Twinfant Tuesday: Ever-Changing Schedules (Birth-4 Months)

Ever-Changing Schedules (1)

Schedules. Some moms love it. Some moms hate it. Some grandmothers think that their daughters/daughters-in-law are sickos for thinking about putting their sweet grandchildren on a dreaded schedule.

If you were a student in my classroom or one of my students’ parents, you will know that I love schedules and routines. By reading some of my extensive lists on my blog Doyle Dispatch, you could probably also tell that I like to know what to expect.

Let’s face it, though. Babies like routines also.

Think about it. They spent 9 months in this cozy, safe environment before getting expelled into this crazy, loud, unexpected world. What in the world is going on? As soon as they get comfortable with the way things work, they go through a developmental change and then POOF they have to re-figure out the world again. Scary! That’s why we swaddle our babies. That’s why we live with white-noise machines constantly humming all night long. That’s why we do schedules and routines. We do whatever we can to help guide our babies through the craziness of life, especially during their infancy.

Routines start simply: The Feeding Routine

  • unswaddle
  • change diaper
  • allow to nurse for about 10-20 minutes
  • supplement with milk that was pre-pumped
  • re-dress
  • swaddle
  • sleep
  • repeat

We do that every 2-3 hours. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. It’s exhausting, but we can make it work.

Then a growth spurt happens, and we think we are losing our minds.

My breasts hurt. My nipples are falling off. My back is killing me. I’m deliriously tired. Can’t we put them back in?

Around 6 weeks, we re-evaluate and realize that, after this growth spurt is over, our perfect little schedule isn’t good anymore. Our babies aren’t sleeping every other minute of every day. They are getting overstimulated when they are held by us, their grandparents, their aunts, uncles, and visiting friends.

Twin Schedules

We come up with a new schedule: The Ideal Feeding Schedule

  • 11 PM
  • 3 AM
  • 7 AM
  • 10 AM
  • 12:30 PM
  • 3 PM
  • 5:30 PM
  • 8 PM

Ha. Like you have enough brain power to stick to that schedule! Think again, Batman!

Playtime within Schedules

You re-evaluate after a week and come up with the Get-Daddy-Back-to-Work Schedule

  • 8 AM: First Feeding
  • In-between: Daddy to work, Mommy and babies 1-1 cuddle or activity
  • 11 AM: Feeding
  • In-between: Babies nap
  • 2 PM: Feeding
  • In-between: Mommy 1-1 cuddle time or activity
  • 5 PM: Feeding
  • In between: Cuddle time
  • 8 PM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep (expect fussiness)
  • 11 PM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep
  • 2 AM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep
  • 5 AM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep

You discover that this one really doesn’t work either. Maybe it’s the fact that your babies are constantly going through a growth spurt or sleep regression. When one stops, the other starts. You give up. You just forget the advice from The Sleep Book (insert whichever theory you are going with now). You give in. You go with the flow. You feed ever hour if you need to. You feel like you aren’t producing enough milk. You are worried that you are starving your babies, but you plug along.

Twin Schedules

Suddenly, you realize that you can predict the type of mood that your baby is in at about 2.5 months. They still hate this thing called “napping,” but you just need a few minutes during the day for your shower/coffee/to clean the spit-up off your 3rd shirt of the day. A natural schedule takes place. It’s marvelous!

The Natural Schedule (Times are adjustable)

  • 6:00 AM Babies wake up and Daddy soothes them/turns on their mobiles
  • 7:00 AM Babies are too hungry and it’s time to eat (Mommy begrudgingly gets out of bed)
  • During the feeding, Daddy gets coffee for himself, tea and breakfast for Mommy, and showers
  • 7:30 AM Daddy takes both babies, changes diapers and enjoys Happy Morning Time
  • 8:15 AM Babies get tired and cranky. Time for naps!
  • 9:15 AM Babies are awake (although this can happen much earlier). Time for play gym, tummy time, singing, stories, talking, and other play activities.
  • 10:30 AM Mid-morning feeding
  • 11:00 AM Happy mid-morning time with activities
  • 11:45 AM 2nd nap
  • When wake-up: Playroom activity time
  • 2:00 PM Afternoon feeding
  • 2:30 PM Happy afternoon time with activities
  • 2:50 PM Nap
  • 4:30 PM Wake-up and playtime
  • 5:00 PM Feeding
  • 5:30 PM Cuddling with Daddy and Mommy after work (“Couch Cuddle Time”)
  • 7:15 PM Baths and Bedtime routines
  • 7:45 PM Final Feeding and Goodnights
  • Possible feedings around 12:30 AM and 3:30 AM (and sometimes at 5:30 as well)

Now, I’m not saying that this is perfect or that this is the schedule that we always stick to, but overall it does what we want it to do MOST of the time. Feed-play-sleep-play is really  a workable routine. There’s a reason that so many moms swear by it.

One other thing that has helped us is this: Whenever David or Audrey shows signs of being tired, we put them down for a nap or let them sleep where they are. If it is in the evening, we will let them fall asleep for a short time wherever they are (in our arms or in their bouncers if it is dinnertime). At this age, we figure that if they sleep, it’s because they need to sleep. Their nighttime sleeping is all over the place anyway, that we just go with it. Napping so close to bedtime hasn’t shown that we’ve had a negative impact on their overnight sleeping. I know that this goes against what the sleep-training advice tells us to do, but it has worked for us, so we stick with it.

Twin Schedules

Lately, I’ve been having some more appointments, whether is it physical therapy for my shoulder (totally different story… you try having shoulder blade issues when you have two babies that want to be held all the time), a class at the gym (free childcare and a hot shower afterwards!), or just sanity visits from other adults. We have tried one more schedule, based off of The Natural Schedule. We don’t have to stick to it everyday, but it does seem to work:

The 4-Month-Old Schedule

  • 7 AM Feeding, Diapers, Play
  • 8 AM Nap
  • 9:15 AM Feeding, Diapers
  • 10 AM Leave for Gym
  • 10:30 AM Class at Gym
  • 11:30 AM Shower and Locker Room Time
  • 12:15 PM Pick Up Babies from Nursery and Go Home
  • 12:30 PM Feeding, Diapers, Play
  • 1:45 PM Nap
  • 3 PM Feeding, Diapers
  • 3:30 PM Out and About (or Home) Activities
  • 5:30 PM Feeding
  • Evening Activities (Walk or Errands)
  • 8 PM Baths, Diapers, PJs
  • 8:30 PM Final Feeding
  • 9 PM Lights Out
  • + 1 or 2 feedings during the night

So, mommies and daddies, do you have a schedule that works? I’d love to hear it! How do you make it work with two babies? Do you hold your breath during “nap time” as well, knowing that one of them will wake up any minute?

The Time I Had to Clean the Poop Off the Wall

When twin 2-year-olds start changing each other's diapers during nap time, it doesn't make for a pretty picture.Once, when J and M went down for their nap at age 2, I decided to take a nice long shower. I’d been having a hard time sleeping, so I thought a shower might help me take my own nap. As it turns out, I should have done more to confirm that M and J were asleep.

When I came out of the shower, I heard voices in the girls’ room, so I went to investigate.

M: Mama, I can’t clean the poop on the wall.
Me: The what on the what?
M: The poop on the wall.
Me: How did poop get on the wall?
M: I put it there.

This face delivered the news of poop on the wall. Because twins will try to change one another's diapers if they can.

This face delivered the news of poop on the wall.

M had gone number two in her diaper. She had then used half a package of wipes to clean herself, and in the process smeared the wall above her bed with fæces. Can I get an “Eeeeeewwwww” from the peanut gallery?

I never got a clear answer from J on her level of participation.

Just to be safe, both young ladies were bathed, and all the bedding and soft toys in the room and clothes on the girls made their way through the washing machine with copious quantities of bleach. I was glad I had an economy-size container of disinfectant wipes because the walls, as well as the dresser where the used diaper wipes were piled, needed it. For the record, satin sheen Behr paint cleans wonderfully!

At some point, J’s (clean and dry) diaper was changed. J reported that M changed it for her, and I must admit that she did a great job. One tab was attached a little crookedly, but I wouldn’t have known that I hadn’t put the diaper on J except that she’d been in a different brand when she went down for her nap.

This was one of the grossest experiences of my life.

I started out angry and grossed out. Once the wall and children were clean, though, I was able to get a little perspective. M was genuinely trying to clean up after herself. She was embarrassed by the mess she made. J tried to communicate to me what happened, although I struggled to understand the sequence of events.

Our babies grow up. They won’t learn without falling down a few times and making a few messes.

What’s been your grossest parenting moment?

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. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twinfant Tuesday: What Exactly Is “Sleeping Through the Night”?

Sleeping through the night. A fallacy?

Sleeping Through the Night: A Common Question

“Is your baby sleeping through the night?”

It’s such a common question. We ask it of new parents all the time. It’s a question I hear myself asking constantly. Here’s the bigger question. What do we mean when we ask it?

“Is your baby sleeping through the night?”

It’s a comfortable alternative to the question I really want to ask: “What’s your baby like? Who is he or she?” I find that first-time parents of singletons don’t know how to answer that question, since they lack a personality comparison to describe their child against. It was easy for me to see that J was an independent baby, in comparison to M. It was obvious that M was a chatterbox, in contrast to J.

But I digress.

I kept hearing myself ask new parents whether their baby is sleeping through the night. When I’d get an affirmative answer, I’d congratulate the new parent on his or her achievement. When a parent said, “No,” I’d try to comfort them by telling them that my girls didn’t sleep through the night until they were a year old, but we survived and besides, their baby would sleep though the night much sooner than mine because everyone’s baby is bigger for their age than mine.

Sleeping Through the Night: Do We Mean the Same Thing?

Then it occurred to me. I have no idea if we mean the same thing when we say, “sleep through the night.” Are we talking 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep on the part of the baby? 8? 6? Does a nursing session without actually waking baby count as an interruption? How about a diaper change? What about night terrors?

Medically speaking, sleeping through the night, for an infant, is defined as 5-6 hours of sleep without a meal.

New parents want to know when this magical through-the-night sleep will come. By failing to define my terms, am I setting my friends up for an impossible goal by even asking the question?

Sleeping Through the Night: What I Thought

I defined sleeping through the night as being able to skip one of both babies’ 3-hourly feedings, enabling me to sleep for a solid 5-6 hours without needing to feed, soothe, or change a baby.

My daughters, probably because of their extremely small size, weren’t able to do this until they were well over a year old. Our pediatrician told us that part of the issue was that their stomachs would simply not be large enough to contain enough nutrition to sustain them for 6 hours, the reserves in the body fat inadequate. The recognition that there was a physiological reason for my sleeplessness was a great comfort.

Although I was still married when my daughters were tiny, their dad was in Iraq, so I was responsible for every. single. middle-of-the-night feeding… before leaving for work at 6:15 am. I was a zombie.

Mercedes is in the same boat. At 17 months, her little ones are asleep by 7:15 pm, awake at 10, midnight, and sometime again between 12-5. They’re up for the day around 8. RebeccaD wrote, “For the first year, if we got 4 hours we felt like we won the lottery. On the other side of age one, they are sleeping 11.5-12 hours nightly with only occasional interruptions. It will happen!”

We’re in the minority. Most moms are getting more than 3-hour spurts of sleep within the first half of their children’s first year.

Sleeping Through the Night: Variation in Definitions

I took my question of defining this through-the-night thing to the MoMs of HDYDI.

MandyE and DoryDoyle, like me, defined sleeping through the night as dropping the middle of the night feeding or feedings. Mytwintopia wrote that she, “felt better about [her] life when [she] found out that for [her] pediatrician STTN was 6 hours.” Maritherrien had heard the same thing.

LDSKatelyn was also told that 6 hours was the magic number, but for her, it’s 8 hours. Her twins slept 12 hours through the night around 7 months old. Her singleton son wakes up once a night, every night from about 6 months old. It’s half-way through his long stretch of sleep. She suspects it’s a habit rather than a need to eat.

RebeccaD‘s pediatrician defined it as the first 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep and considered the next 4 hours the first nap of the day. However, it didn’t feel like “sleeping through the night” to her until it her kids were sleeping a full 12 hours, without any intervening feedings or diaper changes.

Liggy, our most experienced mom with 3 older singletons preceding her twins, has always considered sleeping through the night to be 6 to 8 hours. Her twins were sleeping 8 to 10 hours a night at 6 months, eating every 2 hours or so during the day.

For , sleeping through the night will be a 12-hour block of sleep.

Mercedes‘ definition was my favourite: “The mythical capabilities of twin unicorns on a bed of cotton-candy clouds while the mother basks in the sticky sweet nectar of peace and quiet.” And Jen Wood, with her 5-year-olds, said, “I’ll know it when I see it.”

MandyE’s definition changed over time. Her first definition of “sleeping through the night” was about 7 hours, her daughters sleeping 10:30 pm – 5:30 am.  Eventually, she dropped the 10:30 feeding and delayed out the morning feeding. 11 hours of sleep became the norm when her girls were about 6 months old.

Despite the claim in an article on the La Leche League site that 5 hours is the “medical definition” of sleeping through the night, I was unable to find anything definitive using the American Academy of Pediatrics website search. The La Leche League piece doesn’t cite references, so I’ll have to stick with what we MoMs came up with. 6-12 hours without needing a feeding seems to be our consensus. That’s a 100% variation.

As with most matters of parenting, listen to your kids and don’t worry about the averages. Whose kid is average, anyway?

How have you defined “sleeping through the night.” When did your kids do it?

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. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child – A Book Review

A mother of 3yo twins reviews Weissbluth's sleep classicThere are arguably seven popular schools of thought regarding sleep training. Those schools of thought are all led by different experts who do not always play nicely together in the sandbox. On the one end is Richard Ferber; popularly associated with the “Cry it out” method. On the other end of the spectrum are Drs. Sears who favor attachment parenting style. Marc Weissbluth, the author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child falls somewhere in between those two extremes.
HealthySleep
I decided to follow the Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child book in sleep training my twins and 3 years later, it’s a decision I do not regret. I chose this book because it focuses more on building good sleep habits very early in life to forestall problems later. Some of the concepts I found most useful are:

Differentiating between night and day straight from the hospital: Daytime was for cuddles and games with baby but night times were made as boring as possible so the babies knew the nights were for sleeping and nothing else.

Putting baby to bed awake – as opposed to rocking baby to sleep and then putting them in their bed. The author gives some signs of tiredness to look out for with babies. Once you see those signs, put baby in bed and let them self-soothe to sleep. This advice was hard for me because I really wanted to snuggle my 8lbs of sweetness to sleep all the time. THEN I reminded myself that 8lbs of sweetness quickly grows to become 25lbs of defiance.I’m glad I went with the authors’ recommendation to teach kids to self-soothe.

Sleep transitions – As a light sleeper, I got up every time my babies made a sound. Understanding the concept of sleep transitions helped me manage our nights better.

This book and the concepts it teaches may not necessarily be the best for your family but it’s what worked for me. I consider it an essential part of my twin parenting library and even now, whenever my twins start having disruptions in their sleep schedule, I consult the Healthy Sleep habits book for solutions as it contains tips starting from infanthood all the way to adolescence. As a bonus, there’s also a chapter devoted to special family events and concerns – dual career parents, mother returning to work, vacation, twins, adoption, daylight savings time and health issues.

True-Life Testimonial – When my twins turned 3 in November, I thought it was a good idea to move their bedtime to 9 pm as it seemed they could handle staying up for longer and we got to spend more time together. One month later, I was the mom walking on eggshells around her 3 year old because any wrong move could result in a meltdown of epic proportions. In one month, my daughter Sugar had more meltdowns than both girls combined had when they were 2 year olds. I confess that I started to wonder if my kid has previously undetected behavioral issues.

One day, in the midst of yet another meltdown, the director of their daycare pulled me aside and asked if Sugar was having trouble sleeping as her tantrums had become much more frequent. The next day we went for dance class and this same child was kicked out for being disruptive THREE TIMES in a 30 minute class. I decided to blow the dust off my sleep training book and see if there was a chapter for older kids. There was! I read it and made changes to the girls’ bedtime routine and sleep habits – moved bedtime back to 8 pm at the latest, included 3 minutes of quiet time in a yoga pose for them to physically unwind and totally ignored all unnecessary requests for water, a fallen toy and other night time shenanigans once the lights went out. It worked!

meditation

By the third day, the girls were staying in bed quietly even when they did not immediately fall asleep and there was noticeable improvement in their daytime temperament. A week into our renewed sleep training, I had reason to say a prayer of thanks for Dr Marc Weissbluth. When I arrived to pick up the girls from daycare, Sugar (the same meltdown mistress of the prior week), went round the class hugging all 8 of her classmates and telling them she’d see them later. She did the same for her teachers. I was close to tears. I recognized that beautiful, bubbly child. I had missed that beautiful, bubbly child. I’d almost forgot what her personality was like before lack of good sleep habits turned her into the equivalent of a PMSing 3 year old with a bad hangover. This book gave me my happy child back

Of course its not all rainbows and unicorns… they are after-all still 3 year olds! 

Advice for other parents of multiples

Explore all possible options available to you for sleep training and choose the one that works best for your personalities. To get the gist of any other book out there, just do a search of the book’s title on any parenting forum. (I used the babycenter.com forums). You’ll find a legion of passionate parents for and against the ideas of whichever book you’re researching. By the time you read through a few threads, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the author is advocating and how it can be applied to your family situation.

Most importantly is to have a sleep plan (hopefully) before your multiples are born. When it comes to sleep and two or more babies, having a sleep strategy can be life and sanity saving.

Yetunde is the proud mom of twin girls, affectionately nicknamed Sugar and Spice. She blogs about the twinmom hustle at mytwintopia and is almost sleeping through the night now.

Twinfant Tuesday: The Secret to Synchronizing Twin Naps – Wake Em Up!

Synchronized sleep: the holy grail of twin parenting. Veteran parents, experts, and other advice-givers agree that the key to synchronizing twin naps is to put them down to sleep at the same time.

It makes sense. Logic would dictate that if you start nap at the same time, the babies will eventually get on the same rhythm.

However, we all know twinfants are the ultimate defy-ers of logic, and sleep-deprived parents are hard pressed to puzzle out why their carefully laid plans are not working. Our fraternal twin boys were determined to sleep in shifts. They just had different internal clocks and different ways of being soothed to sleep. If I put them down for nap at the same time, one would sleep and one would cry, babble, roll around, or poop – anything but fall asleep. I had one early riser and one night owl. For 6 months, I basically did nothing but put babies to sleep, yet I almost always had a baby awake. A special kind of torture for the exhausted mama!

Here’s what we finally figured out: you can’t make them fall asleep. But you can wake them up.

I know, I know – it goes against every instinct. But once we established firm wake-up times, our boys were finally able to synchronize our twins’ naps and nighttime sleep, which made EVERYTHING in our lives better. The parents got much-needed breaks throughout the day, the babies gained better quality time when awake, and the entire family got the predictability of a good routine.

At 6 months, our twins’ bedtime was the most consistent part of the day. So we determined firm wake-up times that would ensure a 7pm bedtime: 7am, 11am, and 4pm.

Yes, we sometimes have to wake them up at 7am. This is the hardest part. My babies could sleep til 8am some mornings. But it would throw the whole day off, which would throw the whole night off, which usually resulted in a 5am wake up the next day. Not worth it!

I put them down for nap at roughly the same times, but it is flexible within a half hour, based on their sleepy cues (9am and 2pm). This gives them about 4 hours of possible nap time in the day. R takes a good half hour or more to settle down, and M needs more sleep than R. They usually get 2.5-3.5 hours of sleep per day. As they more toward only one nap, this is changing, but our schedule is not. Sometimes R hangs out for an hour in his crib without falling asleep, just talking and playing. If he cries, I go get him and enjoy some one-on-one time. Then he has to wait for the next scheduled nap time (unless it’s Meltdown City, in which case he goes down earlier, but the wake-up time is still strictly observed). M is nowhere near ready for one nap. Once they are BOTH skipping a nap everyday for 1-2 weeks, we will make a schedule change.

They both quickly adjusted to the wake-up times, and usually wake on their own. But we still don’t let them sleep past our set times, no matter what: even if they just fell asleep, even if they had a shorter nap earlier in the day, etc. For illness, we just put the sick baby down earlier.

Here is the crazy part: not only did set wake-ups sync up our polar-opposite sleepers, the kids love it! Very rarely do they wake up grumpy. They are happy, refreshed, and ready for action (basically the opposite of when they wake ME up :o).

Do you have any tips for synchronizing twin naps - especially if you have very different sleepers?

 

In Which My Daughter Does a 180 on Having Her Own Room

My daughters are at a turning point. Being together 24/7 at age 7 as they more deeply explore their distinct interests is grating on each other. M loves to sing and J sometimes just wants her to stop humming. J likes to see the bright side or educational opportunity in every challenge, while M just wants to have the freedom to feel and express her frustrations.

I’d sent the girls off to get ready for bed Sunday when J flounced out of the bathroom and threw herself into my lap.

J: M’s annoying me.
Sadia: Have you talked to her about it?
J: Yes! And she won’t stop!
Sadia: Just find somewhere else to be.
J: silence
Sadia: There are moments when I get frustrated. Sometimes the thing I do is go to a different room and do something distracting.
J: I can’t do that. We’re sisters. We’re in the same place. You don’t get it. Being an adult is so easy.
Sadia: hiding a smile Adulthood has its own challenges. You know, we do have an extra room. Do you want your own room?
J: How would you fix the bed back together?
Sadia: I was thinking you could sleep in the bed that’s already in the guest room.
J: Yeah! I’ll do that tonight.
Sadia: Oh! You need to let your sister know what’s going on so she’s not surprised.

I hadn’t anticipated J’s response. I thought that the idea of sleeping alone would horrify her, as it has done every time Daddy has brought up getting separate rooms. He and his sister were 13 months apart and in the same grade. He cherished the sanctity of his own space.

Five minutes later…

M: getting louder and louder But I don’t like sleeping by myself!
J: M! It’s just for a month.
M: Mommy, J says I’m annoying and she won’t sleep with me.
Sadia: I know, honey. It’s like when you told her last night that she couldn’t sleep in your bed because she was annoying you.
M: It’s not the same. I don’t like sleeping by myself. I only sent her to a bed in the same room. Who’ll sleep with me?
Sadia: What if I sleep in your room?
M: I guess. My bed. I need snuggles because I’m without my sister.
J: It’s for a month, M. In one month I’ll try sleeping in your room if you’re not annoying. If you are annoying I’ll go back to my room for one more month.

With little fanfare, J went to bed in the guest room. We read a chapter of Little House on the Prairie together in J’s new bed. The girls said their prayers.

J: … Thank you, God, for giving me a mom who understands my needs…

The new arrangement lasted one night. In the car yesterday evening, J brought up having come to snuggle with us around 2:00 am when she was suffering a snuggle deficit. She reports our having had a conversation. I didn’t remember it at all. I didn’t think of my lack of memory as a big deal, but J interpreted it as “sleep talking”. She has an inexplicable terror of sleep walking. After many tears and endless attempts on her part to get me to remember the discussion and on my part to show that there was nothing wrong, she elected to sleep in M’s bed for comfort.

I wonder where she’ll decide to sleep tonight. At least she’s convinced that I understand her needs. From my perspective, it’s all a big fat mystery.

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.

Twinfant Tuesday: Things We Live By

Since we’re still in the midst of Year One, this is not so much a look back as a look at right now. I’ve thought long and hard about how I could write a post to enlighten others with the wisdom I’ve gained through raising my b/g twins to the age of 10 months.But it turns out that other than the fact I have two babies the same age at the same time, I haven’t had too much adversity to really overcome. We’ve been really lucky. There was a month or two when Husband first went back to work that I struggled with coordinating the babies’ sleeping and eating schedules, but to be perfectly honest I feel fortunate every single day. I look at my chubbas and life is good. My babies were full term 38-weekers, have had no health issues, and are inquisitive normally developing crawler/cruisers.

But, for what it’s worth, there are some things we live by, to keep these babies the healthy and happy (and from wreaking havoc).

Sleep

This is BY FAR the most important thing when raising young children, in my opinion. I attribute all my children’s great dispositions to regular, undisrupted sleep. We sacrifice a lot to give them extremely rigid times for sleeping.

When our first was a baby, Husband and I had many arguments about this. I always had to take her home at about 5:30/6:00pm for bath/bedtime. This meant I often took her home by myself while he stayed to finish dinner with his family. So we would either take two separate cars or someone would drop him off when they were done. It got so I earned myself the nickname Sleep Nazi from his family.

But I stuck to my guns and continued to insist on what I believe in. He didn’t really “get it” until he experienced some late afternoon meltdowns firsthand with the twins. Now, with clear results as my proof, no one dares contest my methods. Dinners are scheduled at 5pm with the knowledge that we will bail.

Schedule

It was a challenge getting twin babies on a concurrent schedule, so much that I call those few weeks psychological warfare. But the good thing is that I won, and our whole family is better for it. These babies eat and sleep by the clock. Starting with a daily wake up time: 6:30am. If they wake before that, they know to hang out in their cribs until 6:30 when their older sister is also allowed to get up. Then they’re changed and strapped in the car for the ride to Grandma’s. Bottles are given at 7 when they arrive. On weekends I’ll make french toast or bake some muffins while Daddy dresses them to come sit with us to eat as a family. Nap 8:30-10, meal at 11, nap 12:30-2:15, meal at 2:30, nap 5:45-6:15, bottle 7pm. These times are all very solid, except they’re starting to transition out of that last catnap. Some days they don’t need it, and I just move their bath and bottle up a half hour.

Obviously there are some great advantages to this kind of regularity. Days are predictable for them as well as for me. I know when we can schedule outings, we don’t usually have cranky babies, and all our kids know what is expected of them. All of them are scheduled to take their midday nap at the same time.

However it’s not a foolproof plan. Last summer when our family took a two week trip to Asia, all our schedules were completely thrown off. We discovered that our daughter lacked the ability to adjust quickly. She was pretty miserable for about a month. But that’s a trade off I would easily take for daily predictability. No way we would plan another international trip before the twins are much older anyway.

Space

Independence is a trait I value highly, therefore it shapes a lot of my parenting philosophy. I know “attachment parenting” is trending right now, and many of my friends seem to want to raise their children in that way, but I feel my laissez-faire approach gives my children the self-reliance and self-confidence that they will need early in life, and gives me the peace of mind not to have to worry about them.

My 3.5-year-old rarely throws a tantrum. She will always attempt to solve problems herself first before asking for help. She is fully independent on the potty, can get dressed, does not require assistance going to bed, and always throws her own clothes in the hamper. She is secure in our love for her and has no problems with separation. She’s so self assured I don’t even worry about her being bullied.

This training began when she was a baby, and we are doing the same with her siblings. We don’t jump the second a baby makes a noise. We give them time to try to figure things out. They don’t need to constantly be picked up or held. Our presence is not required for them to go to sleep, or for them to be happy.

Therefore, our 10-month-olds rarely cry. They don’t fuss. If they take a small tumble, they will look to us for reassurance, and then they go right back to playing. When I take them out in their double stroller, they just sit side by side checking things out. They have easy smiles and aren’t afraid of strangers. I am always getting compliments on how well behaved they are.

Luckily our house has the layout to allow us to gate off a playroom for the kids. Space for them to roam and explore. Space to test their limits relatively safely. Space to be confined while Mama does her mama-things.

But the space kids need is much more than physical.

A Reluctant Farewell to Naps

In truth, my girls haven’t had a nap in the past couple of months.  I’m just now ready to admit it, to see that reality written in black and white.

Since they were infants, our girls have been champion sleepers.  I credit so much of our success to the BabyWise methodology.  We are very schedule-oriented.  I took to heart the BabyWise thinking, that “Mommy determines when naps start, and when naps are over.”  There were times when the girls’ needs would shift for whatever reason, and I’d have to find that new “sweet spot” window of magic during which I could easily get them down for a nap.  Sometimes it took a little experimentation, but I was always able to get back to blissful rest (for them) and blissful quiet (for me).

My unspoken goal was to keep the girls napping until they started preschool, at age 3 ½.  That felt feasible, judging by my mommy friends.  Some kiddos dropped their naps as early as 2 ½, but others were napping until they were four.  [I laugh as I write this, knowing the best-laid "plans" of parenthood are so often laid to waste!]

We went through a rough patch when the girls started preschool at 3 ½.  I can only guess that my Baby A decided that meant she was a “big girl” and so she no longer needed to nap.  My B continued to sleep willingly, though, and A was pretty compliant with my “quiet time” rules.  I would ask every few days if A wanted to nap, and she always said no…until the day – that glorious day! – after Thanksgiving.  She said she wanted to nap…she napped…we celebrated…and she napped every day for the next eight months!

There was no great schedule shift over the summer, but the girls did start talking a bit after I put them to bed at night.  It wasn’t long after that that they simultaneously refused to nap.  It’s hard to recount…one day, they napped, and the next day they played in their beds the entire time.  That went on for a couple of days, to the great stress of this mommy.  I finally asked the girls, “Are you going to nap today?”  They both said no.  I established rules for “quiet time”, and we moved on.

The stress of trying to “enforce” naps was really tough for me.  Although I really missed MY quiet time during the afternoons, holding rules for quiet time is much easier in comparison.

Here’s how I’m keeping things in perspective…

  1. My girls napped until they were 4 ½, which is a full year past my “goal”.
  2. After a (relatively painful) adjustment period that lasted two or three weeks, I am comfortable that my girls are getting the rest they need at night.  Their temperaments are pretty good, which I think is a fair indication.
  3. There’s a lot less pressure to keep our schedule running like a well-oiled machine.  I still value our schedule, framed mostly by mealtimes and bedtime these days, but I didn’t even come close to hyperventilation last week when we were running a full hour behind getting home one afternoon.  Just a few short months ago, I would have been tempted to break the sound barrier getting home in time for the girls to settle down and read books and start nap.  These days, we do the best we can, but it’s not the end of the world if we get caught up doing something else.
  4. There’s less commotion at bedtime.  The girls are ready for bed, so I’ve heard less talking over the monitor and I’ve made fewer treks upstairs.
  5. I’m not quite as stressed out about transitioning the girls to regular beds in the next couple of weeks.  I’d said I didn’t want to make the switch from cribs until they dropped their naps, thinking it would be too tempting for them to stay in bed with the lure of being able to get out.  It seems the stars agree with my game plan.
  6. I feel less guilty about doing housework when the girls are awake.  Particularly when the girls were taking two or three naps a day, I reserved all my housework for their nap times.  It’s not feasible that everything waits until bedtime, so the girls are more involved than ever in laundry, dishes, and cooking.
  7. The girls often choose to do artwork during at least part of their quiet time, so my refrigerator is fuller than ever with their creations.

So…would I love to have an uninterrupted hour to myself every day?  I’d be lying if I didn’t say yes.  But an uninterrupted day with my baby girls does come with its perks, and I’m choosing to focus on those.

Are your kiddos still napping?  If not, at what age did they give up naps?  Was it a smooth transition?  How did you cope? 

MandyE is mom to 4 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures and her journey through motherhood at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Twinfant Tuesday: On the Clock

Hello all-

Our twins are 8 weeks old today, and in the past 8 weeks, there have been countless topics I wanted to write about.  Among them: how it’s possible to have a beautiful birth of your babies even after bed rest, preeclampsia and a magnesium drip, how no one REALLY explains how hard breastfeeding is to you before you have babies (much less, breastfeeding twins), and something about the sleep deprivation (if I had more sleep, I could have said that more articulately).

http://hdydi.com/2013/09/17/twinfant-tuesday-on-the-clock/But, what has been the most difficult adjustment, and perhaps the only thing that has truly surprised me about being a new mom, is the grueling feeding schedule.  Feeding two hungry mouths every three hours was much more challenging than I anticipated.  For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that it would really require two adults to do so, and that it would take nearly the whole three-hour window before the next feeding to complete the cycle.  All this made me start thinking about the timeframes I’ve been bound to in the last two years and how a biological clock isn’t just about trying to have kids before various risks increase.

Pregnancy: 40-the number of weeks all multiple pregnancies strive to get to.  38-the number of weeks we all secretly could tolerate getting to. 35.6-the number of weeks I made it to in my pregnancy.  32-the number of weeks in my pregnancy before being put on bed rest.  28-the number of weeks in my pregnancy before I really had any complications.  (First one was pubic symphysis dysfunction, followed by preterm dilation, then preeclampsia.)

Infertility treatment: 16-the number of months we tried to get pregnant before our successful IVF treatment.  9-the number of months I was on hormone treatments before getting pregnant.  10-the number of weeks I took daily progesterone shots during pregnancy.  2-the number of weeks in a cycle I felt I lived my life on before this: the two week wait to ovulate, then the two week wait to find out if I was pregnant.

3-the number of hours between feedings. 1.5-the number of hours I usually have between feedings to shower, feed myself, clean bottles or pump parts, close my eyes for a bit.  1-the painfully slow number of hours it currently takes my daughter to finish a bottle.

I recall being anxious to get off of the “two week wait to ovulate/two week wait to find out if I was pregnant” schedule.  Silly me.  I didn’t realize how the scheduling would just take another form.  And I recognize that it will be this way always.  It just will be a soccer practice, or school or day camp that is dictating my clock instead of ovulation or weeks of  gestation.  In the meantime, my daily goal is to focus on the moment instead of when the clock will alert me to the next deadline.  To try to appreciate my little ones in this very innocent, sweet time.  To take the time to feel the love and support that has been brought into our house by all the visitors and family support, knowing the visits and support will someday end.  To try to laugh at the things that sleep deprivation has caused us to do (ie, pumping without bottles attached for a good 3-4 minutes before feeling warm milk on my lap).  To open my heart and my life to these two little beings I’m getting to know more and more each day.

What was your favorite memory of being in the moment when you first brought your babies home?

 

How It Gets Easier

“It gets so much easier!”

This is the mantra that parents of older multiples repeat to the newbies, again and again. I must have heard this 100,000,000 times – and I clung desperately to each iteration.

“Easier” definitely doesn’t mean “easy.” Twin toddlers is not easy, by any means. When my kids started walking (at 9 and 10 months), I kept hearing how things were going to get tough now! Um, not so. Call me crazy, but I’ll take two consistently-napping, self-feeding, independently-moving, happily curious one-year-olds over a couple of infants, precious though they may be, any day of the week. Here’s how it got easier for me:

1. Feeding. They feed themselves. It makes a HUGE mess – and I don’t even care. I can interact with them, eat, and prepare the next meal while they dive into eating like a contact sport. I even get to keep my clothes on! :o) I never worry that they are getting enough. Between a variety of solids, breastfeeding, and bottles of formula, I feel comfortable knowing they are offered plenty. If they don’t eat it, the next meal is only a couple hours away. I never could get on a nursing schedule – demand feeding just worked better for us. Now, solid meals set a nice, predictable rhythm to the day. Oh yeah, and other people can feed them!

2. Self-efficacy. Hauling my lovely children around the house was much harder on my body and on their patience than herding cats wee walkers. It’s actually kind of fun to see what they discover on the way from room to room. After a meal, I pop them over the baby gate into a safe space and off they go. They scoot up the stairs on their own and they love it! Their independence makes us all happier. When we are out, I make sure we’re in an enclosed, safe area (like a toddler-friendly playground) and I usually go with another twin mom so we can tag-team. And honestly? When it’s just me, they tend to stick close. When they get that speedy wanderlust, we pack it up and move on.

3. SLEEP. My little guys don’t sleep through the night yet – but they’re only up once or twice at this point, for about 5 minutes, and rarely at the same time. I can deal with one baby for 5 minutes at 2am. At nap time and bed time, they finish a bottle, push it away, and eagerly snuggle into their cribs with their lovies. I get to hear sweet little chatterings as they drift off to sleep for predictable periods of time, instead of waiting with bated breath for the dreaded wail that meant nap time was over after a mere 30 minutes.

4. They play together. They chase each other, play with trucks side by side, push each other in a wagon, and, most recently, get into their circus play tent and roll around in it like a hamster ball. They laugh so much. When R pulls down a book and opens it, M is instantly by his side, ready to hear a story. When M finds a new way to bang two toys together, R rushes over to join the band. Not only is it heart-warming to witness, mom and dad are not constantly in demand to entertain the tiny masses. When they play with other kids, they have a leg up – they are used to sharing, negotiating trades, and reading subtle social cues.

5. They are more patient. We have certain routines – wash hands after lunch, then get water, for example – and they are used to waiting for brother to have his turn. Not that they are always happy about it, but we typically don’t get giant meltdowns anymore. What an amazing life skill!

6. Sadia said it best: we know them now. M is crying? Start singing “Baby Beluga.” R is quiet? Get in there before he makes it to the top of the bookshelf.

What does “easier” mean for you?