April 30, 2015

Nine Months!

We have hit the magical time in a new baby's life when they become "real" as I like to call it. It's been an amazing few weeks as Juliette and Vivienne are discovering their world, themselves and each other more and more every day. They are eating almost anything we offer them, getting around in their own crazy ways and our sleep journey is on the up and up (you will never catch me saying it's going well. ever.). I can't believe it but we are well on our way to having twin toddlers!

Vivienne got all four of her top teeth this month, has learned to army crawl and roll pretty much anywhere she needs to go so the baby proofing is underway tomorrow. Jules has two more teeth on top and the other two are working their way down. She doesn't move around as much as Viv but she's fast when she wants to be. The changing table has been turned into a shelf as it's downright dangerous to put them up there.Normally this is the time when other parents are really pushing the crawling. We're not. I am absolutely dreading the day they are truly mobile. Sure, I challenge them but I'm definitely not encouraging them to learn how to move any faster than they are ready for.

They have discovered how to bang toys together and on the table, are constantly pulling things out of each others hands are always making sounds and are so observant, loving and silly at times, giving kisses and hugs. They aren't using consonants yet but I swear they say hello sometimes. We're getting close to waving, blowing kisses and clapping hands. Our favorite toys this month were the balls, cups, new silver teething rings, exploration boxes, shakers and playing hide and seek with a blanket.

We tried so many new foods this month I doubt I could even recall all of them. The big win was five days of peanut butter on a toast finger with no reactions. Whoo hoo! I know an allergy can develop anytime but so far so good! They are loving that as well as yogurt, asparagus, snap peas, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, avocado, pancakes and puffs.

We spent so much time outside in the last week and they absolutely love it. We have taken lots of walks in our new stroller, had a picnic at the park and spend most afternoons in the backyard.

Jules had an ultrasound on the 7th and it showed that her kidney is healing nicely. We learned that it may never go back to full functionality but that it has much improved with the surgery. Thank god.

I swore I'd make it all 12 months doing the same type of photo collage for comparison sake but guess what? These girls are impossible to pose anymore. They don't sit still, will barely look at the camera and when they do smile it's while their heads are whipping around to the next best thing. I am loving every minute of it (until they're mobile of course!)

Happy 3/4 of a Year My Loves!

Xo,
Maigen





April 29, 2015

FIAO 5.9 - Feeding The Twins - How Are We Going to Feed A Family of Four on Next To Nothing?

The girls are eating more and more these days! We get at least one meal every day where they actually consume rather than just play with their food. Their new favorites are yogurt, peas and butternut squash. They finally ate avocado and liked it after literally being offered 22 times and refusing! They are still obsessed with cheerios, don't love their greens and I think Viv has an egg sensitivity but every day they eat more and more. Which puts us in a tough spot as our food budget is already stretched to the max! What's a family to do?

Well, time for the truth. I haven't admitted it before but we are one of the 23 million families in America that are recipients of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program aka Food Stamps). As a family of four on one (not-so-great) income we are incredibly grateful for this program and I don't feel ashamed that we are on it but I will explain why and make sure you understand that we are doing all that we can to better ourselves and our economic status. I am constantly looking for alternate forms of income, CJ is taking a licensing exam to become an insurance adjustor while working 6 days a week and we have cut all unnecessary expenses out of our budget.

We are caught between a rock and a hard place as the cost of daycare would effectively cancel out any income I were to bring in from a full-time, out of the house job.  We might qualify for the child care subsidy if we ever make it to the top of the mile long list in our county. It doesn't make sense but unfortunately we are technically "poor" no matter what we do, short of someone all of a sudden acquiring a master's degree or winning the lottery. We are doing what we can to get ahead but this week I realized I really need to refocus and be more mindful of how we spend the money we receive and giving my girls the best I can in terms of nutrition.

We receive $275 a month from SNAP and I'll be honest that we would not be able to contribute even this much to groceries on our own without help.  It's a scary place to be in and we are so grateful that the help is there when we need it.

However, I went shopping just last Tuesday, spent all of that, and we are almost out of food already! How can that be possible?! Sure, we have stuff in the freezer but our pantry is running low and the produce is nearly gone. We will be fine but the big issue is that I don't really have much to offer the girls but purees, meat and grains. They will only eat it sometimes but I was loving offering avocado, asparagus, peas and green beans fresh. This is not how I want them to learn how to eat and it's not going to be ok for much longer.

While I have always done a bit of meal planning, I need to be more diligent and make smarter choices. I need to buy produce more than once a month. Yes, I hate food shopping so much that I have limited my time doing it to one three hour long trip every month. In the past when we ran out of fresh food we lived off our freezer or pantry. This is no longer practical with two growing children who need fresh fruits and vegetables every day (not gonna lie, I could live without 'em but make myself eat them when we have them).

Usually right before shopping I'll make a list of dinner ideas for the next few weeks and be sure to pick up the necessary ingredients. Although we cook decent, quick meals that often have leftovers we are all definitely eating pretty crappy by the end of the month. As the girls start to eat more and more of what we eat I am also realizing that what was once enough for two adults will not suffice for much longer.

We can contribute around $60 at this time by cutting out take-out once a week. We usually have pizza or sushi on Thursday nights because CJ works until 8:15 and it's easiest when I'm alone all night but I will start making something easy like a crock-pot meal or pre-freeze something. So we're working with a budget of about $340 for food and household items. The aim here is to stay as budget friendly as possible while still providing healthy, wholesome choices for our entire family.

I'm thinking these are noble first goals:
  1. make a meal plan that includes all three meals and snacks for us as well as finger foods and recipes specifically for the girls
  2. get to the market and wal-mart or target so I can get household goods while getting food too. twice next month, only use half of EBT allowance each time
  3. shop around, price compare and use coupons where it matters (paper products, personal care, etc.)
I guess you could say I'm doing my own Food Stamp Challenge but unlike Gwyneth Paltrow this is my real life. I am going to spend a lot of time on this in the coming weeks so hopefully the girls will be kind to me and let me do it.

Wish us luck! And please no negative comments about SNAP, I will just delete them. Ain't nobody got time fo' dat shit. If you have an issue with me needing help to feed my family while we are making a huge life change (remember, we had spontaneous identical twins 9 months ago) please e-mail me and I'll educate you properly.

I'll update next month around this time and let you know how it's going.

Xo,
Maigen

April 28, 2015

15+ Playtime Ideas for Babies

I am a former child care provider so obviously I love caring for and playing with kids (I even have them two at a time!) I love teaching and guiding them and watching them learn and discover their world through play (that's kinda my tagline). I will happily be the storyteller, the "it", the chaser, the climber, the restaurant patron or just the friend to any child who needs it etc.  I love setting up an activity and letting them have at it while I watch and observe instead of actively participate.

Despite all this and the massive cache of good play ideas in my head, sometimes I just cannot for the life of me think of what to do with the girls even though they're only awake for like 9 hours a day. All too often I find myself just putting them on the floor and laying out the same old toys. That's fine sometimes but babies like variety! And sometimes it seems like you've tried everything to make them happy and yet it's still two hours until bedtime and they're bored and miserable!

In a desperate attempt to stave off boredom (mine and theirs) I created a checklist of ideas to run down in case I hadn't done them yet. I did it with the big kids at school all the time, drawing ideas out of a boredom jar or pointing out games and toys they hadn't touched in weeks. Although many of these seem like common sense you'd be surprised how many you simply forget about when going through your day. It helps keep me sane and is a great go-to for CJ now that he is spending more time with them alone.

Feel free to print this list and hang it in your baby's play area. I'm telling you it can be a sanity saver when baby is fussy and you're like, "Oh! When was the last time we did this?!"


Read

We read at least five books a day if not more. Baby doesn't have to sit and listen intently, just keep doing it. You can read anything you want - your own books, magazines and newspapers are fine. Of course I'd say you should read their books too, especially when they feel like snuggling up.  Set out board and cloth books for them to discover, flip through or chew on. Always have a book on hand for them to look at rather than just toys (cloth books are great for this) as they can chew on them.

Balls

Roll, toss or bounce one and have baby watch. Use a slide or a tube and roll balls down into a basket. Count them, talk about their shape, let baby touch and taste them. Use cups or bowls to swirl and shake them in, fill and dump into and cover with. Balance them on things. For movers have them chase, kick it or try to throw or catch it. Put a bunch of different types into an exploration box.

Play games

Even the youngest of babies can enjoy childhood favorites. Try to think beyond Peek-a-Boo and This Little Piggy (although those are great too). Sing ring-a-round the rosie while you spin holding baby, bounce baby on your knee singing nursery rhymes, play hide and seek with a toy, play hide and seek and surprise baby, cover your face or baby's with a blanket for a version of peek-a-boo, play row, row your boat and rock baby back and forth, make silly faces and sounds, pretend to be animals and act out their sounds, play "so big" (arms up, soooo biiiig!), "fly" baby up in the air (don't let go!)

Forget the "toys"

Put away all the toys and give baby household objects, loose parts and other playthings to explore instead. Some of our favorites have been gift boxes, clean yogurt cups, tissue and parchment paper, aluminum foil, , chubby marker tops, coffee cans and other recycled containers, bead necklaces, jingle bells, measuring cups, wash cloths, spoons, pots and pans, puzzle pieces, egg cartons and cotton balls, toilet paper tubes, and so on. Keep a close eye on this activity especially when they start mouthing everything - then you should only use things you have inspected and won't break or tear off and that are properly cleaned


 Exercise

Tummy time, pushups, pull-ups, rolling, bicycle kicks, arm circles, anything baby seems to enjoy. We loved this idea from CanDo kiddo: tape a piece of tissue paper to the couch and lay baby on her back in front of it and let her feet go wild while she kicks it listening to the sound it makes.  Do your own exercise and include baby ala SkinnyMom.


 

 

 Mirror Time

Set baby on belly or side in front of a mirror and watch as they admire themselves and make eye contact with you. Use a hand held mirror on the floor under them so they can try out looking down at themselves instead of up or over.

 

 

 

Blow Bubbles

Long before they can actually blow them themselves babies LOVE watching you blow them. It's like their first exposure to magic. My advice: invest in really good bubble solution and some really good wands or a bubble gun or machine. It can be frustrating as hell when you only get one bubble for every ten or so tries and baby didn't even see that one.

Exploration bins

Even young babies can explore a basket or bin set in front of them filled with novel items. Tissue paper, sponges, cut up toilet paper rolls, fabric swatches, cotton balls, handbells, etc. If you don't have loose parts hanging around the house fill the box with some balls, shakers, stacking cups or other small toys. Let them dump it out and fill it back up. When baby is older you can add tons of new things for a sensory experience.

Music

Sing songs or act out fingerplays. I created a master list of kid's songs and posted it in our play area for when my brain is fried and I just can't remember any off hand. Put music on and lay on the floor and listen to it together or dance with or sing to baby. Make up your own songs to familiar melodies about baby or your lives. One of my favorite homemade songs: "It's time to take a rest, in your little nest, time to take a rest my darling, in your little nest." became our bedtime cue. If you play an instrument bring it out and play for baby to enjoy

Lights out play

Turn off the lights and use a flashlight to bring out some true wonder and fun with baby. Allow them to try to track the beam, highlight objects and describe them, hide it under a thin blanket and let them find it. Put some glow in the dark stars up on the wall and watch them stare at them and try to figure out what the heck they are. Play with a light switch and describe what's happening. Make a show of opening the curtains and letting the sunlight in.

Talk

Bring out new objects, familiar toys or a picture book to touch and manipulate objects while talking about you and baby see. Ask baby what they see and wait for them to respond then offer the answer. Narrate or "sportscast" what you and baby are doing with purpose. Tell a story and act it out or create sound effects. Use a puppet and try out different voices and sounds to catch baby's attention.

Listen

Mimic baby's sounds and facial expressions, follow their gaze and ask what they see, hear or smell. Just observe them for a little while keeping quiet. You'd be amazed what even the youngest have to say if you just stay quiet and listen.

Nake-Nake Time

Strip baby down to her birthday suit, lay down a blanket and some cloths in case she goes and let her have at it. Something magical happens when baby is totally unrestricted, when they are free to move and stretch and feel the air on their skin.  My girls both rolled over for the first time during nake-nake time!

 

Change of scenery

Go into the kitchen and cook or eat while babies watch, describing your actions and the objects you use while you dance and sing for them. Go into your bedroom and play with the pillows and blankets instead of toys. Walk around the house with baby and open doors or cabinets, touch curtains and tables, turn on and off lights. Hold baby in front of a window and just look out, especially when it's raining or snowing or too cold. Even just moving to the other side of the living room can do the trick sometimes.

Go outside

Lay a blanket out in the yard and let baby feel the breeze and the sun or go for a walk in the stroller. Drive to a big park and push baby on the swings. Walk to a small park and lay a blanket out there instead. Find a local waterfront and look for ducks. Take a nature hike if you have a decent stroller.

 

 

 Take a bath or a shower (not just to get clean or as part of bedtime routine)

Some babies love being in the water and will happily splash and play for half an hour. If you're luckier than I am and have a bathtub then get in with baby or hold them while you shower. Bonus, it may calm them enough to take an extra great nap.

"Receptacle" time

When all else fails I pop them into the jumper or exersaucer for a change of position and some exercise. Limit the time baby spends in these to about 20 min. a day max for proper physical development but also to keep the novelty of them.

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Our Favorite Baby Toys


No matter how many ideas I come up with or alternative ways to keep these babies occupied (and learning and exploring) we still play with their toys every day. Our girls had some favorites as early as 3 months when they were able to bat at and push things on the floor. I can tell which ones they prefer and we get the most use out of too. Most of our toys were hand me downs or purchased second hand so a lot are discontinued but they're always upgrading them anyway. Here's some of the favorites in our house:

Noggin Sticks
These little guys are brilliant. They love banging them, flipping them over and looking at themselves, standing them up and knocking them down and of course shaking them and getting the color to change.

Stacking/Nesting Cups
So much fun. They can stack, nest, make a ball, bang together, drop things inside, roll them, and more. We take them everywhere with us.
Plastic Balls
So versatile and so much fun.
Links
They love to chew on them, clang them together, pull on them and I can use them to link toys up on the play gym, over their high chairs, onto the carseat or stroller and more.
Keys
I don't know what it is about keys but they are obsessed with them.
Teething Rings 
They don't really use them when they're teething but they love to hold on to them and mouth them.

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I hope you enjoy this list and find it helpful when you're wondering what on earth to do with your brand new tiny human!


What are you favorite ways to play with your baby?

Xo,
Maigen



April 26, 2015

New Series - What We Did Last Week!

I need an easy way to keep track and organize activities and ideas for the girls and my prior methods (pinterest boards and a notebook) are just not working anymore. So I'm going to start blogging my ideas and results as a way to document what works and what doesn't and help others in their adventures of helping kids learn, play and grow!

As the girls get older I am so excited to help them learn and discover their world in so many different ways. I am an advocate for learning through play and allowing children to explore their surroundings and gain understanding of the world naturally and at their own pace. It's much easier to practice this with just my two than it was at the daycare with mixed ages from 1-12!

Playtime is becoming so much fun and it's amazing to watch them blossom and learn. Just in the last few weeks they both learned how to clap toys together, bang them on the table, switch hands and take each others' toy, reach and roll to get what they want. They are wanting to sit up all the time and will spend long periods of time exploring anything you put in front of them.

I'm really excited because I can now introduce Exploration/Discovery/Sensory bins! For now we just do a weekly bin of new things to explore, with a common thread (seasonal, holiday, colors, shapes, textures, etc.). This week I put together a red box and a green box. Choosing from items what we had on hand each bin had a red or green cup, bowl, blocks, a soft ball, a hard ball, some of their letters from their name stools and crinkly books. The green box had a bunch of frogs people have given me over the years with their toys and the red box started with a winter hat and glove that I removed because the wool reacted with their drooly chins. I love using loose parts and random household objects on top of the toys they are safe to use when I'm not sitting right there.

I laid them down or sat them up with the boxes nearby and just let them find them, dump them, swish around the toys, taste everything and swap them and then toss them then put them back in. They were amused for nearly an hour each time and I got a taste for what their favorite items are.

Right now they love anything that makes a good sound when it bangs, makes an audible clap when hit with another toy or that they can chew on well, thanks to teething and of course they will forever love anything that crinkles. I've tested some different types of paper (parchment, sturdy tissue, etc.) but they just want to eat it so we're sticking to things they can't rip for now.

They also like things they can toss and reach for or that they can pull to themselves while leaning and getting into the crawling position. I will switch the toys out each week so they get new sensory experiences and don't get bored.

As they age I will add other elements like pasta, beans, rice, jello, oatmeal, water, sand, snow, hay, rocks, etc. and add a wider variety of items, sometimes with holiday or seasonal themes or exploring concepts (sorting, finding objects, different textures, etc.) I'm collecting an array of cups, spoons and other randomness to go into them as well. My niece Jillian's first bin was at my house with macaroni noodles, a cup and a spoon at 11 months old. We are so close, I can't wait to get to that with them!

I also made them shakers last week when as they've started shaking everything. They're a little heavy and I need to decorate them still but I just used dried beans and brown rice in old jelly squeeze bottles. I would rather water bottles but we don't buy them often so I need to get some. I put two sided tape on the inside of the cap to catch the beans and rice for when they figure out how to open it. 

We will hopefully be spending more time outside this week. We're always looking for signs of spring, I'm hoping to find a few flowers they can look at and touch soon and maybe even a worm! We're a little young to try puddle jumping but if we ever get a warm sprinkle of rain again we'll be outside to enjoy it!

I hope to update every week on Sunday or Monday with what what we did last week. Here are some more pics of last weeks fun!
Selfies, no-clothes time, letter blocks pluzzles, banana pancakes and playing outside!




What are your favorite activities with your little ones?

Xo,
Maigen

April 23, 2015

10 Ways To Get Things Done With {Twin} Infants

One of the biggest concerns I had when we found out about the twins was how I was ever going to get anything done around the house with two babies. Or shower on no nap days. Or even just use the bathroom any day!

Children grow, learn and develop best with lots and lots of free play time on the floor. We know now that overuse of propping or other baby receptacles has potential to inhibit their natural development. While some days every mom loves and is able to just hold or play with baby for hours on end, eventually there is laundry to be done or dinner to be cooked and those things rarely coincide with nap time.

Also when you have twins or more than one child there are days that everyone's out of sync and there is no "nap time" to get things done as one will be up while the other sleeps. Those days are LONG.

Knowing this struggle here's my list of my favorite resources for any budget that can help you figure out how to get things done (in and out of the house) while still being a present parent to your twins!

Baby wearing 


I can't believe I don't have a pic of me wearing both
While it doesn't seem like a very easy or practical feat for a twin mom at first, baby wearing twins is absolutely possible and sometimes necessary. Using a wrap like the Boba or Moby you can tandem wear your twins until they're about 10 lbs. each. After that you can wear a woven wrap with a front/back or hip carry or two separate carriers for back and front carry. Youtube is a great resource for how-to videos, as is the facebook group Tandem Baby Wearing. This is ideal for babies who have a hard time settling and you still need to get things done. Getting your hands on a great twin wearing system can be an investment but you can find what you want online.

Bouncy chairs 

 

Perfect for newborns to sleep or lay in and also appropriate for some contained playtime. The vibrate feature can knock out even the fussiest baby and the elevation means they can see you without having to strain to do so. You can bring them in the bathroom while you shower, in the bedroom while you fold and put away clothes or just leave them in the living room to get the dishes done.  The only con we found is that they take up a bit of space. We stopped using ours around 4 months too so I would highly suggest buying used considering the little time these are used.

The Laundry Basket Trick 

 

 A fellow twin mom friend let me know about this and I will be forever grateful for it. Take a rectangular laundry basket and line it with blankets. Place a baby at each end and put toys in their laps and throughout the basket and you have an easily transportable playpen. It goes in the kitchen with me while I cook, on the back porch for some safe outside time, in the bathroom so I can shower and in the living room when they're not feeling the playmat or anything else. Too cold outside? Pop them in front of a window for a change of scenery. They can see everything and they love it! This is the most budget friendly option as what family doesn't have a laundry basket?

The Snoogle Pillow Trick


While we're on the subject of ways to support two babies without sitting right there, my snoogle body pillow (one of my pregnancy must-haves) is a great sitting up aid for the girls! It creates a nice little nest where they can move around and explore without much restriction. If they topple over they land on the pillow and just try to roll over. We even bring it outside as extra padding. I'm also getting more than my money's worth with the snoogle.

High Chairs (bonus if they have a newborn recline position) 


We have the Fisher Price Space Savers that have a full-blown recline. We needed these as our too-small kitchen did not allow for two moving adults plus two bouncy chairs or standard size high chairs. Starting from about 2 months old on fussy days I would lay the girls in their high chairs and use links to string some toys on their laps, although they were more interested in watching me cook or clean up. They can still see you, are safe and entertained and can transition from newborn high chair all the way up to booster seat for a big kid, making them a worthy investment. Due to the nature of how messy babies can be when they eat I would definitely buy these new, but you can find them for as little as $40.

Exersaucers/Jumpers


Great for the older babies who are bored with laying all the time. They can exercise their muscles while changing up their perspective. We picked up a used exersaucer and new, budget friendly at just around $75, Fisher Price Space Saver jumper that they're not quite heavy enough to really bounce in yet at 15 lbs but they can practice standing, reach up for the toy bar and push the buttons to make music. Experts say not to rely on them too much (research shows that overuse can actually hinder muscle tone development) but once a day for a half hour or so is perfect for a little exercise and a break for momma's back! Definitely go for good used condition if you can as everyone and their brother has had one of these so they are easy to find in excellent used condition.


Galt Playnest


These were gifted to us by my Dad for Christmas this past year and at first I was afraid they wouldn't get used much. They were too small to sit in them at first and just cried when we put them in. We waited a few more months until they were able to sit up better and now they love them. They are quickly outgrowing sharing the laundry basket and since twin families never have two empty laundry baskets, the playnests are perfect. They can reach their toys without feeling too restrained and the inflatable sides allowed them learn to sit in a safe space. Yes, they take up some space but not more than the people who are inflating pools in their living rooms to contain their kids (glad we're not there yet) It solves the issue of when I want them to play independently but they don't need me to be right there to watch them in case they fall over. I can cook or clean up the house and they play happily in the position they want to be in but can't quite get to or stay in safely yet. For just $40 a piece they are well worth it.

Twin Size Pack and Play 


Originally we feared this was a waste of money. They hated the bassinet part and didn't sleep well in it. We packed it up within a few weeks and were planning on selling it until Viv started to move all over the place (no crawling yet but she can roll clear across the room in 30 seconds) and we needed a way to contain her while not inhibiting her movement too much. I know a lot of people rely on pack and plays but the twin size one is a necessity for two mobile babies. We tried fitting them both in a standard size one and they were just rolling over on top of each other. The added six inches or so on each side guarantees each baby has her own space, toys are contained and within reach and they're able to move around and practice their skills safely. You can buy new or if you're lucky you can find them used on CraigsList or Twin Resale Facebook groups.

 ...

What about when you're out and about with twins? How do you grocery shop or run to wal-mart with two infants?!

A Really Good Double Stroller


I really wish we had had one before last week. I don't do car seats on carts so runs to the store didn't ususally involve a lot of purchases until recently. After a few trips I started hating shopping with them though. Read all about our issues with our stroller and learn from our mistake - get a good one! The easiest way to ensure you will get out of the house with infant twins is having a stroller that is easy to push and navigate through congested aisles in a department or grocery store. A really good one will allow you to push and pull a grocery cart and won't make the whole trip harder. Our stroller sucked. I would wear one and put the other in the cart basket but I had no room for much food or larger items. Absolutely invest in a good stroller for the get go but I even think a double snap and go that the car seats click into would have been good until we needed a new one. I mostly just avoided big shopping trips until they were big enough to sit in the cart seat at which point we fell in love with the...

A Buggy Bench


A brilliant invention by a twin mom that has saved my sanity.Trips to the grocery store, target or anywhere with a cart are a breeze. I fit 2 weeks worth of food and paper products in the car with both the girls. The girls did great, they were so happy to be out and seeing new things and I didn't have to wait until they were in bed to go grocery shopping. The seat was easy to attach to the cart, supported Viv really well and looked adorable as you can see.

I found mine on Zulilly for about $15 off retail so keep your eye out for it.

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So, new twin moms (or moms of 2+) take heart! There are many ways for every family to get things done with lively babies about, no matter what your budget or house size. Trust me, we're living with the smallest of each!

Just remember that while baby receptacles are great resources when you need a place to keep baby safe while you are otherwise occupied, baby should spend as much time as possible on the floor. Find a happy medium that includes lots of floor time and use these tips when you need a safe place to put baby while you're getting things done!

What's your favorite trick for getting things done with two itty bitties in (or out of) the house?

Xo,

Maigen

April 21, 2015

FIAO 1.5 Transporting The Twins - Time To Upgrade!

We're going to revive my little FIAO series (read here) and address something I've been dreading and kind of thought we had wrapped up months ago. When I was pregnant I spent a hefty amount of time researching how the heck I was going to actually get out of the house and have a life with twins. There were so many factors I needed to consider, not the least of which was making it easy as possible to travel with two tiny babies but also making budget friendly but quality choices that would be worth it in the long run. Talk about trying to find a needle in a haystack.  I'm back after 9 months of use and ready to review and update our choices!

Before knowing they were twins I planned on buying a really nice convertible car seat that would last forever and a decent stroller for the first few months before I got comfortable carrying and wearing him or her. Two babies meant infant bucket seats to make transporting two as easy as possible and a double stroller, ideally one that car seats connect into at least for the beginning. We opted for a side-by-side double that our infant car seats clicked into but would last until the girls were older. We also had two bases for each car. Back in 2014 the entire package cost about $500, split between seven of our amazing friends and family members who graciously gifted them to us.

Although it wasn't love at first sight thanks to a hefty learning curve with opening, closing and navigating, we were really liking our choice with the Graco FastAction Fold Duo. We still love the Graco Snug Ride Click Connect 30 car seats. The girls do not cry in the car ever and who knows if that matters but they only just got too heavy to carry all together at the same time at 15 lbs. I can still do one at a time but it's getting up there.

Best part about this stroller - seeing my girls!
The stroller was perfect when they were small and we needed to go to the doctors or Target. The car seats click in relatively easily with practice, the baskets are big enough for a diaper bag for twins, a blanket and a few other small items.  Closing it really is easy but opening it is like a balancing act and near impossible in the wind and snow or a really rainy parking lot. You will figure it out though and do it well in a few weeks.

They say it's the size of a standard wheelchair, so it should fit through doors that are handicap accessible which you think is all of them but I swear not all doors are created equal and even the ones where it should fit are tough to get through (unless it's a double sliding door, hence all the trips to target). The angle and the incline matter too. This isn't an affiliated link so I'm going to be honest, it's a pain in the ass. And, because the wheels are plastic it isn't great to push on walks, does not do well on grass and is bumpy sometimes even on smooth concrete or in a store/Target (ahem).

Our main issues started in the last month or so when it was warming up and the girls were sitting up. I am not carrying the girls to and from anywhere in the car seats since the ensemble is way too heavy. One of things I loved about the stroller was that they faced me while in the car seats, but now that they sit they can't see me at all. And I can't see them at all without stopping and leaning over. They are getting freaked out even while I talk to them, and I know it's a phase but it's making walks and shopping trips really difficult. Also, the visors are too short (maybe it's them, but still) so the sun is always in their eyes. Since they'd rather eat than wear their sunglasses or hats that's creating an issue too.
Looks cozy but that was a BUMPY walk!

We really started looking into tandem strollers when I was getting anxious over the stroller fitting through doors and not going places I wanted to, like the gym, restaurants or the library. And then there was the lovely issue of them getting their fingers caught on a door frame while I'm paying attention to lining it up just right to squeeze into a door by half an inch. It almost happened leaving the doctor's office last month and ever since we haven't gone out much. That's been fun.

Viv approves!
I thought about getting two umbrella strollers and latching them together or a twin jogger but really did not want to spend or ask family to help with a $700+ stroller. A local woman listed the Contours Optima on facebook for $225 and I asked my parents to get it for the girls for their birthday. That afternoon my dad showed up with a Contours Options Elite (which I'm pretty sure is better and it's new!) Thanks Papa T!

So does Jules!
So far it is perfect! First, it's beautiful. We got the teal color and the girls love to stare at the zig-zags in the canopy, which expands huge but even on the regular setting blocks out majority of the sun from their faces. We took it for a walk and it steers and handles beautifully. I have mastered opening and closing it and I don't feel anxiety over doing that in a parking lot in the rain. It addresses the door issue since it's the width of a single stroller and the length is great. It doesn't feel like a double stroller at all and the girls a

ren't squished! Also, there's no one sitting underneath anyone else.

Love that they can see me and each other!
Look at those canopies!
There are seven seating configurations, including a car seat adapter that works with our car seats if we need to use them again. They can face me, face out or face each other. It has rubberized wheels with absorb bumps and it fits through my front door which is crazy since my house is like 200 years old and was apparently built by very small people. It has a weight limit of 40 lbs./seat and while I can see how the seats don't have a ton of wiggle room for bigger kids I am hoping we won't be using it that often by that point. At the rate they're going they'll be 40 lb. 1st graders so they damn well better be walking. If they're not, the seats and footrests are adjustable and when it's folded up it only takes up about 3/4 of the trunk in my Hyundai Elantra.  All in all it's everything we wanted and it's awesome!

We are going to store the side-by-side in case we need it for some reason and then sell the car seats, bases and stroller together as a package since we think that's one of the really great parts of this stroller.  It has good, quality car seats that fit right in and in a way that both babies can see you all the time. One without the other doesn't make much sense. This is unless you have a Double Snap & Go, which is what we should have gotten in the first place. Twin moms who are reading this - Trust me. Everyone is right. Buy one now.  I didn't and I regret it 9 months later.  We will use the money to get the girls their new car seats, which is a whole different ball game. I don't even know where to start with that one right now! Luckily we have six inches and 15 lbs. left before we max out our cute little car seats!

I am so excited to have this great new stroller in time for nicer weather and so grateful to have such an amazing support system of family and friends who are helping us through this journey. I am humbled by the amount of love my babies receive every day from the people who mean the world to us.  We are truly blessed.

Xo,
Maigen


April 14, 2015

C-Section Mamas Unite! Just not for the wrong reason please!

Ok something has been going around the internet for a few weeks and I have to address it in one of my late night ramblings.

Have you heard of The Disciples of The New Dawn yet?

Probably not. Unless you're a parent, then you might have come across the the c-section shaming memes that have been cropping up, riling the pants off the online parenting community. Or maybe you've read an article berating the "religious group" for calling c-section moms lazy.

Like this beauty right here:

http://media.parentsociety.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/02125207/C-Section-Shaming-meme.jpg

If you haven't seen it yet, there you go. If you have, I'm sure you went through the same emotions I did initially:

Anger - "Wtf? Oh, eff that!"
Denial - "No, no way, that can't be real. That's just horrible."
Confusion - "Why the hell would anyone write something like that!?"

If you're normal, you may have penned an angry comment in response or bitched to your husband about the audacity of these people and moved on with your day.

I'm not normal. I did not want to share my feelings just yet. I was curious. I immediately googled these Disciples of the New Dawn characters.

According to this article The Disciples of the New Dawn claim to have been established in 1956 and is run by Father Patrick Oliver Embry. They have some lovely feelings about everything including divorce, witches, pit bulls and natural child birth. It's all blood boiling and we would have a right to be irate if this group of people were actually believing this bullshit they are spreading all over the interwebs.

Alas, it turns out, it's satire. All of it. I've noticed a lot of people don't know (or care) what that means so here you go:

sat·ire ˈsaˌtī(ə)r/, noun - the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

One brilliant woman figured this out as well:
"The guy who runs the fundamentalist Christian New-World-Order-conspiracy-theory-driven webpage 'Disciples of the New Dawn' lists his alleged name as Patrick Oliver Embry. His initials are...
(drum-roll please)
P.O.E
The guy literally *is* a poe.
Urban Dictionary defines a "poe" as:
A person who writes a parody of a Fundamentalist that is mistaken for the real thing."

Whoever or whatever these DotND people are it's likely they created these memes with the specific intention of eliciting big reactions and pissing people of. And of course it worked.

They are essentially the worst kind of trolls, the ones who drop a nice fat drama bomb and then run for the hills.

At the very least we can hope their intention was to bring to light how ludicrous it is to judge parents for anything at all, let alone a completely safe and often medically necessary alternative to typical child birth.

No matter what their reasoning was, the parenting community at large fell for it. Thousands and thousands of women sat typing their angry rebuttals, their success and sad stories, their justifications for undergoing a completely acceptable procedure for the completely understandable reason of having a baby inside them and needing to get it out safely. What's sad, is that these women are sharing under the false impression that someone who truly believes c-sections are wrong created this hurtful, hate-filled message. It stings that it found its' way into our safe zone, where we connect with other parents. They feel violated and judged and they have a right to be angry, well they would, if it were real.

But it's not.

I'm not saying there's no one out there who feels this way. There are absolutely people out there who do, as unbelievable as it is. Hell, I didn't believe the Westboro Baptist Church could possibly be real when I first heard of it. There are some seriously fucked up people out there who believe horrible things in the name of whatever holy deity they think rules us all. If they didn't exist out there, somewhere, this meme wouldn't make much sense. In fact, it would be truly cruel and downright pointless.

But, and you have to remember this - the people who really feel this way are probably not wasting their time creating enraging memes for facebook. They probably don't even have facebook. They're judging you, just not like this.

The Disciples of The New Dawn are wasting their time creating enraging memes for facebook but they, most likely, do NOT believe this.  Every angry tirade aimed at them in the last few weeks has probably fallen on deaf ears. They're assholes, for sure. But they're mostly just shit stirrers.  Are they religious extremists? No. Do they really believe that women who had a c-section are lazy or that "God does not give credit for incomplete work"? NO!!

They are probably some bored college kids who just want to watch the world burn for a quick laugh and some entertainment while pointing out some of the pretty effed up opinions of religious extremists (who, again, are not likely to be sitting at home dreaming up their next inciting meme).

A funny thing is happening though, and maybe this was DoTND's original intention - people are starting to pay attention to the issues at large that this meme illustrates. It's not that this overt c-section shaming is happening everywhere, but there is an undercurrent of judgement in the mom community. As much as some people would like to say the mommy wars don't exist, I personally have witnessed enough first hand to know otherwise, although it is usually at hands of an "extremist" mom, as it often is with religion and politics. You know what I mean. Women who have never had or dreamed of having a c-section are showing their support and expressing admiration for the moms who are feeling victimized and judged.  Moms are educating others, sharing their own sometimes terrifying or heartbreaking stories while also encouraging and supporting each other despite their anger. 

Check it out:

"Lol crazy! Having had 4 vaginal including one of my twins and the second twin C-section I give props to anyone that has C-section. It is the worst ever."

"If I didn't really give birth can someone please remove the three children currently screaming about some bullshit I don't care about? Obviously there was a mix up at the hospital."

"Oh, when women go there, I just get equally ridiculous. I tell them that they're just jealous that my vagina still looks fabulous after birthing 8lb and 10lb babies and I didn't have to do any actual work. Plus, I got to be high as balls for that first week after the kid came out, y'know since with major surgery an all."

"While I don't agree with a lot of c-sections, any person who brings new life into this world gives birth. How they do it is their own issue not anyone else's but they should always be supported." 

And this lovely response:

"Birth is required to be born....which is required to be alive....ghost babies?"  

So, something that was meant to be divisive (but remember it wasn't really) is building bridges and opening our eyes to the fact that no matter how it happened we have children to raise and we're all doing the best we can and it's a much happier and easier job to do if we're just accepting and supportive of each other.

Well played, Disciples. Well played.

So there it is. Please people. Stop sharing it. Comment if you must but with full understanding that it is SATIRE. PLEASE DON'T FEED THE TROLLS!

Xo,
Maigen

April 9, 2015

My Kids Are (Finally) Sleeping Well! So Why Do I Feel Like a Bad Mom?



*please note: they do not sleep together or with toys in their cribs, this was after wake-up when I was putting clothes away!

I feel like all I write about lately is getting these chickies to sleep. It is consuming my life and is always on my mind. I guess it's because it's important to me that my 8 month old twins sleep well so of course I'm writing a lot about it. One thing has been driving me crazy for a while now though.

I can't shake the feeling that I'm being judged, ridiculed and thought to be a "bad" mom just because my babies are sleeping well (finally and for now). It's starting to drive me crazy.

So I had a thought...

Maybe we should start a petition to change the name of the many sleep "training" methods that do not involve leaving your child alone to cry all night?

Oh wait, you didn't know that you have options aside from listening to your little love cry for hours on end? That's probably because a lot of people want you to believe that helping your child learn healthy sleep habits means you must abandon her and force her to scream until she vomits or passes out from sheer exhaustion, never again to call upon you for help as you have forever broken her spirit and she no longer trusts you.  Because that's the same thing as teaching them a valuable life skill. Really people?

I wrote a whole long ass thing before about how I was against sleep training young babies. I just unpublished it because I really need to refocus that. What I should have just said is that I do not like the extreme version of extinction - leaving a baby to cry all night long. Even so there are ways to properly carry it out when used in conjunction with establishing healthy habits prior to attempting it. It's not for us. It's not for most families. Sadly, this is always the method people think of when they hear the words sleep train. But it is so much more complex than that.

There are so many different methods of "sleep training" yet they are all grouped under that same shitty term and carry the same shitty connotations. In some circles, no matter how lovingly you do it, your choice to sleep "train" earns you a bad mom rep. You are accused of not loving your child, for how dare you force your need for sleep on your helpless little one! Why, if you ever wanted to sleep again, did you even have a child in the first place?! Don't you know the two are incompatible?

It is such bullshit. Healthy sleep habits are one of the best gifts you can give your baby (and of course yourself)! And if you disagree with that fact because you have been led to believe that any method of sleep "training" causes irreparable harm to your child or your relationship with them then you're a moron I feel sorry for you.

I know it's a shocker to some but you can sleep "train" your child in a positive, respectful and gentle way that works and still have a happy, well-adjusted child. You will probably still be vilified by those who are against any form of sleep "training" thanks to society's obsession with the ghastly image of true crying it out. So maybe it's time we change the way we word things and stop making people feel like shit for helping their child learn how to do what our bodies are made to do but doesn't always come naturally.

Instead of sleep "training" can we call it what it is? Sleep learning. Helping our children help themselves to learn a vital life skill. There are far more parents out there who use safe, gentle and child-directed techniques than those who adhere to straight-up extinction without any thought of the child's needs (which can be cruel and often does not work). Can we stop spreading the lie that they're all the same and that the desire for your child to be well rested but not nursed to sleep all night long makes you a shitty parent?

I mean really, have you ever actually met someone who just decided one night to close the nursery door at 7pm and didn't return until 7am? Or someone whose child actually screamed all alone all night long? I know they must exist somewhere, everyone who is anti-sleep-"training" talks about them, but the majority of people I encounter could never do it. And those that can, those that commit to it with full knowledge of what they're doing and then follow through, they don't have to put up with that kind of drama because they know what they're doing and it works for them!

From my totally unscientific Facebook and blogger based research I have found that for most families, those who are educated, prepared and have children who are developmentally ready, the average sleep training adventure works and it looks like this:

You start weeks ahead of time by deciding which method you want to use. Then you start dropping sleep props, transitioning to the crib if needed and introduce a lovey, because everyone likes to snuggle. You establish a good routine way ahead of time and start laying baby down awake. Once parents and baby are ready to start there are about three nights of crying, (some take longer, some only take a night), with the first night being for 30-75 minutes, the second being 20-30 and the third being for 5-10 minutes before the baby goes down with little fuss.  Some kids do better with incremental checks and varied degrees of soothing, others prefer to be left alone to figure it out. You don't waiver or cut corners for the first few nights and if you feel uncomfortable you stop and try again a couple days or weeks later. You may have a "burst" night where they cry more but if you are consistent you end up with a well-rested, happy child who views sleep as a comfortable, safe and necessary part of their day.

Yes, some babies vomit when they get mad even if you've done it right, it doesn't mean you're doomed or your child hates you now it just means you might need to hold off until baby is more ready for it. Or don't. Your circus, your monkeys, you decide. Your child won't be scarred for life.

Yes, you might hit bumps in the road in the future and have to do it again or your child might sleep through the night for the rest of their life. It's all up to your individual baby and the inner workings of their brain.

The bottom line is that I have yet to read of any of these babies waking up the next day and deciding "Eh, I'm just gonna lay here forever, why bother crying, no one comes anyway".

This does not happen. At least not if you're doing it in a way that is healthy and respectful to the child.

People, it's not hard. You're there to guide them, to teach them, to help them learn. We teach them to walk, talk and add so why can't we teach them to sleep without feeling like monsters?


Sadly the Anti-CIO movement is gaining support at a time when we should be educating parents about all the wonderful, helpful alternative ways for everyone to sleep.

First off they say, "Babies are not meant to be trained. Dogs are!" Well, that's reason number one why we really need to stop using the phrase sleep training. No, we don't train them but our babies can be taught. They can learn with love, respect and understanding. Most of the people who sleep train successfully understand this. Of course there might be some who actually create the issue of baby learning not to cry out because her needs won't be met. But this is not common and usually a symptom of greater neglect.  If you are smart and gentle about it and wait until your child is ready then what harm is being done? From what I have observed no well meaning parent goes into this with the intention of hurting their child for the sake of their own sleep. And the way to ensure this is by talking about it, not suffering in silence just because people like to think it hurts our babies. That just does not happen contrary to what the fear mongers out there are saying.

My other issue is that I've noticed so many personal accounts of sleep training experiments gone wrong (those who tout their "tried it, hated it" stories online) are so abrasive! Not only that but they down right do it WRONG most of the time. They explain how they did all their research, picked a method and jumped right in on night one.

I shit you not I just read a blog by a woman calling out a particular sleep training program as utter nonsense because it clearly traumatized her child.

Do you know what she did?

Her four month old baby was co-sleeping at night while nursing on demand and napping in the swing during the day. She read the book and decided one night to just make up a bedtime routine, pick an arbitrary bedtime not at all based on baby's actual sleep needs and tossed her in the crib. She then followed the rest of the book's tips, including checks and soothing, while her baby wailed on and on for two hours, much to her dismay, before she finally gave in and "saved" her. The next night her baby lost her mind whenever they even approached the crib. She then had the audacity to blame the method for permanently damaging her child. Are you freaking kidding me? Let me tell you, we've been grooming our girls for this since day one and I still struggled with committing to letting them figure it out.

You know whose babies are suffering from sleep training methods? The people who sit and ignore their baby while it cries all night after they've abruptly removed every comfort from them and left them to figure out for the first time ever how to fall asleep. I swear some people do this just to prove sleep training doesn't work and to feel superior to parents like myself. I won't call them out personally but after everything I've read I have to say it is complete bullshit. Often, these babies are too young (again, six months was the youngest I would and we didn't until 8 months), still fed on demand or not ready yet to give up all night bottles. To completely upend habits you have instilled and expect baby to catch on in one night is just wrong. Not only that , it's mean and disrespectful and of course it doesn't work. Because you're doing it wrong, assholes.

Worse, you're doing it wrong just to prove a point and then writing about it on your blog or your facebook group just to make all those genuinely well intentioned parents feel like shit over their choice to help their baby learn to sleep. Knock it off.

And as an added bonus these days you've got all this pseudo-science portraying the damaging effects of sleep training.

You want to tell me about the possible physical or neurological damage I'm inflicting on my kids because being left to cry for five minutes might flood their bodies with high levels of cortisol from which they may never recover? Come on. Because being chronically overtired and having a parent who literally cannot function for the lack of sleep is super beneficial for kids growing brains and bodies.

Or you want me to believe that my child will not be mentally ready to fall asleep on her own until she's at least FIVE? Give me a break. There are babies that fall asleep on their own and sleep through the night naturally at three weeks old! But yeah, you're probably correct in telling me it's not physically possible for another 4 years.

You want to talk science? Let's talk about the very real effects of prolonged sleep deprivation on the body, mind and its ability to reason and make choices, drive a car, care for children, etc. Actually we'll save that for another day. The first three months are easy compared to the seventh month straight of four hours of sleep a night.

And lastly, my favorite point that they try to make. They want you to think that teaching healthy sleep habits causes permanent attachment and security issues. Your kids will be forever be emotionally scarred because you helped them learn that they can fall asleep without the boob at 8 months old. Right. How about the fact that the shit they go through in high school will damage their psyche far worse than learning how to sleep as a baby? Or the fact that they are actually happier and healthier children as a direct result of our choice to "sleep train"?  Oh and let me ask you: which of your friends or significant others was sleep trained as a baby? Not sure? Ok, which of the infamous serial killers or which presidents were sleep trained? See my point? I think it's safe to say that people who learned how to fall asleep are not walking around blatantly damaged as adults. Sure there are some messed up people out there but I think it's an unfair stretch to say that their ability to sleep well is the cause of it, right? I mean, really?!

Have you ever met an adult who can't fall asleep on their own without some intervention from another person? Hi, my name is Maigen, nice to meet you. I was a high need child with an exhausted mother who did ANYTHING to get me to sleep, to the point that at nearly 31 years old I struggle nightly with multiple wake-ups and an inability to calm myself unless my husband is in bed with me. It's pathetic but I was doomed from the start. I refuse to believe that I am inflicting more harm on my children by teaching them the healthy sleep habits I myself have yet to learn.

Ugh I'm so sick of it all. I'm going on a crusade to update the terminology and push for more acceptance and less judgement when it comes to getting our babies to sleep. Let's talk about it and educate each other. Share our experiences with healthy, gentle, child-centered sleep learning. For all our sakes!

Oh and I have to give a big shoutout to the facebook group Respectful Sleep Training/Learning for all the fantastic help they have given us on this journey. Check it out!

Xo,
Maigen




April 2, 2015

FIAO 7.3: Adventures in Sleep With Twins - There Is Light At The End of The Long Sleepless Tunnel

After nearly two months of waking up an hour after bedtime, 30 minute naps and nursing every hour from midnight until 7am we finally reached our breaking point.

We sleep trained.

Well, kind of. We did probably the gentlest, loosest version of sleep training there is aside from none at all. Despite my previous post about being glad they're not sleeping through the night (I still am!) they were not themselves anymore. Our days were miserable. They were just so tired. It wasn't fair to or healthy for them to keep going this way. So, after reading about all the different techniques (thanks to many google searches, facebook groups and the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins by Marc Weissbluth) we quickly decided that a combination, minimal cry approach would be best for us and them. For one thing, they each have their own sleep issues. Viv goes down easily and can sleep through anything but now once she's up she's up so the late night wakings were turning into marathons of nursing and playtime. Jules fights every single lay down and wakes up every single time Viv cries but will usually fall asleep nursing and can be put down then although if she wakes up soon after it's hell to pay when she realizes where she is.

Then you have to take into account all the different factors that were causing our sleep issues. We had colds, Jules had her surgery, they each got two teeth and then went through a growth spurt and a cognitive leap. Our worst week so far was when they were figuring out how to roll over and they wanted to practice. All. Night. Long.  We've felt guilty, for whatever reason, leaving them for even a minute to cry. They have learned this and I'd swear they're manipulating us into letting them stay up and get up all night long (that is if 8 month olds were capable of such a thing) In short, it's been hard as hell to get them and us to sleep at night and something had to give.

I just kept reminding myself that sleep begets sleep. We had gotten ourselves into a vicious cycle of no consistent day or night sleep and we were all paying for it. They weren't napping often or long enough during the day, weren't going down without a fight at night and were waking up nearly every hour all night long. And suffice it to say they were miserable! For the first time in their lives they have been crying for no reason so much more often, unable to be soothed no matter what we did and just downright grumpy almost all the time. We have now gotten into almost 2 and a half months of this pattern and their moods are miserable. I miss my happy, sleeping 15 hours a day babies.

Some people say that by six months even breastfed babies can go 6-8 (or even more) hour stretches without eating overnight. The girls proved to us months ago that they could do this so I started forcing myself to stay awake during those every-other-hour-from-midnight-on feeding sessions they had both taken a liking to. Turns out, they weren't eating very much, if anything, at all. They were comfort nursing.

Really? Cool guys, that's great, happy to help out, but not when you both want to do it all night long for MONTHS. Sorry girls, mama's just not cut out for that. So once we ruled out hunger and any other factors like teething or illness we decided to give our mish-mash of totally individualized and modified sleep training techniques a go.

Here's How We Figured Out What Would Work For Our Girls:


We started messing around with all aspects of their sleep and noting everything we could. We tweaked their feeding and sleep schedules and tried different nap and wake times, dropping their fourth nap, then the third which has come back but is super short. We tried a super early bedtime (6pm) and a later one (8pm) and seem to have found a happy medium around 7:15-7:45 ("medium" meaning they will get up for the day at 8 rather than too early or too late). This way Dad gets some time with them every day too. Again, we are guiding them in the right direction but letting them take the lead on when their bodies really needed rest. Putting them to bed when we wanted was not ever going to work.

We did trial and error with everything sleep related: their sleep attire, room temperature and bedtime routine. We tried out different loveys and blankies (loosely knit or breathable muslin so there was minimal risk), played different music or a new white noise and leaving the room pitch black or using a nightlight. We played with giving a bottle before or after nursing and early or late in the routine. We even switched up their cribs at one point and ultimately ended up separating them. We made a note of what worked and what didn't and came up with a plan. Some nights they slept, others they didn't.

We bought a video monitor (actually it's a security camera that connects to our phones) which helped us feel much more confident in our choice to let them cry for a few minutes. It is so nice to be able to watch them and know what they're up to rather than going in and checking and possibly messing up the process.

The heart of the issue became very clear after all of this, especially after watching them struggle with falling asleep - they just had no idea how to put themselves to sleep yet and until they figured it out we would be fighting this losing battle. Worse, they were not able to transition their sleep cycles without me early in the night and early in the morning which was causing the 1 hour wake ups after bedtime and the marathon nursing sessions. Yep, despite our best efforts to teach them healthy sleep habits they learned that we would always come in to help them simply for the fact that we can't listen to them cry (that and there's always the risk of one waking the other one)! Effing twins! Sure they've been allowed to cry here and there but it's rarely been for long enough for them to actually get to the self soothing part so they just have no idea how to do it when it's time! They can. They just don't. So here we are 8 months in - fabulous responsive parenting skills, two exhausted babies. Lovely. It was time to do something.

Our Method (Keep in mind we are only on day four but so far it's worked well. I will update again in a week or so.):


Once they had chosen their preferred loveys, we found a combination of soft music and a loud fan that does great at blocking out noise and keeps them sleeping longer. We noticed they sleep better when they have had a full 5-6 oz. bottle of both milk and formula or if they have actually eaten food during the day. Once we had this down we were ready to let them cry learn how to fall asleep on their own.

No really we can't (well, Dad mostly, he really can't) listen to them cry so thankfully for our sake they seem to have caught on pretty fast.

First off - we separated them. I really didn't want to but I saw no other choice. Viv is in our room in the pack and play and Jules is in her crib. 

We do our bedtime routine and lay them down awake. If they cry we help them get calm or wait until they're just doing their protest whines* then we leave and set a timer if they start to fuss or cry.

We do checks every 3-5 minutes if they're still crying. Again, sometimes they do those protest yells for a few minutes again during the transition and I don't really count that as time because usually it's a sign that they really are tired they just want me to help them get to sleep.  If it escalates into actual crying that's when I start the timer. If it escalates into screaming I go in no matter what time we're at. I won't allow them to scream for me.

When the timer goes off and they're still crying one of us goes in and quietly says "It's rest time, I love you and I'm here if you need me but please lay down." No more talking after that except shushing if they get really loud.  We only pick them up if they're screaming.

We pat/rub them until they are calm but not asleep. We break a big ST rule here but I will not walk out on them until they are calm. Sometimes it takes a minute, sometimes it takes 20. I just won't leave them while they're still upset.

We do not allow them to go longer than 5-15 minutes of crying but we also reset the clock every time they settle, even if they are only quiet for a bit before crying again. The longest they have gone is 20 minutes of on and off crying and I was with her for the last 10. Sometimes they will get calm for minutes and then start again full-blown. I do it all again, every time. One thing I've noticed is that they have never fallen asleep crying - they always stop first, love on their lovey or suck on something before drifting to sleep. We have the video monitor for Jules and the audio for Viv so we know what they're up to at all times.

Results:

 

Guess what has happened in the last four nights?  Bedtime has gone from two 45 minute battles to one five minute pretty easy lay down. They slept a blissful 4 hours straight the first night after only a 20 minute battle with Jules and a 10 minute one for Viv an hour later. They slept 5 hours the second and 5 again last night. We're going on six already tonight. Of course as I started to write this CJ was working on soothing a hysterical Viv at bedtime but she may finally be in the throes of teething. If she is we will help her more. Update: He got her calm, came out here and less than 3 minutes later she was asleep.

It. is. working.

Not only are they sleeping but guess what?! They're actually settling down and soothing themselves. They're really doing it!  Not only that but they're transitioning from one sleep cycle to another without me! They can and they are and no one is dying or hating me or giving up on me!  It's a miracle!

They are helping themselves do something that I still struggle with at 31 years old.

Jules sucks on her fingers or plays with the tag on her lovey (Ellie the elephant). She also stares up at the ceiling, rocks her head back and forth or scratches the mattress.

Viv uses her lovey (Leo the Lion) as a pillow, adjusting him under her head until she gets comfy then rubs the fur on his head until she falls asleep. Sometimes she rotates herself all the way around in her crib until she's on the opposite end and sticks her hand through the slats.

I don't care how weird they sound, they're sleeping and they're doing it themselves!

Conclusion:


Since night one they have slept through their usual wake up an hour after bedtime, are taking longer naps during the day (1.5 in the morning and 2-2.5 in the afternoon and maybe a 25-30 min one in the evening) and are genuinely happier. I'm glad we waited until they were 8 months old and I do believe that all our work in establishing healthy sleep routines and associations has paid off but I have to (once again) eat my own words and admit that they needed a little help getting there. No, they're still not sleeping through the night and we still bring them in our room when they wake up for a feed but they now go back to sleep instead of nursing all night. At the very least we now have our evenings and naptimes to ourselves again. So yay for keeping the AM baby snuggles while finally getting some sleep AND more mama and dad solo time!

Xo,
A (finally) well-rested Maigen

*I have literally been attached to my babies for 16 months (ok maybe the first 8 don't really count) and I know, without a doubt, what is an actual "I need you" cry and what is an "Uhh, not cool mom, I want to be up/out there/sucking for fun/fighting sleep" yelp or howl. As much as CJ would like to think their little arias or coughs are distress I know otherwise.  They're FINE. Just let them BE. Like I said, if an 8 month could manipulate a grown man, these girls have got it DOWN...