placed a few inches apart, find that expanse to be far too wide for comfort.

After a diaper change, J stretched and wriggled…

Newborn twins, reunited after their stays in the NICU, seem to seek each other out.

…and wriggled and stretched, until she was squished up against her sister. Only then did she fall asleep.

Newborn twins seek each out the comfort of their wombmate.

In nearly every photograph I have of M and J together their first few months, their heads are turned toward each other.

These weeks-old twins turn toward each other instinctively.They both liked to fall asleep holding onto Sister’s hair. As you might imagine, this didn’t often end well. I took to placing a fuzzy blanket above their heads when they were particularly stubborn, to give them both something to hold that didn’t also pull on the other’s scalp.

When did your multiples seem to become aware of each other?

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To Breastfeed or Bottle Feed? That is the Question…

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Categories Parenting, Twinfant Tuesday29 Comments

I always thought I would breastfeed my children. When I got pregnant with twins, I hesitated a little bit, but not much. I knew about the football hold, and I knew it could be done.

Then my little bits were born at 29 weeks. And all of a sudden the NICU was raising them and not me. Feeding wasn’t even an option, forget about breastfeeding. But I still had my plan. I started pumping milk every 3 hours one day post C-section. And I didn’t stop until after they were home 3 months later. I was encouraged by the nurses: “Oh yes, we will let you start breastfeeding as soon as they’re strong enough.” I was encouraged by my mom: “It’s so good for them, keep going!”

And then, when they came home it was obvious. They are NOT going to breastfeed. They are hooked on a bottle. Can I fight through it? Yes. Could I retrain them? Yes. Did I want to? No.

I was TIRED! And done letting others dictate how I was going to raise my children.

So I gave up trying to breastfeed. And I kept pumping milk. Sometimes every 3 hours, sometimes every 4 or 5. I was proud of the overflowing freezer filled with liquid gold. And then, one day in the middle of taking-care-of-newborn fatigue, my milk supply started drying up. And I started having some pain. And I knew that I had filled up my last bottle of milk.

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SAMSUNG

It was totally okay, I thought. Someday I will have one baby and I will cuddle and breastfeed that one all day long.

But fast forward four years and I found myself pregnant again. Only not with one snuggly baby. Two again.

I admit that I mourned a little for what I knew was coming. “This time I’m prepared,” I thought. “I know what’s coming. I’ll be more proactive about breastfeeding in the NICU. I won’t let them get too attached to bottles. But maybe I’ll do some bottle feeding cause I know I’ll need a break.”

I was grateful the second time to make it to 36 weeks. But I still had a painful C-section, and my girls still spent 2 weeks in the NICU.

It was a much better experience. I did breastfeed some and Baby B seemed to like it. Then we came home and even though I had help from grandparents my schedule looked like this: breastfeed some, bottle feed the rest, pump some.

Every 3 hours.

That meant I had less than an hour to eat, spend time with my other children, and sleep. The sleep ended up getting pushed back more and more and the girls were feeding less and less.

This time I wanted more control. My decision was made by simple math. I made a pro/con list of how to feed the babies. The pro list for breastfeeding had only 1 item on it: Breastmilk is the best food for babies. That was it. The cons list went on and on. Bottle feeding had tons of pros and just a few cons. So there I had it. I pumped my last bottle of my own milk, and went looking for formula coupons.

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Afterward I had a friend lecture me about not breastfeeding, and then at the end she said, “But they’ll be okay.”.

And I smiled. Because I knew she didn’t mean any offense. And I knew she was right. They WILL be okay. They ARE okay. Because no matter what our mother heart tells us about feeding our little ones–they somehow or other get fed. And instead of fridges filled with bottles and breast milk and formula, all of a sudden it is filled with whole milk and yogurt and Mickey Mouse shaped chicken nuggets.

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SAMSUNG

I didn’t want to waste the time I had with them being little stressing over milk. And that was OK.

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SAMSUNG
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Twinfant Tuesday: Getting to Know Your Children

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Categories Individuality, Parenting Twins, Perspective, Twinfant Tuesday23 Comments

“Comparison is the thief of joy,” Teddy Roosevelt warned us.

What you have is what YOU have.  Comparison to others can make you feel down,

There’s definitely some truth to that. If you measure your quality of life by comparing it to the lifestyle you perceive others to live, you’re going to be miserable. But how much more joy can be gained from realizing how good we have it?

Parents compare their kids. We compare them to ourselves. We compare them to their siblings. We compare them to their peers. We certainly compare them to statistical averages. “Oh no,” we say, “an average girl can say 50 words at 16 months and mine only says 40!” Or, “my boy already says 50 words at 16 months and the average boy only says 30. He’s a genius!” We forget that the child is a unique person, never intended to be the average of all children in her country.

Parents of multiples can’t help but compare our same-age children to each other. There’s a silver lining to this, though. The comparison highlights each child’s unique personality and quirks. You might not notice how athletic one twin is except in contrast to his more verbally precocious brother.

It's only when we compare ourselves to others that we see what is special about us.

I used to ask new parents what their baby was like. 99% of the time, they’d give me an odd look and shrug. “I dunno,” they’d say, “Eats, poops, sleeps. Acts like a baby.”

It was years before I realized that the contrast between twins had granted me the luxury of identifying their unique personalities well before they were talking. I knew who my twinfants were, in a way that many of my singleton parents did not know their children.

J and M at 12 months old were already demonstrating the personality quirks they have at age 9.

Shortly after J and M’s first birthday, I had this to say about them:

First of all, both M and J are very easy-going, cheerful, low-maintenance babies. They’re both extremely opinionated, love to play together, but can entertain themselves too. They’re affectionate, active and very very very very verbal. They know the rules, but they both enjoy pushing their boundaries. They both love to eat and are growing rapidly. They’re still very small for their birth age, but very advanced in their physical, linguistic and social skills.

8 years later, so much of this is true. My girls are cheerful and relatively low-maintenance. They’re opinionated and capable of playing together and apart. Their verbal abilities are off the charts. They still love to eat what they love to eat, although M’s repertoire is pretty limited. They’re still tiny, but are proven athletes, scholars, and great friends.

M is a people-pleaser. Around new people, or folks they don’t see too often, she definitely comes across as the dominant personality. She smiles and chatters and shows off. Even when she’s doing her own thing, you can catch her checking that the new person is watching her. She loves to explore new spaces, but she checks in with Mommy often for a snuggle.

This is all accurate. M puts herself at ease in new situations by showing off her strengths, usually in mathematics. She’s very aware of her audience when we’re out and about, which is why she’s so easily embarrassed by me.

She’s a pickier eater than J and some days will eat only bananas. She’s getting to be an expert at the sippy cup, so we’re hoping to stop bottles altogether soon.

She was already a picky eater. Well, that hasn’t changed. It’s just magnified.

[M is] quite careful when encountering new objects or acquiring new skills. She tends to figure out how to do things before she tries, and gets frustrated quickly if her attempts fail. For instance, if a toy she wants gets stuck behind something, she starts fussing immediately. Because she does learn how to do things before trying them out, though, she catches up to J very quickly on physical skills, and often surpasses her. For instance, she crawls much much faster than J ever did.

M continues to be a perfectionist, so much so that J skipped a grade while M stayed behind to work on her time management. The girls have an optional after-school cultural performance this week. J can’t wait to get on stage. M is declining to participate because she doesn’t think the class had enough practice to perform to her exacting standards. As far as surpassing J, that still happens. J is still sore that M skipped several swimming levels ahead of her when they took swimming lessons at age 4.

J is defined by the word “determined.” She picks a goal and works and works and works on it. She may fail any number of times, but she keeps trying. This means that she learns physical skills sooner than M, but she falls far more often and has to try the same thing over and over. She’s already running, and has so much to accomplish that she’s been skipping naps recently and falling asleep in her high chair during meals.

J is incredibly determined still. It permeates every aspect of her life.

J likes to push the rules, although if she knows she’s about to break one, she shakes her head at herself and looks around to see if anyone’s going to stop her. She stops immediately on being told “No,” unlike M, who needs to be told “No” multiple times before reacting. She can often stop herself from breaking a rule: there’s some vigourous head-shaking, and then she turns around and runs towards me with a huge smile on her face.

J has excellent self-control. She hardly every makes the same mistake twice. M’s reactions, on the other hand, tend to run away with her, although she always apologizes after she’s calmed down. As she explained to me yesterday, “I feel my feelings and then I don’t say anything about them until they explode like a volcano.” Impulse control is a challenge she’s working to overcome.

J has an extremely good sense of balance, and can navigate her way into very tight spaces. She’s constantly moving around, usually walking, but every now and then, she’ll decide to lie on the floor on her back, very quietly, for a couple of minutes, before resuming her rambles. She likes to carry things around, even things that are too heavy for her. She likes to push toys along the floor while yelling “Eeeeeeeee” at the top of her lungs.

J’s constant motion is the reason I Santa bought a trampoline. She is also the daughter who will come up to and ask if we can read and snuggle. “Hugs make everything better,” is her signature phrase. Now, instead of yelling “Eeeeee”, she makes up silly songs to belt out while bouncing off the furniture.

Twins just bursting with personality! The contrast between these identical has highlighted their unique personalities thruoghout their lives.

J is the least picky eater I have ever met. She’ll eat anything I give her, and is very decisive about being done when she’s full. She simply turns her head away, and refuses to open her mouth.

J is still an adventurous eater. She recently ordered sliders topped with raw onions and chili. When the waitress checked to make sure she’d understood correctly, I confirmed that J loves raw onions.

There are, of course, ways in which M and J have changed as they’ve grown. J’s compassion for others and desire to right the wrongs of the world is astounding. Yesterday, she reported to me that her class has finally reintegrated the genders at their lunch table after having established a “girl side” and “boy side”.

M’s creativity is unbounded. This shows through in her story-telling, inventions, artwork, and, most recently, her CS First programming.

Getting to know your children may just be the greatest gift that comes with twins in that exhausting, overwhelming first year.

Those of you who have twinfants, what parts of their personality can you see already?

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