Developing a routine

Why I will never be Gina Ford

When the twins were around 13 weeks, I started getting into a panic that they weren't in a "routine" like so many other new mums around me were talk about. Was I a failure? Why am I such a bad mother? Will my children be running riot when they are five years old while others sit and play quietly? My poor babies!

Then I stopped and realised: they are babies. Babies have no concept of time or routine or what what you want. How anyone does the Gina Ford technique is absolutely beyond me. It is complete nonsense.

The twins naturally fell into a "routine" (if you can even call it that) around 4 months. I say that, I still feed them as and when they want. Because I eat and and when I want and I think it's only fair they get the same luxury. But it is more or less every four or five hours. We do breakfast around 8/8:30, lunch at 12ish, then teatime at 4:45, ready for bed at 7. That is about as specific I get. Naps are roughly around the same time but some days they'll nap for 20 minutes, other days they will be down for an hour and a half. I am NOT waking my babies up to suit my routine.

I am also quite anti fancy bedtime routines. I don't think they should have set things to do at set times because I think it makes it really hard for anyone else looking after your children.

When I was originally getting into a panic, the twins weren't settling in bed until 10pm, and I was in a constant state of worry that they would never have a proper time to go to bed. Low and behold, the girls naturally brought their bedtime earlier and earlier and now we have settled at 7pm, which suits them fine. They'll wake up around 6am.

Our "bedtime routine" is literally: nappy change, put on pyjamas, bit of a bottle if they want it, pop them in a sleeping bag, in their cots, mobile on, say goodnight, asleep. We don't sing them songs or read a book every night (we do read books but I like to do it in the day so they know they can enjoy them all day long, not just at bedtime) or have a bath at a specific time with specific songs and specific sponges.

I think so much is put on you by other mums about having a routine. So what if you don't have a set routine? Babies are relatively flexible for the first few months anyway.

If I was to write a Gina Ford-esque book on routines, it would be really short. Pamphlet size maybe. Essentially, babies develop a routine naturally. Don't force it.

P.S. GINA FORD HAS NO CHILDREN.

 

Formula feeding experience

Almost from the minute we found out I was pregnant with twins, I knew I wasn't even going to bother trying to breastfeed and would formula feed them. I was very lucky that my midwives throughout my entire pregnancy and stay in hospital never pushed breastfeeding, like I know they do in other hospitals and particularly on single babies. I'm not sure if it was because I had a twin pregnancy or not, but I was grateful regardless.

I wish I had researched formula a bit more, because I'm sure I could have saved myself a bit of money. I just went for Aptamil 1 because it was most stocked in my local supermarket at the time. I definitely had no idea quite how much twins go through. Some weeks I was spending £22 on formula! I didn't want to switch formula when they had already settled on Aptamil.

Now the girls are eating three meals a day, they have just three 8oz bottles a day rather than 4oz, and even that is decreasing by the week. I now go through roughly a tub and a half each week, rather than two tubs a week. So I am buying two tubs every 10 days.

I fully understand why people want to breastfeed, but I personally thought I would feel like a cow. And even formula feeding them was hard enough in the first few weeks. I have HUGE respect for any twin mum who breastfeeds; it must be incredibly difficult and tiring.

We use the Mam anti-colic bottles which are great. We started out using Tommee Tippee but the girls didn't seem to get on with them much, it generated a lot of trapped wind and they struggled with air circulation.

I believe formula is the reason the girls have slept through from around nine weeks. They stopped waking up for their feeds so often from the age of about four weeks. When we first left hospital, I was told we HAD to wake them up every four hours to feed. It was getting to a point where it was becoming increasingly difficult to wake them up in the middle of the night and wind them when they were sound asleep. Plus the fact we didn't want to wake up either. Never wake a sleeping baby! You'll regret it.

I make up two bottles each for the day every morning. It says on the tub and all the guidelines say to discard after one or two hours. I think it's a marketing scam to use more formula up because my babies are perfectly healthy and apparently my mum used to do the same and I'm alright.

I'm a big believer in the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine. It has been a saviour, particularly in those early weeks when I was waking up at 2am making bottles.

We are still using Aptamil 1 at 8.5 months and haven't moved on to the "follow on" milks. I have asked separate health visitors and nurses in different areas about follow on milks and all have said not to bother with them, to stick to stage 1 and then switch to cows milk when they turn 1. From the looks of it, follow on milks were created so they could advertise them (you aren't able to advertise stage 1 milks because "breast is best" apparently – although my children seem to be doing alright) and some brands have slightly more sugar on them.

All in all, I have decided that if I ever have any more children (although that risk of more twins is too high!) then I will formula feed them too. I have nothing against breastfeeders in the slightest, but it has been what has worked best for our little family. My husband has developed a wonderful bond with the twins and I think bottle feeding is a big part of that. Plus, I can have a lie in and let him take over. Win!

And a word of warning if you are doing the same: it HURTS when your milk comes through. Hurts a LOT. Wear a tight bra 24/7, get loads of breast pads, avoid getting under the warm shower, and just don't touch! They'll look like melons but don't even press if it hurts. It took about five days for the pain to get better for me. Ibuprofen worked a treat.

What I would buy again

A few of my product recommendations of things I would buy all over again. I say buy, a lot of these things were gifted to us by friends and family.

Perfect Prep machine

prepDon’t read the news. Just be sensible and clean it properly and use the proper filters and it will be fine. GODSEND. Especially when formula feeding two babies. Genuinely the best thing we have product-wise and would recommend to anyone! We have to replace the filter every three months because, well, twins, and I have descaled it once after about 7 months.

 

Motorola MBP36S Digital Video Monitor

monitorI bought this in the Black Friday deals on Amazon for 50% off. I deliberately waited for that because a) the twins didn’t leave my sight until then anyway and b) there’s no way I was paying £140 for a monitor. It has definitely been worth it, the sound and video quality is great and the fact you can move the monitor is also useful when going between babies. We have it wall mounted (so easy to do, it is literally on a picture hook) so I can easily move it around. It plays lullabies (which are annoying but the girls seem to enjoy them) and you can speak through the monitor too which I am sure will be handy when they are older. The only downsides are that I think the temperature is a bit off by about two or three degrees (higher than it actually is), so we have a GroEgg which gives a much more realistic temperature of the room. Also, the battery wears down quite quickly, although it does a lot so that’s probably why.

Bugaboo Donkey

pram.pngYou can buy a used car for less than what this costs, but it has been absolutely wonderful. Yes, it is wide and bulky but it’s SO GOOD. It shrinks down to one and a half so if you have one baby out at a time or one in a sling (which I did a few times) then it’s a lot more practical to get around shops. Because we use the Maxi-Cosi Cabriofix car seats, they also fit on (of course, an extra adaptor is needed) to the pram. It’s a little annoying to fit into the car sometimes but you can take the wheels off so easily so it shrinks down a lot more. I think in a year or so, we will probably sell it and get a much cheaper standard double buggy, but for now it fits all our needs.

Tommee Tippee Baby Food Steamer Blender 

BlenderThis has been really useful for weaning the twins. You can literally just hit the button after shoving some food in and it will steam it then immediately blend. Although the first time I used it I created pea juice, so I would recommend draining the water (carefully or you will end up losing all that sweet potato you just steamed for 25 minutes) and then adding either some milk or water to the vegetables.

 

Angelcare bath supports

bathAbsolute lifesaver. These are so wonderful, especially because we had little babies. The support is silicone so it doesn’t feel like you are putting your baby on plastic, which a lot of them feel like in my opinion. We have two, which fit together in some baths and not the smaller ones. But now we have to use them one at a time because they kick each other in the bits, which I’m sure isn’t pleasant. We are still using it at 8.5 months (mainly because I keep forgetting to buy a bath mat to sit the girls in the bath instead).

Bouncers

bouncersGENUINELY the best thing I have ever got. And they cost £20 each. I cannot fathom why someone would spend a ridiculous amount of money on a bouncer when you can get something for less than half the price that does exactly the same thing. I started using these when the girls were about six weeks old and they lasted until around 7 months old. They. Are. Amazing. We had a swing passed on to us but neither twin seemed to enjoy swinging, much preferring to bounce.

 

Feeling smug when I see a single pram

Especially when that baby is crying. 

I have become so smug since having my twins.

If you knew them, you’d understand why. I wish I had a pound for every time someone asks me if I am getting any sleep. And I wish I had another pound for every time those people looked stunned when I said they have slept through the night more or less since they were 9 weeks old. No ridiculous Gina Ford training here!

I have been to quite a few baby clinics where people will look completely dishevelled or come in clutching a million bags then say how tired they are because their baby refuses to sleep. It’s quite the norm. I started out feeling guilty for having a full night’s sleep and carrying a small backpack for both girls. It was almost as if I had to apologise for having freakishly well behaved babies.

But now, whenever I see someone walking along with just(!) one baby, I feel a massive sense of smugness. “How do you do it?” they all say. “They sleep at least nine hours each night, rarely cry and are as good as gold during the day,” I smugly reply, manouevering my enormous double pram with one hand.

Best pregnancy clothes

Some of my tips.

I absolutely love clothes. I have far too many. But when I got pregnant, I told myself I would not end up with a brand new wardrobe for the sake of six months (although I did start wearing maternity jeans at nine weeks).

By far, the best maternity clothing is from America. Especially if you are tall. They have brilliant shops and some specifically for maternity wear that don’t cost an arm and a leg (I’m looking at you, Seraphine). When I was in Tennessee last year, I bought quite a lot of clothes from Target (probably the best stuff ever!), A Pea In The Pod and Motherhood Maternity.

Shorts. These shorts are the BEST and I wish I could get away with wearing them now, they are beyond comfortable. The stretchy band feels like a loose swimming costume. So comfy.

Work trousers. I bought a pair of work trousers from America which I can’t find online. They are by far the best work trouser I found. They were skinny and had the elastic at the back rather than the front. This made such a difference when I was sat at my desk all day. I didn’t have elastic digging in to my expanding stomach all day!
High street. I found Topshop maternity clothes to be nice but very overpriced. H&M did the trick but jeans were awful. New Look jeans were the best, I found. But not very long. I wish Next was better last year because this season looks lovely!

Don’t buy a coat. I just used my husband’s instead. Don’t shell out £100 on something you’ll only wear for a few months. Chances are you’ll be sweating profusely anyway. Just wear extra layers if you’re cold.

Bras. Get a non-wired bra as early as possible and you won’t regret it. Mothercare do two-packs which are not too pricey.

Weddings. Chances are you’ll have a wedding to go to. My tip is to buy a maxi dress so you can wear comfy sandals and no one will know. Also get a stretchy dress for when you eat loads of cake (the baby needs energy…).

Things I wish I knew last year

When I found out I was expecting twins, my mind started racing with a million questions. Questions I didn’t know the answer to. Questions I wish I knew the answer to.

Here are just some of the things I questioned during all those sleepless nights in my third trimester and what I think is the correct answer now.

How do I feed both at the same time?
Answer: You don’t. I bottle fed both my babies to start with, which was a decision made pretty much the second I saw two sacs in my 13 week scan. Kudos to those ladies who tandem feed but there’s no way I was even going to try, I personally didn’t want to feel like a cow and selfishly, I wanted to have lie ins on Saturdays. Even after having my twins, one of the midwives asked me how I was planning to feed them once my husband went back to work, I said at the same time using a feeding pillow. She quickly said, “No. Feed one at a time and they’ll quickly learn they have to wait.” Best. Advice. Ever. This has massively helped as I have been weaning them on to food because if I am feeding one twin, the other sits relatively patiently for hers (depending on what the food is, that is. If they see a yoghurt pot, I get both shouting at me for it).

What if they cry at the same time?
Answer: Then they cry at the same time. Much like feeding, they just have to wait. Sometimes I find myself holding one baby when feeding her and contorting my body into really bizarre shapes (thank goodness I am hypermobile) to pass something to the other baby to try and settle her. Then other times, they just both cry. For no reason. They’re babies. Babies cry.

How do I pick them up at the same time?
Answer: Don’t. Don’t even try. Only now they are 8 months am I sort of able to pick them up at the same time, but they are too wriggly so I tend not to do it. Only for posing for photos. It’s just too risky picking them both up at the same time if you are alone. I even watched some YouTube videos on how to pick up twins but they all looked awful so I just don’t bother.

How many nappies do I need?
Answer: Far more than you can possibly imagine. I didn’t have a typical baby shower (I hate the idea of people feeling like they have to buy me gifts, although I love a gift), but my husband went out for a final blow out before the babies arrived. All he asked was for everyone to bring a pack of nappies. We ended up with hundreds and didn’t buy a pack of nappies until the girls were three months old. The majority of the guys had been to Aldi and saw how cheap they were so bought multiple packs. “Babies are cheap,” one said. Ha. Now they are 8 months old and tend to go through about six nappies a day each. Sometimes more, depending on what they had for dinner the night before.

How much milk do they go through?
Answer: We use Aptamil 1 (I wish I researched this more, it’s the most expensive and I didn’t want to change after starting them on it as it suited them fine) and for the first month or so we were using a tub a week, but then as they were drinking more it ended up as two tubs a week. Now they have three 8oz bottles a day each and I buy a tub every five days rather than seven.

How do you bathe twins?
Answer: With help. Never alone. We have two Angelcare baby bath supports and they are wonderful. They’re quite bulky but they have hooks so you can hang them on the wall — they stack. We wash the girls every other day. Every kid I know with skin problems or eczema is put in the bath every day. My girls don’t have a bit of crust on them. Babies don’t get dirty.

What do babies wear?
Answer: This might sound like the most ridiculous question but at the hospital they drum it into you that babies need loads of layers (they even make them wear hats indoors for God’s sake), and that babies should be in one layer more than you would wear. But sometimes I feel that is WAY too hot. The weather changes so quickly. Some babies are really sweaty. My Twin 1 is super sweaty and doesn’t like too many layers. I just play it by ear, but I get really frustrated when I see people in 20 degree heat with their babies under blankets with jumpers on and hats. Babies can tell you when they are cold but they can’t tell you when they are too warm. It’s a really vile phrase but, “A cold baby cries, a hot baby dies.” I just wish more people would consider this when dressing their babies. Oh, and I wish I knew that 0-3 months does not mean birth to 3 months.