The trenches of babyland – 4m vs. 6/7m

Note: Hi friends! I started this deep-in-the-babyland-trenches post in November. Yes, it’s the end of February. The last few months have been the hardest mothering of my life. But here are some of the technical things that were happening for the babies at four months, and now at 6 and 7 month. Sorry – it’s totally a posterity post.

Ugh. I can't believe mom is still talking about us at 4 months.

Ugh. I can’t believe mama is still talking about us at 4 months.

4M According to the professionals: Gabrielle – 14 lbs, Lucia – 13 lbs

6M According to the professionals: Gabrielle – 16 lbs. Lucia – 16 lbs

4M Motor: the girls are starting to move. Half rolls, inchworming, and sitting up in their bumbo seats are a few of the major accomplishments. It is exciting, until I remember that this is all precursor to crawling and walking. They are also pretty interested in their hands, and any toys that we put in their grasp. They are big fans of the Velcro wrist rattles and plastic rings. Gabby may also prove to be a thumb sucker.

6/7M Motor: We are now working on sitting up unassisted, which equates to slowly falling over most of the time. We also practice standing at the activity table and the ottoman.  The girls solidly love to hold things, and will grab anything in their reach. Toys, carrots, and fistfuls of mama’s collarbone skin are the preferred items.

Brown chair comparisons - Four months

 Four months and we got things to celebrate y’all!

4M Eating: This one is big news, folks. We finally mastered the art of tandem breastfeeding. Right around 3 months, I noticed they seemed to be equally as full whether bottle or breastfed. I opted to forge ahead with breastfeeding and start phasing out the bottles. As of this month, the only time they get a bottle is if I’m away for the evening.

In other news, we started solid food. I know – it’s a little bit early. But our doctor gave me the go-ahead for single-grain rice cereal, which I mixed with formula since I’m not regularly pumping anymore. On hungry nights, I mixed the cereal with four ounces of formula. On average nights, I left it at two ounces. The first few feedings were super messy, but after a couple of weeks, they both got the hang of the spoon.

Eating. Yes. We love eating.

6M – Eating. Yes. We love eating.

6/7M Eating: Still breastfeeding. (Hooray!) It’s more challenging the more they move, and tandem feeding is bit like feeding an octopus. We don’t always do it anymore. Luckily, the older they get, the quicker they get. I totally forgot that about breastfeeding, but it’s really great. Meanwhile my milk supply has kept up, so we forge on.

As for solids, we discovered that rice cereal gave the girls gas, so we gave that up after a month of fussiness. Onto bigger and better things, like bananas. Did you know bananas have tryptophan (the same sleepy chemical residing in turkey)? Me either. But now we eat a pureed banana every night before bed. Daytime snacks are mostly fruits and veggies – pureed or whole food (jicama sticks, carrots, celery, and apples go over well.) We also love yogurt. Wow do we love yogurt.

4M Sleeping: Sigh. They were doing really well sleeping seven hour stretches at night… until now. I don’t know if that had anything to do with switching to breastfeeding, but it’s something to note. We usually get up once, if not twice, to eat between 10 pm and 6 am. (This is also where I am super thankful we can breastfeed – it’s a little less of a production to slide into the arm-chair in their bedroom instead of standing at the stove warming bottles with two screaming babies in my arms.)

I think we are going to switch to separate cribs soon. Sleep training twins will probably be a whole different ball game, but I think it’s time to try.

6/7M Sleeping: Sigh again. The girls are getting better at sleeping through the night, but it wasn’t without two months of full-blown, hour-long, cry it out scream fests at 2 and 3 in the morning. We are slowly getting past that stage. The challenge now is working with each baby separately. One or other has started to sleep through the night, but the other one usually has different plans. Someday…

4M Postpartum update: Thankfully, the body is starting to get back to normal at this point. I can wear almost all of my pre-pregnancy clothes (except the ones that were really fitted in the stomach) with relative comfort. My stomach continues to reduce, although the shape of it is still a little off kilter. I try to squeeze in two or three 20-minute segments of yoga off of You Tube (search yoga and knock yourself out – there are hundreds of video classes to try) per week, although Ellis makes this a challenge. Apparently yoga time is synonymous with horsey time.

IMG_20140221_072540_221

Thank you, polar vortex. This is the reality of what I face for outdoor exercise these days.

6/7M Postpartum update: Feeling pretty much the same as at 4M. I haven’t lost any more weight that I can tell, and I think my body is holding on to a little extra while I’m still breastfeeding. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. Exercising sans gym during this particular Minnesota winter limits me to snowshoeing, walking, or doing exercise videos…in the dark. Ugh. Someday it will be green again.

I don’t own a scale, so I’m not sure where I’m at with weight. I’m also usually the one holding the camera, so I don’t have any pictures to compare. It’s kind of like I had twins, and then photo evidence of my existence stopped. 🙂 Anyway, I’m trying not to consider the breast-feeding year a time to get serious about weight-loss. After that, I’ll be happy to pick back up with a regular lifting and cardio routine, but until then, the body gets a little more grace. Besides. Carrying thirty-two pounds of baby and down the stairs numerous times a day has to count for something.

Battle of the bottle vs breast

Well, you probably could guess it was coming. At some point, I had to talk about boobs, right? I mean, babies don’t just feed themselves.

Believe me though, sometimes I wish they would.

So, feeding hasn’t exactly gone as planned with the twins. But to be honest, I don’t think there ever really was a plan.  I just sort of expected that things would work. Sure, I knew it was going to be awkward to get the hang of, but it was totally doable. I breastfed Ellis for almost the full first year, so I had a little prior experience. My friend Rachel gave me this really great twin feeding pillow, which I even remembered to bring to the hospital and dutifully pulled out every three hours when it was time for the girls to eat.

I. Was. Doing this. <insert Rocky theme song here>

***

indexIt’s interesting (okay, I think it is anyways) that how a woman feeds her baby gets a lot of hype. This is a little strange since babies HAVE to eat in order to survive, and there are really only two options for that – bottle, or breast. You’d think it wouldn’t have to be that big a deal. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve surreptitiously been asked, “So, are you breastfeeding?” knowing that the answer was going to result in some sort of judgment, spoken or not.

I recently found an interesting article called “Why breastfeeding is a feminist issue” and this line in particular caught my attention:

“We live in an era when motherhood is hyper-competitive and driven by perfectionism. Everyone is trying to Get It Super Right Or Terrible Consequences Will Happen For Their Children, and everything seems to come down to mothers and their choices.”

I heartily agree with this (even if the reality of it makes me a little queasy), except for the last line.

Because sometimes, breastfeeding isn’t a choice. In fact, it’s a pretty stark reality: sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, we all better dang well be thankful there’s an aisle in Target, or Kroger, or Safeway that has at least seven or eight different options to help ensure our babies don’t starve.

After all, that’s the whole point of feeding a baby, right?

***

Meanwhile, no matter how psyched up I was to breastfeed my twins, I couldn’t get around one small detail. I had no milk.

For six days after the girls were born, I breastfed, I pumped, and I even tried the Stanford University hand expression method that the lactation consultant was so gung ho about.

I got jack squat. Once in a while, a little colostrum would magically appear, and I’d breathe a sigh of relief. But after six days, I felt a little like a broken down old Holstein cow ready for retirement on the back forty.

detail_1255_medela_supplemental_nursing_system_00901Enter, the Medela SNS. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a stranger contraption. This little plastic bottle of formula hangs around your neck by a white nylon string. The bottom of the bottle has a little gauge on in that’s connected to two teeeeeeny little plastic tubes (think angel hair spaghetti) which are supposed to magically find their way into the baby’s mouth at the same time he or she is latching on to the breast. Open the gauge, and voila. While the baby nurses, a tiny stream of formula also makes its way into the baby’s mouth.

The point is to maintain breastfeeding patterns AND insure that the baby is actually getting a measurable amount of formula alongside. It’s great, in theory. Go Medela.

But in reality, at home on my couch, I found myself wanting to tear my ears off. Every feeding felt like huge production of screaming (me included) and stress. Are the girls positioned right? How about the tubes? Oh wait. Lucy spit hers out and dribbles of formula were streaming towards my armpits. Get it back in. Wipe armpit. Then Gabby moves. Her tube comes out. Ellis hollers “MAMA” for the hundredth time.

Relaxing was a joke. Bonding was not even on the table.

Meanwhile, the babies seemed hungry all the time, so by day four I quit scouring the books, searching online, and talking to friends. I threw away the SNS. I moved the special pillow. I busted into a tin of formula, found a couple of bottles, and bam. We fed the babies.

Afterwards, there was silence. Blessed, glorious, silence. The girls were like rag dolls, warm, snugly and totally not hungry.

***

When I had Ellis, I refused to use formula. She should be totally fine with whatever my body was producing, right? Except that we (family and friends included) all remember Ellis as the baby with the set of lungs that could rattle kettle lids. She was an adorable bundle of pure rage, mainly because she was hungry for the first two months of her life.

I didn’t know that though. I was blissfully ignorant in my thinking that breastfeeding was THE only option. Formula was BAD. I didn’t really have a reason, but I had basically been told I was superwoman if I breastfed, and sub-par if I didn’t by every birthing pamphlet, documentary, and mothering magazine. That was enough.dunce

Besides. If I didn’t breastfeed exclusively (all the freaking time) the baby wouldn’t get any of those really helpful antibodies and immune boosters and vitamins and nutrients that would ensure her status as a brilliant Mensa girl and her ability to calculate the circumference of each of Saturn’s rings.

This all changed rapidly when I had the twins.

The second I realized the twins were hungry, I had no qualms about feeding them formula. They had to eat SOMETHING, and I was, apparently, still broken.

You know what that decision felt like? Working up the courage to jump off the high dive for the first time. Liberating. Exhilarating. Shockingly Fresh. The babies were happy. I was no longer stressed that they weren’t getting enough to eat. My chest was getting a chance to heal. All of these were good things.

Meanwhile, I kept pumping in hopes that somehow my body would remember that it was actually supposed to be doing something. And on day six, my milk came. Not by the gallon or anything, but it was something. So I mixed it in with a little formula, and made sure that both babies got at least three ounces every time they ate.

A month later, I decided it was time to try breastfeeding again. Things had settled into a little bit of a pattern, and maybe we could make it work? Wrong again. The girls didn’t mind the switch, but they did mind staying awake long enough to eat. They also minded having to be efficient eaters. They’d nurse for half an hour each, fall asleep, and then wake up in an hour hungry again. I could fast see that exclusive nursing meant my butt might as well put roots down in the couch cushions.

So I kept up the pumping and bottle feeding, added formula whenever I came up a little short, and nursed every couple of days to make sure the girls would maintain that skill too. And here we are. Two and half months later, working the routine. Key word: Working.

***

images birdsIs my program perfect? Most definitely not. Sometimes I want to throw all the bottles and pump parts out the back door and run screaming away down the road because I’m so sick of washing everything. Talk about liberating.

But it works for us. The girls are growing. They are calm between feedings, and I never have to wonder if they got enough to eat. We’re up to around four or five ounces for each of them at every feeding now, most of the time exclusively breast milk. Each feeding time (including feeding, diapering, burping, pumping, and washing the dishes) takes about 45 minutes, which is about how long it would take if I were breast-feeding each baby separately.

This routine also works well with my toddler, who can “help” me feed the babies their bottles. Pumping is the only part that gets tricky with her around, since when I’m sitting down she wants to be on my lap, but whatever. We make do. We read books. We watch shows. We play blocks, play princesses, have tea parties, eat breakfast, or do whatever allows me to keep my torso mostly upright and near an outlet.

And the best part? I don’t feel guilty about it. Because no matter how politically charged the argument about breastfeeding is, it all boils down to helping my little ones thrive. If I can do that by breastfeeding, great. If I can do that by pumping and bottle feeding, awesome. If I can do that by using formula, splendid.

The end result should always and forever ONLY be about the BABY(IES). End of story.

PS – this quote kills me.

suote