Increase Your Breastmilk Supply: A MoM’s Tips

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Categories Breastfeeding, How Do The Moms Do It, Twinfant Tuesday11 Comments

Having Twins Isn’t a One Way Ticket to Formula

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Informed

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

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

My Tips

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

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

Brush

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

Maximize Skin-to-Skin Contact

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

Hand Express

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

Get the Right Pump

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

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

Don’t Pump for Too Long

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

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

Keep At It

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

Empty Your Breasts

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

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

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

Eat and Drink on Behalf of Your Babies

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

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

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

Be Kind to Yourself

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

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

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Categories Birth Order, Birth Stories, Childcare, Community, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Infants, Older Children, Parenting, Pregnancy, Twinfant Tuesday4 Comments

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

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

Was my baby healthy?

Was labour going to hurt?

Was I going to get fat?

What buggy? Cot? Bottles?

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

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

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

Make a List

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

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

Have a Plan A and B, … C, D, E, and F

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

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

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

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

Inform School and Nursery

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

Be Prepared for a Caesarean Section

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

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

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

Prepare Your Older Children for Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twinfant Tuesday: Triplet Tips & Tricks (that also apply to twins!)

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Categories How Do The Moms Do It, Infants, Parenting, Twinfant TuesdayTags , , 1 Comment

Sadia asked if I would write a Twinfant Tuesday post about tips and tricks specific to triplets and I drew a blank at first. Now that my triplets are 18 months old those infancy days seem so long ago!

I looked back on my blog and found this post on parenting tips for triplets that I wrote when the babies were about three months old. While I think all of these are still good tips, they aren’t necessarily triplet specific. As I was reading that post I thought of a few more to add to the list that are probably the same as for twins. The last couple may be especially helpful for triplets and higher order multiples.

My #1 tip for all MoMs is the classic Boy Scout motto of “always be prepared!”

A little preparation can go a long way towards making your life feel just a little more under control. When your triplets (or a singleton for that matter) are babies, the first thing everyone tells you is to sleep when they sleep. This is good advice, but sometimes it is worth sacrificing 5-15 minutes of sleep to get things ready for the next awake time!

As the babies get bigger and you start venturing out, plan outings after nap times so you have some time built in to prep for leaving the house. It is INCREDIBLY difficult to get everything ready (pack the diaper bag, have snacks & drinks ready, stroller loaded in the car, etc) with three babies awake and needing mommy. Being prepared can also include prepping bottles for the day the night before (we breastfed so thankfully that wasn’t an issue for us) and prepping nighttime snacks for yourself to get you through the middle of the night feedings! Our favorite night time snacks were energy balls and muffins, both of which you can make in a big batch that will last for days. This is also a great thing to ask others to help you with…

Which leads me to tip #2! Don’t be afraid to ask for and always accept offers of help!

Three babies is A LOT of babies! Parents of singletons are exhausted caring for one newborn and caring for multiples is at least three times harder! Every other MoM will tell you this, but if you are a lifelong overachiever like me you may not believe them and think you can do it on your own. But please, from one overachiever to another, listen to them!

If you are pregant with triplets (or twins) line your help up now! If your mom or sister or cousin or best friend is willing to move into your guestroom for the first couple of months, welcome them with open arms! We scheduled visitors back to back for the first three months and I don’t know how we would have managed without them! We had a few days here and there of it just being us and that was enough! When a coworker offers to start a meal train, say “yes please! that would be amazing!” and when your mother-in-law offers to clean your bathroom for you, get over yourself and just say yes. =)

Tip #3 is especially applicable in the first six months when sleep is hardest to come by.

(Don’t get me wrong, our kiddos were NOT the babies who hit six months and magically started sleeping through the night! Well, one did, but they are 18 months old now and two out of three are STILL terrible sleepers so we still don’t get much sleep! But after the first six months they eat less often, eat faster, and you also get quicker at diaper changes, etc. so you get a little more sleep.)

When you are sleep deprived your brain truly does not function! When our babies were newborns we were lucky to get 45 minutes of sleep after feeding, doing diapers, and pumping before they woke up ready to eat again. During these months we found it incredibly helpful to have a way to track everyone’s feedings, diapers, etc.

We tried two different apps (Total Baby & Baby Connect) and found that we liked Baby Connect the best and we liked that it synced between our phones. We used it religiously at first and then as we got into our groove we didn’t have to rely on it quite as much. But it was super helpful when we went to those first couple months of well checks (which we had to do often for weight checks since they were 6 weeks early) because the doctor would ask us questions about how much they were eating and how many wet diapers they had and we couldn’t answer those questions without pulling up that app! It doesn’t matter what system you use, but tracking the basics is key early on. I know other triplet moms have used whiteboards or even simple notebook paper to jot down feedings, diapers, baths, etc.

Tip #4: Find a baby carrier you love and get comfortable putting it on with a baby in it over and over until you can do it quickly and seamlessly without thought. When all three babies need you and you are flying solo you will be frazzled and won’t be in the right mental space to be futzing with an unfamiliar carrier!

Once your baby is around 4-6 months old have your partner or a friend help you learn to wear a baby on your back. This can be a little tricky at first and takes some getting used to but once you get it, it is a lifesaver! There are a bunch of YouTube videos out there that show you different options for getting a baby in a back carry position. I personally found that I liked one method better (carrier on in front & then spin the carrier around to your back with the baby in it) and now that they are bigger I prefer another (helicoptering them over my shoulder). When you have three babies you don’t have enough arms to carry them all from one place to another so being able to put one or more babies in a carrier makes it possible to get everyone someplace in one trip. This can be from the bedroom to the living room or from the house to the car and into a store. And if you want to have one hand free to carry something other than a baby, look into a twin carrier like the new TwinGo. We just got this carrier in December when our babies were already one, but I so wish I’d had it since they were about 4 or 5 months old! Wearing two separate carriers is bulky and not very comfortable and the TwinGo makes a front & back tandem carry simple! Stay tuned for an upcoming “Wouldn’t want to live without it Wednesday” post about this carrier!

And the last thing I just thought of, so let’s call it tip #5, is to look into getting a Foscam video camera to use as a monitor. Having a video monitor has been super helpful for us and the great thing about the Foscam is that you only have to buy one camera and then you can use an app on your phone, tablet, or computer to see the babies. It can be a little tricky to find the best mounting spot, but once you do then you can pan and zoom the camera from your phone to see all three cribs and see what each little munchkin is up to. This helped us figure out who was crying/stirring, but more importantly we could see if that squirmer/squealer was disrupting anyone else’s sleep. With the Foscam we can see if anyone else is awake before we go in to get the crier because there’s nothing worse than trying to sneak in and grab one baby then to walk in the door and have the other two who might be trying to fall back asleep see you and also start screaming! It also helps me mentally prepare for what I’ll be facing when I walk in their room! When all three are up at once, I need to take a few deep breaths and center myself before I open the door!

That is another good tip actually…when you have three babies crying and all needing mommy at the same time, just pause, take a few deep breaths, and remind yourself that this too shall pass. And before you know it your babies won’t be babies any more and you will have nearly forgotten these moments unless you took lots of pics or blogged about it!

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Twinfant Tuesday: Two Babies – One Pair of Hands

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Categories Infants, Multiple Solutions, Twinfant TuesdayTags , , 8 Comments

In the “how to cope with twins” section of my brain lies quite a bit of information and personal advice that I wish I had known before my little angels made their entrance to the world.

So here are a couple of the things that I remember truly stood out.

Two Babies. Two Hands

Breastfeeding twins:

Forget all those cute little pillows when it comes to twins. They only take more space in an area that’s already cramped and uncomfortable. Try the “football hold”, so that you’ve basically got a head in each hand and their bodies under your armpits. You will definitely need someone on hand to pass you each baby as it’s almost impossible to comfortably get to that position without help. But don’t worry, soon enough you will be more used to handling them. Of course you can choose to feed each baby separately, but always bear in mind that each feed will therefore be twice as long and if you have to express in between it will be pretty much like feeding quadruplets.

Bottle-feeding twins:

The best place to sit is on the floor, back to the couch/wall, with a baby facing you on either side. You can place them in bouncy chairs or car seats, as long as they are propped up a bit. Make sure you have everything you need (bibs, muslins ,etc) before you start feeding them. The last thing you need is to start feeding and realize that you have to spend the next half hour or so watching the credits of a movie that just ended. It’s quite likely that this process will be a bit messy at first and you haven’t got a spare hand to catch the dribbles. Try using a muslin or even a cloth diaper if nothing else is on hand around the baby’s front.

Burping twins:

With either method of feeding you will probably need to get some wind out of each twin after a feed. I would normally sit one as upright as possible while winding the other, and then swap. With me if one baby finished their bottle before the other I used a cloth nappy to keep the drinking baby’s bottle propped up while I winded the other, and then vice versa. It can be done; it just takes some patience and lots of practice.

Night times with twins:

So our biggest fear in the beginning was one baby waking the other up. We used to rush to their room at the smallest “peep”. Little did we know that this was actually making things more difficult, and that our little ones were starting to expect it. After a couple of nights of “tough-love”, we realized how quickly they learned to self-sooth. Thereafter I was always amazed how one baby was moaning away or having the time of his life talking to his mobile while the other was soundly sleeping. If mine both woke up at the same time it was more to do with them being in the same routine than anything. To get them into the same routine, you need to feed them at the same time, night and day. This means when one wakes up for a feed, you have to wake the other one as well. Really this is the biggest night time tip I can give: doing it together.

There are two babies, there are two parents – it has to be a team effort.

Picking up the twins:

There really aren’t that many times when you have to pick up both babies at once. Sometimes a little moaning is not necessarily a bad thing, and actually if you leap up and comfort them straight away they will get used to it and expect it every time. Twins need to get used to self-settling. When I needed to move around the house like for changing nappies, I simply placed one in his bouncy seat, carried him to the changing station and then brought the other. That way he wasn’t screaming away in another room. However, most times I could leave the one baby where he was, whether that be a camp cot, having tummy time on the floor or playing in his feeding chair and quickly change the other.

In the house with twins:

For us, it was very helpful to have specific places in the house where we could put the babies down. A camp cot in the lounge, our bed, bouncy chairs, etc. That way you can go about your business and still keep an eye on your little ones.

Transporting twins:

Carrying two car seats is not ideal, but this is pretty much how we got from the house to the car and from the car to wherever we were going in those early days.  I was able to do this up until about six months; thereafter my arms simply couldn’t carry both at the same time anymore. It’s also perfectly fine to leave one in the house while you take the other to the car. Just make sure you’ve got your house keys!

Twins and a Supermarket:

This can be a bit tricky. Always try finding the biggest parking space you see, otherwise opt for shopping centers that have “mommy with children” parking. We generally tried shopping together, that way one of us could push the kids in their pram and the other could push the trolley. Be aware that if your supermarket has one of those revolving gate entrances or exits, that a side-by-side twin pram will not fit through. I learned to bypass those shops whenever I had the twins.

Dealing with twins requires a sensible plan of attack, as well as the ability to change the plan when it’s no longer working for you. Always take a step back and look for a different way of doing things rather than getting stressed and angry when things go wrong. And remember, no matter how impossible it seems, there is always a way.

Christine is a first time mommy to two beautiful 17-month-old twin boys that have recently started walking and are now running in all directions. She’s wife to her high-school sweetheart – the man of her dreams and also a full-time software/web developer in the financial industry. They have two kitties, a very naughty Jack Russell and a home that is fast becoming too small.

Linked at

The Twinkle Diaries
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House Monkey: How Parents of Twins Plus Two Are Helping Families Get Organized

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Categories Balance, Entrepreneurship, House Monkey, How Do The Moms Do It5 Comments

My husband Mike and I are parents of twins plus two. We both have a full-time jobs as co-owners and division heads of a thriving scientific agency (where we service pharmaceutical clients). That might make it sound like our plates are full, but we’re also building up a business together to market our organizing solution (called “House Monkey”) to busy families. We were asked to join the HDYDI community to share the process of developing House Monkey as it happens. As a mom of 4 children aged 11, 10, 7, & 7, every day seems like an uphill battle (but we moms of multiples know that rewards on the top of that hill are sweeter).

Amazing story! Donna and Mike were inspired by their busy family to put their professional skills to work to create a fun app to help everyone in the family stay on top of household responsibilities.

Here is our story…

Our family (and the House Monkey idea) grew, starting in 2007

I have a dual BS in Biology and Chemistry and a Masters degree in Microbiology.  I worked in Pharmaceuticals from career inception and moved up through the ranks quickly.  Then I had my first child. When I held that little baby in my hands, I knew I couldn’t go back to my career life, which had me on a plane 3-4 times a week.  Instead, I started a consulting business.

I had another kid and my consulting business started growing. Then I got pregnant… with twins. We were about to have GIRL twins to add to our 2 boys.  I was nervous because I had issues with my previous pregnancies: I was diabetic with my first and second pregnancy involved 3 months of bed-rest for near pre-eclampsia.

This is the point where my story usually sounds different that that of other Moms of Multiples. I had my strongest and easiest pregnancy with the twins!  I “ran”, or rather jogged then down to a power walk, up through the last day.  At 40 weeks and 1 day, I delivered set of twins weighing in at a 7 and a 7.5 pound.

I breastfed my first 2 children for 12 months. I was gung ho that I could do that with twins… until I tried. It was a nightmare. Now I was managing a small business, had 2 toddlers (the 4 kids were born within 4 years), and was trying to breastfeed!  Both my husband and I were deeply sleep deprived.  I had to give in and ask him to feed with bottles in middle of the night.  I managed the day feeding for only 6 months.  I finally gave into the daily logistical difficulties and justified this to myself with “Donna Math” 6 months x 2 twins = 12 months!

Then all the house craziness happened. The dryer broke, and we couldn’t find the warranty, even though we knew it was under warranty. We had bought it right before the twins were born. Then the air conditioner broke!  It was one house-related nightmare after another… with twin baby girls and two toddlers.

That was 6 years ago!  We knew back then there had to be a better way, but didn’t have time or resources to even begin to think about a solution.  The first few years with the twins were all about survival!

The House Monkey idea lingered through 2011

When the twins were 4, life issues happened.  My husband was laid off.  He worked in technology (and had been running the IT for my business on the side).  It was at this point that the boys were starting to become active at school and sports.  Homework needed to be attended to, rides to practices… and the girls were still home needing attention.

So we made a huge decision: to put all our eggs in one basket and have him join my business so that we could better manage our kids.

It was a hard decision because our lifestyle was definitely going to change.  We had one thing in our lives that we would not even consider: selling our house.  Mike and I had built it from the ground up and loved it, but more importantly staying in our town was critical.  Our first son has a life-threatening airborne allergy to peanuts.  His allergy was so severe that one day went into a full anaphylaxis walking past a garbage can that had a bag of peanuts in it.  We had just finished establishing guidelines in our town to have him attend school in a safe manner. Leaving our town was non-negotiable.

Mike joined the business and played (and still plays) an extremely active role as a parent.  We struggled the first year to bring the technology (Mike’s area of expertise) to the pharma consulting work I was doing, but we had a couple of good ideas that helped the business grow marginally.  How our marriage survived that first year is amazing.  Admittedly there was much “loud talking” during that “work-life” merge.  I chalked marital survival up to a shared mutual dedication to our vows!

The big “C” hit in 2012

2012 came in with a bang.  I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  I felt very blessed to find it so early.

I had started “dabbling” in triathlons.  Yes it sounds counter-intuitive when one is so busy, but honestly having a “reason” to go to the gym when the kids went down at night was a saving grace for me both mentally and physically after working and managing 4 kids all day long.

The last month of training before a race, I was working out 6 days a week and eating properly but put on 30 pounds!  Sparing you the intricate details, let me tell you: be your own healthcare advocate.  My blood levels were all normal, and doctors wanted me to wait.  I insisted on a biopsy for this lump in my throat which, it turned, was indeed cancerous.  I did well, but had to stay in the hospital for a week for a non-planned visit due to post-surgery side effects.

Most of my clients did not know I was sick so the business had to keep running.  The kids were upset.  We were very upfront and matter of fact with them.  My chances of full survival and healing were well over 90% (thyroid cancer is tiny pimple of the cancer world- highly curable) but still we weren’t having them visit me in a head and neck cancer floor.  It was too traumatic, my poor roommate didn’t have an eyeball!

Here was Mike running back and forth to a hospital 1.5 hours away to care for me and to go over the day-to-day tasks of the business.

The kids??? Well let’s just say I thank God for my parents. They stayed at my house during the week while the children went to school. The kids bounced from place to place on the weekends with my two besties LC and JD.  I can’t neglect my mother-in-law, who picked me up at discharge because my husband and parents had caught colds.

What do you think got de-prioritized in 2012? Yes, the house!  Upkeep and maintenance was non-existent again.

Building one idea in 2013

While House Monkey was still less a concept and more an idea that “someone should build something for house organization”, we remained focused on our existing business. The technology and science finally merged together into a beautiful product.  It was a rough year building our concept from the ground up.

On the family side, the kids were becoming really, really active.  The twins were 6 and in school full time. The boys were just into everything.  Between the business and the growing needs of the family, with little personalities jetting out from everywhere, our house was one big stress ball. This led to an extreme lack of organization for our house, always the lowest priority!

How House Monkey finally came to fruition in Fall 2014

While I was focused on our technology-based product for our pharma clients, Mike had decided to revisit the house disorganization problem we identified when the twins were born and had progressively become worse over the years.  He approached me with an idea to build this app, thinking it could be a way to manage an active house busy and full of life. I added on the organizational piece.

It became our night time job, filled with many white board sketches before the full concept of “House Monkey” was born!  We decided to put the House Monkey idea on Kickstarter and see what happened.  Not only was this a great way to fundraise to build House Monkey, but interest in Kickstarter would also show us if other busy houses needed something better too.

Don’t let anyone tell you running a crowd-funding campaign is easy!  It was tons of work and involved lots of follow up with people both online and offline.

In essence we were working full time with pharma clients during the day (a job I love with great clients!), caring for the kids when they got home from school until bedtime, and going back to idea stream and plan out House Monkey at night.

We are pleased to say we received a wonderful Christmas gift on December 24th, 2014: House Monkey was financed on Kickstarter!

How do we do it? Where do we find the time?

All this is no small challenge. My husband and I each have two full time jobs, all while balancing our 4 very active children. Their sports range from golf to football and they have several sports and activities in between. Did I mention that Mike is the president of the EMS squad in our town and rides on the ambulance 2-3 nights a week? I was a founder and now sit on the executive committee for the women’s group at our church.

So when a blog named How Do You Do It? contacted me and asked “how are you going to do it?” my answer was “I have no idea how I’m going to do it”! The flood gates are wide open for both our pharma-based business and the House Monkey idea all at once. Plus, we are committed to not letting the businesses get in the way of our family time!

Over the next few months, Mike and I will be sharing our progress and challenges in building this organizational solution for busy families.  We will be focused on 5 key topics:

  • House Monkey App Development: What are the updates, key challenges, and wins in building this resource
  • Parenting: Managing 4 kids with 4 different sets of priorities and interests
  • Marriage: Making it work at work, at home, and as a couple
  • Trade-offs: What stays and what goes at both work and home
  • “What the kids say”: How does running two separate businesses impact the kids?

Our intention is that progress will be reported once a month from each of us….. once from Mike’s perspective as a dad, husband, and business owner and once a month from my perspective as a mom, wife, and business owner.  We hope our intention comes to fruition, but if not, we hope you understand why!

We look forward to reporting on this journey and hope that as we try and find our way, you find some “golden nuggets” that apply to your journey and help you find a “way to do it” as well!

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Guest Post and Book Giveaway: Elise Bruderly

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Categories Books, How Do The Moms Do It, Infants, Mommy Issues, Other people, Parenting Twins3 Comments

Today, we have a special treat for you: a guest post and book giveaway from twin mom and author Elise Bruderly. If you’d like to win a copy of her book, be sure to enter the giveaway below! Now, hear her story in her own words. – Sadia

Win a copy of Elise Bruderly's book Parenting Twins: The Handbook for Containing Chaos and Preserving Memories in the First Year

 

In May of 2005, I found out I was expecting twins.

As I “recovered” from the shock of this news, I said, “Someday I’m going to write a book about this!” And that day has come. Parenting Twins: The Handbook for Containing Chaos and Preserving Memories in the First Year is the handbook I wish I had, to guide me through the ups and downs and twists and turns of that first year as a parent of twins. The book weaves together actual stories and journal entries from that first year, with practical parenting advice and ideas, as well as a focus on the emotional journey, and growth, required. I hope that this book serves as both an inspiration and a source of reassurance for expectant parents and parents in the midst of that first year.

Please enjoy this excerpt from the book.

from Chapter 6: How Parenting Twins is Different

How to be a Parent of Twins

When you think about how to parent twins and how to be a parent of twins you really must consider two areas of growth.  First is the actual, physical “doing” of life.  These are the “how to clone yourself” questions, like, how to get two babies a bath when you are home alone, how to pick up two crying babies, what to do when the phone rings and your arms are full.  You can learn how to do all of these things- either with advice from other parents of multiples, from books, or by trial and error.  Never be afraid to try a new idea, and never stop trying new ideas.  As your babies grow and develop things will change, sometimes by the hour.  What did not work yesterday might work today and what you wish would work today might very well work in a few days if you stick with it.  Becoming capable with the tasks of parenting twins is both liberating and confidence-building, two essential traits for your continued journey as a parent.  The sooner you make peace with yourself- giving yourself permission to try something new, and not feeling silly if the whole idea fails- the easier you will find the ongoing tasks of parenting twins.

The being a parent of twins is much harder to learn and much more abstract to describe.  I have often felt “out of step” with friends and others raising singleton children the same age as my babies.  Nothing ever felt quite the same to me as it appeared to be for my friends- the lack of sleep, the ability (or not) to get out of the house.  When a parent is already struggling to adapt to their new role, feeling alone in that role can be even more demoralizing.  I will never forget the first time I felt this difference square in the face.

My babies were born in the late summer and came home in the early fall.  It was a long, cold winter where we did not get out very much.  By the time they were around seven months old I was feeling more capable and a more pressing desire to “be normal.”  I started taking them to a baby playgroup that was held at the library.  There was fifteen minutes of songs and stories and then forty five minutes for the babies and parents to interact with toys and each other.  I saw, quite quickly, what two babies meant for me.  While others picked up their child and moved around the floor, checking out different toys and talking to others while swinging their baby in their arms, I sat on the floor with my babies- in one spot while reaching out to grab a toy here or there that made its way over to our area.  I was not mobile in the least, and, as such, I was not social.  It’s not that others were mean to me, it’s just that they were doing what they could do and did not realize my limitations.

We continued attending the playgroup, and talked to those who might be around us.  I watched others make coffee dates for afterwards and thought to myself that I wasn’t sure my “lunar lander” could even maneuver into or around the coffee shop.  I thought that perhaps I was too much work to be friends with, I couldn’t zip around with a little stroller, or walk around with one arm full of baby and the other with my hot drink.  I wished very much to feel less isolated and wondered if I was having fun.

How did I learn to be a parent of twins?  How did I learn to embrace the challenges and enjoy the moments?  It was a journey, to be sure.  It required building confidence in my parenting decisions both big and small.  It required perseverance- attending those playgroups where I felt alone, getting through failed trips to the store, talking myself through the hard days of nursing through growth spurts, and functioning on a severe lack of sleep.  It required reaching-out, feeling awkward and uncomfortable at times, and making new friends who were parents of twins.  It required an ability to laugh at myself, knowing that there is just nothing that can be done when babies decide to explode through their diapers and spit-up all over at the same time.  It requires “digging deep” to find that better self that is there inside of you and accessible only when you want it and need it so badly.  I’ve often heard that things are given only to those who can handle them.  Personally, I believe that handling the challenges makes us that person.

When you are expecting twins, or are learning to be the parent of twins, what you must know and remember is this:  The road will never be quite as smooth as you might wish and you might never master juggling.  But if you remember to love your children and remember that you are doing the very best you can, you will find the energy and strength to get through the day.  Each day is the beginning of a new adventure and each adventure will provide a smile once you learn to recognize the moments.

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Elise Bruderly, MSW, LMSW, lives with her husband and boy/girl twins in Dexter, Michigan where she enjoys the ongoing adventure of parenting twins.  Parenting Twins: The Handbook for Containing Chaos and Preserving Memories in the First Year is available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.com.

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Take Kids Swimming: Jump Right In!

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Categories Going out, How Do The Moms Do It, ParentingTags 3 Comments

Living in Texas, water has always been a big part of our family life. Our summers have always centered around boat rides on the lake, splash parks, running through sprinklers and days at the pool.

I usually long for summer, but this year I’ve been dreading it (and not just because I didn’t want to shove this postpartum body into a bathing suit). I have 3 boys plus the twins and the thought of taking all 5 to the pool by myself scared me. Two of my boys can swim, but O is only 3 and is too confident to be smart around water so I resigned myself to only going swimming when I had my husband’s help. I quickly changed my mind after spending one of his on call weekends at home trying to keep everyone entertained. I spent the next week thinking, planning, and browsing the summer section at Target. When I finally felt comfortable I braved the pool.

That’s right. I took five kids swimming. Here’s what happened:

Swimming supplies

My plan: I had intended to get O a life jacket, but he took one look at one and bluntly said “no”. The thought of wrestling him into a life jacket every time we went to the pool didn’t appeal to me so I went with a puddle jumper. I looked at two types of floats for the babies. One had a small inflatable center that was surrounded by a mesh ring. The second type needed to be completely inflated and was much bigger. I chose two mesh floats with detachable sun shades. The package said “easy to fold and carry” and they looked like they’d be a snap to untwist and use. I also purchased them a double stroller with a huge sun shade that was big enough to even keep their feet out of the sun. In an effort to make the older boys easy to spot I bought them neon green rash guards.

What worked: The puddle jumper is awesome! O wears it happily and it allows him to keep up with his big brothers in the deeper areas of the pool. The rash guards are great. They are so bright I can easily spot the boys from across the pool and can even see them while they are under water. The double stroller’s sunshade has been so helpful. It keeps the babies cool and has an added bonus of blocking what the babies can see. There have already been several times where I was able to put the babies in the stroller with the shade down and have them nap at the pool.

Will and Rhodes. Check out W's cheesy grin and super bright rash guard.
Will and Rhodes. Check out W’s cheesy grin and super bright rash guard.

What didn’t work: The mesh floats were a total fail. They are too bulky to carry unfolded and once they are inflated and wet they are impossible to fold small enough to put them back in their case. While both babies were heavy enough (according to the float’s specifications) Rhodes seemed too light. He kept slipping down and his mouth would inevitably end up in the water. I tried several positions but I just couldn’t make it work for him.

Managing the babies before getting into the pool

My plan: I wanted to do as much as possible at home / in the car so when we got into the pool I could focus completely on supervising the kids. My plan was to apply all sunscreen at home and bring spray with us for touch ups. I also wanted to change the babies into their swim diapers and swimsuits in the car and put O in his puddle jumper in the parking lot.

What worked: Changing the babies and putting the puddle jumper on O while we were still in the car. We were able to walk right into the pool and start playing and I didn’t have to worry about the kids getting into the pool without supervision.

What didn’t work: The sunscreen. Our first trip to the pool was 3 weeks ago and my car’s interior still has streaks of greasy sunscreen in some spots. I now do faces at home and put an older boy in charge of spraying arms and legs when we are at the pool.

Managing the babies while in the water

My plan: To use the floats or pull the double stroller close to the edge of the pool (with the brake on) and only take out one baby at a time.

What worked: The stroller has been great.  I can play with one baby at a time while safely watching the other kids. I’ve learned that if I put diluted juice in a sippy cup (we usually just fill them with water) the novelty of having juice will keep the baby in the stroller entertained and happy.

The babies using their floats. See how low Rhodes is? We haven't used them much since.
The babies using their floats. See how low Rhodes is? We haven’t used them much since.

What didn’t work: The floats. If both babies want to be in the pool at the same time I must have another set of hands. I’m simply not comfortable having both babies in the water by myself.


Since having the twins I’ve realized that we can still get out and do things, I just have to adjust, plan, and be willing to try. While I’m pretty proud that I’ve been able to manage the pool, I’ve had to concede that it’s just not something we can do every day like in past summers. While the kids love going it isn’t a relaxing time for me anymore. I’m constantly counting heads to make sure everyone is safe and the amount of effort it takes to get everyone ready and gather all the needed supplies is exhausting. Even though we won’t be visiting the pool as often this summer we have still found ways to play and stay cool. We’ve had really good times at the local splash pools, had too many snow cones to count, and the babies are always happy to splash in a tub of water.

The babies love this water table. I removed the legs to make it safer.
The babies love this water table. I removed the legs to make it safer.

 

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Re-Entering the Workforce

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My last day in the corporate world was Friday, January 2, 2009, before my girls were born on Monday, January 5.  The game plan has always been that I would stay at home with the girls until they start kindergarten, in Fall 2014, at which time I hope to rejoin the workforce in a similar capacity to what I have always done.

This past fall, though, a couple of months before the girls’ fifth birthday, I was presented an opportunity to manage a long-term project for my former employer.  Estimated at 20 hours of work each week, the hours would be flexible.  I would work mostly from home, coming into the office for select meetings, as necessary.  I jumped at the chance to begin to ease back into the corporate world.

I’ve been clocking hours for the past couple of weeks.  So far it’s been both fantastic and challenging…with a few late nights and a dose of humor thrown in for good measure.

The Good

It’s been nothing short of invigorating to put on my business hat again.  I would never trade a day I’ve enjoyed with my girls over the past five years, nor do I want to wish away one second of the next few months before they start school in the fall.  I’ve relished my role as a stay-at-home-mom, but it’s been really energizing to step into a completely different role for a few hours.

The first time I opened my mouth and industry jargon flowed forth, I had to smile to myself.  I haven’t talked about product details and consumer shopping habits in ages…but those rivers run deep, I was reminded.

While I’m working on this project with a different department from where I used to work, it’s also been wonderful to run into a few of my former colleagues.  I’ve gotten some really delighted smiles and welcome back hugs, which has been so nice.

The Challenging

Re-entering the workforce after children from hdydi.comThe most challenging aspect of the past couple of weeks has been parts of the “work mostly from home” portion of the job description.  It’s true that I can do much of my work at any time, and I’ve been trying my best to consolidate that to before the girls’ wake-up time and after they’re in bed.  However, I’ve had a couple of conference calls to attend during the day, and that hasn’t always gone so smoothly.

During my first call, the girls were relatively well-behaved.  I did have to locate the mute button on my phone (which I’d never used before), but all in all, it went OK.

Since then, though, the girls have gotten a little more “brave”.  I cautioned them that only in the event of an emergency were they to interrupt me.  I forgot that “emergency” should have been more expressly defined to my five-year olds.  During my last call, I was interrupted for lip cream (chap stick) and for white drawer paper.  Afterwards, they explained to me,”…but I NEEDED chap stick!  My lips were chapped!”  Yup, that’s an emergency to a five-year old.

My girls don’t require me to interact with them 100% of the day, but I am usually pretty deliberate about saying, “Mommy will read one more book, and then I need to go make supper,” or, “When we finish this game, you can go upstairs and play while I make a phone call.”  The unscheduled interruptions are a relatively new thing for them.

We still have work to do in this area.

The Funny

I had to laugh at myself when I started combing my closet for appropriate business attire.  I found myself wondering if the tags from the cleaners had an expiration date.  Of the 20 or so pairs of slacks I have, most haven’t been touched in SIX YEARS (since I was wearing maternity clothes the winter before the girls were born).  While most of my pants are relatively classic (or that’s what I’m telling myself), I also had to laugh at the fit of a couple of pairs.  Um, I don’t think this will accomplish the has-it-all-together working mama look.

And then I laughed (to keep from crying) the first day I tried to wear heels for an extended period of time.  Since the girls were born, I’ve always said that I wore heels any chance I got…but in looking back, I realize those were very limited occasions.  Sure, I wore heels now and again out to eat, to a wedding, to a graduation…but I hadn’t had them on for a full six hours in many years.  I started off last Thursday, feeling professional and standing tall.  I did fine until I was rushing to pick the girls up from school…I stepped out of the car and tears came to my eyes.  I don’t know what happened, exactly, but my feet had had enough.  I limped into the preschool, but thank goodness I had some ballet flats in the car so I could make the drive home.

Lastly, I’ve laughed at the former colleagues who didn’t recognize me at all.  Granted, my hair hasn’t been this long since I graduated high school, and the last year before the girls were born, I wore glasses instead of contacts.  Oh, and I’ve lost about 60 pounds since I last graced the halls (during my about-to-pop last days of pregnancy).  Well…maybe I’ll grant them a pass, now that I think about that one.

Have you had any deja vu moments harkening back to your pre-baby days?  Have you re-entered the work force after some time away?  How did it go?  And [PLEASE!] tell me you have some magic to keep my kiddos at bay while I’m on the phone???

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

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When Mommy Is Sick

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When Mommy Is Sick, from hdydi.com. Sadia reflects on how different it is to be a sick single parent with big kids than infants.Remember how my little M came home from her Christmas vacation feverish and pathetic? I caught her virus and became equally feverish and pathetic.

It started with a cough and quickly blossomed into what I suspect is this year’s flu. When I realized I might be contagious, I elected to work from home rather than bringing my germs into the office. That afternoon, my cough worsened and I was certain I was about to be very ill. I begged off work to stock up on easy foods and medication.

Let me tell you that it’s far easier to be a sick single mother of 7-year-olds than of infants.

When Mommy Is Sick with Infants

The last time I was this sick, my daughters were babies. I had a blog, but wasn’t blogging with any regularity and I certainly wasn’t recording how hard those first few months were. I have vague memories of those days of fever and pain.

On the worst day, my fever around 103°F, I remember thinking there was no way I could carry the babies and their car seats to the car to take them to daycare, so I kept them home with me. I was so weak that I remember crawling into the nursery and feeding my babies, one at a time, holding the bottles through the slats of the cribs as I lay on the floor. I changed their diapers through the slats, too. I was too weak to lift them out of their cribs. They stayed in there all day.

My husband was in Iraq and I was too proud/worried to ask the neighbours for help. The only close friends I had nearby had babies younger than mine–we had 5 little ones born on the block within a 12 month period–or were elderly. I wasn’t going to risk passing on what I had to them. Our families were thousands of miles away.

I was well enough to take the babies back to daycare the next day. One of the teachers didn’t live too far from me. She told me to call her if I were ever in the same situation again. She would be happy to bring the babies into school for me. It hadn’t occurred to me to reach out to my daycare community. I’ve never made that mistake again. I also make sure that my friends and my daughters’ friends’ parents know that I’ll be there for them in a crisis.

When Mommy Is Sick with 7-Year-Olds

When I was at the store last week, I focused on picking up food that my kids could prepare themselves: a fresh gallon of milk for cereal, hummus and pita chips, pre-sliced apples and baby cut carrots, sandwich fixings. For myself, I picked up generic multi-symptom flu meds, bananas, chamomile tea, and the few frozen meals available with sane quantities of salt.

That night, I took my acetaminophen-laced meds before driving out to get my girls from after school care. I explained to them that mommy was very sick and that I needed them to be very grown up. It turned out that M had eaten dinner at the Y, but J had skipped it. I showed them their self-service options and told the girls to clean up after themselves.

I didn’t feel like my temperature was falling even an hour later. I came out from my room and asked the girls to prepare for bed, telling them I didn’t feel good. J asked if she could take my temperature. I asked her to open the box of thermometer probe covers, applied one to our thermometer–we still use the two the NICU sent home with us 7.5 years ago–and popped it in my mouth.

102°F. Great.

M and J had changed into their pajamas and brushed their teeth. I reminded them to put their dirty clothes in the laundry and sent them off to bed after J brought me a wet washcloth to try to cool my neck and forehead. I kissed them on the top of their heads instead of nose and cheek as I usually do.

J asked me how to set the alarm clock because she was going to check on me every two hours. I told her that I appreciated the thought, but needed her to get plenty of rest to maximize her chances of staying healthy. She wasn’t pleased.

I posted my fever on Facebook and asked for advice. Several friends recommended taking ibuprofen, but I discovered that the only bottle I had had expired. I figured I’d try to push through.

I dozed feverishly until 9:00. On the hour, my two sweet girls scuffed into my room, each in a bathrobe and slippers and holding her nightlight. They wanted to see how I was. Since they were up anyway, I asked them to load up in the car so Mommy could pick up medicine. They were unable to help me at the 24-hour drive through at CVS Pharmacy, so we had to all go inside to pick up a bottle of ibuprofen.

I ordered pizza delivered a couple of times during the week I was most unwell. The girls’ Girl Scout leader took them to their scout meeting and their teacher dropped them home. I loaded and ran the dishwasher as my daughters made their way through plates and cups, and I disinfected around the house as best I could to keep my virus to myself. I also cleaned the cat litter and took out the trash.

Otherwise, though, my daughters have been pretty self-sufficient. I’ve reserved my energy to spend with my girls, talking to them about their days, talking about the things they find interesting, picking up after them, especially dirty dishes, dirty clothes, and dirty floors. They’ve helped out by making their own meals, putting away clean dishes and clothes, and taking care of their own basic physical needs. I’ve dropped them at school and picked them up, run their baths, and checked their homework.

Poor M felt terribly guilty for having passed on her virus to me, so she needed extra affection to help her understand that I had chosen to risk getting sick because I loved her … just as she was doing in caring for me. J tired of working to get along with her sister and needed me to intervene a few times.

There’s been a lot more TV at our house than I’d usually allow, but given that eating a meal wore me out so much that I slept for two blocks of 8 hours the following day, I feel like we’ve been doing really well.

Ever wonder if it gets easier? It does!

How do you manage care for your children when you’re sick?

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.

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Ask the Moms: Multiples and Birthday Party Etiquette

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Categories Ask the Moms, Birthdays, Multiple SolutionsTags , , 14 Comments

For party throwers | For party goers

Mother of triplets Jenn reached out us with this question:

My triplets are turning 5 and would like to have a party inviting their classroom friends.  They are in the same class.  I cannot expect every guest to bring 3 gifts. I know you mentioned NO presents as an option but at 5 they are really looking forward to having their first birthday party with not just family but friends too and being able to open their classmates’ gifts!

I’m sure that this cannot be an uncommon problem for mothers of multiples!

Jenn, we’re so glad you asked about this. It’s not just a quandary for the parents throwing the party for multiples, but a common question for the parents of singleton guests too! There’s also the matter of attending a singleton’s party with your multiples. Are you expected to give a separate gift from each child, or is it okay to give one from the family?

When You’re Throwing a Party for Your Birthday Children

Above all, be considerate of your guests as Jenn is being. If you know that every guest you have invited has the resources to give extravagant gifts to each child and that is your community expectation, good for you. For most of us, that’s not the case.

Talk to your children ahead of time and explain to them that the real gift is their friends’ presence. They shouldn’t express disappointment at gifts, even if they feel it, and they should be certain to say “Thank you.” You may need to explain that this is one of the challenges of being a multiple. Sharing a birthday means sharing gifts. Or sharing a birthday means not sharing gifts. Set the expectation that works for your family.

Some possible variations include:

  • One gift per guest family per set of multiples.
  • One gift per guest family per birthday child.
  • One gift per guest child per set of multiples.
  • One gift per guest child per birthday child.

We generally discourage that last option. Imagine that you have triplets and you’ve invited triplets to their party. Nine gifts from one family to another is unnecessary, expensive, and will likely go under-appreciated by the overwhelmed recipient children.

Take your multiples’ relationship into account

Do your twins or triplets share all their toys? They would probably enjoy shared gifts.

Do they have a strong independent streak and enjoy keeping their possessions separate? They would appreciate less elaborate individualized gifts.

Do your multiples insist that everything always be fair and equal? It may be simplest to keep gift-giving within the family and invite guests not to bring gifts or to bring donations for the local library or food pantry instead.

Mention gifts in the invitation

This invitation demonstrates twin birthday party etiquette, with the multiples specifying that a single gift is appropriate.Eliminate discomfort on the part of your guests by specifying your gift expectations in the invitation. It can feel tacky to ask for gifts, but it’s better than leaving guests wondering if they need to bring a gift per child or not.

Consider wording your invitation with something like, “We request only your presence, but if you must bring presents, limit your family to one gift for the birthday girls to share!” You’re not asking for things, but you are setting a one-gift expectation for guest families. Then, your triplets can go round robin on opening the gifts to keep things fair!

If your kids have separate friends, perhaps because they’re in different classes, you could write something like “You are being invited to Twin A and Twin B’s party as Twin B’s honoured guest. Twin A is not expecting a gift from you!”

Creative solutions

There are several ways to provide guidance to party guests on what to give as a gift to keep things easy and equal.

Jenna did a “5 and 5 party” for her son. Each friend brought $10. $5 went to charity, specifically the local children’s hospital. He used his $5 to choose a toy and picked a new train for his train set after the party. Most kids also brought a card or picture for him.

Beth and Sadia have been to or thrown book exchange parties. Each child comes to the party with one age appropriate, gender neutral, wrapped book. The birthday girls’ parents brought a few extras, just in case someone forgot.  Everyone, including the birthday girls, leaves with one wrapped book. This approach has the perk of avoiding the need for pesky goodie bags!

Build an activity center. In your invitation, let your guests know that you’re building an art center, kitchen center, or dress up center and that you’d appreciate contributions towards it. As we suggested above, have the kids take turns opening gifts. Mom and dad can open any remainder to ensure that each kid gets to open the same number of gifts.

Dana often suggests family presents for her twins’ birthdays. These are things like be board games, a collection of books, or art supplies.

Sadia’s daughters have requested canned goods for the food pantry instead of gifts, after discovering the hard way that many people feel uncomfortable arriving at birthday parties completely empty-handed. MandyE always adds a “no gifts, please” note at the bottom of her invitations. Her daughters have gotten some really great cards over the years instead of gifts and love opening them!

When You’re Attending a Party with Your Multiples

Within the multiples community

If you’re part of a close-knit multiples community, as MandyE and Jen Wood are, you’ll probably notice that there are norms in place regarding birthday gifts from twins to twins or higher order multiples. Just ask one of the other moms.

Jen Wood is a playgroup with 7 sets of twins within a year of her kids. They’ve always brought one gift per birthday kid. They also received one gift per birthday kid from each other “set” of friends. If they didn’t share a birthday they wouldn’t be expected to share a gift.

When MandyE goes to parties for multiples, she usually has her girls make a handmade card for each kid and does a larger family gift.

Sadia’s daughters usually give a gift to each birthday multiple unless they know that the multiples in question like to share their clothes and toys. In that case, they will do a more elaborate gift to all the birthday kids. Her twins’ great aunt, who has triplets, always gets the twins coordinating but non-identical pajamas from her whole family.

Gifts for singletons

There’s no hard and fast rule here. Take the size of your family and your financial and time resources into account. This isn’t just an issue for multiples. We don’t imagine that large families should feel obligated to bring a gift from each child who attends a party when siblings are invited.

When MandyE and her daughters go to singleton parties, she lets each of her girls choose a gift. Sadia tends to bring a single gift to singleton birthday kids from the whole family.

On the one occasion that her daughters brought separate gifts, the birthday girl’s mom noticed and mentioned her surprise. In this case, Sadia’s daughters felt that they had individual relationships with the birthday girl rather than being her “twin friends.” They felt very strongly that they wanted to give gifts as individuals.

Twin birthday party etiquette

The truth is that there is no universal standard on how many gifts twins should give or receive. It falls on the multiples’ parents to set expectations for their own family and their guests. Take into consideration the relationships between the children involved, whether they function more as individuals or as a set. Remember that being there to celebrate the birthday child or children is more important than the gift you bring. It really is the thought that counts.

How do you navigate the murky waters of birthday parties with multiples?

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