Before and After Baby Tips

What I’m glad I did before babies were born:

Joined the local twins’ club (the classified section was a huge help; we got to shop early at the club consignment sale; we got to meet other new and expectant twin families in town)

Took photos every week to document my belly growth (see them here!)

Shopped at the big consignment sales (got tons of stuff for a fraction of the price!)

Got a new car (originally we thought we’d wait til about a month after they were born. Thankfully we came to our senses!)

Prenatal chiropractor (I could hardly walk for weeks, with this weird back/hip thing causing me to limp like an elderly person. My OB referred me to a prenatal chiropractor–I had no idea that was a thing! But thank god it is! My chiro was so friendly and she FIXED me!)

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What I wish I had done before babies were born:

Taken more time off (I only ended up with one real day off. There wasn’t much to do even when I was working, so I should have just let myself relax more.)

Gone swimming like everyone told me to (I didn’t have a swimsuit and I couldn’t shave anything. Dumb excuses that I should have worked through and figured out.)

Bought and worn more/better clothes (I had one nice pair of maternity jeans, plus maternity leggings, and a handful of maternity tops. But especially toward the end, I was in a maternity tshirt and sweats, and looking back, I looked so sloppy. I wish I’d enjoyed some more ‘real’ clothes a little more often.)

Prenatal massage (because duh.)

Did less stuff (I should have slept in more often.)

Done professional maternity photos (I couldn’t afford to do both maternity and newborn…but maybe I could have gotten a package deal. Above is one of my DIY maternity photos.)

Journaled more (Because I have the world’s worst memory, and blog posts don’t tell the whole story.)

Taken more regular photos (and videos!) of me and us, out and about with the belly (I wish I’d done more of my whole self, of the both of us. I did make sure to take a bunch on our cross-country road trip!)

 

What I’m glad I did after babies were born:

Had our first few days be just us (I didn’t want anyone else around while we got to know our new babies. I wanted us to be a family and focus on the four of us. No extra noise, no extra personalities, just us. Later on we had visitors and that was wonderful–made even better because of our just-family time at the beginning.)

Did professional studio photos of babies (They were so very tiny. We had no idea. I knew in theory they would change and grow a lot, but man, it happened so fast! We have a storyboard (three 8×10 images on one print) up in our room and we just treasure it. The babies themselves even like looking at it.)

Bought a new bra, undies, and jeans (This was probably my favorite thing I did. Two months post-partum, I went to Target and got some new, non-maternity jeans that actually fit properly. Same with a new bra and underwear. I knew that none of these would fit for very long, but I had been haaaaating wearing all the ill-fitting, loose and baggy everything. I seriously felt like a new person with clothes that fit my current body! Truly, it was amazing, and the cost wasn’t very prohibitive.)

Bought new socks (Just because all my socks are years old and I decided to just treat myself to brand new ones. Plain white ankle cut, 6 in a pack, nothing fancy at all. But soft new socks are such an inexpensive delight!)

Went out for groceries and Target by myself (I started doing this after the first month or so–I would go late at night, like 10 or 11pm. It was so nice to get in the car by myself, and be invisible, with nothing/nobody else to carry. It was a little melancholy, but it was such a relief too.)

Took a shower regularly (it felt great to be clean (and be off the couch), plus it was a good place to cry in private)

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What I wish I had done after babies were born:

Eaten more (It probably would have helped take the edge off a bit–physically and emotionally. I wasn’t actively hungry until about a month post-partum. I knew that I should be eating, but with our ridiculous schedule, I just couldn’t work up the energy enough to care, let alone the energy to find something to eat and the time to eat it. I should have done it, or I should have prepared my husband to make me do it.)

Rested more (after the first week or so, I started moving/lifting more because I felt bad about my husband doing everything. I shouldn’t have, and should have stayed more sedentary when it mattered.)

Had a post-partum doula (It was expensive, my husband had paid paternity leave, my mom visited a few times, and my husband’s parents visited for a week. So I/we had help. But it might have been a little different/better to have a third-party helper come in and help us out too.)

Made a list of chores for visitors to help with (Although really, who cared. I certainly didn’t. I thought that I *should* care if the house was a mess. I’m a terrible grown-up that way.)

Called/emailed people who reached out (I didn’t know how; I didn’t know how to articulate what I was feeling. I couldn’t articulate much. I really appreciated the reaching out and I wish that I had just picked up the phone and done something.)

Had my husband take more photos of me and the babies (I have ONE good photo of me with the babies, when they’re about a week old. [Which I had to ask him to take for me.] None from the hospital. I have lots of phone shots, mostly selfies of low-quality shot in the horrible lighting in our living room. I hate asking people to take pictures of me, because it’s annoying. But I always love to have real-camera shots, and I should have just asked more. I would treasure them. There is no such thing as enough good quality photos of a mama and her baby/babies!)

What about you? What are the best things you did or wished you did before and after you had a baby/babies? Please share in the comments!

Having Toddlers

I’ve read and heard lots of parents say, “Oh wow, this age is so much fun!” About a variety of ages. I thought they were those crazy parents who loved everything all the time and who only saw things through rose-colored glasses. In short, I thought they were full of shit.

But it’s true! This age *is* fun! The twins are 19 months old and generally, we’re having a good time.

I realized that in the last few months, I haven’t been thinking about the early days of teensy tiny little newborns (I sort of mourned this stage for a long time, because I felt like I kind of didn’t pay enough attention).  I realized that I’m really enjoying who they are right now, and GASP, I also think they’re way cuter now than when they were tiny!

These little personalities have really started to develop and show, while their physical skills have taken off. They’re steady walkers, they can understand almost everything, they’re really becoming people!

They do silly things, they laugh, they crash into my arms for hugs, they crawl under me like I’m a bridge, they make up little games.

They still adore reading books (when they turn around and plop down into my lap–that is my second favorite thing after big hugs from them) and playing with blocks.  They can do chores and fetch! 🙂 They’re figuring out so many new things all the time.

They’re taller and can reach practically everything, and they give us this look when they’re doing something they’re not supposed to. They try to pry off the oven dial protectors. I caught one of them putting a pot and lid into the trash can. They also like to run off in different directions/at different speeds when we’re out and about, so we can only go out when there are two adults to chase after them.

They’re only just starting to say ‘no’ and get tantrum-y. They often want to be picked up and left alone–simultaneously. Neither is really ‘talking’, so they can’t communicate very much or very well, but they understand everything and have definite opinions about many things.

It still surprises me how little they are. I mean, mostly I am in awe about how huge they are, compared to the 5 pound teeny babies we brought home. Now they’re big, strapping toddlers. But when I’m away from them for a little bit, it’s amazing and fucking ADORABLE how small they still are, compared to big people. Those little legs, running everywhere. Those little feet, with jagged toenails they won’t let us clip. Their little hands wrapped around our arm, or reaching to hold our hand when taking a big step up or down.

Things aren’t always easy, but these little dudes are so wonderfully weird and delightful!

I swear I’m not full of shit, either. (However, we do have full-time child care, so I’m not with them 24/7. That makes it easier for me to be positive. :)) I’ve been terrified of the toddler stage since they were born, and I know that we haven’t hit the hardest age yet, so I’m trying hard to stay focused on the fun/good stuff and be patient through the hard stuff.

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I mean, just look at those faces!

Also, I’m laughing/crying at this. I know it will be our future all too soon…

The Mama Matters

I’m in a lot of online groups, and many of them revolve around parenting or babies/kids. Often there are posts from moms who are exhausted and frazzled and emotional. I never have much actual advice, but I like to chime in and say something like, “Your mental health and sanity is really important. You matter too, mama!”

A few weeks ago, it hit me like a brick: I’ve been talking to myself.

*I* matter. My subconscious has been hard at work trying to convince me, all this time.

The first few weeks (months? I have no idea) of life with twins, I cried about many things (though I did my best to do it quietly or out of the way. It wasn’t all the time or anything. I don’t think?). I felt frustrated at many things, and I was trying really hard to do All The Things. I kept trying to make my husband take it easier, or not do as much–like go take a nap, or watch some extra tv or something. And he never listened to me. Which I found (and still do find) extremely, extremely frustrating. He would say something about me taking a nap or taking some time ‘away’ or whatever, and I would say, “No, I don’t matter.”

And then I would tear up or actually cry. Because at the same time, I felt two conflicting emotions: that I and my needs truly did not matter, and that it made me fucking sad that I thought I didn’t matter.

Now, my husband was and is pretty much the best partner in this baby thing as anyone could dream of. It’s never been a question that he does the babycare/parenting work. He’s not a babysitter or an “involved dad”; he’s just a parent. No question. So even though we have twins, which is fucking hard, our twins have been good babies, and I’ve had it really pretty good. We got a nanny two days a week when the babies were 2 months old, mostly so that I could do things like take a nap and go outside by myself. Seriously, I have nothing to complain about.

But those first few brutal weeks, I still felt like I didn’t matter. That I was not important, unworthy. The least important person in the house. I stopped saying it, because it made my husband upset (rightfully so!), but I continued to feel it.

Once a new baby arrives, all the attention is directed there. When new twins arrive, there is lots and lots of attention! Not just out at the grocery store, but at home. And not just between the nuclear family, but also the extended family. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, everyone’s so excited and thrilled about the adorable squishy baby! And well they should be–babies *are* exciting! (Well, more in theory than in practice; generally they just sit there.) But the parents–especially the mother, I think–get lost in the baby shuffle. Nobody  pays attention to the new mom.

Plus there is or was some remnant in my head of the idea that anything the dad did, was extra, bonus, not to be expected. So I felt guilty, and extra grateful, and extra dependent, and extra beholden. And I was beholden–I physically needed him to do a lot of work those first days, as my body recovered from the c-section.  But I also didn’t want to put him out too much. I didn’t want to be helpless.

Listen to me: I didn’t want to put him out too much? Like I would have to tiptoe and hope and beg for such a favor as to please change diapers today because my torso was sliced open a few days ago and my drugs aren’t doing enough?

There’s a lot of culture at play here–I would have sworn I was immune to this patriarchal nonsense. But look at these words coming out of me without even realizing it! It’s a real thing that women, especially mothers, do and want to and should (????!!!) put themselves last. Because they don’t matter. Or because what their kids or spouses want is more important, and the mom has to make sure to accommodate all of that and mitigate all of that, because her own needs have to take a backseat.

It’s hard to really see and escape this kind of thinking that’s embedded in our society. Sorry, I didn’t mean to get political, but it’s kind of really the core of the issue here.

I didn’t think I mattered.

If that’s not something to make you/me tear up, I don’t know what is. It’s heartbreaking! But apparently it’s taken me this long, and the impartiality of a social network screen, to learn the lesson that I matter. That I was and am an important person, not just for the sake of my children, but for my own sake, as a fully functioning human person. I’m not a vessel or a robot. I’m allowed to have space, time and opinions of my own. (How very 20th century of me!)

So, listen. No matter what: YOU MATTER, MAMA. Always. Along with your partner, you are one of the two most important people in your new baby/ies’ life. Of course your baby needs a lot of attention, and grueling, tedious attention it is for the first few endless weeks. (But you’ll also get to snuggle with your sweet new baby!) Parental needs get pushed to the back burner for awhile.

But, please please remember: You are a person too. You are not just a feeding/diapering machine. You have wants and needs, and you are allowed to have them. And! you are allowed to get them. Sleep is a biological need, not a selfish want. So naps aren’t indulgent, they’re necessary! You deserve to be at your struggling best–you probably need some rest, time and space away for a few minutes. Away from everything and everyone, blessed quiet for your frazzled new-mama mind. It doesn’t have to be a day at the spa (though you certainly deserve a massage at the least!). Just a few minutes to breathe. A few minutes to take a shower, walk through the grocery store aisles, feel the sun on your face–all without a tiny person all up on you, demanding all of your attention and energy. A few minutes to be YOU.

Maybe that means your partner hangs out with the baby/babies solo for awhile. Maybe it means that your free time is only in the evening. But go find that time. Ask for it, demand it. Figure out a way for each of you to get some naps, some alone time, to get some you time, to get that space and that silence. It is so, so important.

You’ll feel better, and you’ll be a better parent for your sweet new baby. Your baby deserves healthy, rested parents

YOU MATTER.

Pumping for Twins

I’m finally posting this on the one-year anniversary!

Medela Symphony PumpOn the babies’ seven month ‘birthday,’ I pumped for the last time.

Yes, I was finally DONE WITH PUMPING.

It felt like a major decision. And for a long time I still didn’t know how I felt about it!

Once I knew that I didn’t want to nurse, I figured I’d pump for maybe the first three months. Well, that came and went pretty quick and then they were like five months old and I was like, hey…I’m still doing this? But I didn’t want to stop at a random time, and their six month ‘birthday’ was really close, so I decided I would go for seven months as my endpoint.

I can be somewhat terrible at actually Deciding to Do Things. I would much rather decide that something needs to happen and then kind of wait for the chips to fall. Or have something assigned to me. I think I worry that I’ll make a wrong decision, or a strange decision, or that I don’t know how things will play out later on, so I’d sometimes be happy to let the Fates decide! But sometimes I have to be a GrownUp and put on my Big Girl Pants and make a Damn Decision Already.

I was never one to have a ‘goal’ for something like nursing or pumping, because I didn’t know how I would do, if I would like it, or what our life circumstances would be. I didn’t want to tie myself down to some mental milepost in the future.

But once I started, I figured I might as well keep going for awhile. It seemed to be working pretty well, and my supply kept up quite well. I never made enough to fully feed both the babies, but for many months we only had to do one set of formula bottles (for anywhere from five to eight feedings a day). This was pretty great. Especially because with samples and gifts, we didn’t have to buy any for maybe 3 or 4 months.

I need to include an aside about formula itself, as a principle. I love it; I think it’s great. My babies needed more food than my body provided, and formula kept their bellies full so they could grow.

Since the babies tolerated both Enfamil and Similac regular formulas without even noticing the switch, once it was time for us to buy the formula, we tried the Costco brand and it was good.  And it is SO MUCH CHEAPER. On Amazon, the big brands are a dollar an ounce; at Costco those brands are like 80 cents an ounce. The Costco formula is forty-five cents an ounce! Winner! (But really we are just lucky that our babies don’t have any special dietary needs/restrictions. And that I don’t care about organics and stuff.)

Even with the cheapest formula option, it still costs money. As I transitioned to fewer pumps per day and my output dipped, we used more formula each month. And of course then once I stopped, we had to buy a lot. The babies take 32-35 ounces a day, times two, so the giant can only lasts 3 1/2 – 4 days. Again, even cheap, it adds up.

And to me it felt like I was forcing the family to pay this extra money because I was being lazy and selfish by not pumping anymore.

I wanted to be free. I wanted my body to be my own again. I wanted my schedule, all the hours in the day, to be my own again (or as much as they could be with two infants). But I also waffled a bit.

There was a nagging thought in the back of my head that if I was able to make food for my babies, I should keep doing it. That maybe my needs weren’t really needs, just wants, and that my babies’ biological needs trumped whatever I wanted.

Happily, my husband insisted that I should stop. Not pressuring me to or anything, but asserting that I had done a lot already and it was more than okay for me to stop. He respected my seven months of pumping and my decision to be done. But I asked a lot of times, “Are you sure it’s okay? Should I just keep going after all? Is it too much money?” He always said “No, you should stop. It’s really okay.”

Another aside: apparently some husbands think it’s their business to insist on or pressure their partners to pump or breastfeed. What the everloving fuck?! Unless a man is the one strapping a baby or a milking machine to his own body, he has zero right to push for his partner to feed a baby that way!

Anyway, so over the course of a few weeks I weaned myself down and then off the pump entirely.

The last pump was on a Friday. I wasn’t sure how the stopping process would go for me, physically. All was fine for awhile, at first it didn’t feel any different. Later on Saturday I started feeling uncomfortable. By Sunday it was actual pain. It hurt to hold a baby and it hurt to sleep–pressure on my engorged chest. I read that other women had pain for up to a week when quitting! I tried cabbage leaves, I thought about finding whatever herbs or drugs might help after a few days…Sunday night it got even worse and so Monday morning I broke down and pumped for ten minutes. I decided that if I needed to do once a day for a few more days I could handle it. I got another 10 ounces or so, and after that my body totally got the message. No more pain, no more milk, all done, all gone. My body was once again all mine.

It’s been two months A YEAR now and I can’t believe how glad I am that I stopped, and how incredibly much I don’t miss it. I look back and wonder, jesus, did I really do that?! I have not regretted the decision to stop for even a SECOND.

And now for all the random thoughts I have about pumping.

1. NUMBERS! DATA! NERDINESS!

I kept a log while I was in the hospital so I would know when to pump and be able to see how much I was getting. And then…I kept going. I continued to keep track of every single pump for all seven months. And then I graphed it! Is that dorky or what?

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Several things to note:

-The stars indicate when I decreased a pumping session. At first I believe it was seven times a day, so the first star is when I went down to six times a day. I did 30 minutes each time, until going to five times, when I did 45 minutes each time.

-I don’t even want to think about the total amount of time I spent pumping. Hours and hours and hours. I essentially lived on our couch.

-My supply really jumped up quickly at a clear pace and I had a really good average–over 50 ounces a day for a long time. Again, though, the babies were taking 60 ounces.

-Looking at this graph, it looks like such a short period of time. And I guess it was, in the grand scheme of things. But those days and weeks and months of pumping felt looooooong. So very long. Never ending, really. I can’t even tell you how long it all felt. Such a slog.

-I was fascinated to learn (thank you auto-sum!) that over the course of seven months, my total output was SIXTY SEVEN GALLONS. That’s a full milk case at the grocery store. FROM MY BODY. That is crazy weird strange cool. Check out my badly-photoshopped graphic of SIXTY-SEVEN GALLONS:

Pumping for Twins

2. THE ENERGY

The first few weeks of pumping, I could literally feel the life draining out of me at each session. It felt like I was wilting from the inside out. It was probably because I wasn’t eating much of anything at first. As time went on,  I didn’t feel weak anymore, though I doubt I was ever eating enough. When I went out for errands, I frequently stopped for a chocolate milkshake to get some extra calories.

Sitting in one place for so long so many times a day forced me to drink a lot of water–I easily drank 60oz a day, and that made a huge difference for my skin and for my energy level.

Also, I was surprised that I didn’t lose weight faster than I did. I dropped forty pounds in the first week, but only another six pounds in the next six weeks.

9 wks pregnant; 1 week pp; 7 months pp

9 wks pregnant; 1 week pp; 7 months pp

3. THE SCHEDULE

A lot of women keep pumping every three hours (around the clock–that means overnight!) for way longer than I did. I was never willing to do that. Within a week maybe I was skipping one overnight session, for a total of seven pumps a day instead of the ‘ideal’ eight. My supply may have been higher if I’d done that extra session, but I was not willing to sacrifice even more sleep. As it was, for many months I could only go 5 or 6 hours between pumps, which meant starting the last one of the night around 2am, which meant getting to bed around 3am, and then getting up again to pump at 7am.

The worst part was when someone would suggest that I should sleep in. Or my husband would offer to do something so I could sleep. I wanted to cry and scream every time I had to say (and good lord I hated that everyone else seemed to forget what a slave to the pump I had to be), “I CAN’T; I HAVE TO PUMP.”

Eventually I started doing the last one a little bit earlier and earlier, stretching out the overnight. It took awhile, but man, the difference it made to get more sleep….indescribable. I know that a lot of babies don’t sleep well and continue to wake up every night every few hours for many many months….but ours didn’t, and being unable to take advantage of their good sleep was so frustrating. I was a zombie for months when I didn’t ‘have’ to be.

The best part was when I got to the point of 8 or 9 hours overnight between pumps. And when my amazing husband started getting up with the babies so I could sleep for eight hours. I think that was in April, when the babies were about five months old or so. Oh my god, I felt like a real person again. It was an incredible, priceless gift.

The other sweet spot was when I finally got to four pumps a day. That felt really manageable in the daily schedule: first thing in the morning, lunch time, late afternoon, night time. (Until I got to three times a day; that was even better.)

Of course, the relentless pumping schedule means that you have to schedule your life around your pump. Date nights, playdates/mom groups, exercise–all of it has to be done in those times between pumping sessions. And if they overlap, then you can’t just skip. Your body won’t let you. So you have to pump before and after your fun event.

4. THE HASSLE

Pumping sucks. Literally and physically. In so many ways.

First, there’s all the crap. Keeping track of all the parts, washing them in between pumping sessions, finding room to let them dry on the counters. If you pump in different places, you also have to cart the pump and accessories to different parts of your house (or car, or work, or vacation).

Then there are the accessories. Often I would rush home from an outing and immediately run upstairs and do a fast clothing change to pajama pants and a nursing tanktop. I also had a special hands-free pumping bra, plus a muslin blanket to cover up (I just tied it on like a giant neckerchief). Then the bottles and lids, and eventually you might need to keep extra bottles around in case one fills up and you need to switch before the pumping session is over. It really sucks when one leaks or overflows and you don’t notice until it’s already been going on for who knows how long. Ick and ack.

It is a huge hassle to stick to that schedule. Your boobs don’t need a clock; they know when the milk is due, and whether or not your pump is going, that milk will come. Occasionally time would get away from me, and I would feel a tingling, and then suddenly realize I needed to be pumping. On our trip north in January, three different times I was busy being social and missed the pumping times and leaked everywhere. Yuck.

5. THE IMMEDIACY

When I would say I have to pump, that might RIGHT NOW. Not right now in three minutes, RIGHT NOW THIS VERY MOMENT GET OUT OF MY WAY. Occasionally my husband would try to give me a hug or leisurely talk about something as I was frantically trying to get all the pump shit ready and I would be like I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS RIGHT NOW I NEED TO PUMP.

Imagine that feeling when you’ve needed to pee for a long time and you’re about to burst and you’re on the way to the bathroom. And someone wants you to stop and chat.

Except that ability to hold it in is not available and the ‘ready to explode’ feeling keeps building painfully and there’s no immediate relief.

So a note to all you friends or partners who are pumping: get the hell out of their way!

I would frequently lose track of time and be like, Shit! I have to pump! And then proceed to run around getting all the pump stuff and accessories ready, and oh yeah, fill up my water bottle, since I’ll be stuck in one place for almost an hour. And I probably need a snack. And I should go to the bathroom now while I can. Where’s my kindle? Is my laptop plugged in? Make sure I can reach the remote!

Now imagine the fun times when I was alone with two babies and pumping! For months I did at least one feeding a day *while* pumping. It was difficult and extremely, incredibly annoying. But I figured that multi-tasking was the best way to use my time. As I slowly changed my schedule and those pumping/feedings got fewer, it was such a relief.

6. THE IN-BETWEEN-NESS

Everyone wants to know how you feed your baby. It’s none of their damn business, and I have a much bigger post brewing on that, but people will still ask. It does come up organically sometimes. And I think people in general like to categorize things, and seek out people with similar situations. It pretty much seems like there are only two options: breastfeeding and formula feeding. And…I was neither. Or kind of both. My babies obviously got formula from the start, so I was a formula feeder. And I only nursed a handful of times ever, so I wasn’t a breastfeeder. But I was pumping. So they were getting milk from me. Does that mean I was breastfeeding because their food came from me? Or does it mean I wasn’t breastfeeding since that food from my body went into theirs via a bottle? Then there are the small, forgotten segment of Exclusive Pumping mothers. Which, I wasn’t that either, since I was pumping like 70-80% of what my babies ate, not 100%.

I never liked being neither, or both, or nothing easily categorize-able. I always wished I could find other people like me, in all those facebook groups where it seems everyone is an exclusive and/or extended breastfeeder. I wish I could have found a community of other in-between-ers.

7. THE UNEXPECTED BONUS

Once I was a little less zombie-fied and was more stable with my pumping schedule, I began to enjoy my late-night (2am) pump session. I’m a night-owl anyway, so it wasn’t a stretch to stay awake for so long, even though I was tired. But I was alone. I could do whatever I wanted, as long as I could do it while sitting on the couch. I wrote blog posts; I read the internet; I watched Netflix (mainly a ridiculous and fun Aussie teen soap called Dance Academy); occasionally I would read on my kindle.

I came to relish that quiet alone time, and actually look forward to it. Even though I wasn’t really doing anything different than during the rest of my day, my mind felt calm and quiet. Relaxed. I suppose the time sacrifice was worth it for the mental break, in a way. Sometimes you just need to get away, and sometimes the only way to do that is to stay up until 2 or 3am.

8. NO, YOU’RE NOT LOSING YOUR MIND.

Many women–including myself–hear the pump ‘talk.’ Especially since I had a hospital-grade pump for the first 6-7 weeks, which is gigantic but pretty quiet, and then moved to the Medela Pump-In-Style (the tote bag version), which is small and lightweight, but very loud. I heard different words or phrases nearly every day the first few weeks with that one! Then I finally started tuning it out. Here’s a funny/frustrating article about pumps being so technologically un-advanced: Shouldn’t the Breast Pump Be as Elegant as an iPhone and as Quiet as a Prius by now?

Medela Pump Tote Bag

9. TIPS

You can use any bottle with a standard opening. I used the Snappies bottles first, then the 5oz Medela bottles that came with the pump, and then I had to move to something bigger. I found a couple cheap 8oz bottles at Walgreens, and also used the Dr Brown’s 8oz bottles. They actually hold closer to 13oz!

However: lids matter! You can buy separate screw-on caps for the Dr. Brown’s bottles (which fit the 4oz and the 8oz sizes) and they ACTUALLY work. The Medela bottle lids worked mostly okay for the Medela bottles, but not for any of the other kinds.

You can use dry-erase markers to write anywhere on any bottle. We have a bunch of the fine-tipped markers for our kitchen dry-erase board, so I used them to write day/time of pumped bottles. Wipes right off!

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For chafing, almost everyone recommends lanolin. Lanolin is really, really sticky. Which means that you and your pump parts are always a little sticky. I dug around and finally found another suggestion: olive oil! Put some on a paper towel, and then wipe it around the inside of the pump flange. Et voila, no chafing, and no stickiness!

9. IN CONCLUSION

You can feed your baby however you like. One method (formula or breastfeeding) may work best for you, or you might combo feed. You might use a pump also. It’s pretty neat that our bodies can feed our babies, isn’t it? But–the best things to remember are that 1, if you’re feeding your baby and loving your baby, that means you’re a good mother–period. And 2, YOU matter. Your time matters, your physical AND MENTAL health matter. If you want to pump, and you can, then great! If you don’t want to, or you can’t, great! Love your baby. That’s what matters. I support you!

Expectant Mamas: Giveaway!

DSC_6373_WEB  I have never been a huge fan of e-books and e-readers, or at least the idea of them; I am such a book lover and the tactile experience of a real book is just priceless to me.

Now, I did take my husband’s first, old Kindle on some work trips and vacations, and the convenience of many books in one slim gadget is invaluable. But I maintained that use as an outlier, not the norm.

DSC_6414_WEBThat said….since the babies were born, I’ve been reading almost exclusively on a Kindle. (It’s a Kindle Fire handed down from my MIL.) An e-reader has turned out to be one of my favorite post-baby tools! There’s not much happening online during a 4am baby feeding, so you might as well get lost in a book for a few minutes.

DSC_6392_WEBThe convenience of reading one-handed, in the dark if need be, is amazing. The ability to shop online for a library or new book, click a few buttons, and have it appear on your device instantly…well, it’s downright magical! Lord knows you won’t be taking a leisurely stroll through a bookstore or library with a brand new baby–with an e-reader, the library is in your hands. Like I said, MAGICAL.

DSC_6396_WEBMy husband was gifted a new Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas, so his older Kindle Touch is lonely and needs a new home. So guess what–we want to gift someone else the magic convenience of an e-reader. We’ll also include a booklight so you can read in the dark without disturbing baby or partner!

If you are expecting a baby, or have just had one (or more!) within the last month, please leave a comment below to enter. Leave your due date/baby’s birth date, and a book that’s on your list to read. Last day to enter is Friday, February 28, 2014 at 11.59pm PST.

Legal: You must be over 18 years old and a resident of the United States. Make sure that your email address is on/in your comment ID so I can contact you. The prize of this giveaway is a used Kindle Touch. This giveaway sweepstakes is NOT affiliated with or sponsored by Amazon.com or Kindle.

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Helpfully seasoned by Malcolm.

I will randomly select a winner using random.org on March 1, 2014. I will be sending the winner the Kindle and booklight, plus maybe a surprise. 🙂

UPDATE: And the winner is….Jenni! Congratulations! And congrats to everyone on their pregnancies, I can’t wait to see photos of all the new babies. 🙂

Our Favorite Toys for Babies, 6-12 month edition

 When I went to the big twins club re-sale last spring, I had a very specific list of items that I knew the babies would need in the short term. When I saw the huge area of big toys, I froze. I tried to think about the next 5-6 months and what the babies would do or learn or want or play with. And I had utterly no idea what, say, a 9 month old could use.

So I figure that as I go along, I’ll keep track of the toys we use in age-ranges of our babies, in hope that someday, another parent will find it useful! This isn’t an official review or sponsored post, it’s just what our babies have liked and used a lot.

(Previous gear lists: Pregnancy, New Babies part 1, New Babies part 2, New Babies part 3 Toys for 3-6 months)

Also, FYI: Baby Cheapskate does an annual roundup of “Toys that get played with” for all age ranges, based on reader polls/surveys. Here’s the 2013 list for 6-12 months. You should follow them on Facebook--they find and post tons of deals on baby gear every day!

I’m calling this 6-12 months because it’s a nice round number, but honestly, the babies are still playing with almost all of these toys at 14 months!  Also, they aren’t walking yet, so they’re not taking advantage of those kind of toys yet.

Also note that I got almost all of these things from craigslist or consignment sales. Baby stuff can get expensive, and secondhand gear is often just as good for the wee ones, but way better for your wallet! 

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Activity Table (ie, crack table) Man, did they love this! We called it the crack table because it was like a magnet–if we turned it on in an adjacent room, the babies would come crawling! And they would just keep playing with it, so when it was time to wind down at the end of the day, we’d have to move it to the kitchen to ‘hide’ it. I could see them practicing their gross and fine motor skills with all of the different ‘activities’, and I really think this helped them develop their standing stamina, too. Thankfully, the intensity of their love for this toy finally dimmed a bit. It’s still in our kitchen, and they still play with it a bit here and there. The Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker would be a good alternative to this–I’m not sure if both would be necessary.

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Riding toys: like our horsey that I found at a resale for eight bucks (newer version on Amazon) or a wagon. We have a vintage Fisher Price wagon (from a different resale), which I love for its simplicity.  Here’s their ‘new’ version, with lots more crap on it. These seem like they will continue to be played with for quite awhile.

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Anything to bang together (measuring cups, bottle caps, wooden spoons, plastic blocks, giant pasta shells)

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Musical toys: The babies seemed to love the music aspect of the kick n play piano mat, but I hated that there were only four keys and that you couldn’t just play a note. Any time you hit a key, it made a note but then also a jingle. I wanted some kind of musical toy/piano that is JUST MUSIC. Well, those pretty much don’t exist anymore. Everything sings and talks, plus does the ABCs, or talks in Spanish, or counts numbers. I just wanted them to push a key and hear a single note! Happily, I found one of these piano/xylophones and a teeny cheap little keyboard at the local Value Village for around ten bucks altogether. Some bleach and some qtips, and they were good to go! They don’t play with these a ton, but I like that they have the opportunity to “play” “music” with their own little hands, and I hope that they will keep playing with musical toys as they get older and more coordinated.

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Bins of things: (books, toys, linens). I like the 56-quart clear bins from Home Depot or Target. We keep the baby books in one of these bins, and it turned out to be a perfect size for climbing into and on top of. 🙂

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Exersaucer/Jumper: (to sit in or to stand on the outside of). We had one of each before they were six months, since there were two babies that needed activities to rotate through. One was borrowed and one was from craigslist–we could not have afforded both otherwise! The babies LOVED the jumper for a long time but kind of got over being in the exersaucer sooner. However, it’s on my list because we still have it in our living room–they still like going over to it and playing with a few of the toys, especially the one where you push a button for some music. They start bouncing their little legs and smile. 🙂

Rattles We like to put popcorn kernels in empty containers and let them shake shake shake.

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IKEA Foam blocks/wooden or plastic blocks: Self-explanatory, I’m sure.

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Stacking rings (plastic or wooden) and stacking cups from IKEA (see above re: banging things together): I always heard these were good toys for babies but they seemed so boring! I have been proven wrong–the cups in particular were an instant winner for our babies. They’ve gone through different stages of playing with them: first to eat, then to bang together, then nesting together, and attempting to stack them. I’m telling you, three bucks, endless fun and entertainment.

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Shape Sorter Bucket: The pieces can be used for chewing and banging together first, and then the babies will learn about dumping out and putting in again. Good times! It’s also an excellent hide and seek ‘mask’, according to Emmett.

Sharky brush: Teether/toothbrush that the babies love to chew on!

Foam playmat: We keep this on our living room rug to cushion falls and tumbles, and to prevent messes from getting to the carpet. It does trip them up sometimes when they’re pushing the riding toys.

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Bath letters:  Who doesn’t want fun bath toys to chew on and throw over the side?

Touch and feel books, lift-the-flap books. They love lifting the flaps so much that they rip them right off!

I’d love to hear your additions to this list–what do your 6-12 month olds love to play with?

10 Surprising Things I’ve Learned This Year

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(two weeks old, E on left, M on right)
One of the scariest things about being pregnant was not knowing how it would be to actually have a baby, and not knowing how I would deal with the various challenges. Being new at this, I was pretty worried that everything would terrible and horrible and super crazy hard. And some of it *was* terrible and difficult. But some of it hasn’t been so bad–in fact, there has definitely been some good stuff. And I have learned a lot–some practical, and some philosophical.
1. Turns out I love babies.

I never hated babies, but I was never a baby-fever kind of girl. Some people dream for years of being a mom–that wasn’t me. But now that I do have babies of my own–babies are awesome! I can never get enough of them. They’re so tiny and cuddly and sweet! That’s why I am so excited when I find out someone is pregnant–they get a sweet little baby to snuggle! There is NOTHING better than cuddling a tiny baby.

[I now know that there are “baby people” and “non-baby people”, which makes me even more nervous for the toddler/older kid stages, if the baby stage was my favorite.]

2. I can be a lot more patient than I thought.

In general, I’m not a terribly patient person–I hate slow walkers and slow drivers, and other things that seem to take too long. But as it happens, I’m a lot more patient with babies (most of the time). I think it’s because the babies don’t know any better and they can’t help it. They can only cry, and they have zero tolerance for frustration, because they’re like proto-people still. (I am worried about how I’ll be with bigger kids who DO know better.)

Juggling one or two babies is hard. Especially when it’s the middle of the night, again. Or when both babies are crying at the same time. Talking it out loud helps me get out some of the energy and I always hope that something is reaching the babies–at least my voice if not my arms at that moment. Also, when they were smaller, this is when the baby swing or the sling were lifesavers. (Why can’t they make stationary swings for toddlers??)

When I do get overwhelmed, sometimes my husband is around to help or take over if I need a break. And when he’s not, I just try to take a deep breath and try to get through it, remembering that at some point it will be over. Sometimes I panic and feel really annoyed and frustrated–I’m no saint! Sometimes, honestly, I have to just laugh because it’s so ridiculous and there’s nothing to do. I took a video once, when I was home alone with babies, I was pumping and they were on the couch on either side of me, screaming. And we were all just kind of stuck. I couldn’t do much but roll my eyes and shake my head. And then record it for posterity. 🙂

3. Baby farts and burps are funny.

I’m not one of the tomboy girls who thinks it’s funny when grown-ass dudes burp and fart all over the place. However–that same fart ripped from baby butt is somehow hilarious. I guess that means I’m not as grown-up as I thought. 🙂

4. Babies are noisy in general.

I knew that babies cried, and that they most likely would cry a lot, all the time, for no reason. I didn’t know that when they weren’t crying, they still make a lot of noises. Especially while sleeping, our babies made all kinds of sounds–it was like a barnyard! We heard pigs, horses, hyenas, and sometimes an old movie villain.  There were also squeaks and peeps and snorts and grunts. At night, these sounds would startle us awake to go check on the babies–who were often still asleep! It also made it hard for me to nap while they napped nearby–too noisy!

5. I can indeed survive on less sleep.

This was honestly one of the things that scared and intimidated me the most about having babies. I love to sleep in (which was never as often as I wanted) and I also love to stay up late, which meant that I rarely got enough sleep. The prospect of being awake all night every night for months on end was a little (a lot) terrifying. The reality wasn’t much better. You’re thrown in to a new situation–a time when you really need as much as rest as you can possibly get. And then you get hardly any. The first couple weeks, we would ‘go to sleep’ after a feeding at like 2am and set an alarm for 4am and good god, it’s like torture. Inhuman.

Things did get a lot better, eventually! (Partly because my husband and I built ourselves a better schedule.) But god, it’s really hard sometimes. (There’s another sleep regression coming soon….help me!) A lot of times, there’s nothing to be done, you just have to get through it. And that *sucks*.  If an opportunity for you to nap comes up, TAKE IT, FOR GOD’S SAKE, TAKE THAT NAP.

As an aside, I tend to believe that sleep is necessary for sanity, so I would encourage parents to do whatever they need to do to get more/some rest.

6. New babies are boring.

I mentioned this months ago–but I didn’t realize that since newborns just sleep and eat…they don’t do anything else. Which means that, in many cases, you can’t do anything else. [C-section recovery plus the logistics of lugging two babies and their stuff meant I didn’t do anything or go anywhere at all for at least four weeks. An easier birth/recovery and a single baby means that you can use a carrier to get out and about easier and faster.]

I always figured that since new babies are so overwhelming, it would mean that you’d be busy. And you are, for some parts of the day. But if the baby is sleeping 16-20 hours a day (which is what newborns do, especially pre-term babies, I think), then you have a lot of time to just sit around. In small chunks. However, you’re way too braindead to *do* anything with that time, since you’re not getting any sleep (naps often made me feel more tired and groggy, so I didn’t try to sleep every time the babies slept). This is why you want a Netflix subscription.

7. I do not have those classic attachment issues.

Some people don’t sleep well in the first few months even when they’re able, because they worry about the baby, or they want to constantly check on the baby. I have never had that problem. If I had the chance to sleep, I slept, and I slept hard, thank you very much. Yes of course, I checked my babies’ breathing every night before I went to bed. But once it was bedtime, goodnight ma’am, I’m out. If there was a trusted visitor here for a chunk of time, see ya, I’m taking a nap. (Again, sleep is precious!)

That’s another thing–some people are anxious about other people caring for their babies. I am not one of those people. As long as it was a trusted family member or friend (or a qualified childcare provider), I knew things would be fine. I wanted to sleep, or to go outside by myself for a bit for some air. Possibly it makes me a bad or selfish mama, but I have not had any issues with putting some of my own priorities at the forefront for a few hours and leaving someone else in charge.

8. I am not quick to accept change.

I like to think I’m adaptable and can easily go-with-the-flow. In some ways I can be, but in a lot of ways, I hate change and new things (especially if they aren’t my idea). I tend to gripe and groan, and I definitely tend to hold on to the past. None of this is actually a surprise, just one of my bad qualities that has played a part in this baby-having adventure.

There are plenty of good changes that we’ve had (sleeping more! adapting schedule!), but the sheer amount of change has been startling. *Everything* is always changing! I’m not ready to give up my little babies yet! Not fair!

Ahem. I’m working on taking in the details every day and enjoying things as they are right now. It’s tough sometimes. 🙂

9. There is no such thing as too many photos.

Okay, anyone who knows me knows that I love taking pictures. And that I take too many pictures. In the last thirteen months, I have taken thousands of pictures of my babies. And I still want more.

Most importantly, I desperately want more quality photos of the early days of *me* and my babies. I have a number of dark, crappy iphone selfies and only a handful of photos from my real camera (with the speedlight flash, because it was December and practically always nighttime). Since I’m the photographer in the family, I had to set up the camera and then ask my husband to take a picture. Who wants to do that every other day?

I also really, really wish I had more photos of me interacting with the babies. Most of the ones I do have together are the posed on the couch type, where I’m smiling at the camera. Over the months, I have captured a lot of adorable moments of my husband and a baby or two playing together, just casual snapshots that captures them having fun and loving one another. I have hardly any of me having fun with the babies, because again, since it’s my camera, I have to set up the thing and ask for it to be captured. My husband is always willing to do it, but there’s something about expending the mental energy to ask, and of course losing the spontaneity of the moment. And really, it’s hard when I can visualize the photo I want, but I can’t magically import that vision into someone else’s mind to take it the way I’m thinking, so there goes more time and effort and shots and babies are done now.

However–see point number 8. I need to remind myself that I *do* have some precious photos of me with my babies this past year. And that I can resolve to do better in the future.

But please, learn from me. Take pictures, and then take more pictures. And videos of noises and movements are so especially priceless! Make sure you AND your partner look to capture fun and beautiful moments of both of you and your new snuggly babies. 🙂 (And then print them out. But that’s another post!)

10. Did I mention how awesome baby snuggles are??

 

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Did you learn anything surprising about yourself or about babies in your first year of parenting? I’d love to hear it! And/or–what interesting things have you parents of toddlers learned about the second year of parenting? I know there is SO MUCH still to learn and experience! [But don’t scare me more than I already am! :D]