I remember someone once saying that having a dog was the carbon footprint equivalent of flying a jumbo jet multiple times per year, and then someone else chipping in: “yeah, but that’s nothing compared with having a baby!” and we all (none of us then parents) laughed.
Roll on umpteen years: we have two babies and a dog. Our carbon footprint is deep.
Here are 5 things we do to try minimise the ecological nightmare that is having offspring… and 1 thing that despite our best efforts didn’t work at all.
Throwback to my sleeping newborn twins shortly after they came out of hospital, wearing “Tiny Baby” white vests and snoozing in the hollow of their feeding pillow. You can still see the needle marks on A’s heel from her many blood tests. But by now we were all home safe. A very dreamy time. 💗
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 standbalanced 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 warblingbabies 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.
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!
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…
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…
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
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!
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.
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.
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. 👍
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.
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.
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.
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! 🤞
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.
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! 😂