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 💪

Autumn Sunshine Smoothie

Hello October! 🍁 The season has definitely changed here in London: after an endless-feeling hot summer, there is a chill in the air and it’s downright cold in the shade. There are still lots of bright blue skies (alternating with drizzle and gales) and we’ve had a fair bit of sunshine this week, but the foliage is turning, the evenings are shortening, and – surest sign of autumn setting in – everyone I meet seems to be fighting a cold!

Sunset on Primrose Hill 01.10.18

This smoothie is great for a quick cheerful blast of bright autumn sunshine on a dull grey morning, as well as being a delicious powerhouse of immune-boosting vitamin C. The warming ginger spices up the luscious, icy mango and apple, giving their classic pairing an autumnal twist.

Ingredients:

  • 200ml fresh juice – apple & pear is wonderfully autumnal, but you could also choose fresh orange juice if you’re fighting a cold
  • Generous handful of frozen mango pieces
  • 2x cubes frozen ginger purée, or a thumbnail-sized piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced finely across the direction of the fibres (this is why purée is preferable; see pictures below if you’ve not tried it before).

Method:

  • Blend, pour, enjoy!

A note on convenience ingredients: I am all about convenience ingredients! I have two babies. 😬 If it’s not convenient, it’s not getting made!

A note on frozen fruit: I like using frozen fruit for smoothies, because I think if you have a ripe fresh mango it’s best enjoyed there-and-then, unadulterated, rather than blended up with other things. Also a big bag of frozen mango pieces is about £2 in my local supermarket, keeps for ages, and is a pleasing ingredient to have on hand for smoothies, puddings, the occasional Thai massuman curry…

🎲 BABY DICE 🎲

I have a theory that when you have a baby in attendance, you can put in as much effort as you like into making an event lovely and enjoyable and fun, and then… you roll the Baby Dice.

  • Roll a 1, and whatever preparation you made was utterly in vain because the baby? Has gone feral! Angry beetroot mode: bright red, inconsolable, embarrassingly loud. There is no continuing with the plan: Priority One is diffuse the baby, and nothing else matters til that’s done. Expensive food? Delicate negotiation? Audience with the Queen? Doesn’t matter! You have to break off and get out of there, or else.
  • Roll a 2, and you have an angry crying baby on your hands who will only be settled with constant, devoted parental attention and who will dissolve back into crying the moment that attention lapses onto something else, eg any hint of a conversation. If this baby deigns to breastfeed, it will do so with maximum back arching, whining and writhing so as to expose as much boob to passersby as humanly possible. And then it will vomit.
  • Roll a 3, and you have a grumpy baby. Liable to kick off but easily mollified with lots of smiling and shushing and rocking; comparatively a breeze!
  • Roll a 4, and you have a lovely sociable baby with big smiles and minimal grouchiness. She may cry in your friend’s arms but will instantly settle with you. She is basically cute AF. People will smile indulgently in your general direction. However, she may also re-roll into a 3 or below with precious little warning, so relax and stop paying attention at your peril.
  • Roll a 5, and your baby is asleep. So damn beautiful. So quiet. “Is she always like this?” people ask in hushed wonderment, and you will laugh wryly and demure that no, no, often she’s quite a handful (or other adorable euphemism). She will not wake up and demonstrate how non-cute the reality can be.
  • Roll a 6, and your baby is awesome. Awake! Smiley! Chatty, even! Charming strangers and turning your own heart to putty. She will prefer to babble and coo, and show no interest in crying or shrieking. She will pull adorable instagrammable faces, or play entertainingly intensely with her toys. If this baby feeds, she will do so with efficient gusto and then fall soundly asleep wearing a beatific smile.

Of course, when you have twins, at every occasion you roll two dice. Good luck! 🤞

Chilled and content… for now!

Anyway, today during a random afternoon in Stoke Newington we rolled two 6s and it was great. We went for a walk in Clissold Park, pottered along Church Street, then got hungry and debated for a while: curbside eating? Picnic in the park? Risk taking our whole ensemble of cockerpoo and bulky double buggy somewhere indoors?!

We bit the bullet and stopped in the Red Lion. It smelled really good (fresh hot pizza!) and was fairly empty, but to begin with I was laughably tense. Even though the babies were asleep, it felt like a lot could go wrong. And then… the babies kept sleeping! I relaxed a bit. The soothing combo of fairy lights and decent music worked its magic. We had a pizza and a tasting flight of ales, each. Then the babies woke up – and were really rather lovely! They sat quietly, fed peacefully, squeaked and burbled in ways that I found endlessly entertaining, and beamed at all and sundry.

This could go very wrong… 😬
All smiles!

Eventually, instead of a sudden meltdown, they gave us loads of warning that the grace period was nearing its end. We made a brisk but not too awkward exit, and escaped into the evening with almost zero hostile stares. Win!

I did not come away from this thinking we can go to the pub like we used to. I felt like we got bloody lucky. But I did come away feeling like it’s not impossible either, and that’s just what I needed this week.

Do you have any experiences of rolling the baby dice? I’m convinced it’s not just me who feels the success or total failure of an occasion is essentially left to chance these days! 😂

1-pot 10-minute SOS Veggie Breakfast

Save Our Stomachs! We are living on coffee and catnaps at the moment… it’s been 3 weeks now of the babies sleeping like newborns i.e. NOT A LOT AT NIGHT. When they do sleep, they take it in turns, so there’s pretty much always one baby on the go.

Time and energy for food prep is in short supply, so I’m falling back on some old favourites. This breakfast/lunch/saviour meal takes 10 minutes, all in. It is protein packed, healthy, hearty vegetarian fare. And it tastes so good.

One pot breakfast: maximum flavour, minimal washing up

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 fresh chilli / generous teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 2 Cauldron sausages
  • 4 eggs
  • 8 Mushrooms
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 tortilla wraps
  • Cream cheese
  • Large handful grated Cheddar cheese – I just buy it pre grated at the moment. If you don’t, you will need to grate it on your own time.
  • Large handful fresh coriander
  • Sriracha sauce / whatever chilli sauce you are partial to

A note on Cauldron sausages: these are the best vege sausages on the U.K. market in my opinion. Whenever I try other brands I am generally a bit disappointed. If you prefer something else, by all means substitute it, but you are going off piste and I can’t promise it will work!

A note on proportions: you know how hungry you are; increase portion sizes accordingly. Twice the sausages is good if you have a large enough pan, or you could make fewer eggs if you’re that way inclined.

Method:

  • 12:00 Get out in ingredients and a big non-stick frying pan
  • 12:01 Slosh of olive oil in the pan, medium heat, add sausages, shake to coat them in oil. Note: these cook in 8 minutes, turning regularly.
  • 12:02 Mince the garlic, slice the chilli, add to the pan. Stir & shake.
  • 12:03 Chop the mushrooms. Chop the coriander.
  • 12:04 Sweep the sausages to one side of the pan. Add mushrooms to other side of pan and stir to coat in oil. Stir half the coriander into the mushrooms.
  • 12:05 Get out 2 plates and put a tortilla on each. Spread with cream cheese.
  • 12:06 Turn sausages, stir mushrooms, make room in the pan. Carefully crack in the eggs.
  • 12:07 Chop the avocado and scoop out half onto each tortilla
  • 12:08 Turn the sausages, gently stir mushrooms if you think they need it. Everything should be almost cooked; if not, consider turning up the heat for a minute
  • 12:09 Divide the contents of the pan between the two tortillas. Put the pan in the sink and make sure the stove is off
  • 12:10 Scatter on the grated cheese, the remaining coriander leaves, and a generous dash sriracha. Eat!

Do you have any trusty SOS meals you fall back on in times of crisis? Let me know in the comments – we can virtual comfort-eat together 😉

Do they sleep?

Why yes: but only on me. 😬

It wasn’t always like this. They are now 22 weeks old, which puts them right in the middle of the tricky (hellish) period known as the “4-month sleep regression”.

Until I had babies I’d never heard of sleep regressions; until a fortnight ago I wasn’t sure if I believed in them. Now? I’m pretty convinced!

It’s not that they no longer sleep at all, but rather that they like to sleep in our arms. For short periods. And very lightly. From an evolutionary perspective, I get it: they want to be safe from jaguars. Very sensible baby behaviour, frankly!

They’re gaining new skills daily (chief amongst them: flipping over and getting stuck) and I guess their accelerating metabolisms and growing brains have stimulated their appetites again. So we’re back to hourly feeding, which is fine, except for when it’s not, which is whenever I want to do anything else. Like SLEEP.

Anyway. There comes a point in rolling sleep deprivation where you admit defeat and live on coffee… This is my fave at the moment.

Cold milk on ice, a dash of maple syrup, and a double espresso. ☕️ #survivalmode

Ingredients

  • Half a glass of milk
  • Large handful ice cubes
  • 25ml maple syrup
  • 50ml espresso

Method

Everything in the glass

Stir

Down in one! 😉

Double-G Granola

There comes a time when a person stops feeling comfortable eating a tray of flapjack every week (or does there?).

And now that time has come for me, this is what I’ve started making instead: similarly tasty, but lower fat and altogether more wholesome, homemade granola.

Ingredients :

    2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
    2 tbsp maple syrup
    1 tbsp raw honey
    1 tbsp cocoa
    300g oats
    100g chopped almonds
    100g chopped dried apricots
    50g sultanas
    50g chopped hazelnuts (optional, but cocoa + toasted hazelnuts = Nutella vibes, so why wouldn’t you?)
    50g pumpkin seeds
    50g golden linseed

Note: if pushed for time, you can substitute all the dry ingredients for 500g your favourite muesli, plus a handful of any extra nuts or dried fruit you fancy.

Note on ingredients: oats, almonds, apricots and golden linseed have a reputation for stimulating milk supply, however there is no convincing scientific evidence for this. But the tasty, slow-release energy they provide does not go amiss when one is up all hours of the day and night sustaining two small humans!

One of my small humans. Obviously use whatever cocoa you like, but I’m partial to this one. 😉

Method

In a big bowl or pan, mix the oats, oil, syrup, honey and cocoa until all the oats are coated. Then stir in everything else. This should smell really good.

Scoop loosely onto 2 lined baking trays; don’t press down, as you want to toast all the individual pieces evenly.

Bake for 10 mins at 150’C. By now it should smell insanely good!

Allow to cool, then stir to break up any large clumps.

Somehow get it into a mason jar (other jars are available). I do this by using the baking parchment as a funnel and pouring it into the jar, which is quick but some inevitably spills…

Consume by the bowlful with milk of your choice, with yoghurt & fruit, scattered over ice cream, or – my fave – dry, by the desert spoonful, whilst waiting for the kettle to boil.