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When are Babies Ready to Feed?

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Guest Column by Lynda P. Haddon, Multiple Birth Educator
Multiple Births Prenatal Education & Bereavement Support

First-time Moms especially worry about not recognizing their babies’ cues.  There are several ways a baby lets you know when s/he is ready to feed.  As they are waking they may stretch a little, maybe arch their back, smack their lips and/or tongues against the roof the mouth, or put a hand to the mouth and suck.

Babies who are NOT ready to feed will be quieter, move less, show very little mouth movement, and there may be movement noticeable under their eyelids (from REM sleep).  If your baby is in this state, it is not advised to wake him to feed but to let him continue to sleep until he is ready to wake on his own.  If woken too soon and not ready to feed due to sleeping soundly, it could become frustrating for both of you.

Babies are programmed to turn their head towards a nipple when held across the front of you, so another way to know if baby is ready to feed is if she is fussy, turning her head side ways trying to “root” for a nipple to feed. If this is the case and baby is not fed in a timely fashion say, because you are busy changing another baby, the situation could erupt into some full blown hollering to get your attention.  If a baby gets too worked up or angry, it can be a challenge to get her to settle down to feed.  Watching for the signs that each babies is ready to feed can help things move smoothly.

Think about how you feel when you are angry
and someone offers you a sandwich.

If you don’t manage to get to the baby(ies) before things get out of hand, focus on calming the baby down before trying feeding. Shushing, small bouncing while holding against your chest can work.  So can swaddling and shushing.  Don’t try to feed a baby when she is upset as she will just bring it all up again due to being agitated. Think about how you feel when you are angry and someone offers you a sandwich.  You won’t feel hungry until the feelings of anger have passed.  Calm baby down first and then offer the breast.  The breast is a familiar calming factor, once a baby is settled.

It won’t take long for you to read each baby’s cues so that you are able to recognize when each needs to be fed.  Best wishes.

Feeding Many Mouths

Patricia-feeding-4Many expectant POMs wonder how they will breastfeed two or more babies.  Ironically, this important consideration is really only relevant in the intial stages of parenting.  Few consider the longer-term question of how to manage the logistics of multiple feedings once babies are eating solids.  For example, is it okay to use one bowl/spoon, or does each baby need his or her own feeding utensils?  Do you feed one at a time, saving valuable real estate vis-a-vis high chairs, or do you line ’em all up, and shovel the food in simultaneously?

Although there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feed your little ones, it may be helpful to consider some of these questions before your babies get to the solids stage, so that you and your family can think about how best to manage time and space with multiple babies. Read the rest of this entry »

Making Lasagna – A Language Experience

With babies, even the mundane can be exciting.  Every daily task can be an opportunity for language development. 

Research demonstrates that one significant difference between “successful” and “not yet ready” readers in grade one was the sheer number of words they had been exposed to in their early years.  Since multiple birth children are sometimes considered “at risk” for language development, this finding is key.  Exposing our young twins, triplets or more to language is someone every parent can do!

Beyond the much touted task of reading to your infants and toddlers, involving them in every day chores, and talking to them as you complete these activities, is one way to enrich their vocabulary exposure.  While walking to the park, shopping at the grocery store, waiting at a red light, riding the bus, TALK!  Comment on everything around you.  “Look, there’s a tall tree!”  or “Do you hear the bird?  He’s singing a beautiful song for you!  Do you hear him chirping?” or “Well, we need 4 red apples, let’s count out four apples:  1-2-3-4, there, let’s put them into our basket.”  Each of these statements, while mundane to you, is infinately fascinating to your young child.

I remember making lasagnas with our twin boys when they were about 18 months old.  My husband would take one twin grocery shopping or on some other errand.  I would plunk the other into his high chair in the kitchen, and begin making lasagnas.  You can imagine the language development seeds that were planted during this exercise. 

“Okay”, I would begin, “First we have to boil some water for the lasagna noodles…”  Later, Alex would get to examine a “squishy” lasagna noodle in his hand and with his mouth, consolidating his idea of “basana”, as he referred to the pasta at the time.  He also observed “chop”, “zuccini” and “layer the ingredients” first hand, and sampled many chopped up vegetables in the process.  To this day, Alex in his high chair, surrounded by bits of lasagna fixings, is one of my favourite early parenting memories!

By including your young multiples in the ordinary, everyday tasks of life, you are equipping them with important language, words they will return to throughout their lives.

Multiples Plus Dog

Spencer-these-are-MY-babiesWhen we first brought Alex and Simon home from the hospital, we wondered how our old dog, Spencer, might react.  Best described physically as part giraffe, part brillo pad, Spencer was a Toronto Humane Society rescue, and we had had him for most of his adult life.  At nearly 16, I wondered if he wasn’t getting a bit old to be introduced to two new babies in the house!

As it turned out, we had nothing to worry about.  We brought the two carseats in, put them on the living room floor, and waited to see what would happen.  Spencer came over to sniff things out a bit, then wandered off. Read the rest of this entry »

With Quadruplets, It’s All About the Schedule!

QuadrupletsTwo weeks before they were due, our friend Ricardo, soon-to-be-father of quadruplets, consulted me on “when babies can sleep through the night”.  I explained that – provided they were getting enough calories during the day, and were otherwise healthy – there was no biological reason they couldn’t be sleeping 6-8 hours a night by 3 months.  BUT, I warned him, there were many other contributing factors:  illness of babies or either parent, amount and quality of daytime sleep, teething, etc. etc.

He paid no heed to my warnings, and merrily marked off the 3-month mark on the large calendar they had installed in the main living area, which was to become the hub of the household, once the four babies arrived. Read the rest of this entry »

2 Daddies, 4 Babies

all-fourIf you are expecting twins, triplets or more, you may be wondering how you will manage multiple babies all by yourself during your maternity or parental leave.  With the advent of non-gender-specific parental leave in many countries, men are availing themselves of the opportunity to spend some or all of the time allotted with their children.

This is particularly true for multiple births families, where the added physical, emotional and financial strain often has parents-to-be considering the “best” option from a variety of angles.  For example, dad’s employer may “top up”, in which case it may be more financially lucrative for mom to continue working while dad stays home with the babies. Read the rest of this entry »

New Year’s Eve with Captain Underwear and his Companion!

Happy New Year!

As Twin B informed me tearfully last night, while I was attempting in vain to send him to bed, “New Year’s is a time for the whole family to be together, even children!”  The boys insisted they be allowed to stay downstairs for the new year’s party we were hosting (who can afford a babysitter new year’s eve?!).  We finally caved, and agreed that they could stay until all the guests had arrived.  Alex and Simon shouted with glee, and immediately made preparations to greet our company in style.

Twin boys new yearsAlready in their jammies, the boys outfitted themselves with socks on their hands (“paws”), and underwear “helmets” on their heads.  Thus transformed, Doctor Rhino and Agent Tortoise awaited — with anticipation — the arrival of our guests.

I must say, at nearly six years old, the whole thing went off better than I had imagined.  As babies, the twins often had major meltdowns when they got tired, but as time marches on, their tolerance level seems to have risen slightly… or maybe it was the late afternoon nap they had caught at the daycare that day, lol!  In any case, the underwear duo were in fine form, and still happily sampling the various snacks at the table when at 10:30., we finally laid down the law and sent the troops upstairs to be tucked in by one of their “aunties”.

Having gone to bed so late, we anticipated a later wake-up time the next morning, which we sorely needed (especially my husband, that special twins dad, who had had a wee bit too much to drink)!

Our victory was a compromise at best:  We fell into bed around 2:30 a.m., and the boys – usually bright eyed and bushy tailed by 6:30 a.m., slept in until… wait for it… 7:45 a.m.!

Don’t be so sure the sleep deprivation ends once your babies begin sleeping through the night!  If you like to party, you may never get 6-8 hours again, hehe.

The Triangle of Health

With the new year in full swing, now is the time for resolutions to be formed and hopefully, not broken!

As mother of Kindergarten-aged multiples and a full-time teacher with many extra-curricular projects on the go, I am always attempting to “optimize” my system. 

If you are pregnant with twins, triplets or quads, you are likely very aware of the important role maternal nutrition, coupled with sufficient rest and appropriate exercise plays in building healthy fetuses.  Good habits formed during pregnancy can continue to give you the energy you need as a busy parent of two or more toddlers, preschoolers or school-age children later on.

I have found that this triangle – proper diet, rest and exercise – forms the foundation for healthy relationships with my children, my spouse and my co-workers.  When I am eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly, I can manage the myriad decisions I make in a day as a mother, a wife and an educator.  When I eat junk food, burn the midnight oil and skip my morning workout in favour of a “quick” email check before work, I end up cranky, snapping at people around me (including my husband and children), and often have trouble making good choices overall at home and at work. 

The secret, of course, is the habit of mind which this triangle encompasses, that is, self-discipline!  Without self discipline, the diet, the sleep habits, the exercise routine are quickly shot to $#%!  Sometimes, as the Nike ad says, you have to “just do it!”  Set an alarm to remind yourself you wanted to go to bed an hour earlier, buy only healthy foods, and make up a few days worth of snacks at a time.  Consult with your HCP regarding safe levels of exercise for a twins or triplets pregnancy (light yoga, slow walking, possibly swimming… all are activities I was able to do into the third trimester with my twins pregnancy, and they really helped me feel “fit” for birth).  Now, after a holiday season filled with binging on too many delicious but high-in-sugar treats, too many late nights on facebook, and too many missed morning walks or yoga routines, I find myself struggling once again with the ol’ self-discipline.  But I have achieved the triangle once before, and I know I can do it again!

You may have a long list of new year’s resolutions planned, but with these three foundational rocks in place, the rest of the structure will be built  with more stability and endurance.

Alex the Night Owl

twinsSleepingFrom Day One, our monozygotic twin boys, Alex and Simon, suffered from sleep “issues”, for lack of a better word.  Half crazed from sleep deprivation, my husband and I read all manner of sleep books and consulted the experts on various schedules and routines.  We lived by the clock, to some extent, to preserve our sanity.  Two minute up longer than needed with our 6- month-olds spelled disaster, and we could predict the impending dual meltdown almost to the second!

Read the rest of this entry »

Dinner Out with THREE Sets of Twins!

The other night we had dinner at Jack Astor’s.

We, meaning my husband and I, our twin boys, friends of ours from our local multiple births support group and their twin boys and the twins we volunteer with from the twins/triplets family.  If you counted correctly, that is THREE sets of twins – 6 boys, all about 5 years old!

Spending two hours with these little bundles of energy reminded me why we should be paying Kindergarten teachers WAAAAY more than they currently get paid!

Read the rest of this entry »