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5 Things I Learned in the First 5 Days with Twins

1. I was over and under prepared. And it was fine. While I was pregnant I had the opportunity to source a lot of great, gently used baby items for our home at way under cost, so I went above and beyond. I had bassinets, I had pack N plays, I had cribs unassembled in the garage for when we were ready, I had baby nests for containing them on the floor, bed or sofa. I was extra prepared because I was 1. A first time mother, and 2. Knew twins would give us many unforseen obstacles (will I be able to exclusively breastfeed? Can we cosleep with two babies? Do I need a bedside sleeper if we're combo feeding?) While we have used all of these items since bringing them home in varying fashion, none of it was strategic - it was all survival. Each day our routine changed to fit the unmet needs discovered the day or night before. I am grateful that we have all of these things, but we would have figured out some way to get by without any of them, or possibly have figured out the exact perfect product after living without any of them for a time. I had our go bags packed months in advance (in my defense we were at risk for preterm birth). I packed and unpacked that bag a half a dozen times, but when we were finally ready to leave the hospital I had not been prepared to deliver two almost seven pounds babies and all of the clothes I brought were preemie size. We made it work, and it was just another opportunity for gratitude. In hindsight, I wish I had spent more resources on things like extra pumping parts and equipment and more soap and tools to be able to conduct baby business in multiple rooms (like washing bottles) than things like loveys and cloth diapers that won't fit them for several months. I don't consider any of this a failure, but I wish someone had really sat me down and explained to me that the first several weeks of newborn life is not an interactive experience, and more like taking care of yourself while carrying around a very delicate potted plant(or two).

2. You find new information every day that changes your routine, and that's okay. I was so quick to set the expectation of a schedule. I had seen and heard about schedules forever - parents lives exist around their child's nap and feeding schedule and any deviation causes unrepairable damage. I was also told that newborns don't follow schedules and don't have circadian rhythms and to follow their cues (what?!). But then, my twin support groups all talked of schedules being necessary for survival from day one**. What I learned was: Schedules happen as the result of time, and the gradual utilization of naturally developed patterns. As much as I wanted to start a schedule and feel like I was in control of the situation, I literally needed time to pass before that could happen. At the beginning I was told to follow a pattern: feed, burp, play, sleep, repeat. This even proved to be impossible with twins. Feeding them at the same time at least, to maximize efficiency? Not gonna happen either(at the beginning, at least). They ate at different paces and needed different things, and sometimes were so sleepy as to be unable to be awoken at the same time at all. And then I ended up with one twin with a big spit up problem, and being very attentive to feeding and burping him just right was essential, or we'd waste a whole bottle and spend even more time cleaning up and feeding him again sooner. So the eat-burp-play-sleep routine was more like eat-burp-change-upright to prevent reflux-fell asleep Upright-swing-cry-fall asleep on mom-eat-poop-change-poop more- fall asleep during tummy time-eat... Repeat... In the first month we kept our babies in our room in bassinets, then in our room in our arms, in the living room in a pack N play, in the living room on swings, on the sofa, in their nests, on boppy pillows, in our room in the bassinets again, and finally in their Cribs by month 2. We tried sleeping and getting up together, kneeling by the bed with a baby and a bottle, facing each other with squinty eyes. We tried taking turns throughout the night. Ultimately we ended up taking shifts so we could each get a solid stretch of sleep each night (we don't nap well). I will say what I do believe helped us was consistency of environment. During the day, we'd open the curtains and blinds and let light in. We turned on the lights in the house and let the TV stay on. We made zero effort of controlling our home environment to fulfill some perceived need for calm around babies. In the evening and at night we were more quiet and used a sound machine and dimmed the lights. In the beginning I made zero effort to do any of this at any particular time, but over time the schedule started to take some shape. But we set the schedule by living our life, we didn't live our life by a schedule. **there are circumstances where strict schedules are extremely important for the health and survival of babies who are preterm or have other unique needs. I absolutely understand this, and we ourselves did wake our babies to eat every 2 hours for the first few weeks to be sure they gained weight. However, I also gave myself a lot of anxiety comparing myself to NICU families, who spent weeks or months adhering to a hospital schedule and followed that schedule when returning home because it worked for them and their babies. When someone tells you they "had their babies on a schedule from day one", that can mean many different things to different people - all I'm saying is when asking for advice and experience from other parents remember their experience is unique to them and not a reflection of your own.

3. Keeping newborns alive doesn't take a lot of attentive action, and there isn't anything wrong with taking time for yourself. One of my goals when arriving home was to shower every day. As I'm writing this, 8 weeks post partum, I can say I met that goal. The recovery and night sweats were so awful I really needed to bathe three times a day, but I often even got two in many days. It was hard - I was extremely anxious and never wanted to leave the room my babies were in, but forcing myself to ask for help from my family and partner so I could take care of my needs helped my mental health, increased my distress tolerance, and made me more pleasant to be around, because of the soap. And, my newborns slept a lot. But even when they weren't asleep, it isn't like they were really expressing interest in the high contrast cards I made for them or looking intently up at pictures or faces or mobiles. They were squinty and still curled up from being in the womb and really just loved being held. I used a carrier wrap to hold them close to me while I made myself coffee or brushed my teeth. I let their grandparents, who adore them, hold them and feed them while I cooked breakfast. I didn't have scheduled, established tummy time - if they were alert and I needed to stand up and stretch and be baby free for ten minutes, it was tummy time. If they were fussy I'd try each method of relief for 10 minutes, but sometimes being alive sucks and mom can't fix it.

4. There's a lot of information out there that's mostly there just to pressure you into feeling guilty. Yeah it's all evidence based and there are studies to back it up, but I couldn't look at a room of people and be able to say "him, in the blue cardigan, his mom clearly didn't do enough tummy time" or "that woman was clearly formula fed". Developmental milestones and helping your baby develop those skills is important, but if we followed every recommendation from the AAP, FDA, CDC, WHO, and social media, we would need about 47 hours in a day to do it all. When we were still in the hospital, I had an LC come in and try to help me breastfeed. We were all set up, I had my baby and my body and my hands and my breast all in the right place, and then all of a sudden - we needed to discuss feeding posture. Apparently there's a correct way for a baby to lie in order to be fed. I'm not saying belly to breast or whatever the saying is - she wanted his legs and arms and hands to be folded in a specific manner across his body in order for him to nurse properly. I mean, it looks really neat and tidy, but if I'm going to stop feeding a baby who's latched, feeding and happy to readjust where his hands are... I just can't even finish this sentence. Someone somewhere probably found a correlation between infant limb position and efficiency in feeding, or less distractions, or something. But in practical application it was another thing to add to a list of rules that really didn't fit with everything else going on. If we're safe, comfortable, fed and thriving, the little things don't matter. They for sure don't matter when you're just learning. All this information is there to be regurgitated at you by every birth and baby professional you see. Your question about bottle feeding will be met by a comment that breastfeeding is the better option. Your concern about what type of formula is best will be shot down by the exhausted "breast is best" bull crap. Yes, we know all of this, and we feel guilty enough about it already, but until we invent a time machine and go back and correct every barrier to women feeding babies there ever was, it's not on the parent to fix it, it's the parents responsibility to feed the baby.

5. When people say it gets better, it really is true. Babies have to grow up. Which means they have to get bigger (they'll eat more, less frueqently), they'll become more consistent (you'll be able to better predict their feeding habits and poop schedule), they'll learn new skills (like being able to hold their own pacifier or toys) and they'll develop their personalities, which actually make it a joy (and also a challenge) to spend time with them. It was so easy for me to get caught in the "this will never get better, this will never be over, what did I get myself into" spiral, it took me too long to accept that this is what childcare is, this is what I had been hoping for, and that I needed to be in the moment. In most ways, it doesn't necessarily "get better", the new skills and schedule and responsibilities are all going to still be there for the next 18+ years, but you get better at it over time.

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