You CAN Breastfeed your Twins!

If you received the news that you’re having more than one baby, be assured that this news doesn’t mean that your dreams of breastfeeding will not become a reality! In fact, it’s not only possible to breastfeed your twins (or more), but it’s highly recommended and encouraged for both your and your babies’ well-being.

If you have children born singly and you were successful at breastfeeding, than nursing your twins will be a breeze for you. If this is your first pregnancy, do some research ahead of the babies’ arrival. There are many comprehensive books on breastfeeding, and what holds true for nursing single babies, is the same for multiples. The only differing factor, of course, would be the need for a larger milk supply, and perhaps the need for developing your on system for feedings in order to incorporate all your babies into the “mix” of rotating breast/bottle should you have triplets or more.

Nourish Yourself: Remember what YOU eat is what YOUR BABIES will eat

Choosing what you eat and what you don’t eat is so important, before pregnancy, during pregnancy and after pregnancy. You must be mindful of the foods you put in your body. There may have been a time when eating left over pepperoni pizza for breakfast, drinking diet cola or other high-caffeine sodas all day long, and greasy cheeseburgers for dinner worked for you (or so you thought) at one time, but now that you’re a mom, EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT. You’re completely responsible for the health, wellness and future growth and development of your babies! I’m not saying that an occasional slice of cheese cake or a lean burger now and then isn’t just fine, but NOW IS THE TIME that you learn the importance of proper, complete nutrition, because it’s just about you anymore.

Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, dairy such as low fat milk, cheeses and yogurt, lean meats and fish, and lots of whole grains. Take a daily supplement such as your prenatal vitamin or another nutritional supplement source that can fill in any gaps while pregnant and after delivery when you begin to breastfeed your babies.

With all babies, especially premature babies old enough to be tube or syringe-fed, your milk has been formulated specifically for your baby(ies), and is referred to as “liquid gold”. If you plan to breastfeed (which is a routine question you will be asked upon giving birth), a hospital lactation consultant will visit you and either instruct you on pumping your milk (for your preemies in the NICU), or have you immediately put your full-term babies to the breast, either one at a time, or together right from the start.

Breastfeeding for humans, as compared to cows in the pasture, requires some time for learning, exploring and getting to know the process. Very importantly, breastfeeding is the best way to begin bonding as mother and child. It is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

With time, commitment, devotion and love, you will make a wonderful breastfeeding team. Though with multiples, breastfeeding schedules and positions may be factors, the following list of key ways to be successful, are the same  that you would follow with a single baby:

12 Keys to Follow for Successful Breastfeeding

1. Begin breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth, preferably within an hour. The first milk from a mother’s breasts during the first few days following birth (colostrum) is rich in protein and other substances that help fight infection. If your baby(ies) are placed immediately in the NICU following birth, you will not be able to breastfeed them immediately, but you will be encouraged to begin to use a breast pump to express your milk soon afterward. Your bottled milk will be refrigerated or frozen until your baby is ready to receive your breast milk.

2. Try different positions when breastfeeding. Avoid leaning over the baby. Instead, sit back and bring the baby up to breast level. Use pillows for support (see below for double breastfeeding pillow support).

3. Have your baby suckle on as much of the areola as possible. Note: if it hurts, the latch in wrong. Your lactation consultant will show you how to encourage your baby’s rooting reflexes to open wide, have you roll him up from him opened lower lip up over the areola. He will then latch and pull your nipple up to the roof of his mouth. When sucking begins you should feel a strong pulling, but pain indicates that you need to unlatch and start over. You may become sore at first, but with time, the soreness will subside. Lanolin ointment can soothe and protect, but the best thing to rub into sore nipples is your own, healing breast milk.

4. Alternate the breast your baby begins with each time to reduce some of the soreness you may feel, and in the case of double feeding, alternating will allow your breasts to each experience the demands and sucking styles of each baby, hence providing equal demands of milk production. In other words, allowing one baby to only nurse on the same breast can result in lopsidedness! Also, if an infection such as mastitis develops, the baby who normally would nurse the infected breast will need to readily accept the other while you temporarily pump-only from the infected breast until the infection is cleared up. Breastfeeding from an infected breast may be suggested anyway, but the milk may have an unfamiliar taste displeasing to babies.

5. Seek an evaluation of your breastfeeding technique by a trained professional during the first 24 to 48 hours after birth. You will receive a visit in your hospital room from a Certified Lactation Consultant who will be available to instruct you on breast pumping, showing you how to breastfeed your baby, and for tips and advice following your release. If you require more assistance, most L.C.s will come to your home (or you can go to her office with your baby) for further support.

6. Feed your baby whenever she shows signs of hunger. It is crucial that infants be fed on demand, especially in the first few weeks. Although a feeding schedule is routinely helpful with multiples, newborns will definitely let you know when they want to eat! You can expect to sit down and nurse your baby(ies) every 2-3-hours (give or take). As they get older and gain more weight, feedings usually will fall closer to every three hours.

7. Nurse until your baby is satisfied. The fat content of breast milk increases during the suckling session. Let your baby finish the first breast (about 10 to 15 minutes) before offering the second. When double feeding, allow each feeding to last approximately 20 minutes, with some burp breaks abut mid-point.

8. Burp your baby once or twice during and after each feeding.

9. Avoid pacifiers until breastfeeding has been well established.

10. If possible, breastfeed exclusively during the first six months. Breastfeeding is ideal for your baby’s growth and development. Depending upon your plans, if going back to work is part of them, breastfeed exclusively while you can. You will be able to pump while away from your baby(ies), store the milk for the following day while you’re away, and breastfeed whenever you’re home. Some moms go on to breastfeed or pump for up to a year or more!

11. Do not give supplements to your baby (water, glucose water, formula, etc.) to your breastfed newborn unless a clear medical reason exists. You can make a request of your health care team, and to that of your babies, to refrain from those items by explaining that you wish to exclusively breastfeed. In normal cases where no medical issues are involved with you or your babies, the mother’s wishes are respected.

12. Your diet plays a crucial role in the success of breastfeeding. A diet based on the four basic food groups is recommended, and it is vital that you DRINK LOTS of WATER. A good practice would be to make a habit of keeping a large glass of water next to you during your breast feedings, making sure you drain the glass so that within the next two hours, your next milk supply will be full.

Breastfeeding is the absolute healthiest feeding decision you can make for your baby. As much as it is food made by you tailored especially for your baby making it the perfect food, it is, equally importantly, a time of treasured, loving  bonding which makes it so much more than a method of receiving nutrition. To do this, however, will require your desire, devotion and commitment to seeing it through all the little bumps you’ll probably need to overcome during the initial learning process for both you and your baby(ies).

The 3 P’s of Tandem Breastfeeding your Twins

Feeding multiples can be a long process if you feed them separately, but with a little planning, preparation and practice, you’ll be breastfeeding your twins together. This way they can be comforted, have their hunger satisfied, allow you to empty your full breasts, and be done so you have time to do other things instead of finishing long before you have to begin the process all over again!

My doubled-up breastfeedings became a smooth process once I came up with my system, called the 3 P’s:

1-  Prepare. Plan out location or locations that you find are most comfortable to nurse. You’ll need enough space to place each baby safely down where, once you are settled in place, you can reach for them one at a time (for example, your bed or sofa). I found that nursing in bed worked really well, especially while I was still learning, because I could lay each little one down safely close to where I would sit up against my bed’s headboard. The bed provided all the room needed to comfortably settle down for a good feeding.

2- Pillows. It’s all about the pillows for support and comfort for all three of you. First begin by placing two or three pillows behind your back so that your back, neck and shoulders will be supported and comfortable. Next, create two stacks of pillows (one or two on each side of the back pillows that look like chair armrests) which will be the foundation for each baby and your resting arms. Once you climb into position yourself, reach for each baby who’d already been lying close by, probably hunger-fussing and rooting at their little fists.

3- Positioning. Once you are seated comfortably, reach for a nursing pillow (a u-shapped boppy) and lay it across your lap and the two stacks of supporting pillows on each side of you. Reach over now and lift up the first baby, placing him upon the left of the boppy pillow with his feed facing the headboard of your bed. Hold him with your left arm while you reach with your right to lift the second baby. Position her the same way on the right top of the bobby. This position is called a double football hold, and is the most comfortable and efficient position, I believe. Offer your breast to each open mouth, then hold each baby supporting their heads with your hands. Your arms will lie along side their warm little bodies, and they’ll feel your body as well, providing warmth, security, safety and nutrition at the same time. Doubling up also ensures that one baby doesn’t go hungry while waiting for her turn. Once both babies are nursing, you’ll enjoy the quiet (aside from the soft gulps and coos) and contentment that comes after the baby-crying fest that usually goes hand-in-hand with feeding preparation!

You’ll get the hang of it in no time, and will be soon comfortable and confident enough to spread out to the couch or large comfy chair. My twins and I all breastfeed from between 15-18 months, and each were times I knew were finite, so I relished each moment and cherish the memories with such gratitude.

If I can help you answer any questions about breastfeeding twins, please comment on this post, and also, please remember to subscribe to my web site to receive information valuable to all families today!

For more information visit: www.parenthood.com and for all your breastfeeding questions, answers, and support locations in your area, please visit La Leche League International.

 

Blessings ~

 

 

 

 

Breast Feeding Twins: Developing a Healthy Milk Supply

Congratulations on your Decision to Breast Feed your Twins!

You’ve made a wise decision because there is no better, complete nutrition than your own breast milk, custom-created by your body, specifically and tailor-made just for your babies.   Of course, there are reasons that exist that may cause you to choose formula-feeding over breastfeeding. There may be medical, health or medication factors; long-term, unplanned separation from your babies; or simply that you prefer to formula-feed. It’s completely your choice! However, if your decision to formula-feed is based on a fear that you won’t be able to successfully breastfeed two babies, or because you’re concerned that you will not be able to develop and maintain enough of a milk supply to adequately nourish your babies for healthy growth and development, then please read on for some valuable, reassuring information and tips that may ensure your success!   On occasion, there are women whose bodies simply don’t produce an adequate milk supply (even for one baby), regardless of consistent and varied efforts. The reasons for this condition are varied, but it is fairly rare for a woman to give birth and not be able to produce (and grow) a milk supply sufficient for her baby(ies).   Sometimes, a baby may be unable to breastfeed due to, for example, prematurity; a birth defect of the mouth (such as a cleft palette); a lack of a strong suck reflex, etc., and no matter how much effort is made to encourage breastfeeding, baby simply must be fed via bottle or even tube-fed in order to ensure proper nutrition. If the inability to nurse is due to a baby-related issue, some moms choose to pump their breast milk and bottle feed for anywhere from a couple of weeks to over a year in order to ensure that their baby still is fed their milk.   In most mother/baby situations, however, the vast majority of women will naturally begin to lactate (produce milk) as the next natural step in their child-bearing process, the baby will quickly learn the correct method for latching and feeding, and with enough guidance, support, and patience, combined with healthy doses of desire, commitment, and perseverance, they will together become very successful and happy breastfeeding couples (or, with twins: trios!).   If you desire to successfully breastfeed your twins, your success is more than possible … it’s quite probable!   If, however, you’ve tried, met with challenges, and simply decided to bottle-feed with formula (or to pump and bottle feed with breast milk), know that all options are fine because you’re successfully caring for your baby(ies) just the same.  

When and Why the Lactation Process Begins

Lactation (breast milk production) is caused and controlled by the hormones prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin stimulates milk production and oxytocin controls the milk ejection reflex, also referred to as the “let down” from the mammary glands of the breast. Breastfeeding immediately after birth causes oxytocin to stimulate the uterus to contract down to its smaller, pre-pregnant size, and is believed to help reduce delivery blood loss. This process is extremely important and emphasizes how breastfeeding is a necessary function for mothers.   Prolactin increases during pregnancy but the high levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone prevent any milk production. After birth, the levels of estrogen and progesterone drop, allowing the prolactin to begin milk production. Prolactin also decreases after childbirth, but is released with each breastfeeding as the nipple stimulation signals the brain. In the brain, the hypothalamus triggers the pituitary gland to release more prolactin as the mother continues feeding. If a mother ceases to feed or never puts her baby to the breast for more than a few days, her prolactin will drop so low that she is unable to produce milk.   Newborns have a strong, instinctive impulse to feed at the breast as well. The baby is born with a sucking and rooting (the act of searching for the breast with his mouth) reflex and the ability to smell his mother. The baby is drawn to the mother and her nipples by its strong sense of smell, and can distinguish his mother from any other mother.   Keep this in mind, too: Breastfeeding is a natural function but is not necessarily a natural instinct for mothers. As opposed to the deer that give birth in the forest, we humans need to be taught and encouraged.

Your first milk

Immediately after birth, and up until 24-36 hours, your breasts will secrete colostrum, also called “first milk”. Because your babies have been fed continuously in utero, they will not be “hungry” in the way we perceive hunger. Because babies are born with an enormously strong need to suck (in fact, the jaw and mouth muscles are the strongest in the body at this time), she will immediately root for the breast as soon as he or she is placed in your arms. With the initial and consistent nipple stimulation, your colostrum will let down. Colostrum is yellow-orange in color, is thick in consistency, and is loaded with antibodies to fortify baby’s immune system, protein, nutrients and calories (but low in fat so as easy to digest). Colostrum is created in small, concentrated amounts for the baby’s first few days.

When your milk comes in …

By approximately the third day following birth, your milk will come in, and you may experience breast fullness and/or a level of engorgement. When milk begins to be produced, the mammary glands will fill and may cause some breast tissue swelling. Your breasts may become larger and swell. They may feel extra warm, heavy and hard. The best method for relieving breast engorgement is to breastfeed and allow the baby to drain each breast completely, as often as needed. If the swelling and hardness persist between feedings, cold compresses (such as ziplock bags of crushed ice or bags of small cut or cubed frozen vegetables) work well to wrap around the breast and reduce swelling.   Following swelling reduction, some further breast pumping may be necessary. Prior to pumping or breastfeeding, apply hot compresses (as hot as you can tolerate) to encourage milk flow and complete drainage. Gel packs made especially for breastfeeding moms can be either stored in the freezer and also heated in the microwave (for about 30 seconds on HIGH). Hold the hot compresses over your breast as baby nurses, and the combination of heat and sucking will pull the milk out, and allow the swelling to subside. Engorgement may occur once or twice when your milk first comes in.  

Building and Maintaining your Precious Milk Supply

Always remember that when building up your milk supply, it’s best to consider the simple law of supply and demand. The more you breastfeed or pump (and in the process completely drain each breast), the more milk you will produce. You and your baby will truly develop a mutually-benefiting, mutually-needing relationship. You’ll need your baby to nurse as much as your baby will need to nurse!   It is very, very important to DRINK a LOT of water (or other fluids such as tea, juice, etc.), a minimum of 10 oz, once per hour, around the clock … and the more, the better! Also, get as much rest as possible to conserve calories. Moms will often notice fuller breasts upon waking than if engaging in an activity between feedings. Too much physical activity (jogging, working out, etc.) while breastfeeding may adversely effect your milk supply. Also, taking antihistamines which can “dry up” your runny nose or sinuses, can also decrease your milk supply.   The most recommended amount of time span between feedings, especially when you’re just beginning, is between 2-1/2 to 3 hours. This amount of time starts from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next, and continues around the clock. Eventually, as baby grows, gains strength and longer feeding endurance, a longer interval (for instance, a 4-5 hour interval once during the night) may become routine. Some moms prefer to nurse on demand and not watch the clock, while others prefer to establish a routine.  

Nourish Yourself: Remember what YOU eat is what YOUR BABIES will eat

Choosing what you eat and what you don't eat is so important, before pregnancy, during pregnancy and after pregnancy. You must be mindful of the foods you put in your body. There may have been a time when eating left over pepperoni pizza for breakfast, drinking diet cola or other high-caffeine sodas all day long, and greasy cheeseburgers for dinner worked for you (or so you thought) at one time, but now that you're a mom, EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT. You're completely responsible for the health, wellness and future growth and development of your babies! I'm not saying that an occasional slice of cheese cake or a lean burger now and then isn't just fine, but NOW IS THE TIME that you learn the importance of proper, complete nutrition, because it's just about you anymore.  

A typical feeding

When a breastfeeding begins, the first let down brings watery, thirst-quenching milk so to satisfy babies initial thirst. He will nurse and pull this milk from each breast. With twins, tandem nursing will allow both babies to become fed together. After a few minutes, a thicker milk will be let down. The “let down” reflex may or may not be felt. If felt, the sensation is described as a tightness which begins on the upper parts of each breast, and when the tightness releases, a tingling sensation flows down the breasts to the nipples and milk begins to flow. The last let down during a breastfeeding, which may last approximately 15 minutes per breast, or 20-30 minutes tandem feeding two babies, contains the rich, creamy hind milk, loaded with calories, protein and nutrients … which causes the baby to feel satisfied.   Although every three hours is the most common feeding schedule, some moms prefer closer feeding intervals depending on cues from her baby, but generally, nursing too often can lead to insufficient rich, hind milk production.   Always make sure to interrupt each feeding with a burp break. Burping will allow any swallowed air to come up, allow more milk into the tummy, and is also an effective break when baby becomes sleepy at the breast before finishing a complete feeding.  

“But my baby still seems hungry!”

Some moms worry that following feedings their babies are “still hungry”. Nothing can cause more anxiety for a breastfeeding mother than if she believes that she’s not producing enough food for her baby(ies). It causes feelings of failure, inadequacy, doubt, frustration and fear that she is starving her child. Please know this: babies who seem to “act hungry” may also be simply exhibiting symptoms of gas, fullness, sleepiness, or any other discomfort. Remember, also, that newborns will always express through their mouth … appearing to exhibit hunger. A mother’s first reaction is to doubt herself, and because there is no visual gauge by which to measure how much milk her baby has received (i.e., seeing the formula amount decrease in the bottle), she begins to worry that she is not producing enough milk to adequately feed her baby(ies). Her next reaction is to find an alternate feeding source: a bottle of infant formula.   The best way to know if your baby is getting enough milk is to check for 5-6 wet (weighty-wet) diapers per day, with one or two dirty diapers. If you are still concerned or convinced that your baby is not receiving enough breast milk, the following are the practices and resources that have been proven effective:   1) Contact an IBCLC (an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant) in your local area. She may come to your home, or you may be required to bring your baby to her office. She will evaluate your baby’s overall health, and look for any signs of malnourishment or dehydration. She will assess your breastfeeding methods, and weigh the baby both before and after your feeding to gauge weight increase. She also will provide you with moral support (very valuable), and encouragement to continue … to not give up!   2) In addition to drinking as much water as possible, take two natural herbs called Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle (found in capsule or tea forms at local health food stores), taken in substantial doses (3 capsules of each before meals, 3 times per day) for approximately 3 days. Many mothers (including me) have had very positive results, experiencing a substantial increase in milk production.   3) While pumping when you’re away from your baby(ies): Look at pictures of your baby, and breathe in the baby aroma by smelling their jammies or little hats … these sensory cues and connections allow your milk to let down.       4) Other moms have lots of great advice as to what they specifically found effective. A nation-wide Facebook group of twin moms, while helping to support a brand new mom of twins named Bee who was struggling to keep up her milk supply, gave the following expert advice (and what better expert than a successful breastfeeding mother of twins):   Lynnette: “… the more liquid intake the more milk you will produce. Keep pumping after each feeding even if a little comes out. You want to drain the breast every time. Sometimes though some people just don’t produce enough.”   Tara: “Mine are 12 weeks, and I have to say it took me until they were 8 weeks for my supply to be enough. I had to supplement with 4-8 ounces at night for my own sanity. I think what did the trick is, I drink a ton of water, eat about a cup of oatmeal a day, pumped often and started to increase my protein intake through protein bars.”   Ariane: “There is a tea called Momma’s milk and there are also cookies out there that supposedly help produce. But I’d start with just pumping to stimulate them when babies aren’t on, even if nothing is produced, you’re encouraging milk production.”   Hillary: “Pumping is hard work, especially if you aren’t seeing results! But hang in there … it works!”   Brandi: “The lactation consultant told me the same thing everyone here is saying: pump after nursing even if you’re not getting much from it, you’re stimulating more production. Also she recommended the herbal supplements, I think they were called ‘More Mothers Milk’ or something like that. I am sooooo glad that I stuck it out … nursing is now easy and my babies are flourishing! I guess my best advice is don’t give up and try not to stress it too much, it will come in time. Also, I supplemented, just a little, with formula. Just like one bottle at bed time so that I know that they are going to bed full.”   Stefani: “Fenugreek worked wonders for me. Also eat lots of oatmeal, drink lots of water, and LOTS of nursing and pumping”   Karen: “Fenugreek and Mother’s milk tea at the health food store. LOTS of water. Oh, and when you thought you’d had enough water, have some more.”   Anna: “If your babies seems hungry – just put them back on. Stimulation is important to establishing demand. Hang in there – it’s tough and time consuming in the beginning but it will pay off!”   Meghan: “Hops! Odoul’s non-alcoholic beer is fairly hops-rich but the darker the better. If I had one dark “hoppy” beer after I fed them, and put them down for the night, I felt my milk increasing.”     My advice, as a mom who has breast fed three sets of twins (six completely different children), and who experienced the most enjoyable along with the most challenging aspects of breastfeeding: it’s not easy in the beginning and you may hit hurdles along the way, but with enough desire, strong commitment, support and perseverance, you will succeed at providing the most loving, giving, bonding method of nourishing your baby.   This gift that you give yourself and your baby will last a lifetime!

Preparing for Twins: What You’ll Need!

The twins will arrives soon, and you know you want to be completely prepared!

Some parents prepare with just the basic needs, and some parents prepare for the arrival of their baby(ies) by purchasing every possible pricey item, gadget, and trendy must-have out there! For most of us in-betweeners, however, who know that the arrival of their twins will mean being sensibly prepared, here are a list of items that I found met all of our needs, three times around.

Obviously, there are many varieties in terms of styles, features and price range, so I’m listing here the items from a general perspective. These aren’t in any particular order, just a checklist to refer to:

Vital Needs (Furniture/Equipment):

2 Cribs — Even if you co-bed your babies when their tiny, you’ll be surprised how soon they’ll need their own space!

1 Clothing bureau or dresser for folded clothing and blankets

2 Infant Car Seat Carriers — My favorite come with the snap in base for easy placement and removal from the car.

Contours Options Tandem Stroller

1 Double Stroller — These come in both front/back and side-by-side styles.

Pros and Cons of each style of stroller:

Front/Back: Advantages— ease in fitting through tight space. Disadvantages—Heavy, bulky, complicated to open and close, small and awkward to reach storage space beneath seats, and children will eventually kick each others’ seat and pull hair. I believe this is true because no one really likes riding in the back or backwards (in the case of the facing each other option in some front/back strollers).

Graco Twin Ipo Double Stroller

Side/Side: Advantages—lightweight, easy to open and close, generous and easy to access

storage spaces under each seat, and babies/toddlers won’t conflict with each other as much side by side as they do front to back. Disadvantages—Oftentimes awkward maneuvering through tight fitting doorways, but most commercial structures have double doors or wide single doorways.

1-2 Baby Swings — In my book, this is a vital need if you plan to maintain your sanity some days.

2 High Chairs (or high chair/booster transition seats) with trays — They will be used as early as 4-5 months when solid foods are introduced. Many allow the seat to recline slightly for the baby who’s not sitting up yet.

2 Portable Cribs — “Pack ‘n Plays” are great for day or overnight trips for naps and night time because they fold down to (a bit heavy) but convenient to carry and pack. They also double as perfect bassinets since most styles feature a bassinet setting option.

2 Snugglies or Baby Slings for ease in baby toting.

1-2 Boppy Pillows for breast feeding or bottle feeding. There is an actual nursing pillow specifically designed for twins!

Not-so-vital furniture/equipment:

Changing table — Where you WILL need changing pads that can be placed on beds, couches, floor, etc., an actual table just for changing is optional. I never owned one, but these could come in handy if they were a combination changing table and dresser. Changing baby in a high place is much more dangerous than on a lower surface, so that may be a factor for you to consider.

Wipe warmer — I thought this would be a wonderful item to have so the wipe wasn’t so cold to baby’s skin. However, as soon as the wipe is removed from the warmer, it hits room temperature in a matter of seconds, and the biggest disadvantage is that the bottom 1/3 of the wipes in the warmer will dry out (and the bottom few actually may turn brown as they slowly “toast”.

Nursery diaper disposer unit — Save your money and just place the dirty diaper in a plastic grocery bag, and get it in the outside garbage can as soon as possible. You really don’t want to keep a dozen dirty/wet diapers piling up in one of those units that are not as odor-free as they claim!

Bouncy seats — Not a must-have, but I actually liked placing my babies in these so they were off the floor and I could move them from room to room. Once baby becomes active, his activity will bounce the seat and he’ll enjoy that!

Infant bath tub — As long as you have a water proof container, you don’t actually need a tub since it’s often easier to bathe baby in a disinfected sink or in the actual bathtub on top of a tub sponge to lay baby on.

Must-Have Accessories and Nursery Items:

Skip Hop Studio Baby Bag

1 Large Diaper Bag — Always-to-carry contents: diapers, wipes, rash cream, little bags for diaper disposal, 1 change of clothing for each baby, bibs/burp cloths, extra bottles for formula if you formula-feed, toys, hand sanitizer … see why it has to be a large diaper bag?

DIAPERS! — If you use disposable or cloth, be prepared to go through 6-8 diapers per baby per day on average. Yes, that’s a LOT of diapers!

Diaper wipes — Again, use disposable (preferably scent-free for baby’s sensitive skin) or soft cloths moistened in water only.

Diaper rash cream — Use this cream to treat rashes and/or to prevent irritation.

Plastic Diaper-Changing Pads

Simethicone Drops for occasional gasiness in baby’s tuummy.

Infant Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain and fever reduction.

Manicure Set to keep baby nails trim to avoid scratching herself. Hand Mittens (or socks) help, too.

Baby Wash (many brands are for hair and body)

Crib sheets — (2-3 tight-fitting sheets per crib)

Light Crib Blankets — IMPORTANT: Remember to keep cribs free from clutter such as stuffed animals, pillows, comforter blankets, etc., due to the high risk of smothering/suffacation that can lead to SIDS.

Crib wedges — to place baby in so he will remain on his side or back (never on tummy!), and to also keep co-sleepers separated but still able to hear, feel and smell each other.

Baby Clothing:

6-8 Onsie underwear that snap between the legs per day per child. They will go through these often!

Have LOTS of onesies on hand!

2-3 soft sleepers with feet per day per baby.

15-20 baby clothes hangers

Cotton infant hats

Socks

10-12 Receiving blankets for swaddling

2-3 day outfits per child per day.

Burp cloths

Bath Towels (hooded)

Baby wash cloths

Feeding Care:

Bottle fed babies — bottles, nipples, caps, bottle washer brush, sterilizer rack, formula, and infant cereal from approximately the 4th month on.

Breast fed babies — breast pump, bottles, nipples, caps, bottle washer brush, sterilizer rack.

Breast care — 2-3 nursing bras, lanolin ointment for sore nipples (but breast milk rubbed into sore nipples works very well), hot/cold gel packs (for engorgments and occasional plugged milk ducts), breast pads (cotton or disposable).

When shopping for baby needs, you’ll see every conceivable product (pun-intended!), so enjoy, but be careful not to overspend on the latest and greatest convenience gadgets, because chances are you’ll use them once, twice or not at all!

VERY IMPORTANT PREPARATION:

Nourish Yourself: Remember what YOU eat is what YOUR BABIES will eat

Choosing what you eat and what you don’t eat is so important, before pregnancy, during pregnancy and after pregnancy. You must be mindful of the foods you put in your body. There may have been a time when eating left over pepperoni pizza for breakfast, drinking diet cola or other high-caffeine sodas all day long, and greasy cheeseburgers for dinner worked for you (or so you thought) at one time, but now that you’re a mom, EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT. You’re completely responsible for the health, wellness and future growth and development of your babies! I’m not saying that an occasional slice of cheese cake or a lean burger now and then isn’t just fine, but NOW IS THE TIME that you learn the importance of proper, complete nutrition, because it’s just about you anymore.

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Proper nutrition, sleep and exercise nourish your body and provides you with physical, spiritual, emotional and mental wellness that radiates into all the aspects of your life and the lives of your family.
 For information on how you can attain optimum health and wellness, please contact me at: franpitre.reliv@gmail.com

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Blessings and Congratulations on the soon arrival of your twins!

Moms of Twins: Surviving and Thriving While Your Babies Are in the NICU!

When you discover that you’re pregnant …

… you may begin to imagine the future and ultimate delivery of your baby. You imagine your belly growing as your baby grows to full term and you prepare to deliver as your due date approaches. Immediately after your child is born, your healthy newborn is gently placed in your happy, exhausted arms. You spend some precious time holding or putting your baby to your breast, and you bask in one of the most rewarding and wonderful moments of your life. You then see yourself surrounded by flowers and balloons, proudly holding (and showing off) your baby as you leave the hospital or birthing center ready to embark on your new life as a mommy!

Things, however, don’t always turn out as we imagined they would.

When your baby arrives prematurely, it is usually a sudden, unexpected event which leaves your head spinning in shock and disbelief. Aside from the situations where a baby is intentionally delivered early due to a life-threatening condition involving the mother, child or both, many premature deliveries occur simply because of membrane rupture (water breaking) with or without prior warning. This is especially true with a multiple pregnancy.

Because the uterus is carrying more than one baby, it is not only growing larger than it would with a single pregnancy, but because of the faster rate of growth, it can become what is referred to as “irritable”. Yes, your uterus can develop a real attitude. With normal growth, the uterus stretches and contracts throughout pregnancy, but increased irritability causes contractions that are more than simple stretches. Contractions can become productive, which means that they cause cervical changes such as premature effacement (shortening) and dilation (open), which begins the process of labor. In the case of premature labor, your doctor may place you on anti-contraction medication which often stops the labor process. In serious situations where labor is difficult to stop, or that has the potential for starting again, you will be placed on partial or complete bed rest until you reach a safe gestation (approximately 34 weeks and beyond) for the baby(ies) to be born.

When Premature Labor Cannot Be Stopped

Despite all of the efforts to postpone the delivery of your babies, quite often, they come anyway.

Following the whirlwind of your early delivery, either via vaginal or C-Section, suddenly there you are: no longer pregnant.

You may be feeling a combination of: shock, trauma, anger, disappointment, loss, fear and a shameful sense of self-failure. I know this, because I experienced all of those feelings after the birth of my first set of twins at 30 weeks and five days. After months on bed rest and anti-contraction medication, no further efforts were able stop my contractions, and my baby girls were born at 2 lbs., 14 oz. and 3 lbs., 1 oz.

Immediately after each baby was born, she was whisked away to the Neonatal (newborn) Intensive Care Unit (NICU). There were no sweet, warm bundles placed in my arms.

Adjusting to Reality

Unlike the way you always imagined, your babies are now completely under the care of the hospital neonatologist (newborn specialist) and of the NICU nurses. You’ve now entered a strange new world, as I did three times. As I mentioned, my first set of twins were born at 30 weeks and 5 days, and stayed hospitalized for 6 weeks. My second set were born at 35 weeks, 2 days, and although my son and daughter were born more than a month later than my first set, they were still considered premature (at 4 lbs., 13 oz. and 4 lbs., 6 oz.) and were again, taken away immediately after birth to the NICU, where they stayed just over a week. My third set threatened to come early as well, and although I was the model patient who did exactly as prescribed by my doctor (and myself), my baby boys were born (believe it or not) at 30 weeks and 5 days … exactly the same gestation as my first set, but their birth weights were heavier at 3 lbs., 11 oz. and 4 lbs., 1 oz. They stayed in the hospital for 5 and 1/2 weeks.

Because I experienced NICU babies three times over the course of 12 years, I would like to share with you my advice for, not only surviving, but for the making most of your babies’ hospitalization.

If your babies arrive early, you may be feeling …

Completely overwhelmed: You’ve just had twins, you’re recovering from birth so you’re likely being wheeled into the NICU to meet your babies for the first time. This was NOT the way you imagined, and the entire blur of events are frightening, disappointing, painful, exhausting and bitter-sweet.

Like you are a visitor instead of your baby’s mother: Although the nurses make every effort to encourage mommy/baby bonding by allowing touch, if possible, and as close contact as medically safe, you still may feel like your baby belongs to her nurse instead of you.

That you have no control as a new mother: With all of the monitors, tubes, wires, lights flashing and alarms sounding, you feel very intimidated by this strange, mysterious and frightening place. Although you know that your baby is in the best care possible, you may feel that your role as mother has been postponed. You learn one thing for sure: your arms and hands have never been scrubbed so clean in your whole life!

Frightened and worried: Depending on the gestational age of your babies, there may or may not be medical problems related to their prematurity. As you gaze at each of your precious babies in their isolettes attached to tubes, monitor wires, you fear that he may never grow into the beautiful, big healthy baby you expected. Try to relax and trust that the most comprehensive medical care is being given to them, and the chances of their growing and developing normally are very, very good.

Emotional: Naturally, a brand new mother experiences the sudden drop in progesterone with the sudden rise in prolactin and oxytocin in preparation for lactation … all of which brings on the weepiness! Compound those emotions with the above listed feelings, and you may just become a (temporary) puddle of tears.

Sadness about leaving the hospital empty-armed: One of the hardest experiences for a new mother is to be discharged from the hospital and go home without your baby(ies). Those feelings of failure, loss, sadness and disappointment may kick in full-force when you return to your familiar and loving home where, when you were last there, you were still pregnant. Rest assured, however, you will have the joyful experience of walking through your front door with your babies in your arms before you know it!

My sincere and experience-backed advice

Take some deep breaths and wrap your brain around what has happened. It’s a fact that your babies have arrived, are in the best care they can possibly be, and there’s no way to turn back time. So, with that said, here are some ways to make the most of this situation.

Find the joy in the situation: Although your birth experience was far from what you had planned or remotely expected, consider that new life has arrived, and that this indeed is a cause for celebration, albeit, a bitter sweet one. People will congratulate you … accept their congratulations graciously.

There are MANY ways that YOU can help your babies:

Take care of yourself: Whether you delivered vaginally or had a C-Section birth, take the time you’re home while others care for your babies to rest and heal. By the time your babies come home, you will probably be completely recovered and ready to take on the challenging and demanding role as the mom of multiples. Be sure to eat well, get enough sleep, and take good care of your own needs, because your babies are going to need you at your best.

Plan for breastfeeding by pumping your milk: You probably have made the decision to or not to breast feed your babies. Breastfeeding is the BEST nutrition for your babies, and it is very healthy for you as the next natural step in your child bearing process. Pregnancy naturally leads directly to breastfeeding. During your pregnancy, it is vital that you nourish your body the best possible way you can, both for yourself, and for your babies.

Shortly after delivery, a hospital lactation consultant visits all mothers who have indicated that they intend to breast feed their baby. In the case of your premature birth, the LC will bring a breast pump with all of the needed additional supplies into your hospital room where it will stay throughout the remainder of your stay. You will be instructed to begin pumping your first milk which is called colostrum. Colostrum is a thick yellowish substance rich in nutrition and antibodies manufactured by you specifically for your babies, and providing this perfect first food for your babies is the next, natural step in the child bearing process.

Pump, if only temporarily: If you do not plan to continue to breastfeed your babies for whatever reason, I highly recommend that mothers who deliver prematurely provide breast milk for their babies even for the first few days or weeks because the natural process of doing so connects mother with child, allowing her to feel and know that she is doing something for her babies. In fact, she’s doing the BEST THING for her babies by providing, what NICU nurses call, “liquid gold” for her premature babies. Premature breast milk is, in fact, different than full-term milk, and formulated specifically for your premature baby. From experience, pumping my breast milk for my preemies ALWAYS made me feel connected as an active contributor to the well-being and healthy growth of my babies, easing those feelings of helplessness, lack of control, guilt and disappointment caused by my early deliveries.

Be aware that you DO have a say in your babies’ care: For instance, you can specify that your babies receive only your breast milk as long as your supply is available, and to only formula feed them until you’re able to replenish the hospital’s supply when you make your next pumped milk delivery. At the same time, however, remember that your babies’ hospital stay is only temporary. If the nurses add formula or calorie boosters to your breast milk for feedings, and you don’t necessarily prefer this practice, keep in mind also that the nurses’ goal is to have your babies gain weight as soon as possible for the earliest possible discharge. Once you and your babies are home, you will make all the decisions about your babies’ care, nutrition and feeding methods.

Once you’re home, follow a routine for pumping and storing your breast milk every three hours: Once a day you should plan to ride back to the hospital with your husband or other family member and delivery your ice-packed breast milk stored in sterile bottles provided to you by the NICU. Milk let down reflexes and even the amount of milk you produce can be enhanced if you keep photos of your babies close by, and when you breathe in your babies’ sweet scent from their little hats or onsies that you take home from the hospital. As you had specifically labeled your pumped breast milk bottles when you were still in the hospital after delivery, you will continue to do so, so that your babies are certain to receive your milk when you return for daily visits. My husband and I referred to our trips to the hospital during our babies’ NICU stays as daily “milk-runs”!

Finish preparing for your babies’ arrival: Chances are you were not fully prepared for the births of your babies when you went into premature labor and delivered them. So take this time, while your babies are hospitalized, to finish preparing the nursery, wash and fold all of your baby clothes, receiving blankets, crib sheets, etc. If you had been placed on bed rest due to your high risk pregnancy, you probably weren’t able to prepare for your babies’ arrival at all, so now you can!

Daily bonding visits: Once you feel up to it physically, plan to spend as much time with your babies as possible. Mothers are not only welcomed, but highly encouraged to spend the day with their babies. If your babies are placed together in side-by-side incubators, you may be provided a rocking chair or other comfortable chair in which to sit and breastfeed your babies for their feedings (once they reach the gestational age for gag/suck/swallow reflex coordination). You can also request skin-to-skin time with your babies for further bonding. Skin-to-skin contact with their mothers increases wellness for babies. Hormones are released which calm and regulate both heart and breathing rhythm. Often, too, your babies’ nurse will encourage you to change diapers, take temperatures, prepare for feedings, and give your babies their first baths! Between feedings while your babies sleep, you can read a good book, write your birth announcements and baby gift “thank you” notes, take yourself to lunch or for a good walk around the hospital campus, or take a nap in your comfy chair before the next feeding comes around.

Bring personal items to decorate your babies’ bedside area: Bring drawings from your older children, baby clothes to have your babies dressed in, nursery items such as small stuffed animals to sit in the corner of the babies’ beds, etc., all of which allow you to feel that your babies are, in fact, YOUR babies … and that they will soon come home.

 

Babies’ homecoming

You’ll be surprised just how quickly the time will fly before your babies are released from the hospital! Sometimes, depending upon your babies’ weights, amount of breast milk or formula that they are tolerating (keeping down), and any other medical factors, you could have as little as 12 hours release notice given by the neonatologist. Once the doctor signs the discharge orders, your baby or babies are going home! Prior to discharge, you may be required to take an Infant CPR course, which is common hospital protocol for parents. If your baby is released on the condition that he or she goes home with an apnea/bradycardia monitor to alert you of any continuing apnea episodes (that can be common with preemies, and which they outgrow with further maturation), you will be required to attend a home monitor training class. Some hospitals also require parents to “Room-in” one night with their babies in the hospital (spend a night with their baby at the hospital the night before discharge in a special room decorated like a hotel room), so that if any questions arise during the night, there are nurses available to assist.

Once you say good bye to the NICU area where you’ve spent so many weeks and take your babies home, you’ll probably wish to bring a nurse or two home with you! You may wonder why you wanted your babies to come home earlier when you’re faced with the complete, 24/7 care of your babies!

Welcome to twin parenthood!

It may have arrived at a time you hadn’t expected, but it has indeed arrived.

 

Congratulations … and many blessings to you and your new babies!