The State Of Us: March 2019

I keep starting a post and then abandoning it because the tone is wrong or the content is off or… basically because it doesn’t fit what my ever-helpful subconscious has defined as a good blog post! As a result, the last few months have whizzed by with much half-written but little finished.

So I thought I’d do a quick stream-of-consciousness update on where we are RN, because everything changes so rapidly. And then if I don’t post again for another 6 months, you’ll know why!

Play KX is our happy place at the moment

Age of babies: just turned 11 months. Nearly one! 🌟

Sleep: still horrendous. A good night is less than 2 screaming sessions per baby between midnight and 6am. A bad night is hourly wake-ups (not uncommon). However we HAVE cracked the bedtime routine and it’s now rare they wake up between 8pm and 11pm now. Small victories!

Breastfeeding: 2-3 hourly if I’m there. Cope fine when I’m not there.

Food: 3 meals per day with a couple of snacks. We wound up doing pretty pure Baby Led Weaning and (apart from the mess obv) it’s been brilliant. They eat most things we eat, and we’ve not had to spoon-feed them at all. Meaning we’ve had our hands free to enjoy our own food! Again, small victories!

Naps: we aim for 2 naps per day (short morning one and long one after lunch) but it’s a battle. They are not synchronised and L in particular has started fighting sleep in the buggy. I continuously, guiltily, wearily feel that if I could “nail the naps” then the nighttime sleep would follow. But on the days that they DO nap to schedule… they still do not sleep overnight. FFS.

Occasionally they fall asleep in a completely inappropriate place but they’re both out so I leave them there and have a cup of tea

Locomotion: both have been crawling for a couple of months and now are cruising round furniture. A can stand balanced on her own. L can climb stairs. They continue to practice their own thing whilst also watching each other’s progress with interest.

Unpacking drawers is a coveted 5* activity in our house

Chat: we have a household of smiling, babbling and warbling babies who are quick to giggle; it’s such a lovely age.

What’s in the bag: 2x bibs, 2x muslins, box of snacks, teething toy, 2x nappies, cheeky wipes.

Are we coping? We are SO tired. They are definitely days we pass the baton of childcare to each other without another word. I miss many aspects of my old life: sleep, spontaneity, seeing friends without it being a military-operation style ballache… but it’s definitely getting easier, we’ve had some gorgeous sunny days recently, and the babies are hurtling towards toddlerdom so I’m trying not to wish this time away.

#dreamteam 😉

What would help? Free childcare! Ha. But seriously: every time I get a couple of hours to myself, I feel so rejuvenated. The baby-wrangling is intensely busy during the day, with rarely time to stop and think about anything, so my brain is cluttered with half-finished thoughts and guiltily abandoned to-do lists. Carving any time out of the day to concentrate on other things is a tall order. But… maybe we’re just not supposed to concentrate on other things right now. C’est la vie!

Review: Alva reusable nappies

Warning: unless you are currently invested in the nitty gritty of parenting a baby, or have a extraordinary interest in eco-products, absolutely skip this post! It is about nappies. The pre-baby me would have skipped it for sure! 😬

At least 1000 nappies per year per baby, apparently. That’s how many you get through. And I know that nappies are classically one of the things that parents-to-be dread the most about their upcoming offspring, but it wasn’t until we were a couple of weeks in and emptying the nappy bin practically every other day that it really started to get to me.

So. Much. Plastic.

The actual changing of the nappy wasn’t particularly offensive (indeed “plenty of wet nappies” is something you aim for in the early weeks of breastfeeding, so the sight of each blue stripe actually triggered a bizarre yet positive “reward” feedback loop), and with twins it’s so rare you have a baby on her own that you find yourself considering even a bum-change as “one-to-one time”… anyway, all that aside, it wasn’t the grimness of the nappies themselves that prompted the change.

It was the Poo Sausage. From the nappy bin once full. The very long, cumbersome queue of single nappies encased in semi-see-thru plastic coiled within a nappy bin, that had to be Walk Of Shame’d to the dustbin multiple times per week. It felt horrendous!

So in the midst of newborn sleep deprivation we researched Reusable Nappies, literally ad nauseum. It was the most boring research ever.

A non-scientific summary of my findings: reusable nappies are more expensive (initial outlay), and more labour intensive (over time), and a bit more disgusting (on average), than disposables. But they provide an alternative to chucking >2000/year into landfill. And they are much cuter than they used to be!

So we used our vouchers from London council (approx £110 given aforementioned 2 babies) to buy the most cheap and cheerful looking reusables on the market.

And… we love them.

Piano bum

FAQ

What did you get?

20 Alva nappies, £6.50 each

Biodegradable Bamboo liners, £5 for 200

Laundry SmartPail £12.95

Do they wear them exclusively?

Nope! Not at night and rarely if we’re out and about. Even so by my conservative calculations we used at least 10/day for over 6 months, ie saved around 1800 nappies from landfill. Pretty good!

What’s the laundry like?

We do a wash every day anyway, because, twins. So laundry is already a sizeable chore.

The nappies go straight from the baby to the washing machine, then when they’re clean the inner liner comes out and dries separately. So there’s minimal contact with the contents.

The only issue is if errant poo has escaped the inner liner, which does occasionally happen, and whilst it isn’t more frequently than with disposables, it is a more onerous task because you can’t just throw it away and wash your hands. You have to wash it, and your hands, and then probably spritz it with stain remover for good measure.

When I first thought about reusables, my mental image was of dismal 1940s-style washing lines of grubby stained white flannel. I am pleased to report that things have come on a lot.

This is about as bad as it’s got:

Washing line

Do they leak?

Depends on the velocity of the poo! 💩🌪

…but really, no, not more than Pampers seem to if you get the poppers done up properly.

Do they smell more than disposables?

Not more than, but they do smell different when wet. They smell of wee whereas disposables smell of chemicals.

I really notice now when I change their Pampers (or whatever) in the morning that the chemical odour of the gel stuff is very powerful. Didn’t notice before.

Without the gel though, don’t the babies get terrible nappy rash?

Actually no! We have had a couple of episodes of nappy rash on each baby, for about 3 days. It cleared with nappy free time and using nappy cream. The majority of the time we don’t use nappy cream, just make sure they’re nice and dry before doing up the clean nappy.

Overall I’m sold.

Downsides are: extra laundry effort, extra having to actually deal with poo sometimes. Can take ages to dry if it’s a cold day and the heating’s not on. So boring to research.

Upsides are: fewer Poo Sausages! …I mean, er, more ecological. 😉 Also much cuter, and ultimately much cheaper, than disposables.

I would definitely recommend it if you have the energy! Not least because calling “Oi! Piano bum!” at your offspring has non-zero entertainment value…

Top 5 most irritating things about… breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is brilliant and all, full of benefits, but also undeniably hard work. Even once you’ve got through the first few gruelling weeks, when you’re confident it should be plain sailing, it often just… isn’t. Which is incredibly irritating, as on an evolutionary level this is the baby’s ONE JOB. And on a practical level, you’d think doing something approximately a million times per day since birth would make a 7-month old pretty damn good at it; and then something like a heatwave or a leap or weaning happens, and it’s back to square one.

Top 5 most irritating things about breastfeeding:

5. Snooze Time

You might think you want breastfeeding to make the baby to go to sleep, but no! What you actually want is for the baby to feed until she’s sated and “drowsy but awake”, then agree to being lifted off you, shifted into a suitably safe sleeping arrangement, and then be left to “self-soothe” to actual sleep.

Neither of my babies have been amenable to this. Whatsoever. Both enjoy a nice long feed, then pass out in a happy milk coma, blissfully asleep unless I do something radical like attempt to extricate myself from beneath them. Then: the breaking loose of all hell may commence. They were NOT actually asleep, thankyouverymuch – they were just resting their eyes and taking a break between courses like civilised little human beings! How very dare you for interrupting! And now they are still horrendously hungry and nothing will do but to resume feeding at once in exactly the same position and… zzzzz…

#babytrapped!

4. Distractible baby

This is a new thing since the babies were about three months old. Previously they were very single minded about feeding. They would root around, chomp down, and get on with it until they were sated or fell asleep (see previous).

But now! Unless it is pitch black, they are all about entertainment during dinner. Peering around with massive cartoon eyes at any nearby movement. Breaking off to give me a gorgeous big grin (Hello mummy, I did not expect to see you here! What a nice surprise!) while the boob pings free and milk splishes everywhere. Startling dramatically at the tiniest of noises across the room; breaking off to gaze doe-eyed at her sister on the other boob; or pawing at jewellery and fabric and even the most sensitive areas of skin with their scratchy little kitten claws…

NOT focusing on the task at hand!

3. Banshee Baby.

This baby is hungry, yes. She wants to feed, yes. But put her on the boob? Cue: screeching, arching of back, gnashing of gums, scratching, kicking. Pull away from boob: hungry howling! Put back to boob: it’s like you’re dragging a mad horse to boiling water. Why in hell would you do that? As if it will drink!

Sometimes someone helpfully points out that this behaviour looks like wind, and very occasionally winding does improve things. But often it is not wind, it is the baby being capricious. The baby is hangry… #hangrybaby. So hangry it will self-sabotage its ability to feed. (A bit like when I am so tired I drink so much coffee I can’t nap.) Often the only thing to do is stand up, energetically rock the baby in cradle pose, whilst humming or shushing, with boob hovering near enough to her mouth that she essentially latches on by accident. Stop standing / cradling / shushing at your peril. (Yes this is really difficult with two.) Alternatively, believe it or not, being on a swing often works! A weather-dependent solution obviously.

Just. Keep. Swinging…

  • 2. Comments in public that aren’t explicitly positive. (By which I do not mean X-rated. I mean unambiguous.)

  • Yes, I am feeding my babies whilst out & about, because if I did not they would scream and scream and scream until they, I, and possibly indeed several unwary passersby, would be sick. I am not feeding in public because I want attention. If I look casual that is me succeeding at feigning nonchalance. The kindest thing you can do is pretend not to notice. If you must comment? “You make it look easy” is always a winner.
  • If you say anything with even a grain of criticism, if it is possible to extract even the vaguest of negative interpretations from your words, my subconscious will pounce upon it and amplify it until it’s all I remember of the whole outing. That’s a tad over sensitive? Why yes, yes it is, but my boob is out and I am using it to try to prevent two tiny timebombs from going off and I am very very vulnerable right now. Be unambiguously nice to me, or be off with you!

    YES I have got my hands full

    1. Vomcano.

    For me, this is hands down the most irritating thing about breastfeeding. Or bottle feeding for that matter. After all that effort, at long last, the baby is full! Happy, glowing, a dewy plump milk-glazed bun of a thing, warm and satisfied. You feel happy, she looks happy, she gives you a big dreamy smile and then–there it is. All the milk. All of it! Issuing forth from the baby’s mouth in a terrible white fountain, all over her, you, nearby soft furnishings, the floor, anything expensive or delicately homemade or handwash-only you happened to have been given…

    Now everything smells of sour milk, is stained with sour milk, and the baby? Well obviously the baby is hungry.

    🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️

    A random image of a volcano from the internet

    I’m sure it’s not just me… feel free to comment with any memorable irritations re feeding your baby. I figure it’s better to accept the ridiculous difficulties and persevere than pretend it’s always enjoyable!

    Best Ever* Edible Fake Blood

    * Safe for babies… unsafe for upholstery. Delicious for adults. Vegan!

    I love dressing up, festivals and frippery, and most years I manage to attend a costume party or dance macabre to celebrate all that is gruesome, exciting and escapist at Halloween.

    This year… not so much! I was home alone with two 7-month old babies, who are now in a fairly set routine of dinner, bath, PJs, feed to sleep (albeit with mighty protests at every transition). It’s a lot to do on one’s own and recently the monotony has been starting to get me down.

    Social media was filling up with other people’s party pics, everyone and their gorgeous offspring seemed to be out Trick Or Treat-ing, and I was looking blankly into the fridge trying to plan a nutritious yet mutually-palatable meal for one adult and 2 babies… when a vacuum pack of beetroot caught my eye.

    New plan!

    ZOMBIE ATTACK!!! 🧟‍♀️

    Featuring Sleep-Deprivation-Zombie Mummy & the Two Tiny Terrors

    Zombie Mummy

    No make up needed when you haven’t slept in 7 months 😉

    Actually the tastiest fake blood I’ve ever made!

    Ingredients:

      2 beetroots (not pickled ones!)
      Large handful frozen dark cherries
      100ml freshly boiled water
      A banana (you might only use half)
      1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)

    Method

    1. Put the cherries in a blender (I have a Nutribullet Ninja which I love) and pour on the boiling water. Leave 5 minutes
    1. Add the beetroot and whizz to a smooth, sanguineous consistency
  • You now have a brilliant, vivid, semi sweet, vitamin-rich fake blood. Remember that actual blood is not bright red once out of the vein. Now think about the consistency you desire, and add the banana accordingly.
  • Consistency Options:

    1. If you want smooth, sweet liquid “blood“: whizz in the banana until smooth
    2. If you want semi-sweet blood that is starting to clot: fork-mash the banana then mix in well.
    3. If essentially what you want is a bowl of blood clots, whizz in half the banana and a tablespoon of chia seeds, then fork mash the rest on the banana and mix in. Wait 10 minutes. Stir & marvel at its disgusting gloriousness.

    Then dish it out and stand well back!

    🧟‍♀️ ❤️ Yum yum! ❤️ 🧟‍

    You’re welcome 😘

    So when you’re breastfeeding you don’t need to use contraception, right?

    Short answer: WRONG. It’s not an effective contraceptive; use something else

    Long answer: It’s quite interesting actually! In a food-scarce tribal setting (such as when humans were evolving) breastfeeding uses up much of the female’s fat resources, which essentially puts her body into a starvation state where it does not ovulate. From an evolutionary point of view this is helpful as it allows all her resources to be channelled into her existing dependent offspring. In this setting mothers often breastfed for 2-3 years until spontaneous weaning – when the baby no longer needs her as much, it’s time for a new baby (for greatest reproductive fitness, which is what evolution is all about). So breastfeeding IS a natural contraception in a “natural” setting…but we do not live in a natural setting.

    We live in a world of flapjack. 🙌 We can sate our hunger and therefore our bodies are not in a starvation state (though it sometimes might feel like they are!). Therefore ovulation technically can resume at any point, and you would only know about it 2 weeks later when your period arrived.

    Use something else! 👍

    Silver boobies 🥈🥈

    So I made it to 6 months of breastfeeding twins!

    It’s been a road with a few twists and turns… read on if breastfeeding journeys interest or intrigue you!

    My tiny baby girls were born at exactly 36 weeks gestation, relatively well for twins – one went to NICU for 3 days with breathing difficulties, and the other became jaundiced so went into an incubator for phototherapy. Neither a great start from a breastfeeding point of view! Both were “prescribed” 100% their daily calories in premie formula, which they had through NG tubes initially, then from bottles.

    Day 3, when we were all reunited after Aria came back from NICU

    We were discharged on day 5 with two massive boxes of formula, and began the unholy triumvirate of breastfeed/formula top up/express every 3-4 hours… indefinitely. 😶

    It was insanely gruelling. We basically didn’t sleep more than 2 hours at a time, for two months! But the support I got from a Facebook group devoted to Breastfeeding Twins & Multiples was a godsend, and gave me the will to continue. They provided smart & encouraging advice available 24/7, plus plenty of stories from people who had been through it and survived… and were still going!

    Key here was their mantra Never give up on a bad day and their revolutionary view that the use of formula is not literally the devil’s work (the attitude I unfortunately encountered in my NCT breastfeeding session), and in fact that combination feeding is a healthy solution for some mums who are being overwhelmed by the demands of exclusive breastfeeding. They also emphasised that it’s not a one-way street: you can use formula for a while and then gradually work your way back to exclusive breastfeeding. This message was definitely absent from my NCT class! And if I hadn’t had people telling me it was possible, I probably would have given up shortly after we left hospital when it was so, so hard.

    One month old on the trusty Peanut & Piglet pillow

    There were so many moments I would have given up, if not for that group. When it hurt for no apparent reason; when the babies didn’t put on weight fast enough despite the schedule, so I was advised to top up more and restrict breastfeeding to sessions of 20 minutes max; when the endless evenings of cluster feeding made me doubt my milk supply; when the breast pump made me despondent; when I was excruciatingly tired and just wanted everything to be easier.

    Their input, as well as the unconditional support from my OH and my mum, gave me the will to persist. Oh, how we persisted.

    Very smug after finally tandem feeding without a specialist pillow… this is called Koala hold

    Luna, my firstborn, was a great, strong determined feeder, and basically brought my milk supply up single-handedly. Aria, the younger by 1 minute, was a more delicate and sleepy feeder, plus suffered with reflux so half the milk that she did take immediately reappeared. 😫 Still, she gained weight steadily on the 9th centile, so we kept going, feeding on demand, every 2-3 hours and sometimes much more frequently. I expressed using a hospital-grade double pump 6-8x per day, to make up for every formula feed. I ate flapjack accordingly. So much flapjack.

    I weaned formula top ups for Luna first, a couple of weeks after their due date [about 6 weeks old], because she was feeding so well. By this point I was expressing over 500ml/day and therefore was able to replace all of Aria’s top-up bottles with expressed milk. Such a great moment when the steriliser moved from the middle of the kitchen counter to the corner to gather dust!

    Eventually, after their 8 week check, I weaned top ups for Aria too, and we moved to simply breastfeeding on demand. And it all got a lot more relaxed. 👍

    The babies form an orderly queue and the 🐶 provides back support!
    Thriving!
    A rare al fresco tandem feed

    Their weights stayed stable without top ups, and I kept expressing once daily to maintain supply and so other people can give a bottle of expressed milk when I need to sleeeeeeep.

    During the 4-month sleep regression. Note the coffee. So much coffee!

    And here we are! SIX MONTHS. It’s been such a rich and amazing experience, as well as being incredibly hard work. Definitely 100% worth the effort though – any version of feeding two babies involves a lot of work, but the powers of the magic boobies are so much greater than just food. They soothe and quieten. They make the babies smile and snuggle in close. They make them fall asleep! And overnight, even if they wake several times each, I often feel the surge of oxytocin that comes with the let-down, a soothing soporific rush that makes us both drift easily back to sleep afterwards. I honestly have no idea how I’d have managed without them.

    Magic boobies cause simultaneous naps

    I have become a passionate believer in normalising public breastfeeding, because it is a hard enough task without women feeling additional societal pressures to keep it private. However, I also don’t know anyone personally who has stopped breastfeeding for any reason other than it being too physically and emotionally overwhelming to continue to struggle with it, and/or futile due to either their own medical history or their baby’s specific problems with feeding.

    I think breastfeeding is a normal thing to do, and that it should be accepted in all contexts, but I don’t think it follows that not breastfeeding is an abnormal choice. It is the appropriate choice if the costs of breastfeeding are too high for whatever reason. It is also a choice a lot of women feel forced into making during an incredibly stressful time, and my gut feeling is that with more support and individually tailored advice some of those women would be able to continue rather than stopping sooner than they would like. Others may be able to make the decision with more psychological equanimity, if they knew that for whatever reason it would be unfeasibly difficult to continue.

    Meanwhile my two babies are showing all the signs of being ready to introduce solid food alongside milk, so that’s our next step. I’m genuinely proud to have reached the recommended 6 months, and so grateful to everyone who supported me in person, and all the ladies in my phone, who have facilitated us reaching this milestone.

    6 months and going strong 💪