Elise, left, Anna, right, peeking around the toy bar at mama.
Elise, left, Anna, right, playing with their toys – right.in.their.faces.
Elise, left, Anna, right, peeking around the toy bar at mama.
Elise, left, Anna, right, playing with their toys – right.in.their.faces.
Written Monday, Feb. 10, 2014
Likes: Grabbing or holding onto things; sticking their fingers/hands in their mouths; chewing on their toys; sitting up; standing up; getting into their car seats; solid food; when Mama and Daddy “dance” and act silly; roughhousing and general silliness.
Favorite things: Satin-trimmed minky blanket for naps.
Dislikes: Being hungry; eating together; being tired.
Lengths: Both girls are about 25 inches long.
Milestones: Both girls finally roll over – and with ease – from their tummies to their backs; they both can get onto their sides from their backs (in fact, they are both sleeping on their sides as I type this), but not all the way onto their tummies. Both girls have mastered supported sitting and supported standing.
The girls have discovered their feet and toes, too, and often pull off their socks or pull their toes into their mouths during diaper changes; they also pull their feet toward their faces, then launch their legs forward.
They have impeccable hand-eye coordination; for example, Elise took her Nuk out of her mouth, changed hands and put it back in.
Elise graced us with her first laugh in late December, and Anna let out a giggle in mid-January. Elise has laughed a little here and there, but Anna has broken out into true fits of laughter a few times.
Eating: A combination of breast milk and formula, plus several solid foods: rice cereal, pears, applesauce, sweet potatoes, bananas, green beans, avocado and carrots.
Wearing: 3-month clothing, although admittedly, many of the sleepers and onesies finally are getting too small, lengthwise; folded cloth diapers during the day with diaper covers and size 0 all-in-one snap-up fleece diapers at night.
Nicknames: Anna Banana (Nanner, for short), Elisey Bean (Beanut, as an alternate), Peanut, Sweet Peanut, Nugget. And when one of them is acting weird, Psycho Peanut.
* * *
First, some updates:
Eating: About 3 weeks ago, as documented in this post, breastfeeding changed. It went from relatively easy to downright complicated and frustrating. Up until then, I used to be able to feed both girls at the same time, and they would nurse for 15 to 20 minutes. But recently, thanks to developmental and now, physical growth spurts, I cannot feed them together for more than a few minutes, and they usually nurse for only a few minutes at a time before they get too fussy and have to be put aside.
Feedings now are about 3 to 3 1/2 hours apart, sometimes longer, though.
In fact, things sort of slid downhill right after their 5-month birthday. They started waking up anytime between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m. and could not be rocked back to sleep, which meant we broke down and fed them; this has continued for the past few weeks. They also stopped being able to get themselves to sleep and now are waking frequently.
(Some of this could be attributed to growth spurts or to illness…but nonetheless, it’s frustrating!)
Up until Sunday morning, naps also continued to be a major source of frustration. The girls were napping only 30 minutes at a time in their cribs, and maybe an hour to an hour and a half if we zonked them out in their car seats. But, as of this weekend, when we started putting them down for naps in their swings, rather than their cribs, they are napping about 2 hours in the morning and around midday and maybe 30 minutes in the early evening.
And now, some thoughts on the twins’ half-birthday…from Daddy!
A lot of folks would tell you that it takes 6 months to feel comfortable in a new job. Having made the move from sports to news 2 1/2 months ago and still feeling like a fish out of water – but less so every day – I’d agree.
Following that logic, there must be an explanation as to why, upon our little girls’ half-birthday Monday, there was no “a-ha!” moment in which we finally felt like we’d figured it out.
First off, we feel like we’ve figured out very little. The girls’ sleep patterns continue to be a Rubik’s cube (see above), and the latest set of Wonder Weeks has made feeding them not unlike going to war, but far more importantly, we can never anticipate the way they’re going to amaze us every day.
Their personalities keep coming to the forefront. They’re becoming more adventurous. More expressive. Their feet are mere millimeters from the floor when they sit in their walkers, cueing visions of peanut races through the kitchen/dining room. (Place your bets now. I’m taking Elise, who I believe will fight dirty. She, after all, is my mini-me.)
So I think I speak for Mama and I when I say we don’t necessarily feel like we’ve got more of a grip on this today than we did 2, 3 or even 4 months ago. (Yes. Those first 2 months were a bear. I’ll admit we’re much more adept now than we were then.)
I think the biggest reason for this steady feeling of surprising comfortability or unforeseen struggle – depending on the hour or day – is that we were mentally training ourselves for this from the moment we got the best news of our lives Dec. 25, 2012. I’d prefer to refer to it as eagerly anticipating, rather than training.
But let’s get the cliché out of the way – after all, virtually every stranger we’ve encountered has volunteered some incarnation of it – they grow up so fast. (The judges also would have accepted the adage “time flies”.) But during one of our recent social gatherings (read: grocery shops) at Walmart, a woman said something that truly rang clear: The days are long, and the years are fast.
I can, in fact, say that this half-year has been fast. But I remember each day being long – whether because we were racking our brains on how to put weight on the girls in the first several weeks, or desperately clinging to their first smiles and first laughs, willing time to slow down so those moments would never pass.
January just flew by – and without a ton of Instagram shots. Oops.
Nevertheless, here’s what the girls were up to this month:
And here’s a few from Christopher’s account:
Editor’s note: I’ve been mulling this post for weeks. But I’ve also been avoiding it. So, thanks to Katy for the extra push to finally sit down and write it.
Breastfeeding. It’s delicate, yet complicated subject matter. And it’s very personal.
So, as much as I wanted to avoid “labeling” breastfeeding as this or that, and possibly scare or unnerve someone else, I also wanted to share my experience, and maybe help someone else not feel so alone.
Breastfeeding is really, freakin’ hard! I mean, I knew it wouldn’t exactly be a walk in the park, and that it could present some challenges – especially with twins – but I didn’t know it would be not only physically exhausting, but mentally and emotionally taxing, too.
I knew I would breastfeed my children. It has so many benefits for mother and baby. It can be an incredible bonding experience. And it just seemed like the right and best thing to do – for us. I also knew that while I would be challenged, I would stick with it; I am too stubborn and have too much pride to give up in the face of tough times.
Our journey goes something like this…
Immediately after birth: Anna and Elise were 3 weeks early, and they were born via C-section, so we started off at a disadvantage. I had to use nipple shields to help their weak little mouths latch on to my breasts. I also had to pump after every nursing session to get every last drop of colostrum, which we then dropper-fed to the girls to ensure they were getting enough nutrition.
But, both girls latched and nursed pretty darn well, all things considered, so I was optimistic we would be successful. Breastfeeding, at that point, was tender and loving and nothing short of miraculous.
Over the first few weeks: Anna and Elise lost a lot of weight, hovering dangerously close to the 4-pound mark almost 2 weeks after they were born. We struggled to bring them back up to their birth weights (as documented here and here) on just breast milk and had to supplement with formula starting at about 3 weeks.
The girls were considered late pre-term babies, so they were not strong enough to get the nutrition they needed only from the breast and thus, they were not stimulating me enough to produce enough milk for two babies.
I remained insistent on exclusively breastfeeding, so we took on an aggressive feeding plan. I had to nurse every 2-3 hours, I had to nurse them for at least 10 minutes and I had to pump for 10 minutes after every feeding.
The girls gained some, but not enough weight, so we started to supplement with formula per our pediatrician’s recommendation, but much to my chagrin*. I nursed for as long as they would go, then we gave them supplemental bottles of formula, which made them phlegmy/mucousy and prone to congestion and spit-up. We constantly were sucking snot/mucous out of their noses and making sure they stayed upright for a bit after feedings.
Breastfeeding then still was tender, but it also was laced with stress and feelings of inadequacy.
By about 1 month old: Anna and Elise finally were gaining weight at an acceptable rate. We even kicked the nipple shields to the curb – until both girls, in mid-September, came down with thrush; I broke out the shields again to protect myself.
Over the first few months: The girls got more active and thus popped on and off the breast frequently, so the nipple shields, unfortunately, were more of a hindrance than a help; every time one of the girls would unlatch, her shield would come off, too.
I worked diligently to wean them off the shields, trying at almost every feeding to get them to latch without it. Elise kicked it first. Anna hung on for a few more weeks until, in mid-November, we visited with our lactation consultant, Kim, and the girl just nursed without it, no fussing, no nothing.
Unfortunately, I came down with thrush in my left breast in October. I dreaded nursing on that side: Whenever one of the girls would latch, it was tears-inducing painful, and then after they nursed, it would linger as a deep, burning pain. It lasted about 3 weeks.
Breastfeeding then was a true challenge and test of my patience. I hated the nipple shield – loathed it. I also dreaded feedings, at least on the left side, because it was excruciating. I wanted to continue breastfeeding, but I hated the experience so much, that I contemplated becoming an exclusive pumper.
But I knew that nothing – no machine – pulls milk from the breast better than a baby, so I knew the only option was to grin and bear it.
Fast forward to the last several weeks: Anna and Elise hit the phase of nursing where everything around them is a distraction, including each other. They are really fussy and almost never eat together for more than 5-7 minutes at a time (except some overnights, when they are sleepy and often eat in tandem for the whole 18-20-minute feeding). We almost always start them together, but usually end up feeding them separately. Feedings take as long as an hour and are extremely frustrating. There often is a lot of crying – both from the babies and from me.
The girls still eat really frequently, in my opinion – like every 2 1/2 hours during the day. Maybe it’s because we’re sort of programmed that when their clocks near 2:30, and if they are a little ornery around that time, we should feed them, rather than letting them tell us when they are hungry.
Breastfeeding still is difficult. It stresses me out and takes a huge toll on the mood in the house. I question many times my decision to breastfeed my girls. I think how much easier it would be to pump – or, easier yet, to formula feed them. But I remain steadfast because I firmly believe it has to get easier as they get older, eat more solids and nurse less often.
And in the last week: The girls seem to be in the midst of a big developmental growth spurt because this fussy (at least while they eat) period will not end. But,
they we have made some progress.
First, I stopped watching the clock; if Anna only nurses for 9 minutes, then she only nurses for 9 minutes. I no longer am going to fret about her brief feeding. And I am no longer going to force her (and myself) to last until the clock hits 20 minutes; I aim for 12-15 minutes at minimum. Second, I am taking the distractibility in stride; if Elise looks up and me and wants to coo or giggle, then I am going to play along because she’ll go back on the boob within a minute or so and she’ll still get the nutrition she needs. And last, I am taking the fussiness in stride, too; if possible, I’ll feed them one at a time, but if not, then I’ll feed them in tandem as long as they’ll go, then feed them separately.
Also, all of a sudden, the girls now eat closer to every 3 to 3 1/2 hours during the day.
Breastfeeding, just in the last week, is better – and thus, my mood is better, which in turn, makes nursing easier and less stressful. It’s all connected. Sure, I still have moments of weakness, when I get frustrated and I want to throw in the towel. But then, I have moments of immense satisfaction, when the girls look up and me and smile so wide, my heart struggles to stay within the confines of my chest, and I remember that I have almost exclusively nursed not one, but two babies for almost 6 months.
What has gotten me through: We would be lost without Kim, our nurse/lactation consultant at the Birthing Center, who has an open-door policy and has visited with us frequently when we were (and even when we weren’t) struggling with breastfeeding, to offer pointers, praises and pick-me-ups.
I would not be able to stay sane without my mom or my friend, Amy, who always are there to listen and, when possible, offer advice.
And I would be nothing without my incredible husband, Christopher, who is supportive of me and just as committed to breastfeeding the girls as me. He is the biggest and best helper and cheerleader.
Where do we go from here? I am hopeful that as the girls exit this developmental growth spurt (just in time for the 6-month growth spurt and teething!), breastfeeding continues to get better. I am hopeful that their feedings continue to space out a bit more, closer to every 4 hours, especially as we continue to introduce solids a couple of times a day.
And I am hopeful that I can breastfeed them until they are 1 year old. I know I’ll make it to 6 months (just 2 weeks away!), which is a noble goal for any breastfeeding mother. But I don’t know that I’ll make it to a year…so I’m setting my sights on August.
“Final” thoughts: Breastfeeding really is incredible. Despite our struggles early on to bring the girls back up to their birth weights; despite our issues with the nipple shields and thrush in both the girls and in me; and despite our frustrations with distractibility and fussiness, I still enjoy nursing – because the tender, peaceful moments far outweigh the stressful times.
I marvel at the miracle that is breastfeeding. And I carry an intense amount of pride in my accomplishment.
*It goes without saying that breastfeeding vs. formula feeding is a personal decision and that there are benefits and drawbacks to both. I wanted to breastfeed, and I wanted to exclusively breastfeed, so I really struggled with the idea of introducing formula. I felt like a failure, like less of a mother. But I, of course, would do anything necessary to ensure the health of my children. All that said, we’ve really struck a nice balance. The girls get the vast majority of their nutrition from breast milk, but we have the flexibility of formula, which is handy on the road or during growth spurts.
Written Friday, January 10, 2014
This might have been, hands down, the best month yet! The girls are such happy babies. They smile – and giggle (or almost laugh – sort of a sucking-air sound) – all the time. They are healthy, too. They are so strong.
Anna and Elise continue to amaze and delight us every day. Christopher and I say to each other at least once a week, “Can you believe these are our girls?” or “Damn, we make some cute babies!”
(Elise in purple, Anna in pink)
Likes: Grabbing or holding onto things; sticking their fingers/hands in their mouths; chewing on mommy’s and daddy’s fingers; gumming or chewing on their Taggies elephant and hippo and Sophie the Giraffe; sitting in their swings; playing on the human teeter-totter (aka Dad); sitting up; being held in mommy’s or daddy’s lap.
Weights: Both girls are about 10 lbs, 10 oz, up about a pound from last month.
Lengths: Maybe 24 inches?
(Anna top, Elise bottom)
Milestones: The girls started taking all of their naps in their cribs just 2 days after they turned 4 months old; they still take all of their naps there, unless they fall asleep in their car seats.
Anna and Elise tried rice cereal for the first time Dec. 14.
Anna really mastered supported sitting and standing this month, while Elise graced us with her first laugh – while mama squirted her with water in the bathtub – just a few days before Christmas. Neither of the girls rolls over yet, although they both can get onto their sides just fine; they also can hold their heads up really well when they are on their tummies.
The girls also celebrated their first Christmas and New Year’s.
(Anna left, Elise right)
Nicknames: Anna Banana (Nanner, for short), Elisey Bean (Beanut, as an alternate), Peanut, Sweet Peanut, Sweet ‘n’ Salty Peanut, Nugget, P-Nuge, P-Nugent. (Seriously, I don’t know where we come up with some of these.)
The big theme of this month, and it only took until the last 10 days or s0, was sleep! The peanuts are sleeping better, therefore, Mommy and Daddy are sleeping better – thanks to three days of sleep training.
Christopher and I were growing tired (ha!) of being sleep deprived, irritable shells of ourselves. We needed to find a way to break the girls of their habit of waking up crying and needing to be rocked back to sleep every 45 minutes or so until we broke down and fed them between 11:30 and midnight. We also needed to find a way to get them back into the habit of dropping their midnight-ish feeding. (They slept through the night Dec. 4, only waking once, then hit the 4-month sleep regression hard.)
We read “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins” and, despite some criticisms of the book and some lingering questions, elected to try the cry-it-out method of sleep training. We knew it could work in as few as three days, so we buckled in Jan. 2, and we haven’t looked back since.
We maintained our bedtime routine but stopped short of rocking them completely to sleep, instead rocking them until they were very drowsy but still awake. Then, we set the timer for 45 minutes and let them cry until they got themselves to sleep. Christopher stayed home and watched the monitor, while I got out of the house, just to reinforce that their cries would not be met with nursing, at least not for comfort, per the recommendation in the book.
We also swaddled them with one arm out the first night and both arms out the second and subsequent nights, so they had their hands and fingers available for self-soothing. Oh, and we put them in separate cribs, too. Lots of changes all at once. We were sure that would all backfire!
The first night, both girls got themselves to sleep within the first 30 minutes. The second night, they were asleep even sooner. And the third night, Anna was out quickly, while Elise took 30-plus minutes.
The best part? They seemed to have figured out not only how to get to sleep but to stay asleep. The girls didn’t wake up until between 2 and 3:30 a.m. for a feeding those first three nights and every night since (except Jan. 7, when Elise had a major freakout at 11:30 p.m). Christopher and I have been crawling into bed about 10:45 or 11 p.m., so we’re coming away with 3 or more consecutive hours of sleep.
Sure, they still cry a little here and there in the night, but it (usually) lasts only a few minutes, if that.
The point is, Anna and Elise have learned – quickly! – how to fall asleep without crying and how to get back to sleep if they wake up for a reason other than hunger. It’s really amazing.
Sleep training – at least this very straightforward method, which isn’t for everyone – wasn’t nearly as hard as we thought it would be.
(Side note: We never thought we would be cry-it-out parents. We’re so much more attachment parents in most every other way. But we were desperate for a fix for our sleep troubles.)
I wasn’t wild about letting my babies cry for 45 minutes (so I was grateful that the book suggested the mother leave the house); my instinct is to tend to their every need. Christopher wasn’t crazy about it either, but he really took to heart the sentiment that this method is “cruel to be kind” – that is, we were letting them cry, so they would learn to soothe themselves to sleep, so they would get longer, deeper, healthier blocks of sleep.
And the way we knew we hadn’t jeopardized our relationship with our little girls (which often is a criticism of this method of sleep training – that it breaks the bond of trust between child and parent) was that they woke up smiling and giggling, wiggling and reaching up to be held the moment we walked into their room in the morning. That right there was validation enough.
Our days are so much better! We’re all happier and more well rested.
Now we just need to figure out the nap situation…
The girls go down for a nap about 2 hours after waking up for the day and then about 2 hours after waking up from a nap, for now, and they only nap for about a half-hour, for now. I say “for now,” because I am hopeful that as they get older, their naps will consolidate a bit more, but I fear our girls might just be catnappers. We tried a graduated cry-it-out method for naps on Day 2 and failed miserably, so we went back to our old method (of rocking them completely to sleep) to ensure they were at least getting some good sleep, even if it’s only 30 minutes right now.
Any tips on getting the peanuts to develop a set nap schedule and to nap for longer stretches? I’d welcome advice if anyone has some.
So that’s our big victory of late. And it’s a really big one, because this last week or so, we have really been at our absolute best as a family.
(Anna left, Elise right)
Happy 5 months, little ladies! We’re so proud to be your mommy and daddy, and we love you so much!
Woo-hoo! I’ve got this post up in between the end of the month and the girls’ birthday! #mommywin
Here’s some of what the peanuts were up to this past month:
Elise sharing deep thoughts with Helen the Hippo.
Anna, left, and Elise, right, making faces for the camera. (Those eyes! Those lips!)
Elise, left, and Anna, right, showing off their Christmas best!
My mommy body is a badge: I carried two beautiful, healthy and strong baby girls for 37 weeks and one day in my body. The extra weight, the stretch marks, the flabby belly, the wider hips, the scar – it’s all proof of the greatest accomplishment of my life.
But while my new body is one I cherish, my old body (with its new shape) is one I miss and one I sorely need to get back.
See, since the girls were born, I paid no mind to diet or exercise; I had more important things to worry about. I tried to get out for walks when the weather still was nice. I made sure to eat fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water and not go out to eat much. But, in the last month or so, around the time of the holidays, I let myself slack a bit. I ate whatever I wanted, however much of it I wanted.
The new year brings with it the opportunity for a fresh start, a clean slate. And I’m taking advantage of it. I’m dreaming big – for me – and setting my sights on improving my diet, getting back into shape and just becoming a fitter, healthier mommy.
I joined my friend Mindy’s DietBet, which starts today. Christopher and a few of our friends are in on it, too. The idea is we all pony up $25 and vow to lose 4 percent of our body weight in four weeks. Those who lose the weight split the pot, so even if everybody in the bet loses the weight, then everybody at least wins their money back.
I figure it’s time to get serious and put my money where my mouth is.
I’m really excited. But I’m a bit nervous, too.
I’m setting mini goals for each week (This week, the focus is on a big serving of greens at least once a day and 96 ounces of water a day.) and bigger “restrictions” for the duration of the contest (No eating out. No alcohol. Dessert only once a week.).
I hope this is the kick in the pants – and provides the results – that I so desperately need to once again feel like myself.