September 30, 2014

Two Months Old!

My beautiful babies are two months old today! What a wild two months it has been. I am just now discovering the fault of their early arrival - dealing with adjusted age. Part of me hates it. I hate that only one of them has just smiled for the first time tonight. I hate that they're still very much like newborns, from their sleep and eating habits to their floppiness. You see, even though they are technically nine weeks old tomorrow, they are still only four weeks old physically and cognitively. Typically around six weeks babies are offering parents a social smile, sleeping for longer periods and becoming more alert and aware. Around two months they may start to roll or reach for things, which mine have zero interest in. They still have jerky, disorganized movements and they're not really making sounds other than crying and grunting. Like I said, part of me hates this. The other part though is relishing the fact that my babies are staying little for a bit longer. I missed out on two weeks of that newborn time at home so I feel like we're a bit lucky that we get them in this phase longer than we would have had they been born full-term. Once again these beauties have taught me to appreciate the blessings in disguise.

We did get a smile out of Miss Jules tonight, her little gift to her Nova who came to visit and then for her dad after a satisfying bottle of milk. I haven't caught it yet but I don't mind, I know it will come when she's ready. That's the thing with this adjusted age stuff. Technically we shouldn't be seeing smiles for another two weeks, so it's going to be an interesting ride following their milestones which could occur at any time. The time frame is just different for them. They could be "ahead", "delayed" or spot on. We just have to let them dictate their own time frames.  And I will keep holding out for that gorgeous smile to happen for mama.

I have to say, CJ hates these pictures. He thinks the girls look like chubby monsters. I see the beautiful fattening effects of mama's milk that I am working exceptionally hard for to make sure they have the best as often as we can!

Happy 2 months baby girls!


September 17, 2014

FIAO 5.4 - Feeding The Twins - Exclusively Pumping for Newborn Twins: How I Get It Done and Stay Sane!

It's time to admit that I am exclusively pumping for the girls. We're 7 weeks in and they're clearly not interested in nursing for whatever reason. I have joined a few great support communities online that have helped me learn so much. It's tough but we get it done.

It was definitely interesting in the beginning. For those first few days both CJ and I were home and so we just tag teamed them. We had also learned a lot in the NICU, specificially how best to burp and tips on keeping them eating. And then he went back to work and I was on my own. I usually do 3-4 feedings on my own depending on their sleep schedule.  Although we tried desperately to stick to their NICU schedule in which they were half an hour apart, they quickly figured out that no one likes to eat alone so they've been tandem fed ever since. I also tried to pump before or after feeding them like I used to do in the NICU but it gets in the way of precious awake time so now I do it all at the same time. Sounds crazy right?

Here's how we stay sane while exclusively pumping for and feeding twins:

Hands-Free System and Pumpin' Pals: 

The one thing that makes EPing for twins so much easier is a hands-free system such as a bra, or necklace to hold the pumping parts while you hold the bottles and feed baby. I used the Simple Wishes Bra until I got my hands on a Simplicity necklace from Lactamed. This way I can pump while I hold the bottles, burp them and comfort them. I can also massage and compress while pumping which really helps empty. I also discovered the wonders of Pumpin' Pals. These angled breast pump flanges have been life changing in terms of helping me empty faster and with less pain. There is a learning curve and your body needs to adjust to the different feeling of the pump but they have cut my pumping time down to just 35 minutes from over 50 and I still get the same amount, if not more.

Feeding and Pumping Central

I have taken over the corner of the couch and turned it into feeding and pumping central. Everything I need is within reach and so far it's been working really well. The aim is to be able to sit down and not have to move for at least 45 minutes unless it's an emergency (bathroom trips count as emergencies in this case). Here's how to set up your own Feeding and Pumping Central:

    Pumping/Feeding Central
  • Within arm's reach have a huge box of bibs and burp cloths, your pump, TV and Xbox remotes, computer and a TV table for snacks and water. I repurposed my hospital survival kit box into my pumping essentials box which includes coconut oil, tissues, nursing pads, hand sanitizer, lotion, my hands-free kit, prenatal vitamins, tums, pen and paper and books.      

  • Each twin gets a boppy pillow to sit in, a burp cloth, bib and blanket, plus an extra one for me. For burping while tandem feeding we drape them over the side of the boppy or alternate holding them.  I put bottles on the table while they're warming and again while burping.

  • I have a bag under the table with diaper supplies in it including wipes, a waterproof mat, diapers, cream and a thermometer. I also have my bag of spare pumping supplies as well as their baby books, all the papers from the hospital, camera and kindle chargers and our camera and camcorder.  Considering I spend over an hour in this spot every 3 hours all day and night it's incredibly helpful to have everything within arm's reach.

Prepare before you do anything! 

I bring the bottles out and put them on the table, place each baby on the floor in front of me, grab some toys for them for when they finish and then put them in the boppies one at a time. I hook up to and turn on the pump, dry off the bottles and start to feed them. Most of the time I can get through  two let-downs before someone needs to be held and at this point they still fit in between the pumping flanges. When they're done I play with the toys with them, talk to or sing to them while I finish pumping then unhook, put them back on the floor and go put my milk away then it's playtime until they go to sleep and we do it all over again in an hour and a half!


So that's how it's done! The first few weeks were full of frustrations figuring out how best to pump, trying to organize this spot and making feedings easier on us. I've now mastered the pump got most feedings down to less than 30 minutes combined and I usually pump for 45 minutes. So far I am producing between 40 and 50 oz a day.  I have a freezer stash for the holdover from when I supplemented earlier on, as the girls are currently eating 56 oz. combined. I am trying to up my supply (eating tons of oatmeal, drinking mother's milk tea and having a dark beer a few nights a week).

There is one thing about all of this bugs me though: not being able to hold them when I feed them because they always want to eat at the same time.  That's why pumping during feedings is so important to me.I am able to get in lots of snuggles and playtime before and after each feeding with each girl. I try to spend some time with them on my chest together or skin to skin as often as their moods allow. Sometimes it's just up, eat and back to sleep and sometimes it's scream, eat, scream, but we're definitely getting into a groove where everyone is happy and satisfied each time!

Did you breastfeed, pump or formla feed? How did you get it done with two and keep your sanity?


September 16, 2014

FIAO 1.4 - Transporting The Twins

Well we've had our girls home for almost 5 weeks now and although our trips out of the house are infrequent I have ventured out more than I thought I would have by this point! Our first adventures were the trip home from the hospital and two days later our first doctor's appointment. We absolutely love our Graco Click Connect Snugride 30 car seats. They are lightweight, cute and so easy to put in the car. After a few lessons from me on how to properly use them even hubs is confident putting the babies in and snapping them right into the car. Like most babies our girls aren't thrilled when we put them in but after a few minutes they snuggle right in and seem to really like them. I like that I can pick them up and not feel like I'm going to topple over with the weight, unlike some other infant seats I have carried. It was important to me to be able to carry them both at once and while I haven't mastered that, and probably never will as the girls are just getting bigger, I can do it in a pinch. The best part though is that they are so easy to put in the stroller!

If you recall we ended up going against the advice of most veteran twin parents when buying our stroller. Most twin websites suggest buying a double snap and go for the infant stage and then investing in a regular stroller when the twins outgrow the infant seats. Due to our very limited budget we relied on family and friends to help us with the major purchases and we really didn't want to have to buy a stroller ourselves in less than a year so we opted for the all-in-one route. I really hate pushing tandem strollers, especially as the kids get bigger. I find them difficult to push effectively on walks over sidewalks and curbs, and they are definitely harder to turn. I get the convenience of knowing you will fit through every door and aisle but I really would rather have one that might not fit but that I can push easily and no one gets kicked in the head by her sister.

So we chose the Graco FastAction Fold Duo. It is super easy to fold, so compact it fits in the trunk of my Hyundai Elantra with room to spare, light enough for me to carry from house to car by myself and with a little practice it's easy to get it open and get the seats in. I have to admit that initially I was really worried. When we first put it together I could not for the life of me get it open or get the seats to click in. After googling like crazy and finding nothing very helpful I decided to go old school and just practice practice practice. After two straight hours of opening, closing, clicking and unclicking I finally got it down to a 2 minute dance. I have since enjoyed a few walks in the park, trips to the doctors and even went to the closing celebration of a local amusement park. Yes, it's big. Yes, it's a little cumbersome in small spaces and I have gotten it stuck in doors. But know what? When a passerby sees my twinnies in there it's all they can do to help me get unstuck and on my way. If for some reason I simply can't get it through a door I have learned to carry my Boba Wrap with me so I can wear one baby and carry the other in her seat. This has not been an issue yet as most places we visit are handicap accessible and the stroller fits through those doors and hallways just fine. I liken it to parking in a tiny spot. You just have to line everything up perfectly and take your time. In my opinion this is no big deal but I can understand how others might find it inconvenient. Bottom line is that five weeks in I am happy with our choices and I don't think that's going to change!

How do you transport your kids? Are you happy with your choices or do you wish you had picked another option?


September 15, 2014

Four weeks home!

Juliette and Vivienne have been home for four weeks and I really can't believe it. It's been a whirlwind 28 mostly wonderful days with a few difficult ones peppered in. Some nights have been unbearable but majority have been pretty damn good considering there's two of them. I'm having so much fun getting to know them, figuring out what works and what doesn't and learning their little quirks. It's amazing how their personalities are so different from each other already. They are gaining weight like crazy too. At our last appointment when they were 5 weeks 2 days they Jules was 7 lbs. 11 oz and Viv was 7 lbs. 5 oz.

Example A - Viv. So serious and just a few hours old
I've had several people tell me they think Vivienne is an old soul because that girl can throw some seriously interesting looks. From day one her expressions have caused many to comment on how serious and pensive she is. See Exapmle A - from the day she was born. It's in her eyes. They are piercing and you feel like she's really trying to see everything. Her eyebrows are a sight as well, especially when she's trying to figure something out. Poor girl will probably have wrinkles before she's 30. There's something about that face that makes you think she holds all the secrets of the universe and she's learned quite a few lessons. An "old soul," as they say.

It's kind of funny, after four weeks home I don't see it like that anymore. I look at her and I see a new soul. Fresh, young and inquisitive as all hell. She's brand new and trying desperately to soak things in and explore. I think she's going to be my "why?" child, much like DC, a little boy I took care of years ago.

I think she will be chatty, curious, playful and spirited. She is unpredictable in her fits but easily calmed, unless she gets too worked up of course. She keeps us guessing on what she really needs/wants as well, just randomly deciding to start the saddest little cry just to stop a few minutes later and throw us a look like, ha, fooled ya, I'm good. She's already what I call funny and makes me laugh daily.

Example B - Jules. Cool as a cucumber 10 days old
Now Jules. People don't know what to make of her yet. She does funny things with her hands rather than her face. Always covering her hand with her finger or making her own version of The Thinker. I don't know if she's an old soul but she's definitely got some secrets. She's... been around the block, for lack of better wording. Sometimes she reminds me of a contented kitten, maybe even our girl Willow. She has a smile like the cheshire cat and her happy face is pristine, calm and cool. So far she's easy going for the most part. She can chill out, relax and take a back seat, usually sleeping. Don't let that fool you though. She sleeps deep but she wakes with the sun and the time she is awake is purposeful (right now it's only when she's hungry or wants to be held or changed). As a result she is downright ferocious when she gets going. Her fits are what we call incessant. She can wail like a broken record until her needs are met and then she's fine once she has it.

I think she will be smart and sensible but raise hell when she has to. I see her as being more observant and maybe shy, but charismatic, outgoing with the right people and a person people love to know. She will be tender and a good friend. She already gives the best hugs, even at just 6 weeks.

Life With Twins - 6 Weeks In:

I don't know their cries yet. I never know who's crying when they wake up for a feeding unless they're in the living room with me. I thought I would figure it out by now but they have literally the same cry sometimes. It's so confusing, It's super fun though, especially when they decide to tag team you, taking turns wailing for a few minutes each. Their best show by far is the tandem screaming session that usually precedes a restless nap and a difficult feeding time. This happens at least once a day, usually at night, we're not sure why. For the most part they're content but man will they let you know when they're not.

Being exhausted is a given but it's also an understatement. No matter how much sleep we get (usually 5-6 hours each unless they don't sleep) caring for twins is seriously a full-time job for me and C does everything as soon as he gets home from work until he goes to bed. This is a whole new kind of tired. It's not just a lack of sleep. This is serious hard work, keeping two tiny humans alive at once. You feel it in your eyes when they wake you up at 3 am and sometimes you might wake up horribly guilty realizing you actually slept through them crying (luckily C did not.. but still). You couldn't help it. You're just so. damn. tired.

It's ok to let the little things go. Even though my days are busy I'm not getting anything else done. I can barely complete any task not related to twin care, no matter how much they sleep. Case in point, I started this post on Sept. 10 and I am just finishing it on September 15th. There is always someone to tend to, or something to be washed or pumping to be done. It's a never ending cycle of need fulfillment and my needs are not very high on the list anymore. I'm letting things go for now and that's quite alright with my tired brain and body.

They are totally unpredictable.  I read what I wrote about Jules and as I type she is proving me wrong while she wails on and on for what seems like nothing. Maybe she just wanted to be put down in the bouncy chair? Or maybe she needs to be swaddled and held? Now they're both going and it's not time to eat for another 2 hours. We are learning that every day is just a guessing game of who needs what when and for how long. Don't overfeed them, overstimulate them or let them get overtired and you should be fine. Please let us know when you figure out how to do this.

Example C - Loving our playmat after a tummy time session
Newborns really do sleep a ton. I've just started getting awake time and even now it's not every day. They don't mind tummy time yet and actually have started seeking each other out when they're laying down together. Or at least it seems that way to me when they stick their arms straight out and clock each other in the face. Any time not spent sleeping is usually spent screaming and eating but hopefully we'll get some real playtime soon. If for no other reason than they look absolutely adorable when they do it. See Example C.

Four weeks home and we're only getting started. There's so much to learn but we're doing it. One step at a time we are figuring it all out and I am loving every day of it.

I hope to write again before another two weeks passes but we will see. By the time they're 5 I should be able to write at least once a week right?