I Had No Idea How Amazing “After Bedtime” Was…

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Here I am sitting on the couch, laptop on my lap, Martinelli’s Sparking Cider in a wine glass, chocolate cake partially eaten, and one of my Netflix shows on the TV.  My husband isn’t home.  Each Monday he goes to play on a Billiard’s team.

When the girls were younger, I dreaded Monday nights.  Often, I cried after he left because of the anxiety of the night ahead of me.  Bedtime alone was horrible.  Having two high needs twins meant being outnumbered for just about the entire day was enough to push me well past my breaking point.  Often, I ended up trapped on the couch or upstairs with screaming babies trying to get them to sleep.

After a year and a half of life though, we are finally starting to get the hang of things.  Their entire lives they never went to sleep for the night before 11pm.  It was horrible.  If they did go to sleep earlier it meant that I was trapped upstairs with them because they were impossible to transfer off the boob.

This was exhausting both mentally and physically.  Each Monday when he came home I was felt completely and totally broken.

But now, we have fallen into a pretty amazing routine.  We are awake between 7:30 and 8:30.  They nap from between 11:00am and 11:30am until 1:00pm to 2:00pm.  Then, they are typically asleep sometime in the 8:00pm hour.  Obviously, my daughters still nurse overnight.  So, after they nurse to sleep and I slip away (which is basically the equivalent of me being a ninja and I’ve gotten quite good at it) I am met with this new found freedom for 30-120 minutes before they wake to nurse again (which I can usually slip away again after nursing them back to sleep).  And those minutes are incredible.

I can sit without being asked to nurse or have my lap occupied by toddler butt’s.

I can eat whatever I want without having to share.

I can clean without being interrupted to save one twin from being beaten in the head with an object by the other twin.

I can sit in quiet.

I can discuss my day with my Husband (except on Mondays) without being interrupted all the time.

I can blog.

I can work on my word of 2016.

I can basically do whatever I wish.

It is a break which a Mom of high needs twins basically never gets.  Now, after a year and a half, I am getting that break typically twice a day almost everyday.  It is glorious.  And I am finding myself again in those precious minutes.

4 Reasons NOT to Arrive Unannounced at a Stay-At-Home Mom’s House

For three hours you have been fighting a teething, growth spurting, angry at life child down for a nap.  When you finally transfer the now sleeping little and shake off the stress of the battle, gazing lovingly at their little sleeping face……THE DOORBELL RINGS.

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That tiny sleeping face contorts and their body squirms and you not only have someone impatiently waiting at the door (or not because yay delivery people who ding dong ditch when leaving a package) but you also have a crying baby who is now beyond over tired and just as frustrated as you that they are awake again.

I think it’s safe to say that every stay-at-home parent has experienced this exact scenario.  Some have a dog that barks in response to the doorbell or knock.  All usually respond with a bunch of words that are typically seen in a blog like this, “$&%#”

For me, that scenario is with TWO children since I have twins.  The battle is almost always epic and I feel victorious and accomplished when I finally get them both down for a nap and somehow scoot away from their nursing sucker lips.  So, seeing as I currently at this moment have napping twins, here are some reasons NOT to arrive unannounced at someone’s home when they have kids.

  1. The above scenario is not a joke:  I cannot tell you how many times a delivery man has left a package and rung the doorbell before skipping off back to their truck.  Not only does it make often freak out the dogs, scare the crap out of me, and wake the babies, but I have NO idea it is a delivery man leaving a package and not someone who actually needs my attention.  So I end up opening the door with a crying child, boob usually out, to find no one there.  I cannot tell you how infuriating that is.  Even more infuriating is when that person wants to come in and hang out or “just drop something off” or “just wants to chat”.  Love you.  Love the thought.  You should have called first.  No.  Texted.  Because I can’t answer your phone call with a sleeping baby leech either. 🙂
  2. More than likely, I am at least partially naked:  Breastfeeding, especially in the early days, and ESPECIALLY with twins, means that my boobs are out….a lot.  Newborns often stay latched 20 out of 24 hours each day or more and that is normal and necessary and right.  Growth spurts and cluster feeding are pretty intense throughout infancy and toddlerhood.  And quite frankly, it gets old having your shirt pulled on or fighting with it for breast access all the damn time.  My solution?  There is absolutely no need for a shirt when it’s warm in the house and you’re home alone with your nursling(s).  Don’t arrive unannounced because boobs are most likely out and I don’t have an “oh s***” shirt laying out preparing for your arrival.
  3. On top of being naked, there’s a good chance I can’t physically get up:  Take this scenario right here. This is the first time we got the girls latched tandem since they image1 (3)were in the nicu with specialists to help. They were over a month old already. If I were alone and someone knocked on the door or rang the doorbell I literally would not be able to get to the door. I have a burp cloth propping up my breasts to the right height, two pillows under each side of the My BreastFriend Pillow, at least two rolled up receiving blankets to prop the girls sideways, and two pillows to keep them in place. Plus a pillow or two behind my back and one under my butt. It took so much effort to get here. If someone rang my doorbell when I got here and disturbed the nursing session I would be a very very angry Mama Bear.
  4. My home is a disaster:  I play with my kids.  I cook food for them.  I try to cook food for myself.  We make messes.  We make dishes.  They throw food on the floor.  They decorate the home with toys.  I probably haven’t vacuumed in a week because it requires two people to do so.  My life is about taking care of the kids, not cleaning.  That usually means my home looks horrible to anyone who doesn’t have young kids and as much as I have confidence in my above statements, I don’t really want unannounced guests to SEE that disaster.  It causes me all sorts of unnecessary feelings that I don’t need to give energy to.

So, next time you are thinking about just dropping in on a stay-at-home Mom, shoot her a text first.  I am sure that she will appreciate the heads up and opportunity to say “thanks but next time” if it’s been a particularly tough day.  Even more so, she may just ask you to bring a coffee on your way over. 😉

 

Diamond Boobies! A Brief Summary of 18 Months Breastfeeding Twins and My 5 Keys to Success

When I first started seeking other twin Moms for advice on breastfeeding, I kept getting variations of the same advice.  “The first 6 months are pure and complete primal survival, the first 12 months are really difficult, and the first 18 months are just difficult.”  It would get easier, they said, in those increments, but the first 18 months were by far suggested to be the most difficult timeframe for nursing twins.

Boy were they right.

12509316_10154625373978475_8787246130014027012_nNow that I’m on the other side of the dreaded “first 18 months”, I have wisdom to share.  Lots of it, as a matter of fact.  I claim to be no expert…insist I am the know-it-all of nothing…but I lived through these 18 months as a first time Mom with some very very difficult obstacles and here we are.  So, I hope what I learned helps at least one twin Mom struggling to find her way.

First…a brief summary of the struggles we faced.  Some of these struggles are unique to my situation but many are not only common among twins but common among breastfeeding Moms in general!  I’ll make this in a list for ease of reading.

  1. My twins were born preemies at 36+1 by crash C-section and required heroic measures to come Earthside.
  2. I did not meet River until she was over 30 hours old.
  3. I was ignored and not provided a pump until nearly 12 hours postpartum despite asking hourly.
  4. I was denied a lactation consultant until more than 50 hours postpartum AFTER Serenity had also been stolen from me and admitted to the NICU, despite demanding one over a dozen times.
  5. The “lactation consultant” (I put that in quotes because she doesn’t deserve that name) did nothing to actually help me succeed in breastfeeding.  She handed me a nipple shield (a shield…not two) and shrugged and said, “Well, your babies are in the NICU so you won’t get to breastfeed anyways.”
  6. I was not encouraged to visit my babies and was shooed out of the NICU.
  7. I was discouraged from touching, getting close to, or holding my children.
  8. I was not taught how to pump or given syringes to suck up the drops of precious colostrum until 3 days postpartum.
  9. My colostrum was never fed to my preemies until we switched hospitals despite my demanding it be done.
  10. Both of my twins had lip and tongue ties.  My doctor denied the existence and it took a wonderful IBCLC, demanding my pediatrician for a referral, and a visit to a pediatric ENT to get the diagnosis and revision.  This didn’t happen until they were 8 weeks old.  That’s over 675 feedings for two babies (so over 1,300 nursing sessions) that I had to hobble my way through with extreme pain and reflux and struggle latching.
  11. My children’s first latch did not happen until they were nearly 4 days old.  It was only possible through the help of a skilled IBCLC, a nipple shield, and determination.
  12. I was severely depressed and pumped maybe 5 times a day during their NICU stay.  I didn’t pump overnight.  This is NOT ok.
  13. The NICU overfed, didn’t pace feed, forced formula against my consent, gave pacifiers against my consent, and many other anti-breastfeeding actions.
  14. I was sent home from the NICU with a massive amount of formula “for when I gave up.”

I think I’m going to leave it at that for my list.  There is more but I’m exhausted just writing that much.  Needless to say, our journey was difficult.  We hit so many bumps in the road.  I felt like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  I felt like days molded into nights and into weeks and months.  Days and nights were exhaustingly long but weeks flew by and I felt I had accomplished nothing.  My entire existence was nursing, pumping, and changing diapers.

But, that crazy beginning didn’t last forever.  Slowly, as we muddled our way through each bump, things started to get easier.  I became more and more comfortable with nursing.  I got better and better at nursing in public.  Growth spurts didn’t completely unravel me anymore.   I didn’t feel blind sided by their cues anymore and started anticipating their hunger and catching early signs of hunger.  It got easier.  And easier.  And after the 6 month growth spurt, it wasn’t impossibly hard anymore.  And after the 12 month growth spurt…and a minor meltdown by my wonderful self…it wasn’t extremely difficult anymore.

Now that we are on the other side of 18 months, I have found that nursing is almost always enjoyable and easy.  It is a cure all.  It fixes all bumps and bruises.  It fixes hurt feelings and sadness.  It fixes over tired toddlers and helps settle big emotions.  For me, it helps me slow down and reconnect.  It helps me remember not to get so tied up in housework.  It helps me remember to kiss and hug and smell and snuggle my kids and gives them the stillness for me to do so.

Nursing is incredibly versatile and a huge part of my key to raising twins overall.  So, here are some of my biggest tips on how to get through those impossible stages to make it to the wonderful stages…

 

  • Don’t assume it will be hard or that you will struggle.

Not everyone with twins has NICU time.  Not everyone with twins has a traumatic birth.  I know some incredible Moms of multiples who had unassisted home births with twins or home births with a midwife.  I know Moms who had planned C-sections that were absolutely beautiful too.  They had that beautiful first latch, the immediate skin to skin time, the perfect synchronization from the very beginning.  I know Moms whose babies never struggled with reflux, never fought a latch, never needed a shield.  It is not a guarantee that you will struggle and have to fight this uphill battle to breastfeed.  Do not ASSUME that you will hit every obstacle because it will make you pessimistic and less likely to persevere through growth spurts and sleep regressions.

  • Build your breastfeeding support networks while you are pregnant.

The ONLY reason why I did not give up is because of support.  I cannot stress enough how incredibly and vitally important having support is.  I don’t believe that I would have struggled as much as I did if I had set up my support networks for breastfeeding BEFORE birth.

Find a La Leche League or breastfeeding sisterhood in your area while you are pregnant and start going to meetings WHILE YOU ARE PREGNANT.  Make sure that you get to know the IBCLC running the group.  If there is not an IBCLC running the group, get recommendations for an IBCLC and talk to them.  Anticipate using their services and do not be afraid to call them.

Join Facebook groups that use evidence based advice and are not quick to supplement.  The Facebook group “Breast Friends” is by far one of my favorite groups of all time.  They use completely evidence based practices, do not recommend formula supplementation unless every single other option has been exhausted and there is a true need, help assess situations and find Mom proper support, and don’t take bullshit when it comes to bad advice.  I also love the group “Nursing Twins”, which is a multiple’s specific group and abides by the same high standards that Breast Friends does when it comes to supplementation, formula use, and bad advice from pediatricians (which is so common it blows my mind).  In my early days, another group that was very helpful was “Mothers Nursing Multiples” and a local group to me at the time that was connected to the sisterhood I attended.

  • Say “yes” to every single person who offers support after you give birth.

Do not be a hero.  I repeat.  Do not be a hero.  SAY YES.

“Can I bring you a meal?” YES

“Can I clean up your kitchen for you?” YES

“Can I throw some laundry in for you?” YES

“Would you like me to watch the babies while they sleep so you can go take a shower?”  YES YES YES

I did not say yes nearly as much as I should have.  Please for the love of everything that is milky, say YES.  Accept any and all love you are offered.  Know what is helpful and what is not.  Offers to hold babies while you do chores is not helpful.  You need to be close and connected with your babies in the early days so that you can master breastfeeding.  Offers to do housework, make food, walk your dogs, let you shower or do other self care tasks, watch a show with you while you nurse to keep you company, all are very helpful.

Motherhood is not this lonely solitary journey that society has made it out to be in recent decades.  It is successful when our significant other is supportive, patient, kind, and helpful.  It is successful when the people we surround ourselves with are just as much that too.  It takes a village.

  • Understand that if it hurts, something is wrong, and seek help immediately.
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Serenity’s lip tie before revision

Breastfeeding DOES NOT HURT.  In the very early days when your nipples are becoming accustomed to the stimulation it may feel uncomfortable for the first 30 seconds or so.  But, I spent 8 long weeks in literal tears during every single feed because it was so painful (remember that’s over 1,300 feeds for twins).  The nipple shield caused deep fissure cracks in my breasts because I was not using it correctly because of lack of knowledge and help.  An undiagnosed lip and tongue tie was the main cause for our pain and had it been corrected in their early days of life I would not have struggled.  So, seek help.  Visit that IBCLC.  Ask questions at your sisterhood or La Leche League groups.  Ask questions of your friends who have succeeded in breastfeeding.  Demand a consultation with a pediatric dentist or a pediatric ENT (the ONLY doctors who are qualified to diagnose a lip and tongue tie).  Do not take no or “it’s normal” or “just switch to formula” for an answer because pain during breastfeeding is not normal.

 

  • Trust your body

Finally, and probably the most incredibly important tip I have, is to trust your body.  Only 3% of Moms have a legitimate and true issue with supply.  THREE PERCENT.  Yet, on many mainstream Mom groups I see dozens upon dozens of Moms say they “couldn’t” breastfeed because of “low supply”.  Beware of the top up trap.  Beware of comments and advice that is not breastfeeding friendly.  Beware of doctors that want preemies to “catch up” and gain weight according to a formula feeding chart by chronological age.  Beware of anyone telling you to feed on a schedule.  Beware of anyone telling you that you can’t possibly be enough.

You are enough.  Your body just spent the better part of a year growing TWO human beings from just two cells.  At the same damn time.  Your body is incredible.  TRUST your body to continue providing for those tiny humans just as you trusted your body to provide for them while you were pregnant.  Count diapers and know how many are ok (6+ in 24 hours for a baby over 5 days old).  Know what breastfeeding weight gain is normal (3-7 ounces a week).  Understand that your baby cluster feeding, feeding often, feeding for a long time, or fussing or being cranky are NOT signs that you have low supply.  Not feeling engorged is not a sign of low supply.  Your baby guzzling a formula bottle is NOT an indicator of low supply.

TRUST YOUR BODY.  Breathe, breastfeed, eat, sleep, and heal.  Those are your only jobs in these early days.  You are enough.

Twin newborns is no task for the weak.  But, with these tips and hard work, maybe you can avoid some of the struggles that I had while breastfeeding twins in the early days.

For Moms with older twins who breastfed, what were your keys to success?  What helped you get through those early days?  Share your story of full term nursing in the comments below!

 

Note:  If you would like to be added to the “Breast Friends”, “Nursing Twins”, or “Mothers Nursing Multiples” facebook groups, please e-mail me at doublecrunchblog@gmail.com.  They are secret groups so cannot be linked.  I would be happy to help you into the groups if you need the support.