Our twins turned 18 months this week and I took the time over the weekend to really reflect on our journey over the past year and a half. It’s been overwhelming, exciting and hard work, it’s been filled with love and joy and a lot of blood, sweat and tears. It’s been emotionally and physically challenging yet given us so much strength, wisdom and courage. It’s been filled with a lot of things – and this post touches on that journey and our experiences. It’s those experiences and what i’ve found has worked for me that i’ve tried to capture in the below.
Being a new mum is overwhelming, I hope this may offer you some food for thought and help you find your mojo as a mummy.
I tried to keep it short, but well…. i just couldn’t! Grab yourself a cuppa, because this is a long one (!).
1 Eat, sleep, repeat.
In the first 8 weeks, don’t expect to do too much except feeding, changing nappies and sleeping. Eat nutritious foods, consume 2L of water a day, choose high calorie, nutrient dense foods to snack on – especially if you’re breastfeeding. I used to eat at midnight when feeding! Think nuts, homemade muesli slices and muffins, mini quiches, fruit! Your body has just come through 9 months of pregnancy and birth – nourish it, love it and just be with your baby. I fed my babies every three hours from day one, no less! I don’t believe in demand feeding. I found it created excess wind, bad sleep patterns and one tired mummy! By three months, i went to 4 hourly feeds.
I do believe your diet affects your breastmilk. Only because I trialled it and when I ate certain foods (tomatoes, excess onion, garlic, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, chickpeas and believe it or not – chocolate) I could guarantee I would be in for a rocky night with the babies – and their nappies would reflect it the next day.
1.1 Twin mums: Invest in a double breastfeeding pillow. You can hire them through your local multiple birth association if need be. Tandem feeding is the quickest way to feed your little ones in those first few weeks. If one finishes a feed earlier, you can flip them over and burp them while they lay tummy down on the pillow. Always make sure you are sitting in a comfortable position, surround yourself with pillows for extra support. If you’ve got other children, turn the TV on, get them some colouring books, a crazing tray of snacks and water and let them feel like this is their special time with you too. If you’ve got access to an extra set of hands – a relative, friend (who doesn’t mind seeing your boobies!) ask them to come over at feed times. It speeds things up with burping and nappy changing. Feeds will take between 1 – 1.5hrs! Get into a habit of eating something right after your feeds! You’ll be hungry and your body needs to fuel itself after it’s big effort of producing all that liquid gold, milk.
As the babies got bigger and the breastfeeding pillow was getting too tricky (around 3 months), I fed each baby separately, one after the other. I breastfed the twins until they were 8 months old and every second feed, would top them up with formula. I really enjoyed the mix feeding. Whenever I had visitors, I would get them to give them a bottle and I would express and get a few things done around the house.
Eve at 19 months feeding her brother George at just a few weeks old.
2. Get into a routine
The whole ‘wait and see’ approach really doesn’t work that well with babies. I learnt that as a first time mum and I guess we all do – but it’s something I found to be god send, second time round. Get a daily routine in place and stick to it! Babies don’t just start sleeping when they’re tired or cry when they’re hungry or find their own pattern. You have to take charge and show them the way. You’ll assist in setting body clocks with some gentle guidance.
From the 8 week mark, it’s usually when the fun starts and you find it harder to get your baby to sleep, and this is usually when most mums just say ‘they’ve got a bad sleeper’. Usually around the 3-4 month mark, mums are buggered, because the adrenalin you’ve been running on starts to wear thin and you are just damn tired and exhausted. If you get your baby into a routine from the two-three month mark, you’ll be laying down the foundations for feeds, play time and sleep. They get sleep, you get sleep! Sleep is something babies need to learn. If you’ve missed the bandwagon and your baby is older than 4 months, never fear! It’s not too late to sleep train. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my go to girl for sleep advice is Elaine at Lullababy SOS. Get in touch for a consult if you’re really struggling and get your SLEEP back.
Aside from sleep, when your baby is on a routine it’s easy to tell the different cries and meet their needs. When a baby is tired, they arch their back, they cry, they perform jerky movements – usually, instead of instantly putting the baby to bed, it’s mistaken as a hunger sign or wind. If you have your baby on a routine, you’ll know if your baby is crying and it’s almost feed time, that they’re hungry. If it’s nearly sleep time, they’re getting tired… Or if they’ve had a good sleep and feed and are uncomfortable that it may be a dirty nappy or wind. It’s such a guessing game when they are young and a routine helps take some of that guesswork out.
Being on a routine also helps the household run more smoothly. I’m never one to say no to help with the kids, washing, cooking or cleaning – but they are things that need to be done every day! Knowing that my kids are going to go to sleep and when, makes life a hell of a lot easier. You then have time to do what you need to do!
2.1 Twin mums: routine is exceptionally important for you, or the short answer is – you simply won’t get anything done! I chose to put my twins on the same routine, they fed, slept, got their nappies changed all at the same time. I did however, after the 8 week mark – only feed one baby as they woke overnight. In the early days, if one woke, I would wake the other and feed. Twins are usually smaller at birth and I really wanted to ‘juice’ them up with as much milk as I could. After 8 weeks, one twin slept 8-9 hours straight, so I let her without interrupting with feeds.
In terms of bathing twins – if you’ve got that extra set of hands, use them! If not – I used to put the bath on the dining table, had a heap of towels and everything on hand. I had two bouncers sitting next to me with the babies in them. I bathed one baby at a time, then would wrap them in a towel and place them on the bouncer while washing the next one. (In the early days, I only bathed every second or third day! Or, I would alternate bathing one baby a day!) My toddler would help me. Put on some relaxing music, make sure you have your next feed set up (breastfeeding pillow, cloths, toddler play activities etc) because I would find my babies were usually pretty hungry after bath time and I would move straight from the bath area into the lounge to feed. Always try and be one step ahead of your little ones.
If you’re having trouble even thinking of what routine might work for you, feel free to email me. I’m currently coaching and providing routine plans and ideas to a select few clients.
3. Choose a sleep settling method and stick to it:
This is the million dollar question, how do you get your baby to sleep?! Every mum has their own advice on this and so they should. Sleep isn’t just an issue for the first few months, it’s something that will go on for a few years if you don’t set the foundations right. Toddlers still have a day sleep up until 3 or 4 years of age, so invest in your effort and do your own research as to what will work for you and family. Here’s my take on sleep settling techniques –
1 Make sure the room is dark. Close your curtains, you can even stick up Alfoil over the glass and then close your curtains!
2 Download the Sleep Machine app (Lite version is free) and put on some white noise (wind, rain etc). I do this on my IPad and leave it in the hallway.
3 If you baby is under 3-4 months, swaddle them TIGHT, place a sheet over them and tuck it into the sides of the cot as tight as you can. Roll up some muslin wraps and tuck them down the sides of the mattress to keep the top sheet from coming loose. Place your babies comforter just next to their face.
4. Place muslin wraps over the sides of the cot so the baby can’t see out.
5. Give your baby a kiss, let them know it’s sleep time. Sit down on the floor and slide your arm in between the cot bars, your baby shouldn’t be able to see you with the muslin cloth there. Gentle pat your baby on their tummy in a tick tock motion. If your baby becomes restless, start saying the words ‘Ssshhhhh Sssshhhhh’ in a loud and stern voice. Keep patting. You’ll notice they put up a fight because they are infact tired. If you watch them, they sometimes close their eyes and then wake up quickly because they know they are falling asleep. If your baby wiggles themselves out of their wrap, re-swaddle them even tighter and start again. If they really get worked up, pick them up (this is a last resort, try your hardest not to) and hold them close. Hold them up on your shoulder (in a burping position) and continue the tick tock hand patting movement on their back) whilst saying Sssshhhhh in their ear. Once they’ve settled, place them back into the cot and start again. Eventually they will drift off. You can expect to be in the room for an hour or so before they go to sleep. So make sure you’ve got water, food and your phone is off. You will need to commit to doing this for a week or so, each day you will find that the settling period is getting less and less – until you just walk in, kiss your baby goodnight and walk out – with no fuss. Your baby will start to love their cot and quiet sleep time. It’s their special, sacred place. Mine actually try and climb into their cots now!
5.1 Twin mums: for the first six months, i had my babies in two separate cots, about a metre apart from each other. I would sit in between the cots on the floor, and place one arm into each cot and pat the babies simultaneously. If they both get worked up, concentrate on one baby and pick them up and then try resettling again. If you have an extra set of hands available, ask them to join you for a week at sleep time everyday so you can focus on one baby each. If you’ve got a toddler, and they are having a day sleep, concentrate on getting them to bed first. At 6 months, I spilt my twins into separate rooms and found they both started sleeping through! One was definitely waking the other and I figured that they ate, played, got their nappies changed together – so I wanted sleep time to be their own special time. They needed to get used to enjoying quiet time on their own. It’s the best decision I made. My twins now say goodnight to each other, kiss and walk into their own rooms.
2 weeks old and 17 months old
6. Exercise and food.
At around the 4-5 month mark, most mums are ready to get their ‘me’ time back and shake off any excess baby weight they are carrying. They want to dress up, wear makeup, drink wine and just be a lady again!! And you know what, you should! It’s a great time to organise a special outing with your partner and get glammed up! It’s also a great time to start adding some gentle exercise to your day and make sure you’re fuelling your body with premium wholefoods for extra energy and vitality. The added bonus to that is getting rid of any excess weight. My social media pages give great ideas on all things health and fitness. Its tiring being a mum, and when we are tired, we look for a coping mechanism – for a lot of people, that mechanism is ingesting sugar and sweets. You feel great for 5 minutes and then hit a slump and feel even worse than before. It’s a viscous cycle. My coping mechanism is exercise and eating CLEAN foods that lift you up and keep you there. I only ever train for 15 mins a day. And doing that two-three times a week has great results for the mind, body and soul.
Food and playtime for your kids is also just as important! A lot of people have commented to me on the foods my kids eat – I often hear the comments ‘oh my kids would never eat that, or I have to cook three different meals at night because they are all fussy’. While I do get that some kids are fussy, I have one…. I don’t believe in falling into the trap of cooking separate meals and giving your kids the option of junk foods or sugar in the first place.
Behind loving, caring and educating your children, I think feeding them nutritious foods is pretty high on the priority ladder as a parent. If you think you don’t have time to prepare them some homemade clean banana bread, muffins, ice blocks, biscuits, quiches, muesli bars, lunches and dinners – then you need to shake up that priority list pronto – to put it as politely as I can. If your next excuse is it’s too expensive – then you need to do more research. As you know, I’m advocate for the amazing work and recipes that Kira Westwick produces, head over to her blog for easy, quick and cost effective family recipes www.kirawestwick.com.au
In the short term, start reading what’s on the back of those chip, muesli bar, white bread, tinned food packets – if there are more then a couple of ingredients or words that you cannot even pronounce on them – do your kids a favour and don’t give it to them. Make it a treat once a week if need be.
7. Special time with your partner
It’s something I still struggle with to this day! But I know how important it is and how special it feels when you make time to just chill out with your partner. Once you get your babies into a good sleeping routine, you can have this time during naps and when they go to bed at night. My husband works six days a week and doesn’t get home until 6.30pm. So by the time the kids are in bed, we usually just flop on the couch. I love this time, but I’ve started doing little ‘dinner dates’ once a week at home. I make sure I have the kids all in bed right on 7pm (even if it means waking them earlier from their lunch sleep that day). I plan a beautiful dinner to cook and get it done at lunch time. I start bath times, dinner etc for the kids a little earlier in the day – and then set up a dinner by candlelight in the lounge room. I do my hair, put some lippy on and it just feels that little bit extra special. Do something that you enjoy together at least once a month!
It’s also important to keep your own interests as a couple. And, here is the catch…. Don’t make the other person feel guilty for having that alone time without anyone else! I get out one morning a week on my own to do a workout and grab a coffee. My husband does the same and heads out for a bike ride. It’s a beautiful and loving gesture to say to your partner – take off, go do something you love, I’m fine here with the kids!
8. Playgroups / socialising
There is something special about a group of mums who get together once every so often! You all seem to just ‘get it’, you suddenly feel ‘normal’, you get to see your little ones start to interact with other kids and you can make some life long friends for you and your kids. There are plenty of playgroups run by community groups or you can start your own with friends. You’ll probably find your social life does a complete 360 overnight once you have kids! You’re suddenly googling kid-friendly restaurants and ‘gated parks!’ We love going to friends places for BBQ’s, to the park and also to our local tavern for a beer and wine (that has a playground!) Having a baby doesn’t mean sitting at home for the rest of your life. Get out in the early afternoon after baby has slept and do your feed and nappy changes out and about! If you can meet up with other friends that are in a similar situation – all the better!
I also want to add a note in here about the idea of hiring help if you need it. This isn’t just for twin mums either. I had a nanny come into our home for two days a week from when the twins were 12 weeks old. She only just finished up with us last month, when the twins were 17 months. I was extremely hesitant about hiring a nanny – I guess because it was all so new! But I wanted to get down to our business a day or two week and I didn’t want to have to rely on family and friends – when they had been so much help already. I didn’t want them in child care, so my next option was a nanny and hands down, it was the single best decision we made. I didn’t go through an agency, I jumped on gumtree and found a nanny that had experience with twins. The standard qualifications are first aid, police check, references, experience. Aside from that, I think it’s about finding a person that you could be great friends with. You’ve got to have similar interests and just enjoy being in each other’s company. When those things are in place, you know you can trust them. Our nanny has been absolutely amazing. I really couldn’t have imagined my life and my kids lives, without her.
9. Albums / Scrapbooks
We are so lucky to have our cameras on hand 24/7 these days and can view photos within an instant. I make an effort every few months, to print my photos and add them to my baby albums. Can you imagine if you lost your phone or god forbid, social media and iCloud vanished into thin air?! Don’t risk it.
In between your never ending list of to-do’s, make the time every day to just lay on the floor and play with your babies. Phone free! Forget the camera, forget the phone and immerse yourself in the youth, innocence, freedom and beauty of this amazing little being you have created. The greatest gift you can give your baby is your uninterrupted presence, love and cuddles. Don’t forget that, ever. Sometimes a mothers cuddle is also the greatest healing medicine for a sick baby.
Eve, George, Indiana and their cousin Jordan.