Product Review: Used stuff

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Categories Ask the Moms, Products2 Comments

There is no doubt about it – having multiples is expensive. While we will provide you with weekly reviews of specific products, one of the first pieces of product advice HDYDI moms would like to pass on is this: buy stuff used when you can. Babies grow out of clothing and products quickly.

One of the best resources for finding used baby items is your local multiples group. If you need just one reason to join your local group, getting baby stuff at a discount is that reason. Besides the obvious expensive items (double stroller, two cribs, two high chairs), there are many other products you may want to duplicate (two swings, two exersaucers, two bumbos).

By buying used items from other multiple parents, not only do you save money, you also:

  • Help the environment by reusing items
  • Give money back to multiple parents
  • Can test out products your children may not like without spending a fortune
  • Get a chance to meet other multiple parents

Before you hit your local twins group sale, here are some tips to make your shopping experience successful:

  • Do your research before the sale on big ticket items such as strollers
  • Carefully inspect toys to ensure they will not be hazardous to your children
  • Carefully inspect clothing for stains and holes
  • Plan time after the sale to wash and disinfect toys
  • If you see other moms checking out the items you’re checking out, say hi and introduce yourself!
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Ask the Moms, part 4 – Newborn 'schedules'

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

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

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

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

Feeding together

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

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

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

Sleeping together

NICU Sleeping

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

Daytime sleep

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

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

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

Nighttime sleep

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

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

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

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

Recommended Reading

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

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

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

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

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Ask-the-MoMs: Moo Moo

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Categories Ask the Moms, Breastfeeding, FeedingTags , , , , 15 Comments

This post is about, you guessed it, breastfeeding. But more specifically, it’s about the cool art-form known as tandem nursing.

I wish this post could be a “how-to” deal, where any new mother could read it and follow the directions to a wonderful experience of nursing her babies. But I know better. For some moms, nursing will be a no brainer, as-nature-intended act. For others it will take some (okay, a lot) of patience, trial and error and creativity to make it work. And for even more, it will take a lot of heartache and tough decisions, maybe some to continue and some to stop. I fall somewhere in the middle. We had a rough go of it for the first three months and had I been a sane person, I likely would have called it quits. But somehow we kept going and things actually got really good. So good, in fact, that we’re at 13 months now and down to one glorious feeding a day. It’s from this perspective that I’d like to share some of my own tips and tricks. But better yet, I also have compiled some of the wonderful collective wisdom and experiences of my esteemed “How Do You Do It?” colleagues. So if your babies are still in your belly and your planning or considering breastfeeding, or if you’re a newer mom looking for advice, I hope this post can give you some inspiration and some downright practical ideas.

In the Beginning

Hopefully everyone reading this has or will go to full-term and their kiddos will spend no time in the NICU. But because the average twin pregnancy goes to about 35-36 weeks, you have to give this reality some consideration. I count myself lucky, having the boys at 36 weeks and them spending 3 short days in the NICU. I was able to start nursing them the morning they were born, amidst the tangle of heart rate and oxygen monitoring wires. Make sure and take advantage of the lactation consultants at the hospital. They were invaluable, and not just when we were in the hospital. I scheduled consults with them every single day we were there, and they continued to provide free consults for the first 3 months. Truly awesome.

The boys were a healthy 5lb 7oz and 4lb 13oz, however the doc wanted us to supplement with formula from the get-go. I was a die hard “only breast milk” kind of person, but when we found out the boys could get out of the NICU as soon as they started gaining weight, we quickly bagged our “perfect scenario” mentality and started supplementing. Because the boys were technically preemies and lacked the strong suck of a full-term baby, and also because we chose to rest at night and have the NICU nurses feed them, I started pumping after every nursing session, and through the night, with a hospital-grade double pump (Medela). I didn’t realize how important this pump would become! It took my milk 14 days (count ’em, 14!) to come in. I truly thought after day 7 that my body couldn’t produce milk. I came to learn after several lactation consults and tons of research that often times in takes moms with preemies longer to initially produce milk. So if you find yourself in this situation (and hopefully you won’t!), take heart, think positive, and keep on pumping with that hospital grade sucker (you can usually rent them on a monthly basis from your hospital). And if it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, at whatever point you are in the journey, try not to beat yourself up over it. You’ve got enough to worry about as a new twin mom.

We made our first attempt at tandem nursing in the NICU (as did some other HDYDI moms). It was hilarious. I was completely topless, there were nurses and lactation consultants all around, and I was sitting in a wheelchair of all places! I quickly learned that until the boys were better at latching and sucking, it would be a whole lot easier to work with them individually. But as I neared four weeks, I realized my mom was leaving, and I would only have help from my mother-in-law for two more weeks. I would soon be on my own, and I just couldn’t see how it would work if I didn’t tandem nurse. That being said, try and schedule as much in-home help as possible, for as long as possible! Spread out visits and make sure no one overlaps, so you make the most of the help you can get. At one month, we started tandem-trying every day. I had my E-Z Twin nursing pillow, my husband would get the boys situated, and then we’d both try and get them to latch. As soon as one would latch the other would come off, and Jordan would spend the next ten minutes running from side to side. It was a three-ringed circus, literally! I decided to go to our hospital lactation dept. for a tandem nursing consult. The woman recommended nipple shields, as she saw I had a fast let-down and the boys were having a tough time with it (i.e. popping off). As soon as we put the shields on (Medela, again), the boys latched, and nursed away, tandem-style, for the next 20 minutes straight. I started crying with joy right then and there. We used the shields until the boys decided they didn’t like them anymore at 4 months.

Technique

Tandem nursing was easy enough with another set of hands. But how do you do it when it’s just you and two starving babies?! First, you’ve got to find the right location. I don’t recommend buying a traditional nursing glider or rocker, just because they are not big enough or versatile enough to accommodate tandem feeding. Think about places that will be big enough to maneuver two babies without putting them in danger (bed, couch, big arm chair, etc.), and that will also be comfortable for you. Also, most of us used a twin nursing pillow of some kind, especially in the beginning. I used the E-Z Twin (and still do!), but the Twin Hugster and My Breast Friend Twin Pillow also got high marks. Most of us also used the double football hold. There are endless combinations you can try, and sure, I tried them all and always came back to the old faithful football. The most important thing is to find what works best for you and your babies, and trust that it will, at some point, change! The other key to tandem feeding, and this is actually a blessing, is that both babies must stay on the same schedule for it to work! Trust me, you’ll be thankful that your babies are eating and sleeping at the same time once you experience a “mixed” day. Most twins start out on a 3-hour regimen in the beginning. Oh, and you provide a full feeding for each baby with each boob, so no need to worry about switching them mid-way nursing session. However, keep track and make sure and switch sides with each feed so you don’t end up with lopsided boobs.

I chose our couch at first. I situated two boppies with babies snuggled in them, side by side, on the middle cushion. I sat next to them with the E-Z Twin around me, pillowstandem nursing propped underneath it to get the babies high enough to reach the goods, and pillows propped in back of me so I didn’t have to slouch over (this is key! you can end up with a nasty back ache if you don’t pay attention to posture). I was also as close to the padded arm of the couch which acted as an excellent barrier for a rolling baby. I picked up one baby, got him into position closest to the arm of the couch, then picked up the other dude and got him into position (I wiggled the boppy over to act as a barrier on this side). Then I got them each latched and hugged my arms around their bodies to hold them in place. We had reflux babies (god bless them) so I had to burp them frequently. Every five minutes or so, I would take one off, scoop him up over my shoulder, burp him, and getting him back into place, all the while the other guy was still nursing. Geez, it makes me exhausted just remembering all this stuff! Once the boys hit 3 months and had better head control, we moved to our roomy armchair. I’d put one guy in a boppy on the ottoman, snap the pillow around my waist, pick the other guy up over my shoulder, sit down in the chair, get him positioned, and then grab the other dude off the ottoman.

Cheryl, of Twinspiration fame, tandem fed exclusively. Her set up was always on the bed with a nursing pillow and boppies on either side as “on deck circles.” She’d grab one babe and get latched and situated, then reach over and get her other baby settled. Her girl had reflux too, so she’s put Darren back in the boppy (with pacifier – good tip!) with head elevated, burp Sarah, and then switch. Cynthia tandem nursed on her couch or bed with a nursing pillow and boppies on either side. She’d set down one boy on a boppy and hold the other while she sat down. Once the first boy was in position, she’d pick up the second. When she was done, she’d often just stand up with one boy on each shoulder and gently lay them down (simultaneously) in their crib or pack-n-play. I have also read on other MoM blogs of all varieties of pillow and couch cushion propping, babies nursing one on top of the other, etc. The most important thing is to experiment with what works best for you and your babies.

tandem sleepingOne thing’s for sure, tandem nursing gives you a bird’s eye view of some amazing moments. The boys would explore each other’s faces, hold hands, reach up for my face, rest their hands on my chest, and often times peacefully fall asleep. When you all start to get in the groove of things, it’s a beautiful place to find yourself!

All Grown Up

When my boys were about 4-5 months old, nursing became a real pleasure. I could pick them both up at the same time, maneuver the pillow into place, plop them down and let them go to town. They would stop mid-way, crack each other up, crack me up, eat some more, and then I could hoist them both up onto my shoulder and stand up and go on our merry way. And then around six months life got way too interesting for them, and nursing became an exercise in distraction management, along with climbing and standing practice using me as their jungle gym. They were efficient eaters, so the actual nursing only took about 10 minutes, a far cry from the hour-long sessions when they were younger. At nine months, Abel became obsessed with eyes and I quickly found myself reffing eyeball poking matches. But I also found us playing a lot on the pillow after nursing, with the boys each taking one of my hands and flipping it over, and over, and laughing hysterically at the realization that it had two sides. Again, some really amazing, intimate moments. By eleven months the boys had naturally weaned themselves to three feedings and soon after their first birthday they were on the move and couldn’t stop for a second to nurse during the day. Weaning happened just like that. We’re now still nursing once a day, first thing in the morning when they wake up, for a max of five minutes. I give it another week.

Combo Plate

I was the paranoid type for the boys’ first four months and always wondered if they were getting enough nutrition. They weren’t great nurses in the beginning, so we kept up with our supplementing routine, but by 3 weeks I was pumping enough that we switched them off formula and they exclusively got breast milk supplements. I’d get the mini-bottles with an once or two of milk prepped and ready to go next to the couch or armchair, and then after they nursed I’d just grab those bottles and feed them in the same position. Along with other HDYDI moms, we also tandem bottle fed them in boppies on either side of us, as well as in their bouncy seats. I occasionally found myself in a situation where I had to bottle feed one and breastfeed the other (don’t ask), and I would treat this the same way as tandem nursing. Same position, but I held a bottle for one while the other nursed. Krissy nursed her baby girl (and still does!), while has pumped and bottle fed her lil’ guy after his nursing strike at four months. She does it the traditional style of feeding one after the other. Just be assured that whatever scenario of breastfeeding/bottlefeeding you might find yourself in, you WILL find some incredibly resourceful and creative way to accomplish the goal at hand. You’re a twin mom, after all!

Pumping, Pumping, Pumping

I’m going to defer to CraftyLissa’s recent post on pumping, as it’s chock full of fantastic advice. I was a serial pumper and was hooked up to that darn machine ten times a day until the babies hit 6 weeks. I don’t recommend it, but if you have to do it, you have to do it. I then “weaned” myself to pumping only in the evenings, usually three times (twice before bed and once in the middle of the night). It was just too hard for me to pump during the day while I was by myself with the boys. Just remember that you are producing A LOT of milk to feed two babies, so use your pump wisely to “relieve” yourself when it’s necessary, especially when you are weaning or reducing their number of feedings, etc. I ended up with plugged ducts on several occasions, and mastitis once, on account of engorgement. Trust me, you’ve got enough on your plate and don’t want to add this to it. I highly recommend reading Cheryl’s experience with mastitis in Twinspiration. I was so glad I did, because when I noticed the warning signs (hard lumps in boobs, red blotches, fever, feeling like utter crap), I high-tailed it to the doctor and got antibiotics to clear it up right away. And if you’re not pumping to get as much milk out while all this is going on, lord help you.

As much as pumping stinks, you can make the most of it by strapping on the porno tube top (aka hands-free pumping bra) and taking some time for yourself to eat, meditate (the droning sound of the motor is a great mantra), and of course, read the recent posts of How Do You Do It! Be careful though about catching a snooze while you pump. This happened to me one time as I pumped before bed and I woke up an hour later with overflowing catch bottles and sore-as-heck nipples.

Tandem in Public?

If you are like me, you will quickly relinquish any and all modesty once you become a tandem breastfeeder. I nursed the guys in front of my mom and dad, my in-laws, my brother and sister, my best friend and her boyfriend (yikes! but he honestly was the BEST mother’s helper!), countless friends and their children, nannies and babysitters, neighbors. Gosh…I’m just now realizing how many people have seen my boobs! Despite this, I never had the gumption to tandem nurse in public, meaning in the Babies-R-Us lobby or on a park bench. We get enough crazy attention just being out and about, I can’t imagine what kind of stares and comments we would have received if we tandem nursed. But I certainly did not hesitate to nurse the boys in public one at a time. Typically this would be in the women’s lounge at Nordstrom, one of the comfiest spots I found. I’d just keep one guy occupied with a toy while in the stroller or car carrier while I nursed the other. It worked great. If you’ve got the comfort and the technique to tandem it in public, I say GO FOR IT! Totally awesome.

Where to get Help

Obviously, this topic is HUGE! I feel like I just scratched the surface and didn’t even address some of the crazy challenges we encountered over the past 13 months. So here are some excellent places to go for more information. Definitely get a copy of Mothering Multiples by the La Leche League. It’s a great resource to read before your babies arrive and an even better guide once you’re making a go at it. I can’t tell you how many times I read certain chapters of that book. It’s especially useful if you have preemie multiples and when things just aren’t going the way you expected. Twinspiration, by our very own Cheryl, is another great book. It’s funny and entertaining but most of all, it’s a real life account. My husband even read it and loved it. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to use the lactation consultants at the hospital. They’re free and they are readily available. And most hospitals offer breastfeeding classes you can take advantage of. Also, several HDYDI moms recommend using a lactation consultant for a home visit to help with your set up, technique and measure how much the babies are consuming. If you’re in a bigger city, many local maternity stores have lactation consultants, classes and almost always have a scale where you can drop-in and check your babies weight. I rented a scale from my local store so I could periodically check how much the boys were getting at different feeds. It only cost about $30/week. And then, of course, you have amazing resources with your local La Leche League and MoM’s group. Join these groups, get on their listserves, go to meetings and use these incredible women for their knowledge, experience and support.

Oh, I almost forgot one of the best sources of all – the Internet! Here’s just a few blog posts on tandem feeding (Boobie Monologues, View from Above). And ladies, don’t hesitate to ask questions and add your experiences, techniques, heartbreaks and triumphs of tandem nursing to our comments section.

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Product Review: 5 Products You Can Live Without

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Categories Ask the Moms, Products4 Comments

I surveyed the moms behind the scenes about their least favorite baby items. Tested and tried by a variety of twin moms, none of these products made the grade.  

1. Wipe warmer. Every mom thought this was a waste. First there’s the issue that you constantly need to restock it. You go through a LOT of wipes with multiple babies. And most multiple parents have multiple changing stations, particularly those of us with two-story homes. Wipe warmers are known to brown wipes, dry out wipes, and spill water. And really, most newborns don’t like diaper changes regardless of whether the wipes are warm or not.

 2. Peepee teepee. Seriously? A teepee to catch urine? Here’s how to handle sprayers (boys and girls) without porting around peepee teepees. Open diaper to expose cold air to sensitive area. Before spraying commences, press diaper back onto area until spraying is done. Then remove diaper and replace with new diaper. Voila. I just saved you $10.

3. Baby oil. This has one use in my house – removing MY mascara. We didn’t even use it for Alex’s cradle cap because olive oil worked better. American Wife has a great write-up on this.

4. Ear thermometer. We recommend a fast rectal thermometer instead. You can use the rectal thermometer under the arm or rectally. Definitely get two rectal thermometers and label them with the child’s name or initial… for obvious reasons.

5. Bottle sterilizer. Medela makes great sterilizer bags that are much easier to use. You can also put bottles and parts in the dishwasher to sterilize them. Make sure you read the instructions to determine what can and can not be put in the dishwasher.

Honorable mention: Dry-clean only newborn clothes. They do exist… why, I don’t know.

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Ask the Moms, part 2 – Pregnancy nutrition

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Categories Ask the Moms, PregnancyTags , , 4 Comments

This week’s question comes from Shree, who is about 20 weeks pregnant with mo/di twins. She wants to know what the moms of How Do You Do It? did with regard to nutrition during pregnancy, and whether or not we followed the guidelines in Dr. Luke’s book, When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets or Quads. She also has the special concern of being a vegetarian, wondering about getting all she and the babies need while avoiding meat. So, here we go. Ask the moms, and we shall answer. This one’s for all the pregnant ladies in the hizzouse…

Yours Truly (Goddess in Progress) – Stats: gained 65 pounds (lots of retained water/swelling at the end), delivered at 36 weeks, baby weights were 6lb2oz and 4lb8oz.

I did read Dr. Luke’s book, and thought the recommendations were good in theory, but insane in practice. I thought I’d have to immediately quit my job so that I could eat, drink water, and sleep all day long. But I did try to make sure I was eating a fair amount, and while I did not forgo junk food altogether, I remember wanting to feel like most of the things I was consuming had at least some positive nutritional value. At work, I’d often take an early break in the morning and go to Starbucks, where I’d get one of their sausage and egg sandwiches (so tasty, plus protein – bummer that they’re discontinuing them!) and a chocolate milk (dairy!). A favorite workday lunch was stir-fry from the Thai place around the corner – lean chicken and lots of veggies. I definitely paid a lot of attention to having a source of protein at every meal. I also knew I needed extra iron, which I used as a great excuse to have cheeseburgers frequently. :-) I briefly, after reading the Dr. Luke book, created an elaborate spreadsheet to see if I was getting all of my servings every day. I don’t think it lasted 24 hours. Ah well. Oh, and then there was the water. I started the pregnancy with a minimum of two quarts a day. By the end (yay, pregnant in July), my trusty Nalgene and I made it through well over a gallon each and every day.
From the archives: Here’s what I thought when I read the book, and a wake-up call over the importance of hydration.

Cheryl – Stats: Gained 45 pounds (but lost a few before delivery), delivered at 36w5d, baby weights were 5lb14oz and 4lb14oz.

When I picked up the [Dr. Luke] book (mid-way through my pregnancy), I did feel a bit intimidated by it…my doctor assured me that I was on target weight gain-wise, so no, I decided it would be more stressful than helpful to attempt…especially with a “belated” start. Naturally dodged the recommended “avoids,” and genuinely tried to get more protein “down.” Nitrates I know are oft-verboten, but I craved gas station hot dogs (yes, the spin in the grease kind), and relented often. Since that was an a-typical craving for me in a non-pregnant state….felt it must be one those “trust your body” motivations. (Doc okayed in moderation!) Ate a lot of double cheeseburgers as well…protein intake was a primary concern nutritionwise for me. Did eat a great deal of dairy, too….always felt like the preggers Lucy Ricardo when I did! If I had to define the “diet” I followed, I’d have to say I went with the “Go With Your Gut” diet! Our kids were slightly small for their gestation, but both were breathing well and did great from the get-go, requiring no NICU time at all…nursery gen pop right away! With the benefit of time, we now know our “smaller” baby, our daughter is simply DNA destined — as opposed to prematurity/prenatally predisposed due to diet — to be small/svelte. She’s been a 3% weight curve girl and just now at age six rose to the 10%. Nuts and tofu were big satisfiers for me, as were yogurt, ice cream and homemade milkshakes and smoothies. If you are finding a craving a true craving (a palpable compulsion as opposed to “Hey, I can have 70 cookies, I’m pregnant!”), so long as it poses no danger (ask the OB-GYN), I’d go with it!

American Wife – Stats: Gained about 50 pounds, delivered at 37 weeks exactly, baby weights were 5lb7oz and 4lb14oz (no NICU!)

I don’t even know who [Dr. Luke] is! I did not avoid eating anything, unless it made me physically sick! I couldn’t drink coffee, or eat any fish that I cooked (yet I could eat cooked fish from a restaurant, as well as sushi). I tried to work in lots of Omega 3’s, so I used the Smart Balance PB, and ground flaxseed (which can go into almost anything). Also when I made mac n cheese, I used cottage cheese instead of milk for extra protein. My advice is to mix proteins and fruits! Cheddar cheese & Granny smith apples! Peaches & Fresh mozzarella with a little bit of balsamic (MY FAVORITE!). Salads with walnuts/pine nuts, fruits (mandarin oranges are good), and dark leafy lettuces/spinach with balsamic dressing. Another thing I did was to make smoothies using frozen and/or fresh fruit and either yogurt, soymilk, or sometimes tofu. I got lots of recipes from vegfamily. Here’s a decent guide to some foods that have important vitamins. A few more suggestions. Oh, also don’t eat an entire quart of Dulce De Leche by Hagen Daas in ten minutes, trust me. It tastes great going down, but coming up….
From the archives: How I got off to a really bad start.

LauraC – Stats: Gained 54lbs, delivered at 36w3d, baby weights were 6lb3oz and 6lb1oz.

Dr Luke book: YES. I read it the day after I found it was twins (18 weeks) and followed it to a T. I ate 100g+ of protein every day and 4000-5000 cals a day, as directed in the book. I avoided anything that made me vomit (eggs, soy, nuts, beans). And I generally gave in to real cravings. I was a vegetarian for 10 years before getting pregnant. Every form of vegetarian protein made me instantly vomit for the length of my pregnancy. I made the decision that the health/growth of my boys was more important than my reasons for being vegetarian and started eating meat. You CAN have a vegetarian twin pregnancy but I would recommend reading nutrition labels to get accurate protein counts. The book “Your Vegetarian Pregnancy” was helpful to me too until my m/s got so bad. The only special thing you would need to watch is your iron level. You should talk to your doctor about that.

CarrieinAK – Stats: Gained 65-70lbs, delivered at 36 weeks, baby weights were 4lb11oz and 5lb6oz

I am not sure of the nutritional guidelines in the Dr. Luke book (I didn’t read it). I just tried to aim for about 3,500 calories a day (more than likely I ate around 4,000 calories), with around 75-100 g of protein…and a helluva lot of agua. I ate a lot of homemade egg salad, bean burritos and cottage cheese. I was a vegetarian for 28 1/2 years (raised that way), until I got pregnant and started eating chicken a couple of times a month. My body craved it. I did avoid soft cheeses, etc…all the usual guidelines. And I’d never had fish before, so sushi wasn’t an issue. Kids were born at 36 weeks (exactly) and they weighed 4 lbs, 11 oz. and 5 lbs, 6 oz. Reid had been diagnosed with IUGR, but once they were “out”, their weights were way different than the ultrasound said they were.

Krissy – Stats: Gained 49lbs, delivered at 39 weeks, baby weights were 7lb12oz and 6lb12oz.

I have to say that I didn’t count calories at all, but I did try to follow the basic March of Dimes guideline (24lbs by 24 weeks gestation.) I had major adversions to most healthy foods…could barely choke down a salad, which I typically adore. I tried to eat nutritious foods, but I definitely ate more high calorie crap than I ever had in my life. I avoided the usual stuff (soft cheese, fish, etc.) and avoided most artificial sweetners.

Cynthia – Stats: Gained 40-45lbs, delivered at 34w5d, baby weights were 5lb11oz and 5lb2oz.

I read the book cover to cover and then put it away. I applied some of the general concepts to my eating/shopping/cooking routines but I did not take the book out and try to follow verbatim. I avoided the soft cheeses, sushi and (obviously) alcohol and caffeine. Although I did have the occasional glass of red wine or cup of half-caf coffee to hold off a migraine. My concern was protein (see below) but I also just tried to eat veggies at every turn. Thankfully I enjoy them so it wasn’t too hard. I was not a vegetarian by choice. However, with pregnancy I tend to develop a severe aversion to meat (gag reflex and all). Particularly chicken, but pork and beef as well. I was religious about drinking high-protein Boost shakes (chocolate, of course) 3 times per day. My twins were misdiagnosed mono-mono until 23 weeks. I had read on the monoamniotic.org website about mommies drinking Boost or Ensure so I just started. Once I found out they were mono-di, I was still worried about TTTS and knew that Dr Delia (sp?) recommended protein shakes for those diagnosed. I figured if it helped once diagnosed, perhaps it would help to do proactively. At the end I felt so big that I was struggling to get in enough of anything (good or bad) during the day and I felt like the Boost helped me with the calories in that regard. I did put them in the blender with fudge swirl ice-cream somewhere around 30 weeks. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, right? :-)

Rebecca – Stats: gained 38lbs, delivered at 36w2d, baby weights were 6lb6oz and 5lb15oz.

So, no, really didn’t follow the Barbara Luke book. My weight gain got quicker towards the end. I had at least 2 weeks where I gained 4 lbs a week, which I think is what the Luke book doesn’t want you to do. Don’t they think you should do the weight gain pre-20 weeks? No NICU time. Roomed in and came home with us. Oh, I also had a really easy pregnancy—no blood pressure issues or sciatica or diabetes or anything. Or preterm labor–just my water breaking. I avoided unpasturized stuff, alcohol, all but one serving of caffeine a day, sushi, undercooked meats, cold cuts. Hmm, can’t remember if there was anything else. I tried to eat more protein than usual. I’m not a real big meat eater, so I tried to get chicken on salads, eat more cereal (for milk), yogurt, even some of the South beach diet bars, which have extra protein. I was also focused on avoiding empty calories, so I cut out crackers and cookies and stuff, for the most part, after the first trimester (first trimester, goldfish crackers were my friend).

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Ask The Moms, part 1 – Travel

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Categories Ask the Moms, Travel5 Comments

Thanks to Jessa for our first “Ask the Moms” question! You and I must have been psychically connected, because this was going to be my topic if no one asked anything.

Yes, today’s topic is air travel with twins. Not for the faint of heart. If you thought it took some organization to bring your multiples out to the park, just imagine what it takes to prepare for several hours on a plane. Here, for your enjoyment, are tips from all over.

Trip Planning

Whenever possible, buy as many seats as you can reasonably afford. Those airplane seats seem to be getting smaller and smaller, so you’ll be glad for the extra space. If extra seats are not in the cards, however (and with flight prices the way they are, that’s no surprise), be aware that there can be only one lap infant per set of three seats due to oxygen mask limitations. So you and your husband/travelmate will have to at least be across the aisle from one another, or in different rows.

If there is a secondary airport near where you live (I’m thinking Manchester, NH instead of Boston, or the like), I have found it very worth it to have the minor tradeoff in convenience and density of Starbucks, to have the smaller airport with friendlier TSA folks, smaller crowds, and generally happier fellow travelers.

Consider the time of day you’ll be flying. While some people swear by flying at bedtime because the kids will sleep, I have sadly found the opposite to be true for my kids. I don’t have easy sleepers, and they are very accustomed to their bedtime routine. When we flew at bedtime once, it was a screaming disaster. Know your kids…

Pack efficiently, and buy it when you get there

Depending on where you’re going, consider what you might be able to purchase when you get there. Especially if you’re visiting family, consider purchasing a few things and leaving them there. We now have a stash of bottles with both sets of grandparents, and two handy umbrella strollers in Florida. Also check out the local craigslist or try to find the moms of multiples club in the area. Especially if you have helpful parents or in-laws, they might be able to pick up a few gently used things for you before you arrive. Also, only pack enough diapers, wipes, baby food, formula, and the like to last the flight. Obviously pack somewhat generously in case of delays, but don’t bring a week’s worth of double diapers in your suitcase. There will be a grocery store or Target when you get there. Remember that, not only do you have to carry all of that luggage around while wrangling two babies/toddlers, but some of the airlines are even going to start charging for more than one bag per passenger. The nickel & diming never ends.

Travel Day

Get to the airport early. You do not want to be rushed trying to check in and get through security, because Murphy’s law dictates that it will be then that your babies have blowout diapers, or your toddlers have blowout temper tantrums. Give yourself plenty of cushion and everyone can be more relaxed.

Pack your carry-on judiciously. While you want to be well-equipped, you also don’t want to have to dig around and completely unpack everything in the middle of the airport just to find that spare pacifier. (Speaking of which, Lissa recommends a good stash of extra pacifiers if your kids take them. You never know whether the local store will carry the “right” ones.) Consider compartments, packing things in plastic bags for easy organization and retrieval. Obviously plenty of diapers and wipes, as well as extra clothes for everyone (nothing like arriving at your destination covered in spitup…). For older babies and toddlers, plenty of non-sugary snacks.

When checking in and checking your baggage, remember that even if you are not going to have the carseats on the plane with you in extra seats, you can keep them all the way until you board, and then gate-check them. Well worth it to have the seats/strollers with you all the way through security and to the gate. Reader AKLizzy also suggests that using the phrase “non-ticketed infants” is special airport code for “dear god, get these people a whole row to themselves if you can.” Hey, can’t hurt!

Security
Speaking of security, this one involves careful maneuvering. In addition to the usual shoes, jackets, and laptop rules that you have to deal with, you will most definitely need to have both children out of their stroller and/or carseat. When traveling with infants in carseat carriers, this is indeed a feat. Here’s how we did it: keep babies in carseats in the double stroller all the way up to the security table. Get shoes, jackets, etc. into the bins (good lord, avoid bringing your laptop if you can!). Assign one parent to be the carrier of babies. Undo both babies, parent 1 can go through security with both of them. That leaves parent 2 with free hands to turn over the carseats (they go through upside down, make sure you take hanging toys off and put them in your carry-on first), collapse the stroller, and push all of your stuff through the screener. Hopefully you’ll have helpful TSA folk and patient fellow passengers. If not, well, try not to scream at anyone.

If you have kids in convertible carseats, LauraC heartily recommends the GoGo Kidz, which essentially turns those seats into a rolling suitcase. Much less bulk than a stroller!

To Pre-board or not to pre-board

Depending on the age and energy level of your kids, you may or may not want to consider pre-boarding (yes, you now qualify as someone who needs extra time getting down the jetway!). If you have infants in carseat carriers, or if you’re bringing your carseats into the plane with you, consider pre-boarding so that there is less of a risk of hitting other passengers in the head with all of your stuff. If you have mobile toddlers, and especially if you are keeping them on your lap, LauraC advocates waiting until much later to board, letting the kids run around (controlled, please, don’t let them pester other travelers) and burn off energy before the confinement of the flight.

On the plane

First, we all remember back in our pre-parent days when we were traveling. A parent came on the plane with a child, and we crossed our fingers that they wouldn’t sit next to us, and hoped against hope that they wouldn’t scream the whole flight. Be considerate of your fellow travelers. Make extra efforts to keep your kids happy and entertained. Some people have even been known to bring a bunch of inexpensive earplugs and pass them out to seatmates. It’s a thought.

For sensitive ears on takeoff and landing, it helps to suck on something. Nursing (please be discreet and considerate of fellow passengers – yes, you absolutely have the right to nurse in public, but I would argue that this is a good time to put effort into garnering goodwill with nearby strangers), bottles, pacifiers, even a lollipop will help with the changing pressure and avoid some of the worst screams.

For all but the youngest babies, new (small) toys can be something interesting and keep their attention for a few extra minutes. LauraC also suggests asking the flight attendants for extra cups, stirrers, etc. if they get bored (much in the same way that boxes are almost always more fun than what’s in them). This also may be a time when parents of toddlers might consider an exception to a no-TV rule: consider a portable DVD player, or find the kiddie channel on planes with televisions in the seat. Also some of their favorite books will come in handy. Reader AKLizzy suggests playdoh and finger puppets!

We have heard some people suggest a little dose of Benadryl to help kids sleep during the flight. If you’re considering it, please discuss it with your pediatrician. If you decide to use it, try it first at home, as some children actually become more hyper instead of drowsy. We aren’t advocating it, but we’ve heard of it being done. Desperate times and all…

Traveling diaper changes

Be aware that not all planes have changing tables in the lavatories, and even the ones that do can be next to impossible. For short-to-moderate length flights, consider a fresh diaper before boarding, and then tough it out until you get to your destination (unless you have diaper rash concerns or a poop incident, of course). The plane bathrooms are awfully hard to navigate, and people don’t take too kindly to you busting out the changing pad on your seat.

At your destination

Remember how it always felt like you waited forever for your bags at baggage claim? There’s a funny side effect to being the last one off the plane and stopping for diaper and outfit changes: twice I have gotten down to the baggage claim and found my flight was already long gone and they were moving the bags off to the side! From now on, I take the kids into the ladies’ bathroom (where there’s more likely to be a changing table, anyways) and do diaper and clothing changes while my husband heads down to the baggage area. After all, since I gate-checked my stroller, it was right there waiting for me!

Hotels

Some hotels offer a babyproofing service. Not sure if it’s worth the expense, since how much time will you be spending in the room, anyways? LauraC found a great (and cheap) method on Parent Hacks. Also, while some say they offer portable cribs, a lot of times they just mean a Pack & Play.

One more thing…

More than anything, and this is obviously the case with all stressful parenting situations, keep your patience and sense of humor about you. If you’re stressed out and snippy, you probably won’t have happy kids on your hands. Practice and model good behavior ahead of time, prepare older kids for what to expect. Stick to routines and rules whenever possible, and listen to your kids’ cues and respect their need for rest (even if they claim they aren’t tired). If you stay positive and consistent, your kids are more likely to be relaxed in a new and overwhelming situation. And remember what my mom told me: “once you have kids, they aren’t vacations anymore – they’re trips.”

From the archives, travel stories from the moms of How Do You Do It?

LauraC had a successful trip with her boys to Florida, and a more harrowing one to exotic Fargo (though she did see a newly-twin-mom-minted Mia Hamm in the airport).

Yours truly has made two trips so far, once at 4.5 months to Chicago for Christmas (when I learned the “don’t fly at bedtime” lesson for my kids), and a month later to Florida for some grandparent time. God help us, we’re flying cross-country in two weeks for my brother’s wedding. I must be insane.

TraceyS had a busy trip to Washington, DC, and quite a Christmas saga this past year.

Major props to CarrieinAK, as there are no short trips to and from Alaska. She made it to and from Chicago in one piece, and then did it again at Thanksgiving to Washington and Oregon. Her boys are super travelers!

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How Do You Do It?

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Categories Ask the Moms, Infants14 Comments

As a mom of twins, I get asked the same questions over and over (and over) again whenever I’m in public with them. The list is long, and perhaps a post for another day. But easily one of the top three is some variation on “how do you do it?”

It’s sometimes asked with a twinge of admiration, sometimes concern, sometimes all-out disbelief. I usually just shrug, mumble something vague and incoherent, and try to continue whatever errand I’m attempting to run before one or both children totally lose it.

Truth be told, the answer the person is looking for isn’t really there. In the end, the answer is an unsatisfactory, “I just do.” Moms of multiples are not superheroes. I don’t believe we were somehow marked for our superhuman abilities by a mysterious force, deeming us “the ones” who would have high-risk pregnancies, twice the colic and spitup, or extra-large cars. No, we do exactly what you would do if you found out you were having more than one baby. We do exactly what all new parents do. We figure it out.

This website is a way for some of us to share what we’ve figured out (or what we haven’t). We invite you to read along, make comments (we love to know someone’s reading!), ask questions. We’ll have weekly features, including product reviews, food talk, and an ask-the-moms segment. Please feel free to visit our features page and use the comments to ask your questions, and we’ll address any topics we can. Our goal is to have something new for you to read nearly every day, so check back often and bring your friends!

For today’s tidbit, I give to you what I think the most important things are for survival as a parent of multiples. Also known as, “that which I think I have sort of figured out in the last six months.”

Organization – if you don’t get organized, you’ll never get anywhere. Instead, you’ll always have babies screaming while you prepare bottles, or you’ll get to your destination and realize you have two poop explosions, one diaper, and no wipes. Life with babies and children has plenty of uncontrollable chaos. Eliminate as much as you can by planning ahead. With one child, you can sometimes get away with fudging it a bit. Not with two.

Go with the flow – While you have to be extremely organized, I also find that having two infants has actually made me strangely more relaxed. I just can’t afford to freak out about every little thing. Compared to other first-time parents, I find twin moms to be somehow among the most laid-back. It’s a survival mechanism.

Community – Given the stares and questions you get when you go out in public, it’s easy to feel like a little bit of an anomaly with your double stroller. Other, more experienced moms are reluctant to offer any advice because, “oh, but I didn’t have twins.” Joining my local moms of multiples club, and finding this virtual online community as well, helps bring a sense of normalcy to my life. I can ask people questions and they don’t have to “get over the twin thing.” Because sometimes, having twins is very different than having one. And sometimes, it’s not that different, it’s just… more. Having a community of other moms who have been through it already is absolutely invaluable.

That’s today’s words of wisdom from yours truly. Welcome to our new blog, poke around, make yourself at home.

Just don’t ask anyone if their boy/girl twins are identical. We hate that.

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