1) Invest in the right equipment
2) Get everything ready before you start
3) Take your time
4) You don’t have to bath them every day
5) Buy the right products
1) Invest in the right equipment
2) Get everything ready before you start
3) Take your time
4) You don’t have to bath them every day
5) Buy the right products
It’s almost like a tornado has just blown into the house when the kids see one of our tablets emerge as they all scramble for prime position to play with their favourite apps. We have 3 tablets (an iPad, a Samsung Galaxy and a Google Nexus) to reduce the amount of fighting and snatching that goes on between them and I really think a small amount of time spent playing with them is both fun and educational. Here are 5 of our favourites:
This is the first app that Ariana absolutely loved to play from around 15 months old and still does to this day. It has 4 playgrounds where kids can pop balloons, splash in the sea and catch trains and really create little worlds with their imaginations. It was nominated 3 times for the Best App Ever Award.
This app really is a lot of fun. It has 5 interactive games with stickers to collect as rewards for completing mazes, muddy puddles and jigsaws. Ariana would squeal with excitement when she first played on it at around 12 months old and now Kian and Kaira do the same.
The kids love this cartoon so when I saw the app come up in the store, I had to get it for them and they all love it. It plays little cartoons then allows the children to draw objects within the cartoon and watch it play back. The animation is fantastic and really develops creativity.
This is a super cute game. The app has 4 different situations for a girl or a boy including going to the toilet and taking a bath and it really teaches kids about hygiene. All of mine love wiping the characters noses, washing their hands and combing their hair and I love watching their faces light up when they achieve all of it!
Like a lot of parents, we limit their screen time and they don’t play on them every day but these apps are so much fun, I can’t see any harm in letting them be entertained by such imaginative and educational games sometimes!
Love from Leyla
I’ve mentioned in previous posts how important I feel it is to structure babies daytime sleeps in order to ensure we all get the good night time sleep that we so desperately need! I learned so much with Ariana about how too much sleep during the day resulted in her waking earlier the following morning or not going to sleep at bed time at all and too little sleep made her tired and irritable all day, which resulted in her resisting her feeds and generally being pretty grumpy. With Kian and Kaira, I knew what quota of sleep they needed to be happy little babies during the day but also sleepy little babies during the night so here’s what we did if you would like to know.
I think there’s no point trying to structure any sleep until babies are over a couple of weeks old. Just getting twins into the same sleep and feed pattern (as mentioned here) is the most important target in those early weeks.
From around a month old, I was able to wake Kian and Kaira at 6:45am, regardless of how they’d slept during the night (which wasn’t always easy but worth persevering with) to start our day and I found that after their first feed of the day and some ‘play time’ with the family, they could stay awake until around 9:00am when I would take them to bed for their morning nap. I would put them into bed and let them settle themselves, which took practice (more on self-settling here) and let them sleep for around 45 minutes when I would wake them with lots of love and cuddles and their second feed of the day. I found that any more sleep than this in the morning would prevent them from being tired at lunch time when they would have their longest and most important sleep.
Over time when the children had more energy and started to last longer between naps, this nap gradually got pushed back to 9:30am and lasted for only 30 minutes and then I stopped it completely when Ariana was around 6 months and the twins were 9 months old. You will know when they no longer need it when you see absolutely no signs of tiredness during the morning (my children rub their eyes, ears, nose and yawn) so then it’s time to replace it with lots of activities to keep them distracted until it’s time for their longer lunch time nap, which frees up more time in the morning to get out and about but sadly means it’s time to kiss goodbye to those lovely half hours of peace that allowed you to eat and shower in the morning too!
Lunch time nap
My favourite! Ariana had her lunch time nap until she was two and a half years old (just when the twins were born, which wasn’t great timing!) to give you an idea of how blissful your afternoons can be with 2 hours all to yourself to rest (or clean as is most likely) if you get it right! This sleep allowed my children the time their little bodies so desperately needed to recharge their batteries and wake up relaxed and happy, ready to start with their fun afternoon activities.
From around a month old, I would put Kian and Kaira down at 11:30am – 1:30pm and wake them for their afternoon bottle and a few hours of play until their next nap. As they got older (from around 9 months and still now) they lasted from waking at 7:00am until 12:30pm and sleep until 2:30pm, which means now I can give Ariana some all important attention, grab myself something to eat, workout and blog!
Late afternoon nap
In the early weeks, I had this cot in our living room and the twins would sleep side by side from 4:00-4:30pm. I gradually reduced this as they started showing no signs of tiredness (as above) in the late afternoon so I pushed their lunch time nap back to 12:30 – 2:30pm and they managed to last until their bedtime (at 6:30pm in the early months, 7:00pm after around 9 months) without this sleep. I reduced it to a 15 minute nap when they were 4 months old and then they stopped completely a month later.
I always aimed for a 7:00am – 7:00pm routine with our children and got them up in the morning at the same time (yes, weekends too!) so I knew what time their naps would be and I could plan our day. After 6 months of following the above examples, the twins slept through the night and we felt like we had overcome a real challenge. The reality is that sleep deprivation feels like torture and for my husband and I to get our evenings back to sit (on toys), unwind (with wine) and talk (about the kids) still feels heavenly over a year later. It’s not always easy to stick to a routine as it does require being at home to get them used to sleeping in their own room during the day so they are quite happy to sleep there at night but when I did have to be out and about, I tried to adjust their timings by remembering the golden rule – not to let them sleep for more than 3 hours on average during the day, which still allowed them a good night’s sleep that night.
Of course, there were times when my kids were sick and wouldn’t settle in their beds without cuddles so I let them sleep on me for naps, I’ve put them in the car and drove around to help them sleep a few times, I’ve put them in their double pram and pushed them around the streets to help them sleep when they’ve been poorly too. I’ve even put Kian in a swing chair for sleeps when his reflux was bad as at times it was the only way he was comfortable but I was always prepared to be at home for the majority of their naps and I still make sure our activities are organised around being at home at lunch time to put the twins to bed. My kids absolutely love their bedrooms, we’ve never had any problems with them resisting going to bed at night as their day time naps have helped them to associate their bedrooms with rest and they happily climb into bed themselves every night.
I’ll do just about anything to have a happy home and well rested babies (and parents) are the only way particularly with multiples and other siblings to care for in my opinion! I’ll write more about detailed feed and sleep routines in further blog posts.
I love all of the questions I get asked on Instagram and try to answer as many as I can but it can be a little hap-hazard on so many different pages and profiles. Please leave any comments or questions in the box below so I get notified instantly and can take the time to chat. I’m happy to help if I can!
Love from Leyla
Helping babies to sleep through the night is a main priority for all the parents I have ever spoken to, whether they have just one newborn or two. When I had Ariana I was lucky enough to enjoy 12 months maternity leave from work so she got to enjoy my undivided attention 24 hours a day and I lavished her with it. I rocked her to sleep, fed her to sleep, let her take her naps on my lap and then wondered why she didn’t sleep through the night until she was 12 months old. When I was pregnant with Kian and Kaira, I knew that I would have to teach them to self-settle as early as possible and that’s exactly what I did.
I didn’t find it easy at first though. I remember when they were a few weeks old and I had just laid them down in their bed for a nap for the first time during the day and when I went out of the room I can remember feeling like a part of me had been ripped from my body. I felt awful leaving them alone. I just wanted to run back in and hold my babies regardless of the fact that they wouldn’t have any clean bottles or clean clothes or anything else I had to catch up on while they slept. I sat on the floor outside their bedroom door with my head in my hands sobbing down the phone to my husband as he had just returned to work after 2 weeks at home with us, the mum-guilts got me bad! The two weeks Ste spent with us on paternity leave allowed us to nurse and hold the babies all day long and there was 2 of us to share the household tasks so as soon as I found myself alone with them I knew they had to start sleeping in their own cots to allow me time to do the work on my own, which came as a shock to my system and I felt really guilty about it.
I wish I’d had another mum of a newborn or two to talk to at the time, to reassure me that my feelings were perfectly normal and that things would get easier, which is what I would like to do for you now. I would like to say that of course it does feel strange after 9 months of carrying your baby/ies around inside you, putting them down in their own beds will feel unnatural at first but it’s as important for them as it is for you to get used to that separation. Babies need to learn how to settle themselves, no parent wants to be awake all night helping their babies get back to sleep when they naturally wake from their slumber every 40 minutes or so, and it’s putting them down in their own cots for all naps (including day time) that is the start of the process.
What I still tell myself is that babies need sleep in order to grow and develop. Depriving them of their own ability to settle themselves back to sleep is not going to do anyone any favours in the long term. Babies thrive on routine and I reminded myself of that every day when I felt guilty taking them to bed and laying them down in the dark for their naps, they were happier and much more alert babies because they were well rested and getting them to bed at night was easier because they associated their bedroom with sleep.
Necessities for helping babies to self-settle:
I am a huge fan of swaddling. It’s something the midwives did in hospital when all 3 of our children were born and although I didn’t continue at home with Ariana, I did with the twins and I became a convert, I would highly recommend it to any parents of newborns. Some people use a cotton blanket folded into a triangle but we preferred the Miracle Blanket, which is the perfect size and shape for newborns right through to 6 months old. We purchased several from Mothercare and they significantly reduced the babies natural startle reflex, which would jerk them awake regularly if they were not tucked in so securely.
The only down side of swaddling is getting babies used to sleeping without them again. Kian and Kaira were five months old before we stopped swaddling them completely, after a weaning off period where we left one arm out of the swaddle for a couple of weeks, then went on to leaving two arms free and then out came the legs. Altogether, I think it took about a month for them to get used to sleeping without being swaddled but it was well worth it in the early days!
I really recommend dummies, particularly if a baby is swaddled as their natural instinct is to suck and they can’t find their thumb if they’re swaddled. I also didn’t want my children to become thumb suckers as I knew that it would be a really difficult habit for them to break and their teeth could grow out of shape and the thought of all the germs on their little hands when they’re older really put me off. I knew with dummies, I could restrict their usage to bedtime only and they became a great sleep cue for all of our children. As soon as we popped them into bed, they grabbed their dummies and we could see their eyes closing instinctively and were asleep by the time we’d left the room some days!
Dummies have also been proven to help protect babies from cot death by regulating their heartbeat, which was all the encouragement I needed to give them to my children when I heard it! I love the ones by Avent as they are orthodontic and all come with a lid and so are much more hygienic if you want to take them out with you. I let Ariana have hers in bed until she was three years old but I’ll write about how we stopped her using it in another blog post.
One of the major downsides of dummies is teaching babies to find them for themselves in the dark. There are a variety of glow in the dark options available but I find they only glow for a short period of time (not enough to get through the night) so the best option in my opinion are dummy clips. There are a variety of these on the market too, but I find the ones that stay put the most effectively are these by Mam, available at Boots. Of course, it isn’t feasible for very young babies to be able to find their own dummies for the first few months, so it is to be expected that parents may have to get out of bed to replace them if they’re lost, but this phase soon passes and children soon learn exactly how to follow their clip string to find the dummy.
I’ve mentioned the importance of making a room pitch black even in broad daylight in a previous post. We have fitted a roller blind, blackout curtains, lined curtains, pelmets and even stuff cushions up into the cracks between the pelmet and curtain rail to make the kids bedrooms dark for their day time naps. There’s loads of research done on the affect darkness has on releasing the brains chemicals to induce natural sleep patterns and as parents, we want to teach our children that bedtime is for sleeping as early as possible and a dark room for naps is the way to do it. You’ll be glad when your babies are the only ones you hear of that sleep beyond 5:00am!
When I was pregnant with the twins, we gave Ariana a very important job to do and that was to choose their comfort blankets. She selected one blue and one pink bunny from Precious Little One and she brought them into hospital for them the very first day she met her new brother and sister and they have slept with them ever since. I place them on their left hand side whenever I put the babies in bed and they nuzzle their faces into them knowingly that it’s time for sleep. Another sleep cue that I think has worked wonders with our three.
I have to admit, there was a settling in period where we all got used to this new routine of teaching the babies to settle themselves but it was only a couple of weeks and when that breakthrough came and I had two newborns that I could put to bed awake and they would get themselves to sleep, I started to get my life back together and I felt the proudest I ever have of them and of myself!
Of course, there’s a lot more to encouraging babies to self-settle than buying the right equipment. There needs to be strength within the parent that will be at home with the child to teach this life skill and not feel guilty about not picking them up every time they cry. It takes practice to put a baby down, swaddle them, give them their comforters, turn off the light, leave the room and not feel bad about it but when you reach that magical destination known as ‘Sleeping through the Night’, you’ll be so glad that you persevered.
There will be times when they cry and you will probably cry on the other side of the door too, but it’s important to remember that this is a very short term phase that ALL families have to get through because what are the other options? It’s OK to let just one baby sleep on your lap during the day every day if that’s what you choose to do, but there just isn’t enough room for two on there and what happens at night if they can’t sleep alone during the day? Kicking my partner out of bed to make room for two babies was never an option for me and it wasn’t recommended by my Health Visitor either due to safety reasons. I was never going to be one of those parents who drive around all night to get their children to sleep either or push their pram at 3:00am just to get them to sleep. It’s not practical when you have other siblings to care for or the mountains of work you need to do when the babies sleep. Nothing would ever get done if they didn’t take their naps in their bedroom.
So as long as you know your baby or babies are well and are regularly putting on weight, there’s no reason why they can’t learn to self-settle from the first few weeks of life but my advice is only based on that from my own experience and that of other parents of multiples that I know.
I’m always answering more specific questions on Instagram and through the about page, or feel free to leave your comments below. I will talk about more specific routines that worked for us in further blog posts.
Thanks for reading.
Love from Leyla
We eat out quite a lot. I love to take the kids to family-friendly cafes where they can sit and people watch and I can feed them a meal that I don’t have to clean up after! They are pretty good, because they’re used to it now and will generally sit without much fuss until their meal is finished and then want to run around, which can be tricky unless we go to places that cater for kids.
As in the picture above, we find Ikea’s cafe to be one of the best. It’s well equipped with a microwave, bottle warmers and a play area and if like me you happen to be an Ikea Family Member, tea and coffee is free during the week so it’s a great place to let the kids have lunch and the grown ups can have a hot drink while they’re at it.
It can be a tricky experience at times though and I’ve found certain items really help us so I wanted to share my top 10 here with you.
I always carry a pack of these in my pram bag. They’re great for cleaning the table and highchairs before and after we’ve eaten because I never trust the dodgy looking cloths that staff rub over every surface carrying germs around with them! They’re suitable for dropped toys that need a quick wipe over too, although I wouldn’t trust them with dummies as is recommended on the packet, I would be too worried about the chemicals going into my little ones mouths!
This thermal bag is ideal for eating out at all stages with babies. I bought one when Ariana was a baby and still use it 4 years later! It can carry 2 freshly warmed bottles of milk (even the larger Dr Browns ones) so that wherever we went, my kids could drink their milk within the 2 hour guideline recommended by the Department of Health. Now they’re older, I can carry warmed food in a container inside the bag, which takes away any worries that the babies will need feeding if we’re out and about.
3. Water Wipes
I’ve mentioned these in a previous post because they’re brilliant for newborn bottoms and for wiping faces after a messy meal! I can’t leave home without a packet of these that are made from almost 100% water, so no harsh chemicals on my babies faces.
This is another essential for me. Not only does it keep water hot for hours that can be used to make fresh milk on the go, but it also has a large lid big enough to fill with the water and stand a bottle in to warm so that whenever you need a warm drink for your baby, you have the ability with this flask. It can also be used to warm food pouches when babies are weaning.
I always keep these in my bag too because I never know when I’m going to need them. They’re great to protect my little ones clothing and can be discarded after use so Im not carrying dirty bibs around with me for the rest of the day.
I love this bowl because it comes with the lid means that I can fill it with the babies meal, warm it in the microwave, pop it on and keep it warm in the Avent insulated bag (as above) until the babies meal time. I’ve carried this with me to the park lots of times and after a fun play, sat them back in their pram and fed them while we’re still out. It really is handy!
I prefer to carry spoons around with me for the babies because I never know if cafe’s will have them readily available when we want to eat so a few of these popped into my bag really help. I like the size and shape of these by Tommee Tippee as the babies seem to handle them really well now that they are feeding themselves more.
This packable highchair is so easy to fit wherever we go, I take it with me if we’re going somewhere new and I’m not sure if there will be enough highchairs for my twins! It folds up really small and it’s great for taking with us on holiday.
These have made my life so much easier over the years. The contents are 100% organic so I never feel like my kids are having an unhealthy meal even if it is ready-made (it’s not every day we eat out anyway) and the pouch style allows them to squeeze the contents into their mouths at room temperature while we’re on the go. I keep them in my bag all the time so if we’re ever running late and they’re grouchy because meal time is approaching, I can give them a pouch and they will quite happily munch on them in their pram as we walk. The fruit pouches are brilliant for stirring into meals too and when I first start weaning the kids, I would stir the pear one into a lot of their meals to give them a sweetness, but my recipes for weaning are for another post!
10. Nuby sippy cups
I have a cupboard full of sippy cups that launch themselves at me every time I open the door, I have bought so many over the years that my husband groans when he sees a new one appear in our home. My favourite when we are eating out is the Nuby none-spill cup. The shape is so easy for my babies to grip and they don’t spill in my bag in transport. I always carry water with me for the babies wherever we go.
And that’s my list of essential items for eating out with babies and toddlers. Please comment below if there’s any items that could help us even more. I’m always looking for new ideas!
Love from Leyla
Reflux is something I am asked most about through my blog and Instagram, so I have wanted to write a post about the signs to look for in a baby for parents who are worried their children may need a diagnosis for a while although finding time is as easy as finding treasure for me! But today daddy is home, the twins are napping and Ariana is watching Frozen for the 75th time with him (lucky daddy) so I’m good to go…
Initially, I just want to chat about reflux and it’s definition. The full name for the condition is gastro-oesophgeal reflux disease or GORD in the UK whereas in America it is referred to as GERD as they spell oesophagus without the O. The literal meaning is ‘backward flow’ and so describes the literal inability of the body to prevent the stomach contents travelling up into the oesophagus.
I’ve learned a lot about the disease from one of my best friends who’s children have suffered with it too (love you Laura!) and from reading online and talking to doctors and pediatricians and it’s hard to remember a time that I didn’t understand terms such as ‘GORD’ and ‘sphincter valve’ but I would like to elaborate here because I know when I started on this journey, I felt completely lost so I’d like to fill in blanks for anyone who is struggling like I was a year ago.
From what I understand, the sphincter acts as a valve at the bottom of the oesophagus that opens to allow food into the stomach. When this doesn’t function properly (as in people who suffer with reflux) the contents including stomach acid flow back into the oesophagus and sometimes up into the throat, which comes out in vomit and when this happens over a long period of time, it can cause damage to the teeth, nasal passages and lungs and as it happened with my baby, this long term exposure can cause severe complications resulting in hospital admission and long-standing aversions to food.
There are so many signs that a baby is suffering with reflux, although I had NO idea when the symptoms started to present themselves with Kian and Kaira. I’ve talked about how they were diagnosed in a previous blog post, but in brief Kaira was projectile vomiting and Kian was fighting his bottle so we eventually worked out that we were dealing with 2 types of the disease – reflux and silent reflux. Each equally disturbing and heart breaking to watch my babies suffer with. Without going into detail about our personal experience here (I’ll save that for another time), here is a list of the symptoms that I noticed with my babies starting with Kian:
Looking back at that list, I can’t believe that I didn’t know sooner that my children had a disease but when you aren’t sleeping and have no experience in a disorder such as this, you just have no idea what is going on. People would say to me ‘oh mine posits all the time’ and I’d think ‘yeah maybe this is normal’ and carry on but deep down I knew something wasn’t right.
In my experience, it was silent reflux that was the hardest to both diagnose and treat as the symptoms were not as obvious at first as there was no vomiting that I could see, the damage was going on inside Kian’s little body and of course he couldn’t tell me what was going on. I knew he was in pain and my instincts were telling me he needed help but no- one was taking me seriously. I would cry in the doctors surgery waiting room and feel completely helpless, but I never gave up, I remember us having 4 appointments in 1 particular week. I am just very grateful that our health visitor came to see us one day and noticed his aversion to his bottle and referred him to my GP who finally started taking us seriously and referred us onto a pediatrician.
What I want to say is this – if you’re reading this because you suspect your child or children may have some of the symptoms above, go to see your doctor. Don’t hesitate. There’s a common misconception that a lot of babies suffer with what doctors like to call ‘colic’ but from what I’ve learned, I think this is a way for doctors to get (what they would consider to be) overly worried parents out of their office with a vague diagnosis for their child’s irritability but new research now suggests that it is reflux that they are suffering with. How sick children and their distraught parents are dismissed with this misdiagnosis without basic investigations is beyond my realm of comprehension.
I was told ‘don’t worry they’ll grow out of it’ time and time again, which is easy to say for people who have no idea what watching babies scream in pain all day long feels like. I can’t tell you the lengths I would go to, to help my children and getting the twins diagnosed with reflux was the biggest mountain I have climbed in my entire life. I feel like all 3 of their health is in my hands and I don’t trust any medical professional over my own instincts when it comes to their well-being.
Go to your doctor, go to your doctor a million times and don’t leave without a diagnosis and the right medication. Or go to the accident and emergency department at your local hospital and refuse to leave until you’ve seen a pediatrician. We were placed on a 4 month waiting list to see a specialist after getting diagnosed by our GP (FOUR MONTHS with 2 sick newborn babies who weren’t feeding? – Thanks for that NHS!) and there was no way I was waiting that long. I would have screamed as loud as my babies if I had needed to in those busy waiting rooms. Believe me – your children (and ultimately you as their parent) don’t have to suffer.
More information can be found on the NHS website but I just want thank you for joining us in our experience with this horrible disease. I know some families are on much harder journeys than ours and I hope these words are of some help to any parent going through what we did, but if you would rather speak to me direct, please send me a message through my about page or leave a comment below.
I will write about the medication that helped us in another blog post.
Love from Leyla
What a week. Not only has it been half term so school is closed, but Ariana also has a virus and the twins have been teething. So for me that has meant three children all taking it in turns to spontaneously burst into tears, swing off the hem of my jumpers and systematically drive me insane. I can’t tell you how glad I am that it’s Friday and so daddy will be at home for a couple of days to help! I might even get chance to shower – ha!
Of course it’s not nice seeing your babies in pain as every parent knows. I feel for them, I am as miserable as they are and I wish I could take the discomfort away and suffer instead but the only thing I can do is keep them dosed up with Calpol and Nurofen, which I alternate along with Teething Granules by Boots which are a homeopathic remedy containing Chamomilla. They really calm Kaira down and settle her overnight though it’s really important to note that they also contain lactose and so aren’t suitable for children suffering with a lactose intolerance like my Kian. I rub Bonjela on their gums when I remember too.
Besides the obvious irritability (in me as well as the babies), other symptoms with my children that I’ve noticed are:
Another problem for us with teething is the surge in reflux it causes Kian. He cried uncontrollably for around 3 hours yesterday, stuffing his fingers into his mouth with tears rolling down his red cheeks. I wasn’t sure if it was his teeth or his acid that was hurting him so I had to give him an extra dose of Omeperazole to be on the safe side.
I am really hoping this phase passes soon. Kian has 4 teeth along the top and 2 at the bottom. Kaira only has the 1 on top and 2 at the bottom, which is not a lot for their 16 months. I know it’s a long process so we will just have to all grin and bear it!
Photo credit for the picture of the twins above goes to Ariana. She really is getting good with my camera.
Hope you are having a lovely day!
Love from Leyla
It’s such a blessing to create a life, particularly to create 2 at the same time. To feel 4 legs kicking you, 4 elbows wriggling and squishing you and to see 2 babies suck their thumbs and nuzzle together inside you during routine scans. To get used to answering the question ‘is it a girl or a boy?’ with ‘both!’ and seeing people’s faces light up in amazement and prepare the home and family for the arrival of 2 newborns is beyond describable but my pregnancy was a real mixture of emotions. I was excited to meet my babies but I also got quite apprehensive not knowing what to expect from the first few weeks of their arrival so I wanted to write an honest account of my experience of the first 2 weeks of bringing 2 babies into the world.
I am torn between honesty and diplomacy here because I know how sensitive I was when I was pregnant so I don’t want to worry anyone who’s reading this with baby/babies on the way but I have to write about our experience in an honest way and suggest maybe if you are a little worried about what’s to come, skip my emotions on the subject and head straight to the ‘what I’ve learned’ summary at the end then get someone to translate the rest in hormone friendly terms sometime whilst feeding you ice-cream and massaging your feet 😉
I know I’m not an expert, my advice is just based on my own personal experiences and I’m writing about them because I have been asked to by some lovely people who follow my blog and have an interest in the logistics of bringing home babies. I never want to come across as though I am in any way more knowledgeable than other mums of multiples out there. I just want to share my experiences and maybe help other parents have an easier transition than I did.
I’ll write about my twin pregnancy in another blog post, but I decided from very early on in Kian and Kaira’s gestation that I wanted an elected cesearian after complications during labour with Ariana and so from my 35th week of pregnancy I knew the date my babies would come into the world, which really helped me to get my mind and home organised. The whole experience of an elected caesarian was a really positive one (especially compared to the emergency one I had with my first born!) but I will write about their delivery in another post.
I am beyond thankful that Kian and Kaira did not need any NICU time when they were born and although only 4.7 (Kaira) and 4.3 (Kian) pounds in weight, they were able to stay with me from the moment they came into the world at 9:08am and 9:15am on Wednesday 23rd October 2013. I spent 4 days in hospital with my 2 new little ones and decided that I wanted to express milk for the babies, so the nurses helped me to feed them by cup every time they were hungry and I got up out of bed to pump with an electric Medela machine (leant to me by a breast care support worker at our nearby children’s centre) every 2 hours.
^^^The first time I held my babies. I was so proud of them and of myself. I couldn’t believe I had made these two angels that loved me with all their hearts^^^
That first day Kian and Kaira were born was such a special time. I didn’t have a long labour to recover from and at the touch of a button nurses came to give me pain relief from the operation so on the whole, I felt pretty good (all things considered!) I got to look into the eyes of the beautiful people I felt like I’d known for so long and to watch their daddy fall in love with them was more than I can formulate into in words on a keyboard! Ste stayed in hospital with me that night. Although the nurses came to ask all visitors to leave, I think they took pity on me stuck in bed with 2 babies to look after overnight so they let him stay in a chair at the side of us, passing babies to me one by one as and when they wanted me.
The babies were subjected to so many tests during those first few days. Heel pricks, I dont even remember what for, hearing tests and body temperature every few hours to ensure they could mainain their own despite their low birth weight. Every time the pediatricians prodded and poked, I remember holding my breath hoping that everything was fine for both my babies, which it was and I felt like the luckiest mummy in the world!
Unfortunately expressing milk didn’t work for me. I remember it was the middle of the night when I was sat in an upright chair at the side of my bed with Kaira asleep in the cot and Kian being fed by a midwife with formula in a cup. The noise from the machine was so loud and I sat there in pain with the pump whirring away for what felt like the 100th time that day and nothing was happening, even the midwife told me she thought it might be a good idea that I stopped trying. I remember feeling like a failure and getting back into my hospital bed sobbing because I hadn’t been able to provide milk for my babies and some time later (I must have nodded off) I remember being visited by another nurse in our dark room who whispered to me not to worry, that I’d tried my best and that as long as the babies were loved and cared for, whether they were fed by breast or bottle didn’t matter. She was like an angel to me in those early hours and although I was too emotional to thank her properly at the time, I made sure I called her after I got home to let her know how much her words had helped me.
So on our 3rd day, I started to feed the babies with the cartons of ready made formula I had taken into hospital with me, using the disposable bottles provided to me by the nurses. I started to get to grips with feeding 2 tiny babies at the same time and changing their even tinier ‘micro nappies’.
Ste was with me from the minute visiting hours started and stayed as late as the nurses would allow and our very close relatives and friends came to visit too (I got so excited introducing the twins to their grandparents!) but Ariana was with my mum the entire time and so I felt a growing urgency to get home to be with her again.
Bringing home 2 newborns felt really daunting to me. I was nervous, I was exhausted and I was recovering from an operation but I felt like I needed to be with Ariana again and I wanted to get her home to complete our family under one roof. The minute the nurses told us we could go home on the Saturday evening, we bundled the twins into their car seats, picked Ariana up on our way home and walked into a whole new world through our front door.
I think we envisaged getting Ariana straight to bed when we got in and concentrating on the babies but that didn’t happen, Ariana was far too excited to have her new brother and sister home. She wanted to feed them, change them, play with them and the only thing she didn’t want to do was go to bed! It was an eye opener trying to get 3 babies to sleep that night! When I heard all 3 of them crying at the same time for the first time, I remember feeling a panic bubbling under the surface inside me. I remember saying ‘what have we done?’ because I was so far out of my comfort zone, I felt completely overwhelmed with responsibility and a little lost if I’m being honest.
The night was long and a shock to the system for Ste who hadn’t really experienced a ‘night’ with the twins by this point. I’ll never forget the morning, Ariana seemed so grown up to me after nursing newborns for days. We brought her downstairs for breakfast and were so distracted feeding the babies their morning bottles, when I walked into the kitchen, she was sitting on the floor eating Cheerios out of the box. I was heartbroken. I felt like I had really let her down. I felt guilty and really beat myself up. Looking back, it was probably my hormones that made me make such a big deal of the situation because now when I look back, I am really proud that she had the sense to grab herself a bite to eat while we were busy! It was the start of us all learning how to share each other and divide our time, which we had never had to do before.
We kept the house so quiet during those early days. Ste was home from work so between us, we shared caring for Ariana and looking after Kian and Kaira. Their needs were so basic back then – feeding, cuddling and changing their nappies (around 100 a week!) We made sure that we had them in skin to skin contact as much as possible every day and I would alternate one baby each afternoon to take a nap snuggled up inside my shirt. I had an Etsy twin breastfeeding pillow that allowed me to sleep sitting up and rest the baby safely in my arms without fear of them falling to the side. They were the most perfect times. Sleeping with my newborn tucked up tightly against my skin. Seeing their little eyes search for me when they woke up and the warmth of their tiny body against mine. It’s something I definitely miss now they’re on their feet and running away from me most of the time!
Feeding the babies while Ste was home was easy as he was there to take one each, the only problem we could see was Kian not latching onto his bottle very well. At the time, we had no idea why but luckily a midwife called and during her routine visit, she looked into his mouth and saw that he had tongue-tie. She referred us to a specialist at the hospital there and then but the appointment we received was 2 weeks away so we really struggled to feed him before his operation. He gulped so much air (I could write a huge blog post on burping windy babies!) because his mouth wasn’t around the teat properly so we spent hours pacing the house trying to get him to burp after each feed (not fun during the night when there was only 2 hours between feeds anyway!)
Because I knew Ste was returning to work within a few days, I wanted Kian and Kaira on the same feeding schedule as soon as possible so we decided to feed both babies at the same time, even if it was only one of them that woke up for a feed, we would wake the other and feed them too. It might sound strange to feed a baby that isn’t crying for food but within a few days, they were both waking at pretty much the same time for their milk and that gave us a couple of hours in between to catch up with jobs, see to Ariana and prepare for the next feed.
Kian was also a sleepy feeder. He would wake up screaming for milk but then fall asleep after a few mouthfuls and wake up screaming again half an hour later. Because we wanted them feeding together, we encouraged him to be more wakeful during his feeds by talking to him, taking his little legs out of his sleepsuits and gently stroking his face. It really helped get that full feed into him and he slept much more soundly with a full stomach!
Ste used to describe the nursery as ‘the battleground’. Some nights only 1 hour would pass between feeds and in the morning the room would be full of used bottles, spilt milk, damp muslin cloths, full nappy bags and 2 exhausted parents. Our babies slept in their own room from day 1 and we set up a chair bed in there with them then alternated which one of us slept with them. Babies make so much noise in their sleep. It’s hard to believe how 2 tiny things can snuffle and sneeze and whimper so much and that’s when they’re not crying. I couldn’t sleep through it so at least I had every other night to have a break in my own bed for a solid hour or two without being disturbed. I’ll describe how we set up our nursery and more detailed sleeping arrangements in another blog post.
One of the first days we brought the twins home from hospital, we had laid Kian and Kaira side by side in their little cot we had set up in the living room and as they settled we heard a noise coming from Kaira. We looked into the crib and saw her making a sniffing motion whilst faced away from Kian. I said ‘I think she’s looking for him’ and then we watched her little face turn from one side to the other until her nose practically touched his and she took a deep sigh and fell asleep. From that point on, we got rid of the 2 moses baskets we’d thought we’d use and kept them side by side in the foot of a cot bed in their nursery overnight and in a little crib downstairs during the day.
Everybody loves a newborn member of the family and twins have a certain mystical interest all of their own. It felt like the world wanted to visit when we first brought Kian and Kaira home, which I understood completely but we had read a lot of advice about how important it is to bond as a family with minimal interruption while I was pregnant and so it’s a viewpoint we adopted and as close relatives had visited the babies while we were still in hospital, they had already seen them when we came home.
We explained that we wanted time to bond as a family and so kept the first 2 weeks a very quiet space so that I could take the babies to bed with me whenever I wanted skin-to-skin contact and to get them into the rhythm of our household. I really feel like babies pick up on their parents vibes, especially their mummy’s! Even now if I’m anxious or unhappy, I think the kids can sense it! It’s in our body language, our heart rates, our breath. They know when we’re happy or sad and if we’re anxious about visitors seeing us in our dressing gowns with baby sick on our shoulder, hair unwashed and piles of dirty nappies at our feet, I feel like they’ll pick up on that and manifest our worries.
The last thing we ever want is our children to have any anxiety so we kept our home as stress free as possible in those early days and our families and friends were really respectful of our space. We knew they were there if we needed them but they allowed us the time to bond that we needed, which was really important for us as a new family of 5. We did have a few hot meals delivered though and for that I will always be grateful!
On the subject of visitors, I have to mention GERMS. I am happy to hold my hands up (after I’ve washed them of course) and admit that I might be at risk of becoming the new word that’s crept into the English language – a ‘germaphobe’. Once you’ve dealt with 2 poorly babies who can’t sleep because their noses are full of snot and cry in pain because they’re ill you will understand why I am terrified of people passing on their germs to my babies! We asked everyone (friends, relatives, midwives and health visitors) to take off their shoes and wash their hands on entering our home when the babies were tiny. It may sound extreme but I wouldn’t wish illnesses like Norovirus on anyone and whatever amount of mocking I may have had behind my back for asking people to clean their hands before handling our children was worth it. I’ll put the health of my family before anyone else’s sensitivities any day!
It’s lovely to keep a birth partner overnight: I was really lucky to get a private room in hospital when the twins were born, which allowed Ste to stay with me overnight without disturbing any other patients on the ward. I really needed him with me that night, for personal and practical reasons and I think it would be worth asking really nicely if the nurses would allow that to happen in your local hospital when your twins arrive. Our reasoning was it would be a lot less work for them if he was there to tend to the babies with me rather than me needing their help all night. It’s worth a try!
Stay in hospital: until you feel confident in feeding, changing, bathing and holding 2 babies I recommend staying in hospital for as long as possible. The nurses can offer so much help and advice when you’re exhausted from whatever delivery you’ve been through and especially make the most of having hot meals delivered to you. You won’t be getting many of them when you get home!
Tongue-tie: with all the tests the doctors did on the babies when they were born, I am amazed that no-one looked into their mouths and did a simple check of their tongue. If we had known Kian was tongue-tied, perhaps they could have done the procedure to free it much sooner than the battle we had for weeks trying to feed him and watching him struggle. He was so tiny, it really upsets me how much he suffered with his attachment in those early days so I really recommend asking a nurse to have a quick look before you are discharged.
Breast feeding: I envy people who make a decision about how they want to feed their baby/babies early in their pregnancies because it takes away so much worry and guilt. I wish I’d have decided that from knowing I had a toddler to take care of and 2 newborns to feed, expressing milk probably wasn’t going to be an easy task and not let myself be guilt tripped into taking on such a huge responsibility that my body evidently couldn’t take. As long as babies are loved and cared for, where a mummy decides to provide their milk from is a personal choice and one that shouldn’t be influenced by anyone else. I would say making a decision and sticking to it is the best you can do and know you’re a good parent regardless how you choose to feed your little one/s.
Organise your home-coming: time it right, in between the babies feeds and early enough in the day so that you can set up bottles and feeding equipment before the night shift begins. Arrange child care for older sibling/s if you can so that the babies can be settled in their new surroundings before their older brother or sister comes home full of energy and excitement at meeting the new arrivals to their home. It’s an introduction that I feel needs to be handled delicately.
Sleeping arrangements: be prepared. There is a list here of the items I think are essential to have at home when the babies come here. If you can set up the nursery with certain things it will feel less stressful when you’re dealing with the demands of 2 newborns as you will have everything you need to hand without fumbling around in the dark downstairs. Decide on where your babies will sleep before they come home. My advice is to keep them side by side for as long as they will fit. Mine were really comforted by each other’s prescence and after 9 months of being so close together in the womb it’s hardly surprising.
Skin-to-skin contact: whether it’s with mummy or daddy or another really important person that will be in your baby or babies life, get those little ones stripped off and snuggled against you as much as possible. There’s so much research been done on the benefits including the release of feel good hormones that help with the bonding process, whether breast or bottle feeding. If babies do need time in special care at hospital, the nurses will ensure parents get time to do this too. More information can be found on Babycentre.
Visitors: limit visitors in the first 2 weeks. Let very close family visit while you’re still in hospital and timings are regulated so there’s no possibility of anyone encroaching on those all important feed times and you have no other household tasks to tend to (making people cups of tea is a big no!) If people do call ask them to bring supplies – nappies, wipes, food! The last thing you need is flowers! You won’t have time to water yourself, never mind a pretty bunch of carnations. Invest in hand sanitizers by the entrance door for guests to use before they touch the babies or ask them to wash their hands. It’s your home and your babies, don’t ever feel like you need to apologise for protecting them.
Feeding together: try to get the babies feeding at the same time. Whether that’s by tandem breast of bottle feeding, in the long run it’ll be worth it. If you have a sleepy feeder, take their legs out of their clothes before feeding. Play music or sing and talk to your baby. Make day time feeds a light and bright experience so babies soon begin to realise the difference with their day and night time feeds.
The home: I’ve had to get better at this as time has gone on since having babies and realise that the housework is not as important as giving my little ones the attention they need. Particularly in the early days, it’s important to prioritise the essentials, so for me that was clean bottles, clean clothes and a stocked fridge and freezer (having the Tesco ap on my phone to do our food shopping online and have it delivered was a lifesaver as was freezing portions of food while I was pregnant for use in the first few weeks!) I still have to remind myself now that the sticky fingerprints all over our windows and the ironing pile that just keeps on growing doesn’t matter. In the first few weeks of bringing home babies, the most important thing to do when you get the chance of a break is to rest. The housework can wait (a good few years until they’ve moved out!)
Now I’ve re-read this post just before I publish it, I’m really hoping I haven’t worried anyone who is pregnant with twins at the moment. I remember seeing pictures on Instagram and reading blogs when my babies were young and it was all smiles and sentiments about how perfect their lives were with these perfect new babies and I worried that I wasn’t good enough a parent because my experience was so much more stressful but I do think all babies are different and all families cope differently with new arrivals and that’s either singular or multiple! I just really want to be honest because I feel really strongly that as women and parents and just people in general, we should all stick together and try to empower each other by sharing both the tough and touching times. There’s no shame in admitting when we struggle and I will happily admit that bringing home 2 babies is hard work. It’s exhausting and challenging and I found myself relying on reserves of strength I didn’t even know I had just to drag myself and my little family through the day but I got through it and my memories now are 50% stress and 50% amazing, wonderful, life changing times that have brought us closer together than I ever thought was possible. The love we have for each other is unconditional and unbreakable and worth all the ups and downs of those first few months.
I am aware that I talk a lot about caring for 2 babies from a point of view of being in a 2 parent family but I think if you’re pregnant and facing bringing home baby/babies as a 1 parent family then it might be a good idea to ask for help from parents, siblings and friends. In the UK there is a service called Home Start and I was in touch with them after Ste went back to work. They offered me some support via a volunteer service, which I didn’t follow through with in the end but the support worker I met with was superb and I would suggest calling them if anyone reading this feels like they need additional support. My Health Visitor has also been a great source of support. Contacting your local children’s centre will point you in the right direction. Also, if money is no object nanny’s, cleaners and even night nannies would help immensely. I was in contact with a service called Night Nannies during my most desperate times and they offered to send a twin specialist to our home and sleep overnight, looking after our babies while we slept and even waking us with breakfast in the morning (yes please!) for around £150. That wasn’t in our budget and even though I was tempted to sell a kidney at one point (the husbands, not mine of course) I wasn’t sure about leaving my babies with strangers overnight anyway, but each to their own and lots of people do pay for additional support such as this and find it helps.
I hope this post has provided a little insight into the first 2 weeks of bringing home babies. I try to respond to the comments I get on each blog post or the emails I receive through my about page as quickly as I can, I don’t think I’m an expert but I am happy to help.
The best of luck to you and your big bump.
Love from Leyla
Although in my pre-mum life I wasn’t always a person that’s keen on routine, but since having kids I’ve found it the only way I can manage my day and the million things I have to do during it.
Even when I only had 1 child to care for, as the months went by I found myself creating a routine with Ariana that allowed me to plan my week around a well rested baby so I knew during my pregnancy with the twins that I would incorporate a similar structure when they arrived.
I remember wishing there was a place I could read about recommended routines for twins, just to give myself a head start on what to expect from an average (if that exists) day caring for two babies and I found Gina Ford’s Contented House With Twins book a great place to start although I found her routines to be quite rigid in parts and not really tailored toward a home that already has children living in it so I’m really hoping that I can fill in some blanks for prospective parents of multiples on my blog.
I know the thought of a routine seems pretty restrictive to some and many times I’ve left play dates to get the kids home for their scheduled nap to the horror of some parents who are happy to let their children run around until they drop, but in my experience you will wait a long time for cues from a baby about how exhausted they are. If anything, kids can seem even more energised and hyper when they’re at their most tired and they don’t take kindly to being taken away from all the fun they think they’re having when they’re absolutely shattered.
Kian and Kaira were in completely different sleep patterns when they were born. Kian was a sleepy feeder and would fall asleep on his bottle before he finished it, whereas Kaira was quite happy to sleep all day but be awake all night. I remember waddling up and down the hospital corridors on the second night after their birth from 1:00 – 4:00am holding Kaira tight while she gazed bright eyed at me as we learned the features of each others faces under the fluorescent lights. It was a lovely time for us to bond and I enjoyed every minute of it, but I also knew deep down that I had another exhausting day ahead of me looking after another newborn that didn’t leave any time to catch up on the sleep I was missing with a caesarean to recover from. I knew I would have to get my beautiful new babies in the same feeding and sleeping pattern when we got home.
I’m really lucky to have a partner who has embraced fatherhood and we both worked really hard to support each other and maintain a level of calm in our home that I think all newborn babies need. Having a routine in place helped as even though we were both too exhausted to think straight, we could work the essential jobs around their naps and of course give Ariana all the attention any 2 year old needs on a daily basis especially when their world has been turned upside down.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that for me there is no substitute for a day that’s structured around regular feed and nap times and I honestly can’t imagine trying to cope with twins without a routine. Kian and Kaira were taking their daytime naps together from being just a few weeks old and I remember having visitors at the time who expressed they couldn’t believe how calm the house was with three small babies in it. By 6 months the twins were sleeping through the night and now at a year I can stand at the bottom of the stairs and declare its ‘nap time’ and they will both crawl quite happily up to bed and I can lie them down and turn off the light and they get themselves straight to sleep. I really hope I can help other parents get there relatively easily in my following blog posts.
Love from Leyla