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This past Sunday my twins turned one. I can hardly believe it. The year absolutely flew by.

I had been planning to write a little post on surviving your first year with twins, but as I started thinking about what I would say, I started to realize something. This year wasn’t just about survival. Sure, in the beginning, it was a seemingly never-ending cycle of feed, burp, nap, diaper change, repeat. And we did it all in a sleep-deprived haze. There were also the sleep issues and many, many ear infections, and bouts of bronchitis, croup, etc. Maybe THOSE parts were about survival.

But this year was so much more. This year absolutely changed my life. As a mother, as a wife, as a daughter, as a person. Here’s how:

  • I no longer procrastinate. In my pre-twin life, I was a master procrasinator. I find that since becoming a Mother of Multiples, I no longer have that luxury. If I have 5 minutes to do laundry, I better do it. If I don’t, it may sit there until next week. Act now or forever miss your opportunity. Things are actually getting accomplished around my house and often in advance of when they need to be done! I’m also more productive in the office because I never know when I’ll need to take an emergancy sick or vacation day to tend to a child.
  • I am learning to be flexible. (I’m still working on this, but getting much better!) In life, things happen. Even with the best of intentions, schedules and routines, there is bound to be a kink in the plans at some point. In the not-so-distant past the unexpected speedbumps in my routine would have thrown me so far off course I couldn’t recover. With twins, the bumps come frequently. I have no choice but to adjust and keep moving forward. We are all happier and more relaxed as a result of Mommy’s new abilities.
  • Immediate family now comes first. Growing up, I saw my immediate family (mother, father, brother and me) as one unit. Our unit was part of a bigger, extended family but I knew that the four of us were our own, standalone group. When I got married and even when I had my singleton, I still saw myself as part of that original core unit. It was only with the arrival of the twins that I’ve realized: we’ve now become our own unit. And I finally feel comfortable scheduling, planning, and standing up for what I think is best for this immediate family.
  • I appreciate the female body (even) more. Pregnancy and childbirth is an amazing experience. But carrying and delivering multiple babies goes beyond words. Then, watching my body provide nourishment for the two babies at the same time…I’m speechless.The female body is an amazing, amazing thing!
  • I am much more patient. I have developed a much higher tolerance for noise, hair pulling, eye poking and monotonous play. I am content to sit on the floor for 45 minutes and let the kids climb on me; I no longer worry about what’s NOT getting done when I sit there and I no longer worry about moving on to the next activity. This one is fun? Let’s stay with it. As a result, I’m more patient with my husband, my dog and my co-workers. I am not any more patient while driving, but I’m working on that.
  • I want to be there for other people. Having been through the high-risk pregnancy and the NICU experience (twice), and ending up with all of these beautiful, healthy children has made me so very thankful for all that I have. As a result, I have been finding joy in helping others – even others I don’t know. My charitable donations are up, I’m donating more time (yes, time!), I’m just generally more involved in the world around me. And I enjoy it.
  • I love my husband (even) more. I’ve made no secret about how involved my husband is. I didn’t think before the twins arrived it was possible to love him more. But watching him step right up and help with them and our daughter and with me…I guess it was entirely possible. Ditto that feeling for my mom and dad.
  • I consider my situation to be my own and don’t compare it to those around me. I no longer compare my life to the lives of those around me. I feel more free as a result. Is my life crazy because I have twins? Yup. Is your life crazy because you have one baby? Or six? Yes. And Yes. Our situations are not the same; we are all different. There is no point in comparing whose life is harder or who has it better. I just make the best of what I have and I don’t worry about what others are doing.
  • I find the humor in things. Two little boys alternately projectile vomiting at a 3-year old’s birthday party? That would have made me cry two years ago. Now, what choice do I have but to laugh?

So, Happy Birthday Aaron and Brady. You have made me a better person. I can’t imagine my life without you little monkeys!

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My kids are now almost two—and part of me has no idea how that happened. It seems like just a month or two ago, we were starting solid foods. And working on sleeping through the night. And outgrowing the bucket carseats.  However, since they’re not infants anymore, they do lots of fun toddler activities. One activity they go to is an Early Intervention playgroup. They have a blast there—there’s a gross motor room (think slides and swings), free play in the classroom, circle time, snack time and art. Oh, don’t even get me started on the time they did fingerpaints. Oh. My. Lord. My kids were about 18-19 months. Imagine. There was fingerpaint in hair, mouth and decorating a cute little shirt which used to sport the name of the college both Daddy and I attended—without green paint.

So,  perhaps you’re thinking—this doesn’t have a lot to do with food? Then, let me get to the point. During each group, there is a snack time. Snack time takes place at the table (without sippy cups–eep!) and the kids are offered two types of snacks. The teachers show the kids both snacks and ask, “Do you want applesauce, cracker or both”. My kids? They always want “both”. Of course they do, as they love eating out. When we started group, they also enjoyed eating most foods at home too. However, since then, they have developed into typical toddlers. A bit finicky. A bit tantrum-y. Very indecisive. So challenging.

In the last month, mealtimes have become a headache. They are requesting certain foods, then refusing to eat them. Foods they used to love get a (screamed), “No!!! No!!! No!!!” along with a violent head shake, in case Mommy is a bit slow and didn’t realize that they didn’t want that food choice. I get frustrated. They get frustrated. It’s not pretty. And I really am not an idiot. I don’t prepare six types of food for them. I don’t let them have cookies for dinner. But, it’s still frustrating. And when they’re hungry and grouchy, I get pretty grouchy myself, fairly quickly.

So, one day this week I decided to take the EI approach. I offered two choices (pasta & pear). The kiddos? They wanted, “Both”. And got really excited about it. Hmm. Since then, this has been what happens at every meal. They have eaten foods I haven’t seen them eat for months—turkey meatloaf (somehow feeling a bit wrong since we were JUST watching the wild turkeys out the window), pasta with tomato sauce, kidney beans, black beans, red pepper, cornbread….it’s all excited when they get to pick both. They’re eating much healthier and more balanced meals. And there’s almost no yelling. Maybe those Early Intervention teachers know what they’re doing. Hmm….perhaps I am a bit slow after all, since it’s taken me months to think to try this approach at home.

Anyway, I thought I’d offer up this technique in case others with toddlers were experiencing the same joy around mealtimes that I was. Oh, and a bonus? My two slow-to-speak kids? They can now say “both” very clearly.

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Abigail's all ready to help Daddy cook!
Abigail’s all ready to help Daddy cook!

When my babies were young, it was easy to have them eat only healthy foods. We made our own babyfood, and mostly they ate veggies, fruits, rice, oatmeal and some proteins—-chicken, turkey, cheese etc….In fact, I remember once looking at their meals and commenting to my husband that we should all have that healthy a diet. However, I find that as the kids get older—they are now almost two—-healthy eating becomes more of a challenge. Other HDYDI moms have some suggestions for how to do this, I have some and I’d love to hear yours as well.

Cook with your kids
The general consensus is that kids are more likely to eat foods if they’ve helped prepare them. Now while this isn’t necessarily helpful when you’re making chocolate chip cookies, it’s certainly useful for the healthy foods. We–ok, fine, let’s be honest here—my husband does a lot of cooking with the kids, from breakfast foods on the weekends to chili or muffins or pumpkin bread. We started early, probably around a year or so, and let them sit and watch us cook at the counter. Now they are very into dumping cups of flour, sugar or eggs into the bowl and stirring is really a highlight of any cooking project. That and sampling the project as we go….

Sneak healthy foods
LauraC wrote a great post about this recently. I have nothing to add to this!

Education yourself
Do some reading on nutrition and foods for toddlers. It seems to me that recommendations change regularly—fats are good? Bad? What about carbs? I try to read the latest information on this and generally avoid the more processed foods, if possible. I ususally figure that if we made it ourselves, we know what’s in there. We tend to try to use whole wheat pasta and bread, instead of white and offer lots of fruits and veggies. I think each parent draws the line somewhere differently here.

Join a CSA
Here’s a fun way to get a bunch of local produce—and push yourselves to use  A LOT of veggies. There was just a list of local ones in our paper here.  Maybe this is just something we contemplate, but it seems like it could be a fun challenge.

 

 

Danny tries cereal and milk for the first time

Danny tries cereal and milk for the first time

Have only healthy snacks available
One HDYDI mom said that her toddlers are happy to have a healthy snack—if you give them a choice of snacks! Just make both choices something you’re happy for them to have. Ahh, toddlers.

 

 

What are your eating healthy tips? How do you keep your kids away from the junkfood and teach a love of healthy eating?

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Feedings toddlers—mine are 21 months—seems to be an evolving challenge. Obviously, there are all the challenges that come with toddlers’ newfound picky eating habits, as I wrote about here a few weeks ago. And that is a whole ‘nother challenge.

But sometimes, we just get stuck in a food rut. It’s that post afternoon nap time and the kids could use a snack. But what to serve them? I try to stay away from most of the processed snack foods when possible, no matter how much I enjoy goldfish crackers or teddy grahams myself. (And if you haven’t tried these pleasures as an adult yet, you should. They are delicious). However, as delicious as they are, my kids often go several meals without eating much as all. If they’re going to eat, I’d like them to eat something of substance, with some nutritional value. However, lately, we have run out of ideas. Here’s a list of our go-to options:

Applesauce
Toddler “trail mix”–cheerios mixed with some sort of dried fruits (craisins/raisins/dried papaya/prunes/apricots)
Cheddar cheese rice cakes
Fruit-pears/apples/bananas/orange
Banana bread/pumpkin bread
Mini-bagel with cream cheese
Yogurt (the mess factor here can be an issue)
Whole wheat pretzels dipped in hummus
Canned black olives

Any other go to (reasonably) healthy snacks people offer their toddlers? I’m fresh out of ideas! Help me out here….

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I’ve been thinking about breastfeeding this week. First, LauraC reposted her thoughts about her decision to stop breastfeeding. And then, a mom posted a question in the comments about how to get regular naps when her babies fall asleep when nursing and take an hour to eat. This got me thinking some more about the whole breastfeeding experience—what helped, what didn’t, what worked and what was awful. I’ve written about this before, here and here,  as have others here and here, but I think it’s such an important topic for new moms it’s worth revisiting. I exclusively breastfed my twins for the first year, and I can look back and see the choices we made which made it work, and potential roadblocks that would have derailed breastfeeding for good. I’m glad we did it, but it certainly was challenging at times.

One comment I hear from new moms of twins a lot (and probably from new moms of singletons too, if all the babies in my life didn’t come in pairs) is that their babies take forever to eat. As in an hour. Or more. And I’m not talking about babies who are a week or two old. I’m talking about babies who are two, three or four months old and still latching on and chowing down for a significant amount of time. With a newborn, you already feel like you spend all of your time nursing—how in the world are you ever going to do anything else? And I’m not talking big projects, like dissertations (shudder–mine is still not complete) or other ambitious projects—I’m talking shower and empty the dishwasher and maybe eat lunch.  By 2 months or so, my kids were eating for maybe 15 minutes a meal. By 4-5 months, it was down to 5 minutes.

So, when people ask me how to get their babies to eat faster, I tend to just pass on the advice I got from the fantastic lactation consultant who ran the breastfeeding group I attended. Obviously, this isn’t a problem for everyone. If you’re content with your kids eating for 45 minutes to an hour, then read no more. It’s not an issue! However, if it’s driving you crazy or making you contemplate stopping breastfeeding, then read on. And, readers, if you have good suggestions that worked for you, please put them in the comments section!

1. The breast is not a place to hang out and get comfy. As soon as you stop hearing swallowing or the baby starts falling asleep, you can pull them off. Babies will tell you (loudly) if they are still hungry.

2. Be comfortable having baby go back for round two. If you cut baby off after 15 minutes and now she won’t go to sleep, it may be that she’s still hungry. Feed again. No problem.

3. You may find your babies need to eat every 2 hours for a long time. Mine certainly did, at least during the day. However, this is much less of an issue if the feedings are pretty quick.

4. Offer a pacifier after feeding if they are still fussy, but not eating much. It may be that they are looking for the comfort of sucking, not the food. However, the benefit of the paci is that Daddy or Grandma can do that, it doesn’t have to be you. Thus, time for you to eat lunch!

These are just my thoughts on this and what worked for me. Obviously, all babies are different and I am certainly not an expert in breastfeeding. However, I found this lactation consultant so instrumental in giving me the tools and information to be able to keep breastfeeding my kids. I’d recommend a lactation consultant to anyone. Other ideas? Please chime in.

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I originally wrote this post for HDYDI last April as my boys approached their second birthday. As new readers have come to our blog in that time, I thought I would repost my experience trying to exclusively breastfeed.

I had plans to exclusively breastfeed my boys until they were at least a year old. I read books, attended classes, lined up lactation consultants (LCs), lined up a post-partum doula, and watched videos. I was ready for anything, or so I thought. I would find I was not the least bit prepared for breastfeeding two preemies.

My boys were born at 36w, 3d. At birth, Nate had breathing issues and Alex had “feeding issues.” Every preemie parent knows it is so easy to say “feeding issues” and so hard to deal with those feeding issues. We couldn’t leave the NICU until he gained weight.

In the meantime, we spent 24 hours a day at the hospital. I pumped every 3 hours and Jon labeled precious containers of breastmilk for the boys’ use in the NICU. After two days, they were cleared to try breastfeeding. Every three hours, we’d get seven people together to breastfeed – one nurse to wake up Alex, one nurse to wake up Nate, an LC, me, Jon, Alex, and Nate. For 20 minutes, the nurses would vigorously rub the babies’ heads, stroke their palms, and gently shake them until they woke up. I was then under the gun to try to get a good latch with each baby and get them sucking before they fell asleep again. No pressure or anything!

For the first couple of days, there was no success. They would then get a formula/breastmilk feeding by gravage and I would go back to my room to pump. We eventually got to the point where Nate was feeding well. However Alex’s sucking reflex was so weak we only had one successful feeding the entire week in the NICU.

At home, things rapidly went downhill. Jon and I were exhausted trying to focus on breastfeeding. The routine was – 20 minutes wake baby 1, 30 minutes feed, 20 minutes wake baby 2, 30 minutes feed, 30 minutes Laura pump, 60 minute break and start again. 24 hours a day.

Alex never stayed awake long enough for a feeding and the time he was awake, his sucking reflex was extremely weak. He lost so much weight his skin was sagging off him. We made a joint decision with our pediatrician to supplement with formula. An LC showed us how to cup-feed and SNS-feed. We had an LC at our home trying to help us as well. I broke down in giggling hysterics the first time Alex drank from a cup. Jon cried one night when Alex could barely stay awake through one ounce of formula. We were so worried Alex would die or have to  be re-hospitalized.

During this entire time, Nate was feeding well. I spent hours on the phone and internet with experts on what to do about Alex. We’d try him at the breast with an SNS then try to cup-feed him and eventually had to get out a bottle at each feeding.

I completely exhausted myself to the point of depression trying to get breastfeeding to work. We’d set the alarm to get one hour of sleep and when it would go off, I would cry hysterically. I got to the point that I didn’t want the boys to wake up because I was so tired. I cried and cried and cried. I cried in bed, I cried in the shower, and I cried sitting in my living room. I have a history of depression and I was heading a bad path very quickly.

Here’s where Jon saved me. I learned parenting is a joint decision. Jon said we had to make the best decision for our FAMILY. We were not comfortable with breastfeeding just one of the boys while the other was formula fed.  We decided we would try a new strategy for 24 hours. I would pump and we would bottle-feed the boys. I would get some rest then we would re-assess.

Those 24 hours, I didn’t cry once. I started to enjoy being a mom. I started to enjoy cuddling my babies and staring at their little toes and fingers. I felt the fog lifting once I switched to pumping. I felt like myself again. The despair and depression were gone. I decided to become an exclusive pumper.

We had lined up help for 2 months and when our help left, I found it very difficult to pump and care for the boys at the same time. After much discussion, Jon and I decided I would stop pumping. Our freezer stash lasted until the boys were almost 3 months old.

Looking back, I don’t feel like I failed at breastfeeding. At each step along the way, we made the decision we felt was best for our entire family. And that’s what I didn’t understand about parenting while I was pregnant – these decisions need to include the entire family, not just the babies. I would have loved to have made it to a year, but I feel like we did everything we could to make it successful. I have peace with my almost 3 months of breastfeeding twins as a first-time mother. While breastfeeding didn’t work out the way I planned, I feel ok about it because nothing in parenting has turned out the way I planned yet it continues to far exceed my expectations.

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As always, if you have a food related topic you’d like to see, write your suggestion in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

My 21 month old kiddos are heading quickly towards their twos. And no where can you see it more than in the changes we’ve seen lately around food. They have recently decided they are too old for highchairs, even though we had more boostery ones than many are. This change is fine with me, especially because they’d rather sit on the bar stools at the counter. Super easy for me, and they can sit and watch what I’m doing. And them wanting to eat with adult forks and spoons, also fine with me. I can toss the baby spoons and make more room in my drawer. However, the eating has gotten downright unpredictable. Mysterious, and even a bit annoying at times.

This probably isn’t fair to lump poor Abigail in with Danny in this complaint, since she is overall pretty easy with food and happy to eat whenever, wherever. However, even Abigail has gotten a bit finicky around her food choices. For example:

Foods we do NOT eat:
Meat
Pasta with tomato sauce (unless really hungry)
Any food I have spent a significant (more than 5 minutes) preparing
Many veggies, unless still frozen (see below)

Foods we LOVE:
Carbs. Any kind. The more processed, the better
Fruit: Any kind. Canned. Frozen. Fresh. Dried. Whatever.
Frozen peas. Really. They do NOT enjoy them thawed, only frozen
Lima beans (Ick. I mean, really?!)
Milk
Shredded cheese—not cubed for Danny, only shredded, preferably orange cheddar
Canned olives
Oatmeal
Mac and cheese from a box (the awful bright orange stuff their dad really likes)
Any food being offered as a free sample at Whole Foods

Arg. Seriously. And we are not a big cater to kiddos family. They get a couple of options, they can eat it or not. And, more likely than not, if it’s dinner, Danny will say no thank you. (Or, in reality, yell, yell, yell—we’re still working on single words here, much less polite, well-formed sentences).  They will love something one day, and turn up their noses at it the next. And meat of any kind, forget it! I guess I have budding little vegetarians. Their no-animal eating grandmother will be so proud. Me, I’ll just pull my hair out.

Those of you with toddlers out there—are yours doing this too? I miss my happy go lucky eaters of the baby days.

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