Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part III)

Why Returning to Work After Maternity Leave is Hard

I don’t want to give you the impression that returning to work was easy for me. Despite all the positives, it was hard. I was consumed by guilt. I kept wishing that my career-building years weren’t my reproductive years. Every time I found myself enjoying work, I wondered if it made me a bad mother, if my pleasure at being away from them would somehow ruin their lives forever.

The end of maternity leave is hard, but returning to work can be well worth it. The younger the child, the easier it may be.

I missed the babies viscerally. My full, sore breasts were a constant reminder that my girls were 15 miles away, being cared for by people who were then strangers, although they’re now more family than my “real” family. My arms ached to hold J and M. I missed their smell. I worried that we would no longer be bonded and that our relationship would become as non-existent as my relationships with my own parents.

The breast pump and I didn’t respond well to each other. My milk production plummeted. I was only pumping twice a day during the 10+ hours I was away from my babies, 15 minutes at a time, down from 90 minutes of nursing every 3 hours. No amount of fenugreek could make up the difference in time or the way that my babies’ mouths triggered letdown. After the trauma of the girls’ premature birth by C-section, breastfeeding felt like a way I could make up to them the weeks in my womb my body had denied them, and now I was failing them again as their mother.

It didn’t help that no one other than my boss, my husband and my in-laws believed that I could balance it all. I know that everything who said to me, “I don’t know how you do it,” meant it as a compliment, but I couldn’t help hearing an undertone of “You’ll never be able to do it.” And then there were the other army wives (other than Sara), who actually came out and told me that I was a bad mother and shameful army wife for wanting a career. “A real army wife,” one sneered at me, “stays home and takes care of her soldier and children.”

Read more:

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-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, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part II)

Why 11 Weeks Was Enough

For our family, 11 weeks post-partum for a return to my job worked out rather well. Please don’t take this to mean that I support the US’s shamefully short maternity leave policies. I simply mean that for us, 11 weeks was okay. I think every mother needs to decide for herself and her baby what the right amount of time together is before returning to work.

My daughters took to the breast amazingly easily after their NICU days of gavage- and bottle-feeding. We made the switch right away, no transition plan needed. Since M was home nearly a week before J, I was able to establish a breastfeeding and pumping routine with her. She fed for 45 minutes every 3 hours, and I pumped for 20 minutes after each breastfeeding session. (I didn’t figure out the magic of pumping on one side while breastfeeding on the other until later in our breastfeeding journey.) Twice a day, M got high-calorie formula fortified with Poly-Vi-Sol while I pumped. The pumped milk was delivered to the NICU once a day, my wonderful father-in-law driving me and M to the hospital and waiting with the baby in the car as I limped in to briefly hold J. My husband had been shipped off to California by the army when the girls were 10 days old.

When J came home, she fit right into M and my feeding routine. I never could get simultaneous feeding figured out, so the babies would each feed for 45 minutes every 3 hours.

That’s right. During the 8 weeks of maternity leave between the babies leaving the hospital and my return to my job, I spent 12 hours every day breastfeeding.

This is what breastfeeding 12 hours a day looks like.

Much as I wanted to make breastfeeding work, returning to work gave me back my sense of self. I felt valued for more than just my milk-production ability. Had I not had my work successes and co-workers to validate me, I don’t know that I could have survived J’s nursing strike, her complete refusal to breastfeed at age 5 months.

It felt so good to be back at work. A multi-year project completed days after I came back to work, and while all my friends were burned out and exhausted, I was chipper and exhausted, ready to get back to something I knew I was good at. It wasn’t that I was at bad at mothering newborns−I’m 100% baby person−but I really enjoyed the concrete validation that I was doing things right. That validation doesn’t come until years down the road for parents, if ever.

Then there was lunch. Every day at work gave me an entire hour during which nothing was expected of me. I could eat. I could nap. I could take a walk, or wash my face or brush my teeth without guilt. I could give friends my undivided attention. Lunch was a glorious extraordinary gift that I had taken for granted for years.

Maternity leave was a very lonely time for me. My husband was away for army training much of the time and my in-laws could only take a few weeks off work to travel from Washington State to Texas. My friend Sara and I spent as much time together with our 3 newborns as we could, since her husband was away with mine, but we lived 40 miles apart, so daily hanging out wasn’t reasonable. I hadn’t yet made other mommy friends. People did come to visit, but I lived 30 miles from work and the majority of my friends just couldn’t make the trek. I am an intense extrovert. I talked to the babies all day long, but they weren’t the most insightful of conversational partners.

Since my daughters have been in daycare since they were so young, they’ve never known anything else. Yes, we had a bout of separation anxiety when they were 17 months old, but I’ve never dealt with the sort of trauma at being separated from my girls that I’ve seen with other parents. Returning to work as early as I did taught me to trust others to care for my children

It also helped foster a more egalitarian separation of duties with my husband than we might have had otherwise. We shared the responsibilities of diapering and bathing our babies. During the 3 months Daddy was home in the girls’ first year, between California training and Iraq deployment, my then-husband took on all housework and cooking so that I could focus on breastfeeding. He even took half the nighttime feedings, since we both had jobs to get to in the morning. He mastered latching the babies onto my breast without waking me and quickly figured out how to determine when each baby had emptied one breast and was ready for the second. Within the first week after I returned to work, I was able to sleep through my husband’s rolling me over to switch breasts, and I got more than 90 minutes of sleep at a time for the first time since M came from the hospital.

SadiawithBabes

Did you look forward to returning to work? Did you feel guilty?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-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, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part I)

I returned to work when my babies were 11 weeks old. Going back to work after maternity leave was incredibly hard, physically and emotionally, but I don’t regret doing it. In the long term, my daughters and I are better off for my having maintained my career through motherhood.

The end of maternity leave is hard, but returning to work can be well worth it. The younger the child, the easier it may be.

The photo above was the last one I took before returning to work. The babies were so little… only 4 weeks past their due date and still the size of newborns (around 7 lbs). I had to restrain myself from picking J up and holding her in an attempt to get enough baby snuggles to get through the day without crying. I didn’t quite make it through that first workday without a few tears, especially while I was pumping.

Why 11 Weeks Old?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives many US employees 12 weeks off work for the birth of a child. This time is unpaid, but our employers have to hold our jobs for us and can’t give away our positions. To mothers in other countries, unpaid maternity leave is unthinkable, 12 weeks impossibly short, and the need to share this 12 week leave between both parents (if they work for the same employer) an abomination. Still, the law is what it is, for now at least, and I’m grateful that my employer is large enough to be required to honour it.

Many American mothers, too, see 12 weeks as an impossibly short period of time to spend with their newborns and therefore choose to leave their careers for a longer period of time. Some employers will agree to hold a new mother’s job longer than the minimum 12 weeks required by law. Others will expect a new mother to hand in her resignation if she intends to stay home longer than that.

One complication I didn’t anticipate was that bed rest-related absence from work also counted into the 12 weeks I was allowed off associated with the pregnancy. Fortunately, I work at a job to which I can telecommute and my boss was herself a mother whose second son was 4 months older than my girls. She was very understanding and did all she could to help me have the healthiest pregnancy possible. When my obstetrician told me 31 weeks into my pregnancy that I needed to stop working the following week, I went into a panicked tailspin. My boss was the one to suggest that I consider working half time from the couch, to keep myself busy and my income flowing even while I tried to reduce my symptoms of pre-term labour.

My half time work schedule only lasted 2 weeks before my babies made their dramatic arrival at 33 weeks. Over those 2 weeks, I’d used up 1 of the 12 weeks allowed by FMLA.

In the first hours after my babies were born, we were told to expect them home no sooner than their due date, still 7 weeks away. The idea of taking 7 weeks off work while the babies were in hospital, only to have 4 weeks left to bond with them at home, made me sick to my stomach. I started playing with calendars, trying to figure out whether I could return to work as soon as I was enough recovered from my C-section to do so, just to maximize my time home with M and J.

A kind nurse, Michelle, took me aside when they were a couple of weeks old and advised that I not take the route of bopping in and out of FMLA leave. All indications were that both girls would be released home well before their due date, likely right around the time I would be healed enough from the C-section to go back to work. As it turns out, the girls came home at 16 and 22 days old, before I was cleared by my doctor to drive. How working mothers with longer NICU stays manage it all, I really don’t know. I did notice that many of the other NICU babies who’d been in the hospital for several months no longer got daily visits from their parents, thanks to the demands of work. My heart breaks for these families.

During maternity leave.

This is one of a handful of photos of me during maternity leave.

I had actually hoped to return to work part-time at first, when the girls were 9 weeks old, spreading out my FLMA leave and giving myself a more gradual switch from primarily breastfeeding to primarily pumping. However, my mother decided to visit just about the time I planned to go back to the office, and she required me to serve as a full-time chauffeur. We had initially hoped that she’d be able to watch the babies, but she was overwhelmed by the idea of juggling both of them. After all, it had been 26 years since she’d had to care for an infant by herself; with my baby sister, we’d had servants to do the heavy lifting.

So, 11 weeks of maternity leave it was, and I returned to a full day. My babies were at daycare from 6:30 am until nearly 6:00 pm, thanks to my lengthy commute.

How long did you/do you plan on taking maternity leave?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-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, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twinfant Tuesday: “You’re done, right?”

There are so many topics on which I could write a Twinfant Tuesday post.  But, a topic that goes round and round in my head is the topic of “How to decide whether or not to have another baby (after twins).”

Considering another baby when you have twins. There's no one good time, and no one good reason.

Of course, this decision is completely individualized per family and not one you can give advice on. I’ve debated whether or not to post about this on HDYDI, since some friends and family periodically read this. But, screw it. This is honestly what’s on my mind.  And I’m curious how others answered this question for themselves.

It’s fascinating to me to talk to friends about how they decided when their family was “complete.” For some, it seems the number of kids was predetermined around the time of marriage: “Well, Joe comes from a family of three kids and I’m an only child, so we’ve always known we’d have two kids.” And that’s that. For others, it seems a very calculated decision: “With my income, divided by the cost of two college educations, multiplied by inflation to the second power, subtract my 401K…” For another group, it seems to be more an emotional decision: “What if we only have two and they don’t get along when they’re older? Three increases the chances that two will get along at any given time, and at least one will take care of me when I’m old.”

Of course, many people have made the cliché comment: “You had a boy/girl set of twins. Instant family! You’re done, right?” It’s been amusing to see how many people feel comfortable commenting on our family size. I can’t seem to remember what our expectations around family size were before infertility and having twins. The expectations apparently flew out the window when we had a hard time conceiving on our own and had twins.

I try to stay as mindful as possible with my almost 10-month twins during the waking hours and set all of this aside. I snap a gazillion photos. I giggle along with them, as they tackle each other and belly laugh. I close my eyes and take a deep breath when they snuggle with me to steal a sniff of their baby smell. But, when these little loves go to sleep, this question often crosses my mind. I make mental pros/cons lists. I say a little prayer of gratitude that infertility treatments left us in a place of being able to consider having more, while also wondering if we’d be “done,” like so many seem to want us to be, if we’d conceived twins on our own. Even though friends with singletons think we’re nuts to think about more, especially when our twins are ten months old, I do feel a clock ticking to make this decision.

If you had twins first, what was your experience like of deciding whether or not to have more children?  What factors came into play?

Twinfant Tuesday: Isolated With Twins

You just had multiples and had people lining up to see your adorable new blessings. But, after the first few weeks, many of us no longer have people coming over, and a feeling of being isolated with twins starts creeping in, especially for those who are stay at home moms, who lack adult interaction for the majority of the day. Our twins (or more) are so darn demanding of our time and energy that we don’t get the chance to do much of anything else, let alone entertain guest or go out and socialize.

Isolated with TwinsWhen I think back to my first year with my twins I remember that I was isolated. I moved to a brand new city where I didn’t know anyone and we only had one car, which my husband was taking to work each day. We weren’t close to any parks, and even if we were our major city ironically lacked proper sidewalks and crosswalks on the very busy intersection we lived right next to.

The only socializing I did was with my husband and with some people at church. My poor husband was bombarded each night with endless chatter since I had spent most of my day attending to babbling and crying twins. Thankfully my friends at church had a monthly book club which meant that I at least got out one evening a month, and gave me a great book to read, too.

As I look back on this, I realize that I missed out. I missed out on many things because I was isolated with twins at home.  But, I also see that I could’ve done more to help this. So, if you are like me, and feeling isolated at home with twins or triplets, then may I suggest the following:

Ways to Stop Feeling Isolated with Twins

1. Call up people.

If you are far away from people you know, then give them a call! I would call my sister several times a week. I would call old college roommates. I would call my parents. Just call and talk to another adult on the phone for a while. It can make a huge difference in your day.  I’m pretty sure I called many people I hadn’t talked to in forever while I was in that first year with twins. It was great!

2. Invite people over anyway.

I wish I would’ve started doing this sooner, but I always second-guessed my home and the level of awesomeness to hold more people in it. We’ve only lived in apartments or townhouses and I’ve always been aware of how we lack a play room and space in general. I always thought I couldn’t invite over other stay-at-home moms who had older kids as they couldn’t really play with my babies, and I had no “big kid” toys since my girls were still just infants and were my first children. I always thought that their older child would be bored quickly and would want to leave. But, honestly, I should’ve just gotten over myself. No matter how messy and chaotic your house (or yourself) is, invite people over. Just do it. Waiting for someone else to invite you over (or continue to do so) is sometimes a depressing game to play. Be proactive and swallow your pride so that you can make real friends who will love YOU and not your enormous home, large quantity of toys, cleanliness, or home decor.

3. Join… something!

Book clubs, bowling leagues, a gym, a walking group, whatever! Join something that is just for you, not for your babies. Check your local library for events, scrounge Facebook for local groups and organization, and get out!

4. Multiples Club

I looked into some local mothers of multiples chapters but never ended up joining one. Part of the reason was we were hard up for cash, but honestly, I probably could’ve asked for the money from my in-laws or my parents, or even asked the multiples organization if they had a low-income rate or scholarship. I feel like I missed out on such wonderful opportunities because I never joined a local multiples club.

5. Take a class.

Pottery, cake decoration, scrap-booking, cooking, dancing, Zumba, photography, Family History, whatever! Take a class and make some new friends and learn some new skills. It will give you something else to think about and practice as you care for your babies.

6. Blog

I found that blogging, even just about my kids, was therapeutic. I knew at least my family and friends were reading about my life, and some would even be a dear and leave a comment! It made me at least feel like I wasn’t alone. Someone was listening.

7. Social media

Along with #6, using Facebook or Twitter to connect with friends and see how they are doing can help when you are isolated at home.

8. Mommy and Me activities

While you need to find time for yourself and your own talents, sometimes in that first year, any social gathering is amazing even if they mean you don’t get a break from your children. Take Mommy and Me swim lessons or classes. Go to story time at the library or your local book store. Take you kids to the museums, parks, or other local attractions and be sure to invite someone to join you. While it may be crazy to take all the kids out, and they may seem to young to really enjoy it, it can be very worth it socially.

I hope these eight ideas encourage you to not feel so isolated with twins at home. I know each family and living situation is different, but make sure you are doing something that lets you connect to other adults. I’m pretty sure it’s essential to your sanity with infant twins!

Did you feel isolated at home during that first year? Do you currently? What did you do to overcome those feelings?

ldskatelyn is a wife and mama to 4 year-old fraternal g/g twins and a one year old baby boy and currently lives in Indianapolis. She loves being social and is grateful for the friends she has been able to make since her twins first year. She currently writes a great parenting, family, and home blog called “What’s up Fagans?”

Twinfant Tuesday: Nursing Agitation During Tandem Breastfeeding

The sensation of breastfeeding one little mouth can be kind of sweet (once getting past the initial poor latch and soreness). But tandem breastfeeding, for me, was a different story.

In the beginning, I had to grit my teeth, dig my nails into my palms, and tense every muscle in my weary body to keeping from screaming and ripping those sweet children off of me. They suck at different rates, strengths, and rhythms. Their mouths are different shapes. It was like having two people scream into each ear at the same time, in different languages. While accidentally grazing my nipples with a hair brush on a freezing cold morning. For 45 minutes. Twelve times a day.

Not awesome when coupled with sleep deprivation and back pain. And the sweating. And the babies kept falling asleep. I found out that this feeling has a name: nursing agitation. Turns out many moms experience nursing agitation during tandem breastfeeding. This isn’t sore nipples, poor latch, or strong letdown. It isn’t even painful; frankly, pain would have been easier to deal with. Nursing agitation is just really, really annoying and uncomfortable in a primal sort of way.

Feeding the boys individually just didn’t work for me; they would gradually drift into totally different schedules or suddenly sync up so that they were screaming at the same instant. I persevered with tandem breastfeeding, wondering at each feeding how much more I could take. By 8 weeks, I no longer had the dreaded obsession with listening for swallows, and I practiced ignoring the ravaging of my senses by reading or surfing the web on the iPad. Finding other stories of moms who have been through nursing agitation during tandem breastfeeding really helped normalize my situation.

Instead of special bonding time, I tried as hard as I could to tune my children out. With my twins occupied and cuddled close, I could switch off the mommy-attiention radar (at least set it on low) and wander onto blogs, check email, stalk people on Facebook. It was a sanity saving solution.

When the boys were three months old, we spent a weekend at a mountain cabin. Central heating, yes. Phone, internet, TV – no. I was apprehensive, but also thought it might be nice to tune back in and really be present.

At first, it was awful. I was uncomfortable. Trapped. Bored. Then, after a couple days, it suddenly wasn’t awful. The agitation I was feeling early on had almost completely abated. I saw their little faces peeping up at me sometimes. I realized that they were finishing in only 12 minutes. R loved to stand up on the nursing pillow while I was burping him and breathe excitedly into my ear, eager to check out the view over my shoulder. M loved to look at me – simply look, and connect and smile. What fills your heart with more smushiness than a baby that can’t get enough of your face?

We hear often that phases for babies don’t last long – “this too shall pass.” Luckily, parents have phases too – we also change. I am so glad I grew out of nursing agitation during tandem breastfeeding. At around 9 months, I stopped tandem feeding and instead nursed individually on demand until 13 and 16 months. It was a world of difference.

Have you experienced nursing agitation during tandem breastfeeding? How did you cope?

 

RebeccaD is MoM to fraternal twin boys, R and M, now 19 months old. Breastfeeding twins is one of the most challenging and rewarding things she’s ever done.

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.