Monday, July 12, 2010
Those Notorious First Few Weeks
For probably the third time that night, I heard one of the babies crying through the monitor on my bedside table. This was sometime within those notorious first few weeks with the babies. Mike and I had developed our nighttime feeding system that continues to this day in which he gets up to change diapers, and I go out to the couch and get set up for a feeding. He brings the babies out to me one by one and goes back to bed. I feed, burp, and put the babies back to bed.
The baby started crying a little louder, but Mike was still deep in sleep, exhausted from night after night of this routine on top of returning to work. I touched his shoulder, "Mike. It's time. They're ready for a feeding."
He said, "Ok," and was up quickly, his eyes barely open. Instead of heading out of our room, he stumbled to my side of the bed, lifted the covers, and started feeling around on the mattress beside me. Hearing the baby through the monitor, I realized he was looking for the baby in the bed. And we never have the babies in the bed. "Mike, they're in their cribs."
A few nights later when a baby cried, he picked up the alarm clock on his nightstand and started pushing buttons, moving switches, until I realized he was trying to turn off the noise that woke him, trying to stop the crying by hitting "snooze." He was becoming delirious.
But I understood. On one of the first mornings home, after I stayed up all night with the babies (before we came up with a better system), Mike took over caring for them so I could sleep. When he came in to get me for a feeding, he had one baby in his arms. I looked out to the living room, and in my bleary-eyed state I exclaimed, "Who's on the coffee table?!" I thought I saw the other baby left there precariously. But there was no baby there. The other baby was safe in a bassinette. And as far as Mike could tell, I was losing my mind.
Those notorious first few weeks. I understand they can be challenging with just one baby, but this is a time when I feel twins must truly be twice as hard. Think of the schedule. Newborn babies eat every two hours, and that's from the start of one feeding to the start of the next. If you're lucky like I was and can tandem breastfeed (eliminating the time it takes to make bottles AND to feed one at a time), the changing/feeding/burping/soothing to sleep routine takes about an hour. Assuming the babies sleep until the next feeding, that leaves you with one hour out of every two for "yourself."
But that assumption we made is a big one. It's more likely that in the middle of the night you return to bed after completing the routine, and ten minutes later you are awoken when one baby's pacifier has fallen out of his mouth. You go in and replace it, but he won't take it. His face scrunched and his cry pained, you know it's gas again. You pick him up, sit in the rocker with him on your tummy and you pat his lower back steadily, the way you know he likes, enjoying the moment yourself. He's asleep within fifteen minutes.
But as you settle him in the crib, you notice two bright eyes looking up at you from the other one, and she's groaning and fighting her swaddled blanket, trying to Houdini her way out. So you undo her swaddle, reposition her, and wrap her up tightly like a precious burrito, pop in the pacifier which she takes happily, and "shhhh" her to sleep. This takes another ten minutes so you now have (60-10-15-10) twenty-five minutes until diapers and the next feeding and it starts over again. To keep your sanity you tell yourself that this time around they'll sleep better (but they won't). And this goes on...day and night...for weeks...at least.
Here's my advice for surviving those nights:
1. Feed both babies at the same time no matter what. Demand feeding doesn't work with multiples, and their pediatrician will agree. Keep them on the same schedule for feeding, changing, and sleeping (and eventually playing) as much as you can even when that means waking a sleeping baby. She'll wake up ten minutes later anyway, I promise.
2. If the babies are breastfed, divide the nighttime duties as I described above. He changes, she feeds. Even after daddy goes back to work, stick with it. The more sleep mommy gets, the better caregiver your babies have during the day during maternity leave, and that's just as important as anyone's job performance. Mike has gotten really good at changing two babies' diapers fast by the light of a glowing mobile (I think six minutes was his record). If you're bottle feeding, find some other way to divide duties fairly.
3. In addition to dividing the duties, divide the night in half. Back when the babies were waking up a lot between feedings, Mike got up to soothe them if it happened before 2 a.m. If they woke after 2 a.m., I did it. That allowed us both to count on at least a few decent chunks of sleep each night. That is unless both babies were crying at the same time...then we both got up. Good times.
4. SWADDLE. You can keep them swaddled for the first week or so when they sleep all the time, and then just do it for bedtime (and naps if you like). We took a break from swaddling at around the 3 week mark because the babies were fighting them, crying, and not sleeping well. We gave them a shot again a couple weeks later, and the babies slept for five hours, a record at that point. There are flannel swaddle blankets, muslin blankets, Swaddle Me's, Miracle Blankets, and so on. Try as many as you must to find the kind that works. Watching "The Happiest Baby On the Block" will help too. I recommend you do that before the babies arrive or within the first week.
5. Keep a positive attitude as much as you can, and know that it will get better (as annoying as it will be to hear that when you're in the midst of it). We're down to one feeding at night, and they hardly ever wake aside from that.
Even as we were going through those notorious first few weeks, I could feel the romance of it. I was delirius from sleep deprivation, but I was also deliriously happy. I would look at my babies and truly feel filled with twice the love (a statement so sappy I cringed at it before they were born). I was sad when Mike returned to work after the first week, not only because I appreciated his help during the day, but because we bonded even more as genuine partners in this new adventure, and I was going to miss him. Even with multiples, perhaps especially with multiples, it's a remarkably special (and notorius) time.