Are you just “Overly-Emotional” or is it Postpartum Depression?

Everyone experiences the natural spectrum of emotions throughout their life, it’s just human nature. However, when overwhelming life events directly impact the body’s normal state of well-being, we sometimes lose our abilities to cope as we think we should. Such circumstances may include a death in the family, a long-distance move, or a divorce. But few events directly impacts a woman’s physical, mental and emotional state of being as much as the birth of a child. The sudden changes in hormonal levels as the result of giving birth can result in a feeling of sadness or “baby blues”. When these feelings don’t lessen after a few weeks, or become worse, a woman may be suffering from postpartum depression.

National Vital Statistics report that approximately 10 to 15% of women suffer from postpartum mood disorders (PPMDs), including postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum anxiety/OCD and postpartum psychosis. In 2007, the statistics report indicates that the total number of clinically recognized pregnancies is around 6.4 million. 15% of that would mean that each year approximately 950,000 women are suffering postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression can occur anytime between one to two days following delivery, up to and beyond a year.

From a personal perspective, I did not suffer from PPD following either of my first two pregnancies. But, I fell into a deep dark place two weeks following the births of my third set of twins. Knowing that this was not normal for me, and also knowing that I wasn’t able to “talk myself out of it”, I asked my OB/GYN for a consultation, and after talking for some time, she prescribed a medication for me that was safe to take while breastfeeding. After a couple of weeks, I began to feel better, more like myself again. It felt as though sunshine was finally breaking through dark heavy clouds that had been looming overhead, raining heavily down on me for weeks, totally exhausting me. Finally, I could pick up the babies without feeling as though they were a threat to me, no longer foreign little bodies posing as the sources of my confusion and grief. If you’ve ever experienced postpartum depression, you can understand what I mean. I could cope with the struggles, challenges and fatigue without crying all the time, and felt the deep, protective love for my babies that was supposed to fill my entire being instead of chronic sadness. I wasn’t completely symptom-free for a few months, but I knew this wouldn’t last forever. I was blessed to have my husband’s understanding, patience and support during my darkest times … and I prayed … a LOT.

Many postpartum depression sufferers just want to know WHEN it will end. Blogger and former PPD sufferer Katherine Stone educates on all areas of postpartum depression on her site: Postpartum Progress. One of her articles lists the six factors that can affect how quickly a woman can recover from PPD. She lists:

1. How long did you suffer from PPD before you reached out for treatment? If you’ve not sought treatment or help for a substantial amount of time, you may be looking at a longer recovery time. Nipping a problem in the bud, as they say, before it grows out of control can be key in reducing the time it takes to come out of the PPD fog.

2. How severe is your illness?

3. How effective is the treatment you have been using?

4. How effective is the doctor or therapist you’re working with? If your symptoms are quite severe, it may take more time, treatment and therapy (and their effectiveness) before symptoms begin to subside.

5. What is your current life situation and how may it be affecting your recovery? It will be much harder to go through this condition without some support. If you’re a single parent, for instance, you’ll have a harder time than if you have the support of your husband or other close family member(s). Whether you are returning to work or are a stay-at-home mother will also play a huge factor in your recovery time.

6. What have you been doing to follow your treatment plan and take care of yourself? The more sleep and the better nutrition you receive, the better, as both allow the body to recuperate and better cope with difficulties and challenges.

There are several physical support groups available, as well as online support blogs to turn to for assurance and understanding. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. PPD is a very commonly occurring condition that is well-recognized and well-supported. Don’t suffer alone, and know that you will get through this … the sun WILL come out again.

Fulfilling your nutritional needs will also help balance your hormones and provide you with an overall feeling of wellness. Please remember to eat a balanced diet full of lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fresh dairy and take a daily supplement to fill in any nutritional gaps that may exist.

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For more information, please visit Katherine Stone’s blog at: Postpartum Progress … together, stronger, where you will find a wealth of information and resources.

Also, please visit Mayo Clinic for medical information and treatment options for Postpartum Depression.

Blessings ~

 

 

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 ~

 

 

 

 

9 Tips for Surviving Pregnancy Bed Rest!

Whether you developed a complication early, midway or later in your pregnancy, being placed on 100% pregnancy bed rest by your physician can sound kinda nice to begin with, but believe me (and I’m preaching from lots of experience) … it gets pretty old pretty quickly! But this prescription, if you will, has a very important indication: to keep pressure off the cervix so it does not shorten (or continue to shorten) or dilate, as well as to keep your uterus quiet and contraction-free.

So, once you accept the fact that this is your life for the next few weeks or even months, the best way to survive this situation with all its aches, pains and other challenges, is ATTITUDE. My best advice would be to approach each day as a new gift, another day that you’re still pregnant, and that the baby(ies) are still safely inside where they should be. With this thankful attitude, it’s much easier to face each day.

 

Here are some ways that I found to make the best of bed rest:

1- Switch it up. If your bedroom and a living room/family room are on the same floor of your home, then alternate your scenery by setting up camp on a sofa, and keep the bed for sleeping. You’ll appreciate not having to look at the same four walls day after day. I would not recommend however, traveling up and down stairs, so stay on one level.

2- Creature comforts. Surround yourself with your favorite things: favorite pillows, family pictures and other items that comfort you, especially if you’re placed on hospital bed rest.

3- Catch up with friends. Have friends come over and bring lunch! Just because you’re activities are limited, doesn’t mean that everyone else’s are. Chatting and visiting on the phone is another great way to relax and enjoy the company of others. With facebook, mommy blogs and forum discussion access today, you can stay connected with (and not feel so isolated from) the world so much easier than even a few years ago!

4- READ! If you enjoy reading like I do, here’s your chance to do all the reading you want! If you’re not a big reader, now would be a good time to rethink that! 🙂

5- Fun with light activities. Movies, board games with friends and family, crochet (I know that sounds so cliché), cross-stitch, and some light craft work while you stay on your side gives you a chance to do something productive.

6- Discomfort solutions. I highly advise that your bed or couch be equipped with some memory foam, and (at the least), the egg crate foam for better comfort on those painful pressure points, such as the hips, shoulders and buttocks. I also recommend a body pillow (or two). These are great for relieving pelvic stress by keeping your top leg resting on the pillow. It also serves as a great book rest! Luckily, when bed pressure pain becomes uncomfortable, your doctor will allow you to take acetomeniphen (Tylenol) which can greatly take the edges off. Stuffy nose and congestion can often be an issue, especially with your lack of circulation, your head not being as elevated as usual, and your increased blood volume expanding your nasal blood vessels. The adhesive strips that you place on the bridge of your nose (Breathe-Right nasal strips) worked wonders for me! Constipation (which occurs naturally with pregnancy) is exacerbated by your lack of activity because activity encourages an efficient metabolism. On top of that, let’s add the constipation-causing IRON supplements that your doctor may subscribe if you’re anemic or have low iron. Solution: eat lots of fiber, along with all your other nutritious foods, cut back on cheeses and other known-constipating foods, and stay hydrated.

7- DRINK! (lots of water, that is). As I stressed in the article on preterm labor, DRINK, DRINK and then DRINK some more. Bathroom trips are allowed and very welcomed. The little bit of walking does wonders for your comfort and also helps to avoid developing blood clots due to lack of circulation. Frequent urination also helps to keep the uterus quiet and less irritable. Uterine contractions often accompany a bladder in spasm. Don’t hold your bladder at all because a bladder infection could result, and this type of infection often leads to preterm labor.

8- Eat several light meals a day. Yes, your nutrition is vital to a healthy you, a healthy pregnancy and healthy babies. Bed rest, however, is not the time to eat large, heavy meals. You’ll be asking for heartburn, indigestion and increased constipation problems. Eat 6-7 light meals a day and be sure to include a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish, fresh dairy and lots of whole grain. Remember to take your multi-vitamin (either in pill or powder/shake form) in order to fill in the gaps in your body’s nutritional needs.

9- Older children. Having older children can be both a blessing and a difficulty. If they are very young and need constant care, you may need to recruit some live-in help, such as your mom, an aunt, or a very generous friend. If this isn’t possible, you could (as I did for a few weeks) hire a mommy’s helper to assist you with simple tasks under your watchful direction until your husband returns home from work. If your children are school-aged, helping with homework is still very doable. They just have to bring their books and materials to you so you all can work at a coffee table. Remember that your older kids want to help you, so let them refill your water bottle, bring you snacks or pillows, or put in a new DVD! At one point I called my couch my “Central Command Post” from which I could delegate chores, plan activities, plan meal menus a week at a time, create grocery shopping lists for my husband or other aide, and encourage the older kids to help with their younger siblings. I also could see and hear what was going on with everyone, too.

Bottom line: bed rest is manageable. In spite of all its challenges and the many times you just want to get up and go to the mall, you can always rest assured that you are doing everything possible to keep your baby(ies) from being born too early. Being continually grateful for all the help and care you receive, and meals friends and neighbors bring, will keep you centered and humble. You’ll simply have to give up some control and know that this will end. And when all is said and done, isn’t that worth this temporary condition?

For other tips on coping with prolonged bed rest, visit: Inhabitots.com.

My personal pregnancy bed rest experience …

… I began bed rest at 18 weeks with my first set which lasted until they were born at nearly 31 weeks. I began bed rest with my second set at approximately 20 weeks which lasted a grueling 15 weeks! My third set pregnancy bed rest began around 20 weeks as well, and lasted until I reached nearly 31 weeks, when my sons just couldn’t wait any longer to see the world! And we all made it through it all with lots of support, love, prayer and care!

 

Blessings ~

9 Characteristics of a Twin (Multiple) Pregnancy

Congratulations! You’re Expecting TWINS!

This news can either be elating or devastating to you as the receiving parent-to-be, but either way, happy or traumatized, this news triggers the reality that life will from now on be very different!

Chances are that if you’re reading this article, you’ve recently seen an image resembling the one on the right show up on an ultrasound  machine that you were attached to (and no, this is not one of my scan photos). Oftentimes, this news comes as a complete shock because there is no family history (that you know of) of twins “running in the family” as they say … (‘course they run all over my house). But lately, especially with Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) so prevalent today, more and more couples are half-expecting to learn that twins, even triplets or more, are ON THE WAY!

I’m not here, however, to discuss how this came to be. It’s a FACT, and when your head stops spinning, the crying eases, and you can finally see straight again, you and your husband need to know what you may expect and need to prepare for, from here on in your pregnancy.

If you’ve already been pregnant and delivered a single baby (aka singleton), you’ll note some similarities but also some differences.

What you may possibly experience while pregnant with twins

1. Prenatal Care: You’ll be advised to seek the care of a Board Certified Obstetrician as opposed to a General Practitioner. You can also expect more visits with your OB/GYN for careful monitoring of your pregnancy progression, especially if a complication develops. You can also expect more screening tests (i.e., blood glucose levels, and ultrasounds).

2. Pregnancy Nutrition: You’ll be asked to increase your intake of iron and folic acid, along with your daily prenatal multivitamin. As with any pregnancy, you should eat foods rich in calcium, iron, and protein. It’s also very important that you drink at least two quarts of water each day to prevent dehydration, which can quickly lead to preterm labor.

3. Morning Sickness: Pregnancy nausea is caused by the levels of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). It’s a fact that this hormone is higher with a multiple pregnancies, so the probability of or higher degree of morning sickness will exist. The good news is that this usually subsides between weeks 12-14. (But when you’re as sick as a dog at 7 weeks, you don’t think week 12 will EVER arrive!)

4. Spotting: Light to moderate spotting can occur in a multiple pregnancy, often due to multiple uterine wall embryonic implantation (which can cause slight bleeding). Some cases are due to the early miscarriage of or more babies, which doesn’t necessarily mean a miscarriage of every fetus, and the remaining baby(ies) can be carried to full-term. If bleeding, however, is accompanied by cramping and heavy bleeding with clots, it is no longer “spotting”, and could indicate a more serious problem.

5. Weight Gain: Where it’s recommended to woman carrying a single baby to gain between 20-30 lbs., you can expect to gain approximately 35-45 lbs. with a twin pregnancy (and more with triplets and beyond).

6. Gestational Diabetes and Preeclampsia: The risk for these conditions to develop is higher in a multiple pregnancy. These two conditions (high blood glucose with diabetes, and elevated blood pressure with preeclampsia) can be very dangerous for both mother and baby(ies) if not detected and treated. With careful medical monitoring, both conditions can be managed.

7. Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS): This is a complication that occurs in primarily identical twins because there is a higher likelihood that the two babies will share a single (monochorionic) placenta. This syndrome occurs when, due to blood vessel malformation and distribution the babies receive an imbalance of nutrients, meaning one twin becomes severely over-nourished, while the other becomes severely under-nourished. Careful monitoring and treatment is required with this condition. Twins possessing his or her own individual placenta (i.e., fraternal twins), will not develop this condition.

8. Preterm Labor: Labor generally comes early for a mother carrying more than one baby naturally due to the fact that the uterus cannot stretch any further toward the end of the gestational period, perhaps arriving between 1-4 weeks before the due date. But also commonly occurring in about 50% of twin pregnancies is much earlier preterm labor that occurs because of the rate of uterine growth, causing uterine irritability which causes cramping and contractions. Higher order multiples have a 100% chance of going into preterm labor, and with preterm labor, often comes the recommendation for bed rest which could be partial or complete, depending upon the degree of symptoms. Careful monitoring and sometimes medication is required to manage this condition.

9. Delivery: Although it is very possible to deliver twins vaginally if the pregnancy is far enough along (I did, for my 2nd set), and the babies are positioned just right, most often than not, twins are delivered via C-Section. It’s safer for both mother and babies if your gestation is 30 weeks or earlier, and probably much less risky from the standpoint of the delivering physician (and offers much lower medical liability).

For further descriptions and explanations, please visit: Pregnancy Help: What to Expect … Twins and Multiple Pregnancies, an article posted on Epigee ™ Women’s Health, and Expecting Twins? 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Twin Pregnancy, an article by Denise Mann, reviewed by Louise Change, MD for WebMD.com.

 

My personal twin pregnancy experiences

… included excellent prenatal care for all three pregnancies; multiple screening ultrasounds (which I came to enjoy once the tech said that everything “looks great”); severe morning sickness for all three (requiring medication during twins 2 and 3), which always ended by week 14 (glorious week 14!); light spotting that lasted a couple of weeks during my last pregnancy, but was of no consequence; the miscarriage of one of my triplets during week 11 of my second pregnancy (but which was not accompanied by any bleeding), and I went to on to deliver my (now-called twins) at 35+ weeks; I gained about 30 lbs with pregnancies 1 and 3, but about 41 lbs with pregnancy 2, because I carried them longer.

I experienced no gestational diabetes nor preeclampsia with any of my pregnancies, nor (because all of my twins are fraternal) did I develop TTTS. I did, however, experience preterm labor with each pregnancy beginning between as early as 18 weeks with my first, and starting as late as 22 weeks with my last. Each led me to 100% bed rest, and although I followed my doctors’ orders, I delivered twins 1 @ 31 weeks, twins 2 @ 35 weeks, and twins 3 @ 31 weeks (to the day as with twins 1!). As far as my deliveries were concerned, you may have heard of the term: V-BAC (standing for a Vaginal Birth After a prior C-section), well, I call my deliveries a “C-V-C”: a C-section, then a vaginal birth, then a C-section. Although my vaginal delivery was no picnic, it was much more rewarding and satisfying an experience, with a much shorter recovery period than either C-section.

If you’re reading this and expecting a set of twins or more, many congratulations to you, with wishes and prayers for a safe, healthy pregnancy, and safe healthy delivery for you!

Blessings ~

Moms of Twins MUST stay HEALTHY!

When we as women find out that we’re pregnant, we instinctively know that taking care of ourselves is vital to the health and well-being of our babies. Once our babies arrive, we become so busy caring for the needs of our little ones, and with all the demands of new motherhood, that caring for ourselves falls further and further from the top of the priority list.

We all know, however, that taking care of ourselves is so important if we’re going to be able to properly care for our families.

SLEEP NEEDS

When a new baby or new babies arrive, we immediately realize that getting enough sleep is a HUGE CHALLENGE! Without enough sleep, we simply cannot function. Without enough sleep, our bodies ability recover from or to prevent illness is highly compromised.

Sleep challenges don’t end when our children outgrow the newborn stage. Those of us with older children experience many sleepless nights when our kids are sick, are off their sleep schedules because of travel and vacations, for example, or when the stress and demands of school or bad dreams keep our children from sleeping well.

Sometimes, too, the stress of our days keep us from sleeping well even when the rest of the family is sound asleep!

TIPS FOR GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP

With newborns, take “sleep turns” with your spouse or other caregiver(s). Find a room at the opposite end of your house from the baby(ies) room where you can sleep quietly for a least 3 hours uninterrupted hours at a time. Doing this a twice per day can satisfy your sleep needs until your babies become old enough to sleep through the night.

If you’re breast feeding on demand, this arrangement may not be possible. If you choose to sleep with your babies so you can nurse them as needed, it’s possible to get the rest you need, as long as the babies sleep soundly as well for a few hours at a time.

If everyday stress and life demands are keeping you up at night, there are some natural sleep remedies that I’ve found very helpful.

1) Daily exercise. If you spend your day rushing around trying to be everything to everyone, stress builds up and can manifest itself as the inability to get a good night’s sleep. Taking a brisk 20-30 minute walk, for example, once per day releases pent-up stress. The pituitary gland releases endorphins and your body produces dopamine and serotonin known as pleasure and happiness chemicals, all of which provide your body with the ability to de-stress, relax and experience deep, recuperative sleep.

2) Natural therapies. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland and whose function is to control sleep. Melatonin can be taken in capsule form to increase your  body’s natural supply. Valerian (a natural herb) is another commonly prescribed sleep aid. Both melatonin and valerian are well-known for their ability to shorten the time to fall asleep and for their ability to provide longer, deeper sleep.

3) Vitamin increase. Calcium and magnesium taken together are known as sleep boosters … and they’re vital for your bone health!

4) Yoga or meditation. Bring yourself down from the day’s noise and chaos. Sit quietly, clear your mind, pray and count your blessings. When we take our focus off our problems and focus on all that is good in our lives, we can feel more at peace. Practicing yoga postures, like other exercise, releases all the pleasure hormones, and also reduces pain.

5) Aromatherapy. You’ve probably heard that lavender is very effective in causing relaxation. Lighting a lavender-scented candle, rubbing lavender-scented lotion into your skin, or spritzing your pillow with a lavender-scented spray may encourage pleasurable relaxation.

 

NUTRITIONAL NEEDS

As children, we grew up learning the importance of eating right. Although the occasional splurge of sweets and salty snacks can’t damage our bodies, it’s imperative that we as moms place our health and nutrition on the top of our self-care lists! But with today’s constant demands, many of us are living our lives basically malnourished. The proof of this fact is the high-rate of illness and disease today, including physical, mental and emotional.

We need to find simple and complete ways to nourish ourselves and our families if we’re going to live long, healthy productive lives. As new moms, especially breastfeeding multiples moms, optimal nutrition for our own and for our babies’ health is extremely important!

TIPS FOR OPTIMAL NUTRITION

1) DIET. A diet rich in healthy proteins such as lean meets, eggs and fish; calcium such as cheese, yogurt and dark, leafy greens; fiber such as fresh vegetables, whole grains/nuts and fresh fruits provide our bodies with needed nutrients each day. Drinking a LOT of water each day (at least 8-10 full 8-oz glasses) is important for healthy metabolism and digestion.

2) SUPPLEMENTS. Do we always eat right? Not many of us can say YES to that question each day. How many of us take the recommended daily doses of the vitamins and minerals we need each day. If we were to try, we may end up taking a handful of pills, capsules or gummies!

3) ALTERNATIVE SUPPLEMENTS. The trend today is to find a way to supplement our dietary intake, as all doctors and scientists believe we need, with methods that provide nutrition at the cellular level (and I’m not referring to our mobile phones.) 😉

Many health food and natural food stores carry shakes and powder mixes that can be taken daily to supplement and complete our daily nutritional needs. This added nutrition is vital in providing our bodies with the ability to maintain our health, give us much-needed ENERGY, and prevent illness.

 Blessings ~

Let’s Talk About Twin Skin

If you have delivered a set of twins, even if you didn’t go to full term with your pregnancy, the odds that your overly-stretched abdominal skin bounced right back to before-pregnancy consistency are pretty low. We are left with, what we all have come to know as, twin skin.

After my first set of twins were born, I held on to pregnancy and breastfeeding weight until I made a committed effort to lose it with the help of Weight Watchers (God bless ’em). But despite the fact that I eventually lost all (and more) that I wanted to lose, I was still left with a very loose-feeling lower stomach, and a “shelf” slightly overhanging my C-section incision. Yikes! And to think I actually believed that all the cocoa butter I rubbed all over while I was pregnant was going to prevent this from happening! Wrong.

Pregnancy number two stretched my belly further beyond the previous one because I carried these babies over four weeks longer. Although I didn’t experience any increase to my shelf-effect (because I had delivered vaginally this time), I still could hold my twin skin in both of my hands. Geez!

In the seven years between my second and third twin pregnancies, I managed to get back into pretty decent shape by eating right and exercising. But despite my thousands of sit-ups and crunches, I began to accept that my abdomen simply would never be as tight as it had been before I’d had two sets of twins. Following twin pregnancy number three, having occurred when I was over 40, well, I was in for (and still am having) quite a battle with my post pregnancy body! And no, neither of the photos featured in this article are of me … 😉

Twin skin is a condition that simply does not go away. It is skin stretched passed its ability to re-conform to its original, pre-stretched elasticity, resulting in saggy, wrinkly, loose-feeling skin just below the belly button. Kate (when she was being interviewed on “Jon and Kate Plus 8”) described her belly as a “bum in the front” … double handfuls of droopy skin. Fortunately, a kind and generous surgeon volunteered to give her a complimentary tummy tuck. The rest of us, however, aren’t generally given that kind of opportunity … rats!

Remedies for Stretch Marked Twin Skin?

We all know there are creams and balms out there with claims to tighten loose skin, but really, once the skin’s elasticity is gone, it’s gone. The only real remedy is to surgically remove the excess fat pockets and loose skin, pulling and tightening the remaining skin and abdominal muscles with discretely tucked sutures, tailored to each woman’s body. Tummy tucks (abdominoplasty), unfortunately, are considered cosmetic procedures and thus not covered under most medical insurance plans. Out of pocket, this procedure can cost upwards of $4,000. There are also stretch mark removal procedures, but again, probably are not covered by insurance.

So how do you deal with your post pregnancy tummy?

What remedies or methods of skin improvement have you discovered? Is there any tightening creams out there that have made any real difference for you? I, as well as all of our readers, would love to learn about any ideas, suggestions or recommendations!

 

Blessings ~

 

8 Tips to Help You Survive your New Twins

Whether your babies arrived on or near your actual due date, or if they arrived six weeks early, when the day arrives to go home and start your lives together as a family, the thought and the reality is both exciting and frightening. As my husband and I walked out of the NICU for the last time with our first daughters, I recall looking back at the doors and wishing I could take one of the nurses with me. We lived on our own in Virginia at the time. My mother, who had been with us for about a week when the babies first arrived, was back in Florida, and my mother-in-law wasn’t planning to arrive for at least 2 weeks.

It was time to wrap our brains around the fact that we were the only ones going to care for our 4.5 lb. daughters, one of which was still under treatments for an intestinal disease that developed immediately after her birth. A visiting nurse came once every other day for about 30 minutes to check on her, and attend to her medical needs prior to surgery which was scheduled in two more weeks. Other than that contact, my husband and I were it, and that truly overwhelmed us both.

Being well-prepared ahead of time with all the baby-needs required is the best foundation for making the transition into new parenthood. And from the archives containing my own experiences of living through the arrival of three sets of twins, I’d like to give you some tips on surviving those first few weeks (or even months), when your world is so focused on around the clock diaper changing, soothing the crying and breastfeeding.

These first weeks made all the weeks on bed rest seem like a vacation!

Tips for New Parents of Twins

1- Team work. Although not impossible, taking care of two or more babies on your own would be very difficult. As soon as the lack of sleep, exhaustion and all around feeling that you’re overwhelmed kicks in, you’ll be very, very thankful that your mom, your sister, your aunt or mother-in-law is there to take over when you simply physically need a break during the day, and also appreciate every bit of assistance your husband gives when he’s at home.

2- Accept all help. Welcome with opened arms each meal a neighbor or friend drops off, and take them up on their offers to help out with your older children. There are times when we want to be completely self-sufficient in our lives, but now is not the time. Humbly accept these gifts and opportunities, and remember that one day you may be in the position to pay these favors forward for another overwhelmed mommy!

3- Take care of yourself. Proper nutrition and being well-hydrated is vital to your health, and if you don’t take care of yourself, your body’s immunity defenses break down and resistance to battling viruses are weakened. Getting sick will only make everything worse! 🙁  If you are breastfeeding your babies, your self-nourishment is also vital to their well being and growth. As with pregnancy, drinking at least 10 oz of water each hour will ensure that your milk supply will keep up with your babies’ growth and nutritional demands. Because you may be still recovering from giving birth, your body needs optimum nutrition for full recuperation and regaining of strength, especially if you’d been on bed rest prior to having your babies. Taking a vitamin supplement (in pill or shake form) can fill in all the gaps your body (and your babies’ bodies) need as your breastfeed them.

4- Stick to a routine. You’ll find that working around your babies’ feeding schedule keeps you on a ’round the clock schedule, but make sure you keep some order in your life during this crazy time, it will help keep you focused and thinking straight.

5- Take much-needed breaks. The endless cycle of feeding and care taking can take its toll on a new mom very quickly. When your help is available to take over for little while so you can nap, shower, bathe, sit outside to soak in some sun, run a quick scenery-changing errand to the grocery store, or take an older child out for a quick lunch treat at the park, you’ll find that a break from the routine can be enormously rejuvenating. Your older child(ren) will become frustrated by the now shifted attention away from him, so it’s important to spend a little one-on-one with him. Going out with your husband for a quiet dinner can be so relaxing, too, but I’ll warn you: all you’ll talk about will be the babies!

6- SLEEP! I never fully appreciated a full night’s sleep until I had my first set of twins. I also rediscovered this appreciation after my second and third sets were born. Sleeping for more than a 2.5 to 3 hour stretch can feel like a million dollar gift. Take shifts for the sake of everyone’s sanity and survival. My husband and I had an extra bed in the nursery when our second set was born, and we would take shifts for caring for the babies through the nights. I breastfed them, so I had to get up for feeds, but my guy handled the diaper changes and the soothing back to sleep. Remember this: Sleep when your baby(ies) are sleeping, as much as possible.

7- Baby soothing tips. I found that carrying (whichever baby happened to be fussy at the time) swaddled tightly in a sling close to my chest helped soothe and quiet better than anything else. Sometimes, we had a double fest, whereas I would readily enlist the help of my baby swings. Those swings, without a doubt, allowed me to maintain my sanity. For well into the next months (after all the live-in help went home), my baby swings allowed dinner to be prepared, laundry to be folded, dishes to be done, and the other children to be cared for. I also believed that warm baths helped tremendously just before putting the babies down for a nap so I could either get some other things done, or sleep myself! They just slept deeper and longer between feedings if the received a bath once a day.

8- Keep babies together. Twins were womb-mates, and prefer to stay close together. I always tightly swaddled and placed them close to each other. They could smell, hear and feel each other for comfort and added security. My babies shared the same crib up until they reached about five months old.

For some additional tips and advice on the first weeks with your newborns, please visit HavingTwins.com.

Another wonderful source for self- and baby-care during those busy first days, go to www.thefirst8days.com for tips and advice for handling your first week. Purchase my friend Gea Meijering’s translation of this popular, confidence-building, step-by-step and tip-by-tip guide from the Netherlands.

 

You will survive this challenging (okay, downright difficult) time, and before you know it, sleep will return, the sun will come back out, and life with your new family will be wonderful!

 

Blessings and Congratulations!! ~