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

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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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Parenting Petite Kids

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I’m short. People use all sorts of nice euphemisms: petite, vertically challenged, little. At 5’0″ (152 cm), my legs are just long enough to reach the floor when I’m standing. I have to perch on the front edge of your average chair to rest my feet on the ground. If I sit back, my legs swing in a very unprofessional way. I often find myself tucking one or both legs under me at work. As my daughters put it, I’m “a very small mommy.”

My 6-year-olds are very small girls themselves. Their first-grade classmates revel in picking them up and twirling them around. They don’t seem to mind much, instead enjoying being the “cute little ones” of their classes. M just made it out of the 1st percentile on the growth chart, weighing in at 38 lbs (17.2 kg) at age 6 years, 9 months. That’s 3rd percentile, people! She’s a giant! J’s 41 lbs (18.6 kg) puts her in the 10th percentile. She’s come a long way since her 3 lbs 6 oz (1.5 kg) birth weight.

My daughters’ current small stature likely has very little to do with their prematurity. Birth at 33 weeks gestation explains the girls’ low birth weight, but most premature infants catch up with their birth age peers in height and weight by the age of 1 or 2. If you think about it, it makes sense. My girls are 2 months “younger,” measured from conception, than other kids born in May 2006. When they were -2 months old, it was a big deal. At 4 months old, it was still a pretty big deal. At 6 months, J weighed 12 lbs 12 oz, and M weighed 11 lbs 12 oz, and they were on track. At the age 6 years, 2 months doesn’t make all that much of a difference. You can just blame me for their lack of stature.

I suspect it’s much easier to be a short girl than to be a short boy, but society’s gender attitudes is a topic I won’t touch just now. I’ll just say that I don’t perceive myself or my daughters to have any hang-ups about being short.

Being especially small comes with challenges all its own. The world is built for average-sized people, so we make adjustments. We have stools in every room of the house so that we can reach the things we need. I learned what products could be tweaked to accommodate the realities of raising short babies, toddlers, and young children.

Car seats

It takes a lot of blankets to secure a baby of less than 5 lbs in a carseat. from hdydi.comThe first time I dealt with the unique experience of having a super-small child was coming home from the hospital. Our Graco Snugride infant seat was technically okay for a 5-pounder, but how were we to keep the babies from rolling around? The size of the infant head support it came with was laughable in comparison to my littles. The NICU nurses came to the rescue, once again. They showed me how to roll up receiving blankets and layer them around the baby to keep her in place on her first hundred or so car rides.

In the US, we’re taught that children should ride in rear-facing car seats until they are both at least 1 year old and weigh 20 lbs, and recent recommendations encourage waiting until they’re 2 years old. As I understand it, the weight limit is a matter of having enough mass to resist being thrown in the air in the event of a crash. The age limit has something to do with the length of the spinal cord in comparison to the spine. As my pediatrician put it when I raised a concern about the girls’ legs eventually getting cramped, “Better broken legs than a broken neck.” My girls were well past age 2 before we turned their Britax Marathons forward-facing.

Now that they’re 6, J and M continue to wear 5-point harnesses in their Diono (formerly Sunshine Kids) Radians. Their classmates are all in booster seats, but M doesn’t meet the 40-lb weight minimum, and I’m in no hurry to reduce the girls’ level of containment in the car. Again, it doesn’t seem to bother them too much, although I occasionally get nasty looks at how long we spend getting the girls situated getting in and out of the car at the school pickup drive through. They can buckle and unbuckle themselves, but two buckles each necessarily take longer than one a piece.

Shoes

M and J started walking at 12 and 11 months, respectively. They both wore infant size 2 shoes at the time. There are very few walking shoes that come in a size 2. I certainly couldn’t find any. I ended up resorting to custom shoes ordered from Preschoolians in their “Walkers” line. They weren’t cheap, but they did allow us to go to the park without fear of stones and splinters in the girls’ feet. It wasn’t long before J and M were walking into daycare in the morning instead of me carrying them.

M tends to end up in light up shoes even at age 6; it’s hard to find sturdy, comfortable, school-appropriate shoes in a kid size 9.5. J’s a size bigger, and there are many more options open to her.

Clothes

Clothes weren’t quite the same challenge as shoes. Preemie clothes were gargantuan on the girls the first few months, but once they fit newborn sizes, it was easy–and so much fun–to shop for them.

J and M will be 7 in a few months. I just gave away the last of their size 4T clothes on Freecycle, because they’re fitting comfortably in 5Ts in most brands. When it comes to clothes that can fit loosely, such as sweatshirts and T-shirts, I can shop all the way to an XXS. The nice thing about being little is that M and J get a lot of hand-me-downs, and some hand-me-ups, from friends.

The girls have been wearing the same 4-6 sized tights for 3 winters in a row now, and they’re starting to fall apart. I’m not complaining. I remember how expensive it used to be to dress two kids when they were growing into new sizes every 3-5 months.

J and M’s first public school in El Paso had a uniform. We had trouble finding uniform shirts to fit them, so they just ended up wearing their XXS shirts baggy. I couldn’t get khaki bottoms that wouldn’t fall down at the store recommended by the school, but ended up finding good options online at French Toast.

Shopping carts/high chairs

For a long time, I’d go to the grocery store with one baby in a front carrier and the other in an infant seat placed in the cart. However, even though this continued to be practical weight-wise, by the time the girls were one, they wanted to sit in the cart and look around. The first time I tried, they flopped all over the place, and I gave up. M and J regaled nearby shoppers with wails and demands to “Sit cart! Sit cart!” as I pulled out the double stroller to try Plan B.

Ikea came to the rescue. They had an inflatable cushion that I could place around the girls to keep them propped up and contained. Unfortunately, they no longer sell it in the US. It was genius! I also used this cushion in restaurant high chairs to great effect.

How do your kids compare to others in size? Do you have any product recommendations to help kids on the smaller end of the size spectrum?

Sadia is the single mother of 6-year-old identical twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX area, where Sadia works in higher education information technology.

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Product Review : Baby Carriers

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Babywearing is taking on new life and more moms & dads than ever are discovering the joys it can bring to both the parent and the child.  There are so many benefits, but ultimately the biggest appeal to a mom or dad of multiples is the simplicity it can bring to an otherwise hectic life.  When using a baby carrier you have the ability to hold one baby and still have free arms to use for pushing a stroller, carrying another baby, doing the dishes, etc… And since we multiple mamas and daddys are always concerned about our constantly divided attention and often feel that we are barely able to find enough time for cuddles and snuggles, baby carriers seem like the perfect answer to that dilemma.  I have used a number of baby carriers since my triplets were born and I definitely have my favorites, but the most important thing I discovered is that what you like is highly dependent on personal preference.  A baby carrier should become an extension of you and the only way you can discover what works for you is to find one that best suits your body type and personality.  The best suggestion I can give you, if you are in search of one, is to try out different brands and models until you find one that fits you and your needs.  And it is highly likely that what you prefer to use with your newborns will change as they grow older.

I can only review the ones I have experience with, but there are so many brands and models out there that there is a really good chance you can find one that both you and your babies like.  The Baby Wearer has some excellent in depth information, reviews & discussion boards that discuss baby wearing in much more detail.

Slings: Hotsling, Peanut Shell and an Infantino Sling.  The Peanut Shell was by far my favorite to use when the babies first came home; and they were tiny, all under 4 pounds.  They would snuggle right into the comfort of the cradle created by the sling and fall asleep within seconds, whatever was ailing them forgotten until the next feeding.  Eventually, I traded it for a Hotsling, and though I do like it, it just does not fit quite as well as the Peanut Shell did.  Now that the babies are older, I have used the Hotsling as a hip carrier and as long as I am able to get the baby in securely it works perfectly; giving the babies the view of the world they desire along with the closeness of mama and giving me the free hands I need to do my grocery shopping.  I did not use the Infantino Sling often; simply because I found it was just not as comfortable for me to wear, often creating tension in my shoulder blades.

Wraps: I loved the Moby Wrap especially when my triplets were newborns.  It was very comfortable, distributed the weight evenly across my back and shoulders and I was able to hold 2 babies at once.  The only drawback to using the Moby Wrap is that it is a bit more difficult to learn how to use (although with a little practice you can become an expert in no time) and once the babies got older it was too restricting for their liking.

Soft Structured Carriers: Beco Butterfly and Baby Bjorn.  My husband adores the Baby Bjorn and uses it every chance he gets; strapping one of the babies on his chest and off they go to explore.  I find it a little uncomfortable and far prefer the Beco Butterfly.  The Bjorn is earier to put on since there are less buckles and straps, but once on I think that the Beco is much easier on my back.  And honestly, I think the babies prefer it as well.  The Beco can be used for both a front and a back carry and it includes a newborn insert as well.

Mei Tais: Baby Hawk and EllaRoo.  I amrelatively new to the world of Mei Tais and have only used the Baby Hawk once.  It was comfortable and easy to use, and I really like the closeness I felt to the baby over the soft structured carriers.  I lent the EllaRoo to a friend with a 19 month old son who weighs in at the 95th percentile and she loves to use it with him.  She said it is simple to tie and he does not weigh her down at all.

There are several sites where you can purchase used baby carriers…my favorite is The Baby Wearer. If you check out the boards, they often have used carriers for sale and they also have a detailed post listing all of the lingo and abbreviations so that you can follow the posts. There is also a board at Diaper Swappers dedicated to buying, selling & trading used baby carriers.

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