This Post Is Long Because Getting Out Of The House Each Morning Starts A Week Before

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Categories Childcare, Infants, Working10 Comments

We are a two-mom household of boy/girl twins. We both work, although I did take 12 weeks of maternity leave. Or, from my employer’s perspective, vacation. We had a nanny from the time they were 9 days old (yes, we did have help while I was home, and yes, we know that’s cheating), but long before their birth, we had committed to putting them in daycare around 15 weeks.

Today, the twins are one day shy of 17 weeks. Which is also two weeks into our experience with daycare. And in the world of parenthood, two weeks of anything done consistently and relatively successfully qualifies you as a veritable expert.

It is with the confidence of a seasoned rookie that I come to you with how it is we get ourselves out of the house each morning in a two-parents-that-work-outside-the-home household. It is working for us. So far.

To keep track of all of this, I made a checklist using my therapist also known as Excel spreadsheets that I laminated and keep on the kitchen counter next to a dry-erase marker. We may not always take the time to check all the boxes, but it serves as a visual cue of what needs to be done.

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The moment I find ten minutes on a Sunday, I pull clothes out for the kids – for the WEEK – and put them in a shoe organizer in their closet. I do the same for their pajamas. There are two advantages to this method: (1) by the time we get home with the kids after work, we’d rather have those precious minutes to play with them than to fumble through drawers and find PJs, and (2) in selecting clothing, I’m likely to come across clothes or PJs that no longer fit them and I can take those items out of the closet and put them in my to-sell-at-the-next-mom’s-of-multiples-garage-sale bin in another room. I’m constantly stood still by how quickly they grow. And notice I said Ten Minutes. Those mornings I imagined babies babbling happily in their cribs while I spent an hour pairing the cutest outfits and maybe even ironing them while birds chirp outside? NOT HAPPENING.

Sunday through Thursday nights, after the kids go to sleep (usually around 7:00 p.m.), our fast-paced preparation begins. First, one of us gets the wash cloths, towels, diapers, and PJs set out for the next night’s bath/bottle/bed routine. The other person goes to the kitchen and makes enough formula for their next morning and next evening bottles. This way, all we have to do is warm them up. And since prepared formula lasts 24 hours, making the next night’s bottle allows us more time with the kids. (Before they were sleeping through the night, we made enough bottles for the night, too.)

Next, one of us washes all the bottles and nipples while the other writes down their intake for the day on some books I created. We continue to track this, along with notes about disposition and poopie diapers because we can note trends and changes and discuss with caretakers and health care providers, as needed.

After that, we make enough formula to fit in a sports bottle, usually 32 ounces (which, by the way, only gets them through early afternoon the next day) – we also keep formula and water at the daycare so they can make those afternoon bottles. We do this for them as a courtesy, not a requirement. Most of the time, I remember to grab that from the refrigerator the next morning to take to daycare. Whoever isn’t making formula is preparing our dinner.

After we eat, we look at the BabyGrams – notes sent home from daycare – to see if we need to restock anything like bibs, extra clothes, blankets, formula, etc. We put these items, along with a clean pacifier, two clean bottles, and cloth-diapers-used-as-burp-cloths into their bag. Then we put the bag INTO THE CAR. We used to leave the bag by the door leading to the garage because tripping over the bag would make you remember to take it with you when you left, right? NOT NECESSARILY.

After a quick dinner, showers, catching up, bills, etc…

Then.

We.

Sleep.

The twins begin to stir beyond the a-pacifier-will-hold-them-off stage between 5:15 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. So depending on level of movement and squeaking, we sometimes feed them before we dress or dress ourselves before we feed. The ideal would be the latter, but babies have a way of altering your intentions. Thankfully, though, if we feed them first, they both easily go back to sleep. Usually it’s our son that stirs first, but either way, when one eats, we get the other one up to eat, too.

Shortly before we are ready to leave, we get them dressed. Their reflux gave us that hint. Remember how we put their clothes in the shoe organizer? It’s completely possible that The Reflux might get us through to Wednesday’s outfit before we’ve left the house. On Monday.

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We leave the house each morning around 7:00 a.m., arriving to daycare by 7:40 a.m., and I pick them up each evening by 5:15 p.m. In order to avoid Certain Meltdown – hunger mixed with tiredness – I ask the daycare to top them off with a bottle at 4:00 p.m. no matter what time they last ate.

By the time I get home, it’s close to 6:00 p.m., around the time my partner is arriving from her job. At that time, we’ll either play upstairs or load the kids into the stroller and get some fresh air. By 6:30 p.m. there is a lot of eye-rubbing and yawning going on. And the twins are doing it, too. So one of us starts warming bottles (to room temperature only!) while the other is giving the first baby a bath. So that we can have relatively equal time with each child, we alternate babies each evening. So whichever baby you bathed and fed, you also keep watch over during the night. This last part was recently added because somebody wasn’t swaddling too well and somehow I was ending up with that baby during the night. At 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m. And guess what, the swaddle’s got better.

We also found a groove doing these ancillary items on certain evenings.

Friday’s – Boil/sterilize nipples and pacifiers. Launder car seats and other baby laundry. Inevitably, the car seats get spit up in, so we wash them on Friday’s to be able to let them air dry over night without having to wake up EVEN EARLIER the next morning to reassemble them.

Wednesday’s – baby laundry, as needed – sometimes we run out of swaddle blankets or they may have spit up on their blankets that they take to day care.

Sunday’s – My mother made quilts for the twins and we use these on the floor in the living room where many of their toys are. Tummy time equals wet burps, so on Sunday evenings we wash those with maybe a load of towels and/or the swing and bouncy seat chairs that they drooled over and sat in over the weekend. We do these items on Sunday’s because there is no big rush to reassemble them since they’ll be at daycare the next day. This is also a good time to wipe down toys, as needed. While we watch In Plain Sight. The one from three weeks ago.

Just the other night, we were doing our dance of preparation and Jennifer asked, “What the heck were we doing with our time before we had kids?” And neither of us could remember.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

You can read more of Rachel’s family journey on her blog, RaJenCreation.

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Our son, “Mater” (L) and daughter, “Boo” (R).

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Ask the Moms – to Work or Not to Work?

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Categories Ask the Moms, Working9 Comments

And by “work,” in this case, I’m referring to paid employment.  Obviously we know that mothering in and of itself is plenty of work, and that’s not the debate we’re trying to stir up.

Truthfully, though, the issue of working outside of the home or not is a big issue in the lives of most moms, and those of us with multiples are no exception.

Sometimes, to work or not is a choice that’s made for you by virtue of financial or logistical realities.  Maybe you’re the sole breadwinner in your house, maybe you need the health insurance, maybe the mortgage payment depends on two salaries.  Or, on the flipside, maybe you find the cost of double daycare is actually more than you bring home!

Whether it’s an active choice or not, though, we all have to find the balance that meets as many of our needs as possible.  And sometimes there’s just nothing to be done about the mommy guilt. You might decide to go back to work, and then feel guilty about not being with your kids all day.  Or, you might feel really good about being back to work, but feel guilty about not feeling guilty!  Or, you might be home all day with them, and wish you could contribute to the family finances.  The list goes on.

The HDYDI moms, as ever, are no exception.  We run the gamut, from working full-time, working part-time, freelancing, working from home, and 100% SAHM.  Someone asked through our Features page to talk about the work/not-work/babies dynamic.  So, we present to you, some of our pros and cons to staying at home or going back to work.

Working Outside of the Home, full- or part-time

Pros:

  • The external reward of being paid for what you do!
  • Enjoying the work you do
  • Professional advancement/career trajectory
  • Getting a “break” from the kids can help you to be more patient or enjoy them more when you’re home
  • Adult conversation
  • Mini-breaks during the day to do things like online bill pay or phone calls on the to-do list
  • Good childcare can teach your kids neat things that you might not have the time or ability or inclination, like Spanish or new songs and games

Cons:

  • Even if you get home at the very reasonable hour of, say, 5:30pm, it can be really hard to cram everything in before the kids go to bed.  Play time, dinner, baths, bedtime… it can be a mad rush from walking in the door to bedtime.
  • Having to use up limited vacation or sick days when one or both of your kids are sick or childcare falls through
  • Potential for missing certain “firsts”
  • With all time split between work and parenting, hard to keep up with other things (i.e. keeping your house from turning into a pit!)

Stay-at-home Mom

Pros

  • Being able to make all the decisions regarding your kids’ care (or, doing it all “your own way”)
  • Time flexibility, at least as naps will allow… it’s nice to not have to insist on only the early morning or late afternoon doctor’s appointments!
  • Lowered stress/expectations of daily appearance (though, beware, this can also be a one-way ticket to “What Not to Wear”), stay in your PJs if you want!
  • Ability to participate in school-day activities
  • Being there for practically every moment of their development
  • Not having to call out from work if someone is sick

Cons

  • There is no break. No vacation days, no calling in sick or taking a mental health day. You’re always “at work,” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Isolation from the “adult” world, and the potential for conversations that revolve around poop.
  • Minimal external validation for all of the work you do
  • If you want to re-enter the work force, depending on your career, the time “off” could have a negative impact on your career trajectory

There’s clearly no single right or wrong answer, and every family has different circumstances. Maybe you don’t have to worry about childcare costs because you have family nearby to take care of the kids.  Maybe you have the kind of career that lets you pick up little projects that you can do from home to stay current. Lots of people who consider themselves stay-at-home-moms, including some of us here at HDYDI, actually have one or two part-time things going on.  Teach a class in the evening, volunteer in your field, write articles for a magazine.

And while you may not have much of a choice when it comes to working or staying home, you can always find ways to mitigate the negatives.  Combat the SAHM isolation by taking classes or having playgroups with other moms. Reduce the evening rush of the working mom by prepping food for the week on Sunday, cutting down the frequency of baths, or ignore the housework and hire a cleaning lady.

And remember that there are positives, and almost everyone has days when they feel like the grass would be a whole lot greener on the other side.  Yeah, sitting in traffic is really frustrating, but there’s probably a SAHM that would kill to be in a car by herself with a coffee and NPR on the radio.  And vice versa.

What about you, readers?  Have you found hidden benefits (or pitfalls) of your current work situation? Advice for handling the guilt or envy of the other side?

[Forgive the late post, I just didn’t have it in me yesterday!]

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Weekend Warrior!

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Ahhhh, weekends!  

Time to relax, kick your feet up and… SNAP OUT OF IT!  

Relaxing weekends at our house were soooo 14 months ago.  In fact, I think the word “relax” has officially been omitted from our family’s dictionary.  And that’s fine. With B and I both working full-time, by the end of the work week, our weekend To Do list is a mile long.  There are the usual must-get-done-no-matter-what tasks such as laundry, grocery shopping, a trip to Costco, recycling, bills and preparing food for the week.  Then there’s the attempt-to-squish-in-if-at-all-possible tasks that seem to migrate from week to week because we always run out of time.  These tasks (taxes, hem B’s jeans, repair button on kids’ shirt, make prints of photos stored on jump drive, install dimmer switch in kids’ bedroom, etc.) seem to be never ending and, in fact, multiply with every passing weekend. 

So, how does a working-family with twins fit in all of the “must do’s”, a few of the “attempt-to do’s” and still have fun, all within a 48-hour time period? 

You become a Weekend Warrior! 

Back in the day, the term Weekend Warrior meant something completely different than it does to me now.  Weekend Warriors escaped right after work (car pre-packed with needed gear the night before), grabbed a quick bite to eat, and headed for the nearest mountain/lake/cabin/ski slope.  It meant that you seized the weekend and all of its relaxed luxuriousness.

Um, not so much any more. 

Now that we’re parents, we seize the weekend by (unfortunately) cramming as many errands and household chores as we possibly can within the 2,880 minutes that we are allotted.  It’s a bit of a whirlwind, not exactly relaxing and hard on your back, but that’s just life these days!  The good news is, with some efficiency, organization and a helluva lot of teamwork, we always have time to get outside and enjoy the Alaskan outdoors with our kidos (pending any crazy weather and illness, of course).  

Without further ado, here are a few things that help us to be a bit more efficient in completing our To Do list so we can maximize our fun during the weekend:

  • MAKE FRIDAY NIGHTS FUN:  On Friday nights after the boys eat their dinner, we pack ’em up and head to Costco!  Fridays are a bit less hectic than going on a Saturday afternoon, yet they still have the usual array of food samples.  A double bonus!  And, as all MoMs know, Costco (BJ’s and Sam’s Club, too!) is one of the only places that has twin-friendly shopping carts (as referenced by Finn & Reid below).  The boys love riding around in the cart, trying out the massage chairs and looking at the huge TVs during our Costco trips.  Some good people watching for the boys and one less item on the weekend To Do list for us! 
  • Costo Kids

  • BE EFFICIENT DURING NAPTIME:  We try to complete most of the household chores while the boys take their naps. That way, when they wake-up, we can head out the door for a fun activity instead of hanging around the house while the kids play and we finish up the breakfast dishes, bills or laundry.  
  • STAY ON TOP OF THE LAUNDRY:  Now that our boys are feeding themselves, it seems like the dirty laundry is multiplying!  I try to start a load of laundry after I get home from work at least twice during the weekday.  Before we bathe the kids, I transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer.  Then once the kids are in bed, the clothes are ready to be folded.  I don’t mind doing laundry, but I really dislike folding clothes, so spreading the laundry throughout the week helps cut down on the piles and piles of clothes, bedding, towels, etc. that build up by the weekend. 
  • DO A CLEAN SWEEP AFTER BEDTIME (EVERY NIGHT):  Every night after the dudes go to bed, we do a sweep of their main play area.  We place the 15,000 books back on their shelf, throw the blocks and stacking cups back into their holding containers, gather the toys that were hidden in drawers, baskets and behind stereo speakers, and clean up their booster seats for the next day.  It’s nice to spend the rest of the evening in a semi-organized and less “circus-y” state, as well as wake up to a fresh play space, even if it only lasts 1.25 seconds before the kids destroy it once again. 
  • PAY BILLS USING AUTO-PAY:  Before becoming a parent, I actually enjoyed doing bills.  Writing out checks, placing address labels and stamps on envelopes then sending them on their way really helped me know where our money was going.  After the boys were born, however, this (sick) enjoyment that I once had lasted all of about 2 days.  I barely had time to change out of my spit-up stained sweatshirt, let alone write a check!  Now I’ll all about Auto-Pay.  Not only does it save us money (stamp-wise) and time, we are also saving trees because we don’t receive those pesky monthly statements for half as many bills as we used to. 
  • TRADE OFF:  When the kids are sick or the weather is crappy, it’s obviously going to be an indoor-kind-of-day.  When this occurs (and it happened to us a lot this winter because of well below-zero temps and multiple illnesses!), we trade off playing with the kids every 30 minutes or so.  While B watches the kids for 30 minutes, I can focus on making the boys’ beds, chopping veggies for dinner and cleaning the bathroom without having to refill a sippy cup with water, change a diaper, or break up a fight over the stuffed monkey.  When the 30 minutes are up, I feel like I got a few items checked off the To Do list and I can focus 100% of my attention on the boys while Brook picks up the dog poop in the backyard!  :) 
  • FEED ON-THE-GO:  For quite a few reasons, I used to be adament about being home for the boys’ mealtimes.  But in the last few months, I’ve got I bit more relaxed about feeding the boys while we are out and about.  Although it’s a bit of a pain to pack up the boys food, it’s certainly worth the extra time and effort so that you don’t have to rush home when you’re out running errands or enjoying an afternoon hike.  The past few weeks, we’ve also got in the habit of stopping for lunch at a little cafe across the street from the grocery store.  All four of us eat lunch (although the boys mostly people-watch) and then head over to the store to do our weekly shopping.

How does your family fit in a little bit o’ fun on the weekend while still making sure you take care of those have-to tasks that always seem to be looming over us?

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The Dreaded Daycare Dropoff

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Categories Childcare, Working7 Comments

When you become a parent of multiples, the word “logistics” enters your daily vocabulary. One of my least favorite logistical activities with my twin boys is what I call the Dreaded Daycare Dropoff.  I naively thought things would get easier as the boys aged, but each stage brings a different challenges. Here’s what I’ve learned at each stage along the way.

While still in infant seats:

* Keep them in infant seats as long as possible!

* Prepare as much as possible the night before – bottles prepared and labelled, clothes picked out, extra diapers and clothes packed

* In the morning, do everything else you need to do and pack the babies last. This way, you can pack them up, put them in the car, and be on your way. No worrying about poop explosions or vomiting on clean clothes.

* When unloading them at day care, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Can someone help you unload babies? Can someone help you unload bottles? Is there a place to store your double Snap n Go and car seats on site?

Out of infant seats but not walking:

* We tried two methods over time – double stroller and single stroller while carrying another. Overwhelmingly, using the double stroller was easier because it kept our hands free for bottles, diapers, opening doors, and anything else.

* Again, prepare everything the night before and pack up the kids last.

* When arriving at day care, take the kids out first so they can begin playing while you unpack everything. Again ask for help wherever possible.

Once they are walking:

* Use the stroller for as long as you can. You will miss it!

* Decide early on if you are going to be a hand-holder or a leash-user (no judgement on either) and use these methods consistently from an early age. They are more amenable to these methods when they are younger and it will become second nature to them.

* Expect things to take just as long, if not longer. They are now full-blown toddlers and everything is interesting to them, which means lots of stopping and starting… times two.

* Expect some crying, fussing, and clinging when you leave them. Talk to your care provider about how you’d like to handle it together. Will you have the provider distract them while you exit quickly? Will you stay awhile to make them (hopefully) feel more comfortable before leaving?

* Have them help where possible. They are starting to understand directions, so can they get their coats out of the cubby? Can they line up at the door? Can they carry something while they walk?

 Now you tell us… do you have any advice on doing solo day care dropoffs and pickups?

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Movin' on up!

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This post, my friends, will contain absolutely no advice.  Zero.  Zip.  Zilch.  Instead, I’m asking for your advice.  Can you help?  Please?

Earlier in the week, Rebecca wrote a post about the shrinking of your living space once twins come into the picture.  Two babies at once = lots-o-stuff.  No matter how large your house, it seems to shrink exponentially as the months in which your kids have inhabited the Earth go by.  First, it’s the bouncy seats, swings, play mats, and Bumbo chairs that liter the living room.  Then around the 5th month mark, the aforementioned items are handed down to another expectant MOM (to fill up her living room!), and it’s the Exersaucers, Jumperoos and high chairs that take their place. 

We sold the ol’ Exersaucer and Jumperoo on Craigslist a month or two ago and, damn…that was a happy day!  “More space!!”, B and I said to each-other.  That was, until they started walking.  And climbing.  And being….well, 1-year olds! 

It was at that time that we decided enough-was-enough and started looking around at houses.  Right now, the space in which we live is 1,388 square feet.  That seemed HUGE before we had kids.  We would rarely even use our downstairs, which includes two bedrooms and a bathroom.  We had one entire bedroom (now the boys’ room) that contained nothing more than backpacks and sleeping bags.  We stored them in the abandoned room simply because something had to be in there.  It couldn’t just be….empty! 

Now we seem to be bursting out at the seams of our little home.  The boys enjoy exploring every square inch.  And the primary-colored plastic explosion that is now our living room…well, it needs to be a bit bigger. 

We’ve been looking at houses for a few months now.  While attending open houses, even the 1,600 square foot homes seem SO big.  But we know that, once the boys get older, that amount of space will seem small as well.  So, we decided to stay around the 2,000 square foot mark.  Not to big, but not too small.  I’m all for living in the smallest amount of space that is feasible for a family.  Less to heat, less to clean and less space to search when your kid plays a game of “hide mommy’s car keys”. 

So.  We need to move into a bigger home.  Check.  That would entail us having to sell our current home…and you guessed it!  That’s where you come in! 

Dear readers, how is a family of four supposed to live in their current home, all while giving the “illusion” that it is not lived in?  How do you make your home as uncluttered as possible when you have two one-year olds and all of the paraphernalia that accompanies them, cluttering up your house?  Moreover, how are you supposed to show your house when you and your husband both work full-time and the only time during the week that you have available to show your home is between the hours of 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm, which also happens to coincide with the time in which your two little munchkins start flinging sweet potatoes and black beans all over the dining room (aka, their dinner time)?

If any of our readers have experienced selling their current home and moving into a new house with kids in tow, we want to hear from you!  Give us your tips on staying sane while movin’ on up… 

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Pumping For Advice

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Categories Breastfeeding, WorkingTags 8 Comments

Pumping while working full-time is not for the faint at heart. It’s not even something I ever really thought I would do – but then so much of what happened when the boys came early at 33 weeks wasn’t something I ever thought I would do. Our guys never really learned to latch on well enough for me to breastfeed them easily. I tried to get the hang of it while they were in the NICU for four weeks but didn’t have much success. And I was just so tired.

I got the pumping thing down while they were still in the hospital, so when we got home, I went to pumping exclusively and just fed them with bottles. We were all a lot happier. I tried to find some guidance from my baby books on how to do this whole pumping thing but resources were scarce. No one in the breastfeeding support from our hospital really shared this option with me, as I think it’s their goal to get you successfully breastfeeding. I think that is a wonderful goal, but with two babies, it was more than I could handle.

I ended up pumping for a total of 11 months. The boys were three months before I had to supplement with formula, which I ended up mixing half and half with the breast milk. The part that killed me the most was on that day when I made my first half and half bottles, my heart was so sad that I couldn’t provide all the food my guys needed – but they could have cared less! They scarfed down the formula/breastmilk bottles just like everything else. Humph. Oh well.

I went back to work when they were three months old. By then I had a solid schedule. I pumped when we woke up in the morning for 20 minutes, while they had their first bottle. Then I pump in 4-5 hour increments until bedtime. While I pumped, I gave the boys their bottles so that I could make good use of our time (God gave me twins for a reason – I love to multi-task). I know, I know, you’re not supposed to “prop” up a bottle. But I believe that guidance was written by someone who never had multiples – and I was always right there with them. We used bottle pillows and it worked wonderfully for us.

I was nervous about the whole pumping-at-work thing – what would people think? Then I remembered I worked practically with all men and, really, what were they going to say? Nothing! I looked at it as my little break from the cube. In fact (don’t tell anyone!), after I stopped pumping, I still brought my pump with me to work for two months and kept the same schedule to take naps instead of pumping.

My office has great facilities for nursing moms. They offer lactation rooms with a recliner, sink, fridge, table and plug-ins, and you just reserve the room for a private meeting on your schedule. If your workplace doesn’t have quite such a set-up, there are resources online you can tap into to help make a case for setting up something like it. I’ve heard stories about moms who pump in the restroom or spare meeting rooms or even in their cars. You can make it work but it’s a little easier when your employer is supportive.

Some essential items for pumping while working:

1. A good, heavy-duty breast pump. Don’t mess around here. I used the Medela Pump-in-Style, and it was my best friend and constant companion. It had all the compartments you need to store your equipment, plus a cooler and ice-freezey-thing. I can’t remember if it came with an AC adapter or not, but that is essential. A battery pack is a nice back up as well – the power does go out here in the middle of Missouri during bad weather. And I won’t go into details on the few times I tried pumping in the car while driving home from work (yes, I did try it – I don’t recommend it).

 2. A hands-free pumping/nursing bra thing. I’m not sure how I would have lived without this. With one of these, pumping at work becomes kind of little vacation away from your annoying co-workers. You can just relax while your pump does all the work. Of course, you do feel a lot like a cow, but reading a book can take your mind off of that.

3. A timer. A standard kitchen timer is fine. You just need to be sure you’re being consistent about the time you’re putting in. That’s the key to maximizing your milk production. (Feeling like a cow yet?)

4. Storage containers. I used hard plastic storage bottles to collect and transport my milk, then transfered it to freezer bags when I got home. Eventually my supply was low enough and they were eating enough table food (around 6 months) that I just used the hard plastic storage bottles to keep the milk in the fridge, as we would use it all up by the next day.

Keep the same pumping schedule at work that you established at home. Mine was 7am, 11am, 3pm and 8pm. No, I never really got up to pump at night after I came home hospital – but man, that first pump in the morning was rough because of it. On the other hand, it felt like I had produced a lot!

Patience is essential. I stuck with it for so long because I felt like it was the one thing I could really do to help my guys. I had the usual mommy guilt piling up – my babies were born early, my body failed them, I can’t even nurse them, I’m a horrible mother. So seeing those frozen bags of milk lined up were like my little accomplishments. I was proud. My pumping schedule eventually weaned off until I was down to pumping just once a day. Then I just stopped. It was the end of an era.

No matter how long you end up pumping, you should be proud. Pumping is hard, dammit. It feels and looks really weird, but oh well. Now you know how all those cows feel.

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