Foodie Friday: A Healthy Alternative to Thin Mints

I’ve been rather obsessed with making different types of energy bites or energy balls lately for middle-of-the-night nursing snacks.  As much as I like them though, I will be THRILLED when we don’t need nighttime nursing snacks anymore!!! (Please tell me that some day our triplets will sleep through the night!!)  I started making these little balls of goodness a couple months ago after seeing a recipe on Pinterest but have since done a lot of experimenting with various flavor and ingredient combinations.  In general, I am a “just wing it” type of cook who likes to look at recipes for inspiration but then just throws things together.  Measuring is not really something I do, which is why baking isn’t really my strong suit.  The great thing about these little energy balls is that they are “no bake” gems that are very forgiving to imprecise measuring.  I’ve only made one “I bet this would be good in here” batch that flopped and the rest have been pretty tasty. These little energy balls are pretty quick and easy to throw together, which we MoMs know is clutch because “free time” tends to come in short bursts!  I’ve made many a batch of these wearing a baby or two.

Because you now know how much I despise measuring, I hope you will appreciate the effort it took me to actually measure and write down this recipe for you!  I would catch myself about to just toss something in and then remember that I needed to measure it so I could pull this recipe together.  But for those of you out there who are creative cooks like myself, please feel free to add “ish” after all these measurements! I’ve also added notes about substitutions that would work nicely if you don’t have these things on hand.

The raw ingredients!

The raw ingredients!

We love having these for nighttime nursing and since they’re chock full of oats I think they’re good for our milk supply.  They also have a little protein to help them stick with you.  And the best part is that they are delicious!  I’ll grab one from the fridge and it feels like sneaking a bite of cookie dough without the guilt!

The finished product!  They look a lot like meatballs, but trust me, they're delicious!

The finished product! They look a lot like meatballs, but trust me, they’re delicious!

Chocolate Peppermint Energy Balls

  • 1 cup cashew meal (I find this at Trader Joes.  Almond meal also works great)
  • 2 cups oats (I use gluten free oats from Trader Joes, but any will do)
  • 1 cup oatbran (if you don’t have this you could sub oats or more nut meal)
  • 1/2  cup cacao powder (standard cocoa powder works fine too)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced dates (not tightly packed)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (can subagave or honey)
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 2 Tbs chia seeds
  • 1/3ish cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I like to use mini chips but was out when I made this batch)

Instructions: Mix all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  Put chia seeds in a measuring cup and then add water up to about the 1/2 cup line and let rest for a few minutes.  When you come back to your chia seeds they should have absorbed the water and be pretty thick and gel-like.  Add maple syrup and peppermint extract to the chia and water mixture and stir that and the dates into the dry ingredients.  It can take a bit of work to fully distribute the dates and wet ingredients.  The “dough” will be pretty dry and crumbly looking.  Mix in chocolate chips.  This is where it gets messy.  Now grab a small handful of “dough” and smush it together.  Some recipes say to “roll” the bals, but in my experience it’s really more of a smushing than rolling to get them to stick together.  This recipe will make approximately two dozen balls about an inch in diameter.  Usually about halfway through making the balls my hands are so sticky that the balls aren’t smushing well.  So I just wash my hands and come back for another round of smushing.  For those of you with older kiddos this would be a great job for your kiddos to help with!

Other flavors I’ve made include chocolate peanut butter, almond joy, chocolate almond, and honey peanut butter banana.  I’ll try to find the time to measure out the ingredients for these recipes and post them on our blog therrientriplethreat.blogspot.com.

 

Guest Post: 7 Tips to Nursing Twins Together

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

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

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

  1. Establish Your Milk Supply

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

  2. Help Each Baby Individually, First

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  6. Request to Meet with an IBCLC

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

  7. Determination is Your Key to Success

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

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

Twin Manibreasto: A Success Story of Milk and Multiples – A Book Review

I was given a copy of Twin Manibreasto by the author, Mercedes Donis, for purposes of this book review, but opinions are all mine!

I have twin daughters, and they were my first babies. Being a first time mom of twins, I had to learn a lot of things diving in head first. One of these things was breastfeeding. And having to learn not only how to breastfeed one child, but two, simultaneously, was not a natural process. That’s why I am so grateful HDYDI’s very own Mercedes of Project Procrastinot wrote Twin Manibreasto – A Success Story of Milk and Multiples.Twin Manibreasto - A Success Story of Milk and Multiples

Twin Manibreasto is the book that needed to be written. It’s a short little ebook, but it’s full of practical, straight-forward talk, from a twin mom who knows about the unique breastfeeding struggles twin mothers face (unlike many breastfeeding books). Her twins are 15 months now and still breastfeeding! Twin Manibreasto - You can't get too prepared!

In Twin Manibreasto you will find helps on supplies, positions, pumping, nursing garments, dietary helps, and more. Plus, at the end of the book there is a great list of further resources and articles to read up on, including some recipes. The big thing Mercedes Donis wants you to take away from her book, is that you can do it! If you really want to breastfeed your twins, this book will help!

If you are expecting twins, I suggest picking up a copy of Twin Manibreasto!

If you had twins, did you breastfeed them? What obstacles did you face? Did you find there to be a lack of support, of resources?

How do you do it? Parenting Link Up #11

Skip to this week’s links | Skip to featured posts | Skip to linkup rules

Welcome! How Do You Do It? is a community of mothers of multiples. We believe in supporting each other, in sharing our experiences and questions, in friendship, and in encouragement. To help nourish our community, we host a weekly parenting link party, a link up open to all of our readers, whether you have multiples or not, where you can share your wisdom, your favorite posts, your insights, with our online community here at HDYDI.

We want to know: How do YOU do it?

How do you tackle tantrums, resistance, and discipline? What’s your potty training secret, your housekeeping kryptonite, or your trick for a good night’s sleep? How do you handle colic or cold, flu and RSV season? How do you keep your kids entertained during the long, cold, winter days? How do you handle being a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, or a single parent? How do you find time for your partner?

HOW DO YOU DO IT?

If you are a blogger and a parent, caregiver, or parent-to-be (no multiples required), we want YOU to link up! When it comes to parenting: How do you do it? Let us all know!

Link parties are a great way to connect with other bloggers, to share your wonderful content and posts, and to be inspired! Each week, we pick some of our favorite posts and feature them the following week on our site! Plus, we pin them on Pinterest, tweet them on Twitter, and share them on Google+ and Facebook! Get some more exposure for your great content, and don’t forget to check out the featured posts from last week’s link up!

Also, starting this week, ldskatelyn of What’s up Fagans? is going to co-host the link party on her blog as well. She’s been managing the link party here, and we’ve decided to spread the party over two blogs so that even more great parenting advice can be shared with both of our readers.


This week’s featured posts:

We had some great posts this last week! Here are three of our favorites, but know that I read each of them and enjoyed everyone’s posts. Don’t forget to click around and explore some great new blogs!

Our newest contributor Mari of The Triple(t) Threat shares what a day in the life of baby triplets really looks like… and it’s exhausting.

Mercedes of Project Procrastinot shares Secret to Getting More Done, although advises that we use it sparingly.

Red-Bell-Pepper-Valentine-TreatValentine’s Day is next week and Laughing and Losing It is boycotting sugar and presents a fun way of celebrating the Holiday with a heart-healthy treat. Sleeping Twins after nursingChristina of My Twin Ladybugs shares her trials and triumphs of breastfeeding her twins for 11 months. She had a rough go of it, but presents some encouraging advice, telling others they can do it! *Also, Mercedes has written a book about how to breastfeed twins! Make sure to check out both posts if you need some encouragement and inspiration.

If you were featured above make sure to grab our featured button and sport it on your blog! How Do You Do It? Featured Post


Parenting Link Up Party

Rules for the How Do You Do It? Parenting Link Up Party:

  1. Follow and connect with HDYDI on the social media platforms that you use. Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Google+ | Blog Lovin
  2. Follow and connect with What’s up Fagans? on the social media platforms you use: Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Google+ | Blog Lovin’
  3. Link up to 3 great parenting posts below! Please, no recipes posts! Of course, link directly to a post, not your main page. Also, under “name” put the title of your post.
  4. Check out at least 3 other links! This is a party, so mingle!
  5. Leave an awesome comment for those you visit and tell them you found them at the HDYDI link party! And pin them/share the posts that you really like.
  6. Tweet: Add YOUR #parenting #advice to @hdydi's #linkup! Tell everyone #howdoyoudoit! http://ctt.ec/LRfWz+ #motherhood #momwisdomTweet about the link party, pin our link party badge, share it on Facebook, or otherwise promote this party! The more the party grows, the more exposure your posts will receive, the more fun you’ll have, and the more encouragement and ideas we’ll all receive!
  7. HDYDI Parenting Link Up PartyPut How Do You Do It?‘s Parenting Link Up badge on your site! Put it in your side bar, at the bottom of the post you shared, or on a party page!


Ask the Moms: How to Tandem Nurse

 has written about how to successfully tandem nurse before, but it’s been a few years. In this post, we share the current HDYDI Moms’ experience with tandem breastfeeding. We hope that this can give you some ideas and insight if you are embarking on the adventure of breastfeeding twins!

Skip to: Tandem Nursing Experiences | Pumping and Nursing Experiences | What Helped | What Hindered | Equipment | Support Personnel | Positions | Tandem Nursing in Public | Prematurity | Twin Nursing Ebook

nurseCanva

What is your experience with tandem nursing? How long did you nurse, and why did you stop?

Janna: I successfully tandem nursed my twin boys starting at 3 weeks old. The lactation consultant told me that we were not ready for tandem nursing. Lucky for us, my mom was at the appointment with me and she thought the advice was crazy. My help was going home when the babies were four weeks old, so she defied the woman’s authority and suggested we just try tandem nursing as soon as I got home from that appointment. It was completely successful and with our set up, actually easier than nursing one at a time. From that point on, I nursed the boys at the same time every time.

RebeccaD: I tandem nursed in the hospital (healthy 38 weekers) but hit a glitch when I was re-hospitalized later in the week with a uterine lining infection. One baby stopped latching altogether. I spent a day in bed with him re-learning how to breastfeed. We were back to tandem feeding by about 10 days old. No lactation consultant was as valuable as my mom and mother-in-law constantly cheering me on, telling me I could do it, and supporting me as I figured out how. Their faith in me helped me trust my own instincts. I tandem-fed for most feedings until the boys were 9 months old; by then they were so efficient and so big and wiggly that back-to-back feedings were easier.

Mercedes: As a pregnant twin-mama-to-be, I envisioned myself breastfeeding with the support of a styrofoam-filled “Breast Friend” as I cradled the heads of my peaceful babes while they suckled and intermittently sought out each others hands. It didn’t work out that way. Uncomfortable and pretty much hating life, I soon decided that individually nursing my twins was much more reasonable, although it did take up all of my time. It was my number one (and two) priority, so I made it work. As the twins got older, tandem feeds actually became easier since they required less effort and orchestration on my part. Now that my nurslings are 15 months, it’s pretty much the only way we do it (unless it’s a nighttime feed), because the nursing jealousy is pretty rampant.

Sadia: I tried for 5 months, but was never able to use tandem feeding as my primary mode of breastfeeding. I really wanted to make it work, because I found myself breastfeeding 12+ hours a day while on maternity leave. I needed another adult (my husband) present to hold the first baby while I latched the second on and held her. With both my babies coming home at under 5 lbs and a month before their due date, they didn’t have the neck control to nurse without one adult hand supporting their body and another their head. No number of pillows seemed to raise them up high enough to not need manual support from a parent. When my husband deployed to Iraq, the babies were 5 months kid and there went my extra hands. Also, J went on nursing strike shortly after Daddy deployed, so I had to switch her to expressed breast milk (EBM) from a bottle. I didn’t even try tandem nursing for nighttime feeds; I didn’t trust myself not to doze off, especially since I was working full-time.

Dory: Whenever I have a second set of adult hands (my husband, my mom, or my mother-in-law), I like to tandem nurse. It is so much easier to get them both done at once (no leaking of the other breast or a crying, hungry, waiting baby) and faster (sometimes as quick as 30 minutes, as opposed to at least 1 hour if one-on-one feeding). Because my babies are 2 months old, I can’t speak to stopping tandem nursing, but I imagine that once they get really wiggly (and big), I won’t be able to keep it up anymore.

RachelG: I tandem-nursed until around 8 or 9 months, when my supply wasn’t really enough to satisfy either twin for long. I dealt with supply issues from the very beginning, despite help from lactation consultants, so we tandem-nursed, then supplemented with bottles of formula.

ldskatelyn: I tried tandem nursing in the beginning. I found it was a great thing to do during those nighttime feedings so that I could get back to sleep sooner (aka, get sleep), but I always needed help getting them set up to nurse, which meant waking up my husband. After realizing that my husband was a blessedly sound sleeper and didn’t handle lack of sleep as gracefully as I did (and who also had to work a full time job), I decided I would stick with feeding them one at a time so that I could do let at least one of us get sleep. I also came to love that one-on-one time with each of my girls, where I could just focus on one of them, even if it meant listening to the other cry for 10 minutes.

Tandem nursing dog pile.

Tandem nursing dog pile, featuring Mercedes and her duo.

What were your experiences with pumping and nursing?

Sadia: I tandem nursed one baby on one breast while pumping on the other pretty consistently. This worked great for me because tucking the flange into my bra left me two hands for the nursing baby and pumping gave me EBM for daycare feelings. I returned to work when the babies were 11 weeks old (4 weeks adjusted) and my output fell precipitously. Once J went on nursing strike, “tandem” nursing with the pump and M was my primary means of getting J her breast milk. I could pump so much more with a baby plus the pump than with the pump alone. I tried many, many pumps, and the Medela Pump-in-Style (with extra-wide flanges) was the best fit for me, but babies just fit me better.

Janna: After our morning tandem feed, I would put the boys in bouncy chairs and tell them stories while I used the double breast pump for about ten minutes. I occasionally pumped again after another feeding session if the boys were otherwise occupied and we knew we needed milk for an outing coming up, but mostly I just fed them at the same time in the brown recliner chair every two hours when they were hungry.

RebeccaD: I pumped when I was in the hospital without my boys (when they were 5-8 days old), and when I felt overly full for about the first month. I demand-fed, so there was no predictable schedule, which made direct breastfeeding much easier. What if I had just pumped and then they wanted to eat? It made more sense for me to cut out the middle man. I worried constantly about not having a big freezer stash, and having to be the one to do every single feeding was very taxing. But ultimately, direct feeding worked best for me and my little ones.

Mercedes: I used the pump only very occasionally in the first several months. Sometimes what I would do is start with the pump on both breasts and then get the babies latched on.

Dory: When I was in the hospital with Audrey and David, I needed to get my milk flowing, so I would pump for 5 minutes before nursing. I would then nurse them until they were finished. Then I would try to pump some more and give it to them in a syringe. Once we got home (4 days old), I would continue this pattern, but I wouldn’t let them nurse any longer than 20 minutes. If they nursed any longer, they would use more energy than they would get in calories. I would then supplement afterwards with whatever I had pumped beforehand. Once they passed their birth weight (after their 2 week checkup), I stopped pumping and supplementing. Now, I simply pump whenever I feel like they haven’t emptied me out completely. I have to say that, at 2 months old, they do a pretty good job, and we have our nursing sessions down to 10 minutes latched on! I really only pump every other day in order to build up a supply for when I go away during feedings.

RachelG: I never pumped while nursing. Both babies always ate at the same time, and for much of my nursing life, my pump was set up in a different room from the one I usually nursed in.

ldskatelyn: I never even thought about pumping on one breast while nursing on the other, mostly because my children were always fed back to back. I usually only pumped at night, right before I went to bed, since they were sleeping through the night (12 hours) and I would be engorged and sore by the morning if I didn’t. It also gave me breast milk to supplement their feedings with if they needed it, or to mix with their baby cereal.

What helped the most with tandem success?

Sadia: My husband’s support was key. Knowing that other MoMs, including a triplet mom in the family and a twin mom from my MoM club had done it before me was very inspiring. My husband had observed his triplet cousins breastfeeding when he was a pre-teen and had a surprising amount of breastfeeding experience to offer. I’m so glad that I researched a ton about breastfeeding multiples before giving birth. I was shocked to discover how many people around me just assumed that it couldn’t be done, particularly since I had a career outside the home. Fortunately, my boss was also a breastfeeding mother; her support made it easy to adjust my work environment to allow for pumping time and space.

twnnurs4Janna: My recliner/boppy set up next to an end table made nursing both boys at the same time so easy. I would sit down in the recliner and position the boppy around my stomach with the ends of the boppy situated up on the recliner arms. Then I would lean down and pick up the babies off the floor and put them in the “football hold” laying on the boppy pillow. Once I got them latched, I was hands free and could pick up the food, water, book, remote control, etc… on the end table next to me. I also had my laptop set up on the other side of me, so I could read blogs and email while nursing. My boys ate every two hours for at least thirty minutes, so being hands free and having other things to do really made it easier for me.

RebeccaD: The biggest factors in my success was the support of experienced nursing women in my life — other MoMs, my mother, and mother-in-law – and my husband. The women helped me to develop my nursing relationship with each of my boys, as well as persevere in tandem feeding. My mom stayed with us for 2 weeks after the boys were born, and my mother-in-law for 5 weeks. They would get up at night to help me get everyone in place for feedings. Then they would tell me stories about nursing their babies. It was so lovely. I felt like I was being admitted into a special, ancient circle of wisdom. My MoMs group had several nursing women, and we shared many emails in the wee hours! My husband showed his support by making nursing a priority, by bringing me food and water, and by showing me so much love as I figured it all out.

Mercedes: Time and confidence. Tandem feeds were not for us in the beginning. Over time they just started happening naturally.

Tandem nursing older twins

Tandem nursing older twins.

Dory: For me, I couldn’t have done it without my husband, mom, and mother-in-law. They are my biggest supporters and helpers during nursing. While I get into position in my chair with my pillows and burp cloths, they get the babies ready (taking off sleep sacks or waking them up enough to latch on). Then, while one baby is finishing up, they take the first-to-finish baby off of me to change and re-dress him/her. In addition, I had a very emotional time during the first few weeks in regards to nursing. I wanted to give up every single time I sat in that chair, but they were my cheerleaders (my husband especially), encouraging me to work through it. I’m so glad I did, too! Now, I love my nursing time!

RachelG: I had a fantastic postpartum nurse in the hospital who helped me figure out how to tandem nurse. She showed me how to position the babies on pillows, support their heads properly, and help them relatch when they took a break. I don’t think I could have figured out how to do it on my own without her help early on.

What were the biggest obstacles to tandem nursing?

Sadia: We faced a lot of challenges. For starters, my 33-week preemies spent 16 and 21 days in the NICU. I wasn’t allowed to try to breastfeed J even once the whole time my girls were hospitalized, so I had no opportunity to try it out until after J was home. I had a full time job to which I returned at 11 weeks postpartum, so I couldn’t breastfeed during the day on weekdays. The exhaustion of single parenting twins with a full-time job took its toll on my supply too. I had a very poor supply with the pump, despite taking fenugreek, pumping on a schedule, and having been able to produce enough milk for exclusive breastfeeding during maternity leave. Add to that my husband’s deployment to Iraq and J’s nursing strike, tandem nursing just wasn’t in the cards for us. My huge nipples didn’t help at all. I used standard size pump flanges the first few weeks, and they ripped my breasts to shreds.

Janna: If I hadn’t tandem nursed, I wouldn’t have been able to continue nursing my boys after my help left at four weeks. The nurses and lactation consultant in the hospital and a different lactation consultant we saw at an appointment at three weeks old ALL told us that I couldn’t even attempt tandem nursing until the boys were older, had an expert latch and I was an expert at single nursing. I am so grateful that I didn’t listen to this advice. Everyone should try tandem nursing whenever they want. If it doesn’t work, fine, then go back to single nursing, but if it does work (like it did for me) you can start tandem nursing right away and not have to figure out what to do with that second baby while you’re nursing the first!

RebeccaD: My own physical health was a big obstacle to tandem nursing. The stress of a long (38 week) twin pregnancy, followed by an emergency c-section, subsequent uterine lining infection, and abscess on my tailbone, made it difficult for me to sit up, let alone try to support tiny heads, etc. I did nurse individually side-lying for a while, but I wasn’t able to sleep that way. Tandem nursing turned out to be the best way for me to get rest and feel connected to my babies. Another obstacle was nursing agitation – an intensely uncomfortable feeling that can happen during tandem nursing. I got through it, mainly by distracting myself, and it greatly diminished over time.

Carolyn: I did tandem for a little while once we were home from the NICU. It never felt comfortable, no matter how I set myself up. It was a “me thing” and not an issue with either baby, my nursing pillows, or where I did it. It just wasn’t for me. I had a very easy time nursing, which is maybe why I chose to breastfeed my boys individually, to get it done as fast as possible and move on to the next thing or get back to sleep. (We were feeding every three hours in the early days). I did sacrifice more sleep than I would have liked to, but I got the job done and nursed for about 9ish months. We had EPM bottled, supplemented with higher calorie formula and nursed for the first several weeks in NICU until the babies were stabilized. Tandem feeding was not a negative experience for me, just not my preference.

recliningMercedes: Setting up my “station” and getting into position on my own, at the beginning was very challenging. The only position I found comfortable was a sort of double cradle while reclining position, and this was not sustainable for very long since my hands were not free to do anything else (like scratch a nose, answer the phone, etc.) Now the challenge is that they are so big they can physically overwhelm me at times! The easiest thing to do is just to lie down and let them have at it.

Dory: Early on in nursing (Weeks 1-4 or 5) I really hated feeling “stuck” in that chair. Once I got in, I couldn’t get up without someone getting the babies off of me (especially when I was recovering from giving birth). I wanted to give up every single time I had to sit down to nurse. I didn’t like being a prisoner of the chair and pumping. I felt like I just wasn’t making enough milk (even though in reality I was making more than enough). I felt like I couldn’t do it (emotionally or physically). I was just in a funk. Then, magically around 6 weeks, when my babies were at their fussiest, it was like a light turned on. I was what they wanted and how they stopped crying. Me! Yes, I was feeding much more often than my normal because of their neediness, but I could soothe my babies, and I loved that feeling. No one else could help them like I could. Everyone else could change diapers, hold, and cuddle, but only I could feed them with the nourishment they needed. It took them being at their fussiest for me to love tandem feeding! Now that they are starting to eat fewer times a day, I really truly enjoy our nursing sessions.

RachelG: I found it hard to figure out how to get both babies onto and off of my lap without help. Once I sat down in my chair and got everyone positioned there, we were stuck for hours until I found a way to dis-entangle the babies and get up again.

What equipment was helpful?

Sadia: My breast pump was my saving grace, an alternative to tandem nursing that kept me from going completely insane. I loved my chair with arms. Since my babies were so tiny, a narrow chair actually worked very well for us. Pillows helped relieve the fatigue on my arms, breastfeeding each baby, as I did, for 45 minutes each every 3 hours. I loved my magazine subscriptions. I read those issues of Time, Newsweek and National Geographic from cover to cover.

Janna: A chair with arms and a boppy pillow to support the boys was absolutely helpful. I needed something to do while nursing, so I didn’t go crazy with boredom. A towel tacked over the high window in the living room to cover it so that the workmen fixing the wall outside couldn’t see me nursing.

RebeccaD: The nursing pillow. The Twin Brestfriend wasn’t perfect, but I couldn’t have tandem nursed without it. If I had it to do over again, I would invest in a big recliner to nest in with the nursing pillow. As it was, I had a pretty good set up – armchair, then loveseat, and finally floor. The armchair + nursing pillow held the boys up high when they were really little. I had to have someone hand them to me once I got settled in. When I moved to the loveseat, I could place one baby in the Boppy, put the pillow on over my head, pick up one baby, sit down, then pick up the other baby and latch both on. Once they could crawl, I sat cross-legged on the floor with the nursing pillow, pulled them both on, and when they were done, they just rolled off and crawled away! I would have gone INSANE without distractions – books, iPad, phone. And I always had a little table with water and snacks nearby.

RachelG: I have a big armchair in my living room that I called, “The Chair of Doom,” while I was in the thick of nursing infants. I rarely left it. It was big enough and had enough support that I could juggle everything I needed to there. I had lots of pillows that I used  behind my back, under my nursing pillow, on the sides, etc., just to make everything the right height. I had a small tray table next to me with a bottle of water, remote controls, snacks, etc. Once I was home alone with my kids, I set up a changing table on one side. My changing table came from Ikea, and my mom cut the legs down a little so it was the same height as my chair. I could use it as a staging area for getting kids put onto or taken off of my lap for nursing.

Dory: There are a few pieces of equipment that I couldn’t live without. First, when I am on the couch, in bed, or in a low-armed chair, I have to use my Twin Z nursing pillow. I discussed it during my pregnancy, and it is just as wonderful as I expected. If you have a higher-armed chair, however, it may not work out well. For our armchair in the  nursery (which has very high arms), I use a My Brest Friend (for singletons- the twin version is too large for this chair) with a Boppy Cuddle pillow on top of it. I then place two burp cloths under the babies’ heads, and they latch on using the football hold.

What role did lactation consultants play? Your spouse? Other MoMs? Friends? Family?

Sadia: The NICU nurses were extremely supportive of my pumping and providing expressed milk to the babies, but were strongly against my trying to latch the babies on because of their prematurity. Lactation consultants were useless. Their attitude of amazement that I was even trying made me feel that they’d already decided that I was destined to fail (at breastfeeding, period, forget tandem nursing). The one exception was a consultant at a local breastfeeding supplies store who suggested a nipple shield to counter J’s strike. It didn’t help, but at least she tried to provide advice instead of telling me to give up. Other MoMs and my husband were far more helpful, although their support was more emotional than informational since their experience was with full-term babies. The only preemie mom I knew never had her milk come in, so I was alone in the preemie nursing boat.

Janna: I concur. Lactation consultants were useless. The ones I had just didn’t have any experience with moms successfully nursing twins. Instead it was my mother, mother-in-law and husband who were incredibly supportive, helpful and encouraging. Also, I had two close friends who were currently successfully nursing their singletons. While their advice and support weren’t necessarily specific to twins, they were invaluable with basic nursing questions. For example, NO ONE (not the pediatrician, lactation consultant, no one) had told me about growth spurts so I was almost ready to give up when my boys started crying and acting starving and demanding to eat extra at 6 weeks old. I assumed I wasn’t making enough milk. My friends emailed me back right away and told me it was the (normal, common) 6 week growth spurt and to just keep nursing them all the time & expect to be exhausted, sore and frustrated for a few days and it would all go back to normal… and it did.

RebeccaD: What I needed: confidence, reassurance that I had the basics, and a twin-specific logistical strategy. What I got: two different programs for each baby. Being a twin mom is all about creating a bridge between your babies’ individual needs and your ability, as one person, to meet those needs. Breastfeeding was a serious crash course in this for me. So, my first lactation consultant was basically awful because she treated my babies like two singletons and made me feel horrible for being unable to be two mothers. Luckily I had other support and figured it out. Six months of exclusive breastfeeding later, I started having supply problems, and a different lactation consultant was a wonderful help. I credit her with my ability to continue nursing to 13 months for one and 15 months (and counting!) for the other. But I came into that consultation with a lot more knowledge and confidence. I could tell her, “That won’t work with twins, what else ya got?”

Dory: Our first pre-baby class was a breastfeeding class for couples. It was amazing! I thought it would be silly to take such a class, as I figured I would get all I could at the hospital. I was wrong! There is so much to learn and think about, and it was helpful to have that base understanding. After giving birth, I can’t stress how important it is to talk to the lactation consultants at the hospital, before you come home. We made sure that we got extra time with them to make sure we were getting all of the hints we could. I asked questions over and over, and they were more than happy to help us. They were so sweet and treated us like superstars (get used to it when you are parents of twins!). The were incredible! We also were able to follow up in our pediatrician’s office during the 1 and 2 week appointments. The woman we saw was a lactation specialist. Score for the nursing moms! She was the one that told us not to let them nurse any longer than 20 minutes early on (any longer and they would burn too many calories).

RachelG: As I mentioned earlier, I had a fantastic postpartum nurse who helped me figure out latch, positions, etc. I worked with lactation consultants, but they focused mostly on helping me increase my supply and improving my son’s latch. They weren’t hugely helpful, in that my supply never increased substantially and my son figured out the latch thing on his own eventually, but at least I had the peace of mind that I had tried everything.

ldskatelyn: The hospital lactation specialist was very good about encouraging me to try tandem feedings, and taught me the different positions. My husband and mother-in-law (who was a nurse) were helpful once we got home.

What positions worked or didn’t work for your family?

Tandem nursing positionsSadia: The football hold worked best. My girls hated to be crossed and I felt like I could support them better football style. Our typical setup was as follows:

  1. My husband sat in the chair.
  2. I picked up both babies, one in each arm, cradle hold.
  3. I sat in my husband’s lap.
  4. He held one baby, cradle style across my lap, while I latched on the other in a football hold.
  5. He held the nursing baby while I latched on the second.

Janna:  I had to use a boppy, in a recliner with arms. I put the boppy around me, with the ends of it rested up on the recliner arms. Then I lay the boys down on the boppy in the “football hold” and both my boys were up at the right level, leaving my hands free (for eating, reading books, emailing, etc…). It was ideal at home. I never did try any other position because this one worked so well for us.

bftwins4Rachel: We used the football hold pretty exclusively while tandem nursing.

RebeccaD: Football all the way. They hated crossing, and would kick each other. When they got older, I sometimes pinned their arms under mine or separated their heads with a rolled up blanket so they wouldn’t bother each other.

Dana: I remember getting extremely creative with the positions of the babies in order to tandem nurse. It was something I was actually quite proud of. I didn’t use the boppy too often, but rather lots and lots of pillows.  I encourage any new mom of twins to get real comfortable with having tons of pillows stashed conveniently around the house. (And don’t forget lots of burp cloths stashed in the couch cushions!) Also, don’t be afraid to stack those kids on top of each other! Here is one position I used often:

468051998_e29e4bb03bJenW: I sat in the middle of the couch with the eZ-2-nurse twin pillow, after starting with a boppy but finding it wasn’t enough. I put a baby on each side of me in a boppy so they wouldn’t roll. I maneuvered them both to the pillow first then got them to latch. By about 6 months they were more efficient so it was faster to do one then the other occasionally. Plus, by then they weren’t as interested in staying on the pillow.

ldskatelyn: When I was seriously, regularly, doing tandem feedings, I generally did two football holds, as it gave me the most control over their bodies, keeping them from rolling, allowing me to position their heads correctly. However, kind of just for fun, when I was no longer tandem feeding, but because they were both starving, my husband and I would put our twins into all sorts of different, not-found-in-books, positions. One these was me lying on my side, and feeding them one on top of the other! Another was me lying on my back, and letting them both suckle against gravity.

Dory: When tandem feeding, I only use the football hold. At the hospital, we tried layering them during one feeding, and I was uncomfortable, they looked uncomfortable, and I was on edge the whole time. Once I switched back to the football hold, I felt like I was able to breathe again. One night I was really sick and couldn’t get out of bed. My husband brought me the babies one at a time and I had them against my body and nursing them while we were both on the bed. I haven’t tried that with two babies though.

Did you tandem nurse in public? How?

RebeccaD: Unfortunately… yes. In order of embarrassment: DayOne, a breast-feeding friendly store where my MoMs group had meetings, in the car (with my pillow), on a public park bench (supported by diaper bags and covered by a blanket), on the lawn of a museum with my top almost totally off (they were starving, I was alone, it was a bad day). I usually nursed one right after the other when we were out.

ldskatelyn: I remember feeding both of them at the same time once while staying at my brother’s house. They were both super hungry, so I put my cover on, and fed them that way. It was not the most comfortable (I don’t think I had my Boppy pillow with me) as I was sure I was going to flash his children. Although, it was super funny when one of my nephews commented that his mom only feeds one baby from both sides.

Sadia: Nope. I never figured it out. I easily nursed one — I loved empire opening nursing tops for cradle hold breastfeeding – while bottle feeding the other by about 2 months. If I was walking with our stroller, I’d just push it with my hip while cradling a baby in one arm and holding a bottle for the other baby with the other hand.

Janna: No. When we went out the boppy didn’t really work without my recliner. It wasn’t high up enough, unless I could find a recliner chair with the right size arms. I never did find a convenient way to tandem nurse outside of my home, so I would either stay close to home and only do short outings, or if we had to be out during a feeding, take bottles with expressed breast milk and feed the boys bottles (usually my husband or another family member or friend would help with the feeding) and then I would pump with a homemade, extra large hooter hider giving me privacy.

Mercedes: Nah. I am all for breastfeeding in public and have done it everywhere from cafes to castles to the stands of a Formula 1 race. But it’s always been one baby at a time. Just easier and less conspicuous that way.

Dory: I don’t tandem in public because I don’t have big enough pillows with us. It is easier to feed one at a time and just hold them or prop my arm on a chair. I don’t have the “mom arms” yet to hold both at once and nurse for an extended period of time.

RachelG: No – I really needed my full setup to be able to tandem nurse successfully. In public, I’d either nurse one at a time or feed them a bottle.

Did prematurity play a role in your attempts to tandem feed?

Sadia: Yes, yes, yes. First, there was the matter of the NICU. My babies were tubefed for their first days, so the pump and I got good and intimate. I was only allowed to try breastfeeding once (M only) during my daughters’ hospital stay, so I couldn’t even try tandem nursing until the babes were 3 weeks old. Their sucks were so weak and their muscles so underdeveloped, each nursling needed my full attention during our nursing sessions. Their tiny stomachs and weak sucks meant that they were each at the breast for 45 minutes at a time. I didn’t exactly have a whole lot of wiggle room to try out new positions because I was terrified that they’d drop back below 4 lbs in weight and have to be rehospitalized. Even during maternity leave, our pediatrician had me keep two meals of high-calorie formula enriched with Poly-Vi-Sol in our routine per day just because they had so much weight to gain. J was 3 lbs 6 oz at birth, M 3 lbs 9 oz. Neither baby had achieved 5 lbs when they were released from the NICU. I’d pump during their formula meals.

Janna: No, my boys were born full term, both weighing over 7 pounds. I do think that this is certainly one reason why nursing came so easy for the three of us.

RebeccaD: My boys were also full-term (5 lbs, 15 oz and 6 lbs, 5 oz), which really helped. Baby A was a champion nurser right from the jump. Baby B had a weak latch that never totally resolved, but my let-down was sensitive enough to make it work. I felt terrible when he had to start formula supplements at 6 months, but the lactation consultant pointed out that tandem nursing helped let-down so much that if he wasn’t a twin, he may not have breastfed as successfully as he did, or for as long. That is a tandem nursing success story!

Mercedes: No. My twins were early term, born at 37 weeks and 1 day, although they were small. My daughter, the bigger of the two, was actually the one with more latching difficulty, and the lactation consultant urged me to be patient as the baby learned. She said that 37 weeks is still early and some babies just need more time.

Dory: We were so fortunate that our twins were 36+5 with no NICU time, so we could nurse right away.

RachelG: Not really. My twins were early term (37 weeks), and while my son did struggle a bit with his latch, we never had serious problems nursing as a result of their delivery date.

ldskatelyn: No. My twins were born a day shy of 38 weeks. They weren’t premature. One of my daughters did need help opening up her mouth big enough, but with help of a lactation specialist at WIC, we were able to figure it out, and I was able to stop hurting.

Twin Breastfeeding Ebook

Manibreasto-Cover-3d-WebWould you like more inspiration, support and tools to make breastfeeding twins work? How Do You Do It? author Mercedes has written an ebook on the subject, Twin Manibreasto. She has a special offer for HDYDI readers! Use the code TWIN5 at checkout to pick up your own copy for $5 (code expires Feb. 10).

We hope that this has helped you get some perspectives on tandem breastfeeding. In addition, you can read about how Dory, who is currently breastfeeding, tandem feeds on her blog, Doyle Dispatch.  If you have any follow-up questions or stories of your own, we would love for you to share them in the comments!

Twinfant Tuesday: Little Victories

I think the biggest thing to keep in mind with infant twins is that every victory counts, even the tiny ones.  One day, when the babies were 2 months old, Emily’s day care was closed for maintenance, or professional development, or something.  Just too months in, I had all three kids all by myself for an entire day.  Gulp.  So I thought it might be interesting to document the day.  Well, the morning.  And I wanted to share it here.

6:30 Em woke up (in our bed), checked on the babies and we played in bed for a bit.  Now let me just say that this day started off really weird since we are usually up and going before 5:30.  But still, little victories.

6:45 came down, cleaned a bit, did 2 puzzles and vacuumed the kitchen. (so far, not at all typical, why are the babies still sleeping? Did they eat at 4 or 5??)

7:00 made Emily breakfast, assembled and put away bottles (even odder that babies are sleeping, what a great morning!)

7:30 Spencer woke up and peed on the changing table, and at that minute, Em announced she had to go potty. Took Em to the bathroom, dressed Spencer, cleaned up said pee, started negotiations will Emily over today’s clothes (I am rooting for pants, she wants a dress… I will prevail, the negotiations are going my way…)

8:15 nursing Spencer, Sidney waking up upstairs (ok, need more hands now), Em eating and playing.  Chaos commencing.

8:20 Sidney crying, Spencer does not want to stop nursing.  Oh no.

8:25 Sidney changed, dressed, eating. Spencer in bouncy seat, Em hugging babies and telling them about her life as a baby

8:26 Spencer spit up, trying to reach to wipe his mouth without Sidney unlatching. unsuccessful.

8:30 with 2 crying babies, washed Em’s breakfast dishes and last nights bottles while heating up water to make bottles for babies, made 2 bottles with vitamins, ate a handful of candy corn, helped Em unlace her sewing and got set up to bottle feed both at once (I need tea!!)

8:38 I swear Sidney just said “mama”!  She is clearly a child genius, talking at 2 months (or 3 weeks old adjusted, definitely advanced)

8:41 Sidney pushed away bottle to laugh at me, Spencer eating, Sidney regretting earlier actions and frantically looking for bottle

8:45 burping both crying babies, Sid spit up on me, Em asking for help with sticker game, I seriously need tea (Spencer took maybe half an ounce, but did a full nursing, Sidney 2 oz formula, 1 oz breast milk). I have 45 mns to finish feeding babies, shower etc, dress Em, and make a picnic lunch for today’s trip to the zoo with her friend. Oh and while I fed Sidney, Spence spit up. Now feeding him while she chills

9:00 both babies fed and happy, they are in bouncy seats, Em and I race upstairs. I take world’s fastest shower (may have only washed left side of body), while Em gets dressed and reports that they are both crying. Finish shower, babies quiet (crap, did they cry it out, damn!), get dressed, both crying again.

9:20 Sidney finishing earlier bottle, Spencer chilling (I am perfecting one handed typing :) ). Em is gathering pacifiers, I still want tea, and I need to put together our picnic lunch, and the diaper bag.

9:37 picnic packed, diaper bag packed, babies ready to go, heading to the zoo to meet friends, anticipate we will be 10 minutes late…

We arrived at the zoo 20 minutes late.

All in all, a fairly routine (except for the babies late start) morning.

And I never got my tea.

Twinfant Tuesday: Little Victories from hdydi.com

The twins are now about to be 19 months old now, and Emily is almost 5.  But re-reading that account of our day I am amazed first of all that we all slept that late.  Currently, 5:30 is a huge victory. I am also impressed with myself for taking such good notes (likely one handed).  The point, I think, is that that day was a huge victory for me, because I did it.  I won’t say I did it alone because Emily was there and from day 1 she has been a huge help.  But I still claim it as a victory.  The truth is, 17 months later, every morning is a victory.  And I think that as a parent of twins, you need that.  You have the right to celebrate every tiny victory.  Oh the celebrating the day the babies held their own bottles!  Every little victory counts.  Even if that victory is simply a fabulous cup of tea.  Peach tea.

 

Beth is known as mommy by a 4 year old and boy-girl 17 month old twins. She blogs about life, kids, and DIY, at Pickles in my Tea and in my Soup.

Twin-Z Nursing Pillow

Twin Z Pillow Review - Doyle Dispatch

A few months ago, I discovered a wonderful website called Tomoson.com where bloggers can apply to review items. Based on your qualifications, you may receive the items that you applied for. Well, there are lots of cool gadgets, new products, books, and items to try and “win,” and I’ve been really fortunate to be selected to review the Twin Z Pillow!

Now, I will preface this post by saying that my twins hadn’t been born yet when I wrote this, so my review will be based on what I know so far. I did not receive any compensation for my review, other than the free product.

When I first heard about the Twin Z pillow, I was a little hesitant. All of the MOM (Moms of Multiples) sites and groups recommended the My Brest Friend Twins nursing pillow, as that is the leader on the market. As these are our first babies, I suffer from “First Time Mom-itis,” which is defined as wanting only what is best for your child(ren), no matter the cost or hassle. Still, when the Twin Z pillow popped up on Tomoson’s site, I applied to review it (hey, free is free!), and then I scoured the internet for information about it. What I found surprised me. I saw review after review of it, comparing it to the My Brest Friend Twins pillow… and the Twin Z came out waaaaaaaaaay ahead. So, why was My Brest Friend’s nursing pillow the leader in the market? My thought is that it has to be tied to marketing, advertising, and product placement in stores.

Score Count: 1 (for previous reviews)

When I found out I won the Twin Z pillow in yellow, I was overjoyed! I was even more shocked when I received it less than a week later. I love a company that has such amazingly fast shipping, as I also suffer from I-Want-It-Now Syndrome.

Score Count: 2 (+1 for quick shipping)

Now came the actual product. I was so happy that when I opened up the box, the pillow was already inside its own travel bag. It looks like great water-resistance material with a nice drawstring top. I can imagine that this will be handy for traveling and storing, to protect the pillow itself.

Twin Z Review - Doyle Dispatch

Score Count: 3 (+1 for a travel bag)

We then had to put the cover on the white pillow. The cover was a super-soft yellow minky fabric, although there are lots of different colors that you can choose for the covers on their website. You can also order extra covers for $35.99, which we will be doing. Adding the cover was a two-person job. You had to start at one end of the pillow and stuff-and-pull, stuff-and-pull. It was a really tight fit, and I couldn’t have done it without Tim’s help as well. We then found the holes where the straps weaved through, got them out, and velcro-ed the pillow cover closed. It was a tight fit, but it was perfect. I can see why they made it so tight, as it made sure to keep the shape of the pillow.

Twin Z Pillow - Doyle Dispatch

Score Count: 5 (+1 for fabric, +0 for adding the cover, +1 for look when finished

Next came trying it out! Again, I am still twincubating until the fall/winter, so I can’t actually try out breastfeeding the twins on the Twin Z, but I want to say how much I love it already. There are 4 uses for the Twin Z pillow: breastfeeding, bottle feeding, tummy time, and sitting up support. After actually seeing how sturdy the pillow is, I have no doubt that I will be using this pillow for every single one of those purposes.

Twin Z Pillow - Doyle Dispatch

The pillow is absolutely huge, and it is shaped like the letter M. Each of the “legs” is incredibly sturdy, yet it also can be manipulated and moved into different positions to accommodate the different uses. The clip helps keep it in its different positions. For breastfeeding or holding both babies, you would push the center “leg” up and use it as a back rest. I am actually sitting in it just like that as I write this, and it is heaven for my sore lower back! If you want to make sure the arms stay where you want them, you can clip the arms together. This is how I picture using the pillow the most, while I try to breastfeed both twins at once. With the “legs” clipped together, it brings your arms up to a good breastfeeding height, but with it unclipped, it puts the arms a little lower. I personally find it more comfortable to have my arms a little higher. I guess we will see what I like better with babies in my arms in a couple of months.

Twin Z Pillow - Doyle Dispatch

Score Count: 7 (+1 for breastfeeding options, +1 back support)

Unfortunately, I don’t have any babies to demonstrate the 3 other uses for the Twin Z, but I do want to show you some pictures from their website to illustrate how it can be used.

Twin Z Breastfeeding

The Twin Z used for bonding with the babies. Can’t you imagine a child using this as support to hold their new buddies?

Twin Z Bottle Feeding

Bottle feeding with the Twin-Z. This gives a great view of the backrest and the support that you would get.

Twin Z Bottles

This is how I imagine I would use the Twin Z to bottle feed the babies. This is shown without the “legs” clipped together. If the twins are smaller, you can clip the legs together to make sure there are smaller holes (so they don’t fall through).

Twin Z Tummy Time

Tummy time with the Twin Z!

Score Count: 11 (+1 tummy time, +1 bottle feeding option, +1 newborn/preemie size adjustment, +1 sitting up support- not pictured)

While the My Brest Friend Twin retails for $78, the Twin Z sells for $99.99 (which includes one cover). While the starting price is a little more, I just love love love the additional uses for the pillow after breastfeeding is over. I think that the additional $21 on the Twin Z is well-spent, given the additional purposes.

Score Count: 12 (+1 for affordability due to versatility)

So the final Score Count is 12/13, with the only negative being how you apply the cover to the pillow. Overall, I would highly recommend the Twin Z to a M.O.M. I absolutely LOVE the options available, and I feel like the different uses far outweigh the other options on the market.

It is also important to note the following about the Twin Z:

  • Made in the USA
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Foam Free
  • Lead Fee
  • No Chemicals Added
  • No Flame Retardants

If you want more information, please watch this video to showcase the Twin Z:

You can purchase the Twin Z pillow on their website: http://www.twinznursingpillow.com/, as well as see other pictures of the pillow in action. Like the Twin Z and just want more? Like Twin Z on Facebook.

6 thumbs up, Twin Z!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

*Part of this post originally appeared on Dory’s blog “Doyle Dispatch.” To read more posts about Dory’s pregnancy and nursery decorating on her blog, you can see the list here.*

Foodie Friday: Suck-Swallow-Breathe

Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

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

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


Almost all preemies have difficulty with feeding, and my boys were certainly no exception. In order to eat, a baby has to be able to suck (at the breast or bottle), swallow, and breathe. But not at the same time, of course, and trying to coordinate that is very difficult.

Mr. D was born with the ability to do all three. He never required oxygen support, could generally swallow what was in his mouth (although he did need “reminding” from time to time), and could hold onto a pacifier, bottle, or my nipple like a pro. What he couldn’t do was figure out how to do all three in such a manner to ingest enough milk to live…especially when he’d rather be sleeping.

D’s challenges were fairly typical for preemies. Eating is hard work. So hard, in fact, that a twenty-minute rule is placed on both breast- and bottle-feeding in most (all?) NICUs: the baby gets 20 minutes to eat all he can, and then is weighed (if breastfeeding) or the amount remaining in the bottle is examined, and the rest of the required meal is poured down the feeding tube. I wanted to breastfeed, but was told we could only attempt it twice a day, as it’s even more work to extract milk from a breast than it is from a bottle.

The first time I breastfed Mr. D, he took me by surprise. He did really great! The lactation consultant warned me that many babies take one or two good feeds from the breast, and then begin to struggle. That was the case for him: he could extract a few drops of colostrum, especially when I pretty much hand-expressed it into his mouth, but once my milk came in, it was beyond him. He would latch on, and then fall asleep.

Suck-swallow-breatheHe didn’t fare much better with the bottle. I was taught how to hold him, how to stroke his cheek or under his chin to “remind” him to swallow, how to burp him, how to tickle his feet when he was nodding off…and he would still only swallow a few milliliters. He would sometimes become fearful of the liquid in his mouth, and hold his breath until I sat him up and helped him to dribble it all out. But mainly he would just look up at me, with an expression of what felt like disdain on his face, and then close his eyes. He held onto the nipple (mine or the bottle’s), but that was it. That was all he wanted to do.

The nurses told me it often happens like a switch—nothing, nothing, nothing, BOOM: eating! That wasn’t the case for Mr. D. Instead, he’d take a few more milliliters each day, most days. What was exceedingly frustrating to me was that, as his weight (from his oral plus tube-feedings) increased and his IV-nutrition was tapered off (to end abruptly when he yanked out his second scalp IV and they couldn’t find better access), his required intake went up, too. He was supposed to eat 23 mls, and would manage 19, and I’d go home to pump in triumph, only to return to discover they’d raised his goal to 26.

But he did improve. He kept getting so close. I felt like we were nearly there. Feeding was the only thing keeping him in the NICU, and I wanted him home.

He developed reflux. My pediatrician tells me “100% of babies have reflux”, and I don’t doubt her. Mr. D’s was worse than some, which again is common with preemies. That muscle at the top of their stomach (cardiac or esophageal sphincter) is as weak as their other muscles, and is forced into doing its job way too soon. One of his day nurses asked me if there was a history of milk intolerance in my family. Yes, there is: I was allergic to milk protein for my first few years of life. She suggested eliminating dairy from my diet, in case Mr. D had the same problem. I did. We also began fortifying his breast milk with soy formula rather than the special preemie formula. (Breast milk has about 20 calories, and it is very common to add formula to it to boost that to 22, 24, or even 27 calories for premature babies, as their tiny stomachs can’t hold enough volume to give them their necessary caloric intake.) I don’t know that it made much difference, but I was willing to try anything.

On his tenth day of life, he pulled out his NG-tube for his tenth (estimated) and final time. He wasn’t meeting his goals, but they decided not to replace it. He did well, getting closer and closer. On his thirteenth day, we were told we could take him home the following day: Valentine’s Day.

At 6 am on V-Day, I got a call from the neonatologist. She was just coming on shift having been gone a few days, and she didn’t think we should take Mr. D home. “He simply won’t grow on this,” she said, referring to his intake and reflux. I asked her if she was planning on re-inserting his feeding tube. No, she was not. Then why? What could they do for him that we couldn’t do at home? “He simply won’t grow,” she insisted. We reached an agreement: if Mr. D could eat all 55mls of each of his day feedings that day, and I agreed to take him to his pediatrician in two days instead of three, I could take him home. She strongly implied that she disagreed with this, but not enough to rule it out.

Challenge accepted, I thought. For each meal, I stripped an irate baby down to just his diaper. There was no way I was letting him get warm and comfy. I did not alert the nurses to his small spit-ups during burping. I twice emptied the remaining 2-3 mls of milk into the burp cloth at the end of his 20 minutes. And he got to come home with us that evening.


Mr. A could neither suck nor swallow nor breathe at the start. He did take early breaths on his own, but with much effort. The NICU staff quickly determined that he could not maintain his breathing, and gave him surfactant and intubated him. Once extubated, no one was surprised that he could not suck. He actually had the reflex, and would happily gnaw on a Soothie if it was held in his mouth. His cleft soft palate, however, left him with the inability to form negative pressure in his mouth. As such, he could not draw liquid from a nipple, nor could he hold his own pacifier in his mouth by sucking merrily to sleep. In order to assess his ability to swallow, the neonatologists had the nurses perform what I have since learned is a very outdated “test”—they poured sterile water into his mouth. They assured me that, if inhaled, it would not cause any problems, as it was sterile and a very small amount. The first time they “tested” him, the liquid slowly dribbled out of his mouth. He could not swallow. They repeated the “test” two days later, and he “passed”—the water went down somewhere, and they assumed it went down his esophagus. He was cleared to begin oral feeds.

I was introduced to a variety of bottles and nipples, all specially designed for babies with clefts. I was a bit dismayed to realize most of the nurses had no more familiarity with these “feeding systems” than I did. Essentially, they all worked the same way: a nipple was placed into A’s mouth and he chewed on it and the nipple released milk due to compression. Some of the bottles were squeeze bottles, so that I could force extra fluid into his mouth.

It was a disaster. I was too naïve to realize how large of a disaster it truly was. Only once did Mr. A take in over 10 mls (two teaspoons). Feeding him generally went like this: hold him in a specific way (hands angling his jaw upwards, entire body elevated to at least 45 degrees, while trying to support his head and body but not of course cradled in my arms), introduce nipple, watch him struggle, watch him desaturate (often followed by heart rate decelerations), fearfully yank the nipple out of his grey-blue lips, let him recover, repeat. At the end, measure remaining milk and discover only a handful of milliliters to be missing, and then pour the remainder down his feeding tube while snuggling him to sleep.

After a few days, I told the nurses I no longer wished to feed him by mouth. I was terrified. I could feel, somehow, that his desaturation and bradycardia events were different than Mr. D’s episodes of breath-holding. I hated feeding him, he hated eating, I feared I would kill him. The nurses told me I didn’t have to do anything I wasn’t comfortable doing, meaning they would continue to do his feedings for me. That wasn’t entirely what I meant, but I was too insecure to argue. And so he struggled along for a few more days, with me or my husband holding him while the nurses fed him. I came to accept his “behavior”—after all, he was gaining weight and showed no ill signs. So I resumed the feedings.

When he was transferred to the children’s hospital, he was evaluated by their feeding and development expert. I wasn’t there (we were not forewarned of it, or I would have been!), and came to his crib an hour later to be informed by the nurse that he was no longer to eat by mouth. Ever. He would need a surgically placed tube going directly into his stomach. I was irate. He had been, I thought, showing signs of improvement. And here some lady looked at him once, did not even give him a chance to truly try, and ruled out eating for the rest of his life? I made the staff aware of my displeasure, and they promised me she would speak to me. She didn’t, not for some time.

Mr. A was eventually given a swallow study: he sat in a car-seat-like chair, being fed radioactive barium mixed with breast milk to various consistencies: pudding, nectar, thin. X-ray-like machines videotaped the entire event. And there it was in black and white: Atticus was drowning. The milk went up his cleft palate and into his nasal cavity, and from there it entered his trachea and lungs. What remained into his mouth also largely ended up in his lungs. He was unable to cough to protect himself. My baby boy had silent aspiration.

I felt awful. Guilty, guilty, guilty. If I’d held my ground at the first hospital, if I’d truly listened to my instincts, we would have stopped feeding him by mouth weeks ago. He must hate me. He must fear me. My job was to keep him safe, and here I was, endangering him every three hours on the dot. And my pride, my pride at what I thought was improvement and my wrath at the feeding therapist, who had told me what I had been unable to believe, as if my wishing could make those drops of milk enter his stomach safely. “He was took 13 ccs!!” I had argued, over and over, his record amount so strong in my memory. Almost half an ounce, I was forced to admit, almost half an ounce of my milk flooding into his lungs.

It did not occur to me until almost a year later that who I should have been mad at, instead of myself, were the doctors and nurses at his birth hospital. I was in over my head, but so ignorant I had no idea. They should have known. They should have recognized what I felt in my heart and what led me to ask to stop: this was not normal preemie behavior. None of this was typical. And they didn’t. True, the most challenging preemies are probably passed off to the children’s hospital sooner than my Mr. A was, but watching for signs of aspiration is not a difficult art, and it’s one that should be taught to and remembered by everyone working with sick babies.

Mr. A got his G-tube placed when he was negative-one-week, adjusted. His feeding plan was changed to reflect that, while he was not to eat by mouth, certain exercises could be done to help stimulate his oral-motor skills. Feeding has continued to be one of his biggest challenges, but I am happy to end this by saying that we are now very close to replacing one of his 5 daily tube-feedings with an entire meal eaten by mouth. And as for Mr. D, he is an avid eater, and above the 90th percentile in both height and weight. The suck-swallow-breathe struggles are behind us all.

Twinfant Tuesday: How Feeding Multiples Makes the First Year Even Harder

In my last Twinfant Tuesday post, I talked about the things that make the first year of parenthood challenging: not knowing your kids’ likes and dislikes, not being able to ask babies what they want, the expense, the sleep deprivation. These are things common to all parents, not just parents of multiples.

There are challenges that are unique to us, though, unique to those of us who proudly (or tentatively) wear the badge of the Mother of Multiples club, that exclusive, amazing, inspiring, terrifying club that we find ourselves in. Feeding alone is (warning: pun ahead) all-consuming. Whether you’re exclusively breastfeeding, exclusively bottle-feeding, doing both, or somewhere in between, feeding multiple infants is crazytown.

Touch Saturation

When I recently visited Liggy‘s perfect little ones, we found ourselves talking about how, after nursing for over 12 hours a day, we just don’t want to be touched any more. Even hugs or affection from our pets feel like invasions in those rare moments that our bodies belong to us.

It’s not that we resent the time that our babies are nursing or snuggling. That contact is still beautiful and (once you have the babies’ preferences figured out) peaceful. It’s that nursing contact is the only contact that our senses can handle. It’s as if our bodies are primed to breastfeed and all other physical contact, no matter how otherwise welcome, pushes our sensory capacity over the edge.

Tandem? Sequential? What if We Have More Than Two?

“It’s a good thing you have two breasts,” my daughter M mused the other day.
“True,” I responded. “You know that Aunt D had triplets.”
“I was just thinking that!” M exclaimed. “I guess she had to use three bottles…”
“No, she actually breastfed,” I informed her, proudly.
M was floored. “SHE HAS A SECRET BREAST?”

Sadia is exhausted and disheveled after a marathon nursing session with her pair.

I looked disheveled all the time while I was breastfeeding my pair. I once even managed to go to work with my pants on inside out. Who has time to stop by the mirror?

It’s not just 7-year-olds who assume that breastfeeding more than two babies is downright impossible. While it’s not impossible, it is indescribably difficult. Juggling the babies, consuming enough calories and fluids, getting everyone comfortable, making time for anything else…. People who haven’t experienced life with multiple infants just don’t understand.

Even those who have observed for a few hours can’t possibly imagine what it really means to breastfeed more than one child at a time. You have to get everyone to cooperate. Maybe you’re able to produce enough milk, but if just one of your babies refuses to nurse unless she’s lying across your lap without another baby in the way, there goes tandem nursing.

I like words. I love writing. I just do not have the words to explain how incredibly hard it is to breastfeed two. I know that I don’t have the capacity to comprehend how many harder it is to breastfeed more, and yet mothers do it. Every day. All day.

The Bottles, the Pump Parts, the Washing. Oh My!

Bottles, collars and nipples drying

Photo Credit: if winter ends

When my sister was a baby, we washed her bottles by hand. We also had servants. There was one of her. It was still a lot of work.

I can’t tell you how glad I am to have a dishwasher. We used that thing. A lot.

Word to the wise: if you’re in the dishwasher market and considering having kids ever, buy a model that runs quietly. It was so worth the extra money to have a dishwasher we could run while the babies were sleeping.

Breastpump parts

Photo Credit: aaron_anderer

Now add in all the breast pump parts that need to be washed. There are flanges and adapters and valves. Occasionally the tubing needs to be washed out. Depending on how you store you milk, there may be storage containers to wash.

Even if you use disposable bags for storing your milk, you have to restock those. You have to pull frozen milk out of the freezer to allow it to defrost.

There’s just so much stuff to remember and to do to keep our babies fed.

Shortcuts

There are shortcuts that can make your life easier, things I wished I’d thought of earlier.

If formula is part of your game plan, as it was for us, consider preparing it by the pitcher instead of by the bottle. Just make enough for the day (or the night) and refrigerate it. Alternately, pre-measure you formula into individual containers so you don’t have to think about proportions or deal with scoops all day. Warning: this is another thing to wash!

It took me a while to realize that I could store the nipples assembled in their collars with the lids on. That saved me the assembly. My husband also loved drop-in bag/liners for thawed breastmilk.

If you’re pumping and nursing, you may be able to breastfeed on one side while pumping on the other. I don’t know about you, but I could get about 4 times as much milk from a pump-and-nurse session than from pumping alone. I found that my Medela flanges tucked comfortably into open-front and pull-down nursing bras for a hands-free experience.

I didn’t (and still don’t) remember all that I do in the middle of the night. I had to write down which baby I’d changed and when, who had eaten and when, who’d been fussy and when. Not only did our notebooks serve as a communication solution between my middle of the night zombie self and the awake version, but between me and my husband too. It didn’t hurt to have these notebooks on hand when we went to the pediatrician, either!

We found that one bottle parts dishwasher basket was inadequate, but two was plenty if we washed what we used daily. We ran the dishwasher on the sanitary cycle. We did not skip a night.

Hard? Yes. Impossible? No.

Despite how hard this is, we find a way to feed our kids.

The vast majority of our kids grow into solid foods. They wean off the bottle or breast. Eventually, this becomes a vague memory. What stays with us are just impressions: the smell of the baby on our shoulder, burping while the other continues to suckle; the weight of our children in our arms; the weight of our eyelids; the sight of squishy cheeks; the leap of our hearts when we see our children holding hands; above all, the knowledge that we all survived.

We MoMs did the impossible, rendering it merely improbable.

What is/was hard about infant feeding in your family?

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

End the Mommy Wars

The degree of support I’ve felt from the online mothering community over the years has been amazing. When I was a newbie mom and newbie blogger, people came out of the woodwork to offer support, encouragement and kind, thoughtful advice. I knew I was never alone in my mission to raise my children to reach their potential, even when my husband was deployed and the rest of our families were thousands of miles away. I have the great good fortune to now pay it forward here within the HDYDI community.

End the Mommy Wars from hdydi.com

Mommy Esq.’s three lovely children and my two loud ones enjoyed breakfasting together.

I’ve made lifelong friends online. A lot of people I know think it’s a little creepy to take my kids and meet up with “strangers” from the internet, but they’re not strangers. There’s an honesty to my relationships in blogosphere that I strive to achieve in my real-life relationships. Just yesterday, my daughters and I spent the day at the Texas State Fair with Mommy Esq. and her family. They welcomed us into their home and lives with open arms and hearts. Mommy Esq. was an online friend of years, but has been a “real-life friend” for only months. It’s quite something to see our children begin to develop similarly deep friendships with each other.

My twins are my first and only children. The greatest mothering lesson they taught me, as soon as I was able to see them at around 36 hours old, was that there is no one right way to parent. M has different needs than J does. Their father meets those needs differently than I do. There’s no right and wrong, only my way and other ways, as long as there is love, goodwill, open-mindedness, and patience.

Certainly, there are parents who harm their children, from ignorance, incapacity, lack of will or, rarely, malevolence. Sadly, I have observed the effects of neglect and abuse, and children of those parents need us to step up and contact the authorities, serve as foster parents, and be ready to adopt them if need be. Those parents are rare, though, and they’re not going to take your advice anyway. Why waste energy on doing anything but sharing what worked for you and taking advice from others that might work for you?

Imagine my dismay to get online last night to discover that while I had been relishing a gorgeous friendship born online, one of the mothering communities in which I participate, The Official Group of National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc. had blown up in judgment over breastfeeding, of all things. Honestly, I couldn’t be bothered to read back through all the ugliness, but from what I could glean, a male non-member had communicated his feeling that breastfeeding images were sexual, and moms had lined up to judge and attack each other. Breastfeed. Don’t breastfeed. Some moms can’t breastfeed, so no one should ever discuss breastfeeding. Breastfeed in public. Never breastfeed in public. Share breastfeeding images proudly. Never ever ever share a photo of your child at your breast. If you don’t tandem nurse, you’re a bad MoM.

Stop it, I say. End the Mommy Wars.

Mommy Esq and Sadia from hdydi.com

Mommy Esq. and I decided that at least one photo of the two of us was in order. The sangria was a nice treat at the car show.

Our children do not need us to feel judged and defensive. They don’t need us to judge and offend. They need their parents and other mentors and role models to talk to each other, to figure out what works for each parent-child pair. They need us to celebrate the differences between our families and our parenting styles, not condemn all who do it differently than we choose to or must.

I am deeply thankful that in all the years I have been part of the HDYDI community, first as a lurker, then as a commenter, then as a guest poster, next as a contributor and, most recently, as the coordinator, I haven’t seen anything but support for the MoMs and DoMs out there. Thank you all for making this a safe place to discuss and explore how we can best parent our individual, unique, extraordinary children within our individual, unique, extraordinary life circumstances.

And I beg the moms of the NOMOTC Facebook group to remember what brought us together in the first place. Bring the kindness back. Let the hurt and anger go. End the Mommy Wars. Don’t worry about who’s right, only about what’s right for you.

End the Mommy Wars.

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