me myself and i · moments · the twins · thoughts

Closing a chapter

The chapter on breastfeeding, that is. I wanted to write an Instagram post because it’s faster and more instant but I have so much to say that I decided a blog entry is the way go. Also, I would like to remember this chapter many years from now (don’t close down on me, WordPress) so that hopefully, one day, the twins will get to read about it.

With Elliott, I breastfed him for close to a year. 21 days shy of a full year, to be precise. I know this because I wrote about it here. It was quite a different journey with the twins.

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Right from the get-go, we supplemented with formula milk for the twins. I remember our lovely PD telling me at the hospital, when he came round for checks, to “please go ahead and supplement ok? You’re feeding two. Don’t be too hard on yourself”. So yes, Edith and Everett took a mixture of breast milk and Karihome infant formula milk from the start.

With Elliott, I was truly blessed to have been able to give him 100% breastmilk for the first 6 months. I had no issues with supply then and I knew that with the twins, the body will automatically know what to do.

And it did.

I was able to nurse them from the start, at the hospital. I have videos of their little mouths suckling and having to stop briefly to rest because they were so tiny and having to work for their milk was exhausting for their little bodies. I am very glad I captured those moments on video because it will never ever happen again. Not in this lifetime anyway. I’m done having kids, and I am done with breastfeeding.

Quick note to new moms: I know it’s all hazy and scary when the new baby arrives and you’re trying your darnest to keep the kid alive but please record videos of yourself trying to nurse, or nursing your baby. It will be a treasured clip in years to come. 

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Other than supplementing with formula milk with the twins, I also decided to pump and get other caregivers to give them their feed via bottles. I tried to nurse them directly but it wasn’t very efficient. Edith was pretty good at latching but Everett was too impatient. He’d get extremely frustrated if he couldn’t get his latch on (i.e. milk wouldn’t flow properly) which translated into very loud and angry screams. Think thrashing about, cry-until-face-red type of situation. It was too stressful for me.

I even tried to latch them at the same time and boy, it was DAMN CHALLENGING, to say the least. When I finally got one twin to latch one, I’d have to gingerly try and get the other twin to latch. And this involved twisting my body into weird angles. And more often than not, by the time I managed to get other twin to latch, the first twin would have unlatched because of my twisting.

TOO MUCH EFFORT, people! And I did not have the brain space or energy to keep up with the let’s-nurse-them-together feat. Twin mums who do this regularly has my utmost respect. I don’t know how you do it, man.

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During the first 3 months, despite my best efforts, I wasn’t pumping out enough milk and we always had to top-up with formula milk. No matter how much milk I had, I always tried to divide them equally. However, I was slightly biased towards Everett as he was the smaller twin so if I had a bit extra, I’d always ensure that it went to Everett.

However, by the 4th month or so, I managed to pump enough milk to feed both almost exclusively on breast milk on some days. Not every single day but some. Those days felt good. Despite convincing myself that it is entirely ok to use formula milk, there was always a tiny niggling doubt at the back of my head that I wasn’t giving them 100% breast milk. It’s crazy, isn’t it?

The breast pump and I soon developed a close relationship. I pretty much stopped latching directly and pumped exclusively. I used the same pump as I did with Elliott, the Unimom Forte. It’s a hospital grade, double pump from South Korea which is supposed to “effectively stimulate your breasts to adequately raise your hormones which increases your milk production and output.” I’m not sure about all that but I just know that it worked well enough for me in extracting milk for the babies.

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Using bottles to give the twins their feed also meant that we could all tell how much they were drinking each time. We faithfully recorded how much they’ve drunk into a notebook as it is easy to forget what time they drank, or who was already fed! This was something taught to us by our confinement nanny. I guess with twins, I did not have the luxury of time (and energy) to latch them on demand. I’m not saying that this cannot be done. Many twin mums do it. It just wasn’t for me.

We followed a 3-hourly schedule and when it time for their feed, their caregivers would warm up the breastmilk in the fridge and gave it to them via bottles. We started with glass bottles from Nuk but soon transitioned to Hegen bottles. We used the latex Nuk teats that would end up going “flat” after one too many rounds of sterilising. This led to us having to stop feeding the babies to “unflatten” the teats which led to Very Angry Babies. Aiyoooo.

Tried the Hegen bottles and they were WONDERFUL. No issues with the flattening of teats and we can see exactly when the bottle was emptied out. Also, the square shape means the bottle opening is HUGE – makes it easy to pour milk/formula in. I also like the one-snap-to-close and one-twist-to-open method because when you have 2 angry and hungry babies, SPEED is critical. We now have 4 Hegen bottles that we use for the twins.

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Weaning off the babies this time round was pretty uneventful, to say the least. They started on solids once they hit 6 months old and they are WONDERFUL little eaters. For now. I hope I don’t jinx it by typing it out. Now that they’re 7 months old, they’re eating 2 meals a day (lunch and dinner) along with Karihome Follow-On formula milk. They don’t seem to need, or miss breast milk very much! When I try to latch Edith, she suckles for a minute or so before being distracted by whatever that’s happening around her.

So yep, this entry is to commemorate the end of my breastfeeding days. I do not know the exact day we stopped but the fact that our formula milk runs out really rapidly, I think it is safe to say that we are done with nursing. Forever.

Does it make me sad? Not really. I was quite happy to be selling off my pre-loved maternity/nursing clothes on Carousell and as weird as this sound, the fact that I can now take any type of medicine if and when I’m ill pleases me. I also love that I no longer need to worry about leaky boobs at 3am or lug 10,572 pieces of pumping paraphernalia whenever I head out.

I am just glad, and thankful, that I got the opportunity to breastfeed all my 3 kids, no matter how long/short the journey was.  Like I have always believed, breastfeeding isn’t the only way to bond with your child. There will be a gazillion other ways to build a close bond and we have our entire lifetimes to do so.

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family · me myself and i · moments · thoughts

Tomorrow, I’d be a better mum.

That’s something I tell myself every night, after the day is done and dusted. My mind plays through every single parenting moment that happened in the day and all I can remember is of me shouting at Elliott to go take his shower, or asking Everett harshly what he wants when he’s wailing till his face goes red.

As I lay in the dark replaying these scenes in my head, I get wrought with guilt and wonder why I can’t be like one of those patient and kind mothers who practice gentle parenting, the kind who rarely yell at her kids (I don’t think any mother can say they have NEVER yelled, hence the use of the word ‘rarely’). The sort of mother who keeps it all together despite being pushed to their limits, every second of the day. 

We have a village behind us. I have a capable helper who loves the kids like her own. My mum and mother-in-law take turns to come over during the week to help in the day. I have an extremely hands-on husband who has been an amazing co-parent.

I had a decent amount of sleep last night. I drank my teh-c and had my lunch. I even took a shower. Despite all that, I still feel annoyed, irritated and fucking exhausted. 

Like today where all 3 kids are sick.

I just yelled at Elliott to PLEASE GO THE FUCK TO SLEEP. Ok, not in the exact words but please, just please go and take your afternoon nap so that I have one less (whiny) child to deal with. I can hear the twins wailing their lungs out in the living room but I am too spent to care because I know they will be attended to. 

We wanted this, didn’t we? We wanted children. Badly. And now we have three. So why does it feel so overwhelming and all consuming? I did not have rose-tainted glasses about parenthood and yet, this mothering gig brings me to my knees on many days. 

Today is one of those days. One of those days where I feel like a failed mother, a fraud, a train wreck. One who doesn’t deserve these 3 beautiful beings who push me to the end of my patience thread and then some. 

Tomorrow, I’d (try again to) be a better mum.

the twins · thoughts

A (week) day in our life 

Ever since our confinement nanny left, many have asked how do we cope with the twins, the toddler and the dog. Some have even remarked that I am “Supermum” or that I am “really awesome”.

Well, here’s the truth.

We have an amazing village behind us. Without this group of super beings, we would have keeled into a giant puddle of helplessness. I know of mothers/parents of multiples who do everything on their own. No helper, no family. I salute these super beings and think that they are very very capable. Personally, I am fully aware that without help, I will not be able to parent effectively. What the heck – even with help, I can barely function on some days. Call me a wuss or even weak, but that’s just how it works for us around here.

Our amazing village consists of my in-laws, my mum and our very capable helper. My MIL and my mum take turns during the week to come over to our home to help with the twins. Elliott is at full day childcare and my FIL drives him to and from school each day.

If you’re ever curious about a typical (week) day in our life, here it is. Do note that the timings are rough estimates. Some days are longer than others 🙂 

6.30 am – Helper wakes, washes up and prepare to take over from me until my MIL or mum arrives to help with the twins. I’m usually brain dead by this time.

7.00 am – I try and pump milk if it’s too uncomfortable. If I’m feeling ok, I drag my pillow, bolster and exhausted self into the master bedroom to crash.

7.00 am to 11.00 am – While I am dead to the world, my MIL/mum, with our helper, will feed, burp, soothe, change and give the twins their morning bath. Helper will also take Moon for her morning walk, and feed her.

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11.00 am – After 4 hours+ of sleep, I’m usually ready to function again as a human. I usually do another pumping session when I get up. The twins would have been showered and if it’s a good day, both will be napping. I will either have some breakfast or go straight to an early lunch. Helper prepares simple fare (fried rice, noodle soup, etc) or we simply da bao food from the nearby hawker centre.

12.00 pm – I take a shower so that I feel less icky. If you’re a breastfeeding mother, you’d know what I mean about smelling like stale milk all day errday. Washing my hair and face, and changing out of my pyjamas always makes me feel instantly better.

12.00 pm to 4.00 pm – It’s a constant cycle of feeding, changing, burping, soothing babies throughout the afternoon. Helper will go about her usual chores and it includes washing 10,000 pieces of baby clothes, swaddles, burp cloths, etc. 

This is not counting the constant washing and sterilising of milk bottles (x2), breast pump parts, etc. There are also clean clothes to fold and put away into cupboards and diaper bins to empty. Because we have two babies, we go through A LOT of diapers and the bin fill up really quickly!

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If you look carefully, both grandmas are carrying Edith. This is because she’s the one that needs to be entertained and rocked to sleep. Everett, on the other hand, is the unicorn baby. Unless he’s bothered by hunger/gassy tummy/dirty diaper/heat, he falls asleep on his own with the help of his pacifier. There’s no need to rock or carry him. I am just very thankful that at least one of them is an ‘easy’ baby! 

5.30 pm – Helper starts dinner prep for the family, then takes Moon for her evening walk when the sun sets.

6.00 pm – Elliott returns from school. Mayhem ensues. FIL will stay on for a bit to cuddle the babies while we all take a bit of a breather. By this time, I’m usually feeling pretty exhausted.

7.00 pm – Dinner time for the family. We chase after Elliott to get him to PLEASE SIT DOWN AND EAT YOUR DINNER PLEASE. The husband is usually not home yet. On good days, he’s back at 7.30pm. On not so good days, it can be 9pm, or later. Helper takes her dinner, then gives Moon her dinner, and does the post-dinner wash up. 

7.45 pm to 8.30 pm – The twins get wiped down with a damp warm towel and change into their pyjamas. We turn on the air conditioner in their room and keep a dim light on. They get a milk feed and once the room is cool and comfortable, we put them into their ‘Love to Dream’ swaddle bags and turn on a soft lullaby as a cue that it is time to sleep.

We try and repeat this wipe down – change pyjamas – put on swaddle – lullabye routine every evening as all baby literature out there says that babies love routines. With Elliott, we had absolutely no routine which made it very tough on us. With twins, we have to set down a routine or else we’d really collapse in exhaustion.

8.30 pm to 9.30 pm – Elliott is very good with playing on his own so this is the time he plays with his (million) toy cars, Lego, etc. Sometimes, he potters around with his sticker book and colouring books. We feel very thankful that he is pretty independent and does not insist that we accompany him to play.

At some point, we try to get him to shower and change into pyjamas. There is usually quite a bit of negotiation that goes on because TODDLERS. By this time, the husband gets home (hooray), takes a shower in 20 seconds and gobble down his dinner. My MIL/mum will usually take their leave once the husband gets home. I take my second shower of the day. Helper prepares Elliott’s school bag for the next day.

9.30 pm to 10.00 pm – We get Elliott to pack away his toys and I head to bed with him. We will usually read a book of his choice (or two) then it’s lights out. He loves to chat before we fall asleep and he’d tell me about his day or topic of the day (dinosaurs, his friends, etc) but on many nights, I manage about 10 minutes of conversation before my brain shuts down without warning (oops).

These days, he’d usually ask for Daddy to put him to bed and tells me to ‘go sleep with the babies‘ (sniff) but after a bit of explaining and cuddles, he’d be ok. The husband will take the first night shift until I take over later in the night. Helper goes to bed at 10pm after the last round of washing/sterilising to prepare for the (long) night ahead.

10.00 pm to 2.00 am – The husband is on his own with the babies. He will give them their milk feeds and try to sleep in between.

2.00 am to 6.30 am – Despite not setting an alarm, I will automatically wake at about 2am for the second night shift. I will usually do another pumping session before nudging the husband to go to bed in the master bedroom. I will then accompany the twins in their room until day break and the cycle repeats again.

Between 2 to 6.30 am, the twins do not usually wake to feed. I have tried feeding them but they’d usually be too sleepy to drink.

However, Edith is a very noisy sleeper. She grunts a lot (and loudly) in her sleep which means that I end up not sleeping much because I wake at every slight noise.

Everett’s magic hour is 5-6 am where he will fuss and cry frantically, jolting me awake. I used to think that he was hungry but he’d refused to drink. I’ve since found out that he’s usually got a full or very slightly soiled diaper and needs a change so I’d have to get up to do that.

For the 2-3 night feeds, we feed the twins with Karihome infant formula instead of warming up breastmilk because HUNGRY BABIES AT 2 AM WILL NOT WAIT FOR MILK TO BE WARMED UP. Once day breaks, it is back to breast milk. Currently, Edith drinks 4-5 oz (120-150 ml) while Everett is pretty consistent at 4 oz (120 ml).

If you are wondering why I do not direct latch the babies, I find it easier to express the milk and have someone else to feed them via a bottle. If they need a top-up or comfort feeding, I will then latch them directly.

This way, I do not feel like I am their sole food provider and it causes me less stress. Besides, as long as they are getting the goodness of breast milk, I am not too fussed about how they are getting it. I abide by the mantra that a happy mummy equates to happy babies.

So there you go, a typical week day in our life. Weekends are slightly different but we try to stick to the night routine for the twins. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” – in our case, 3 children – definitely rings true in this household!

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PS. For those wondering where I find the time to blog, let me share that most blog entries you see after the birth of the twins are done in stages and typed out on my phone. Sometimes, I write in the dead of the night (like, 3.30 am) when inspiration hits and for some odd reason, I can’t get to sleep. Essentially, I do not finish an entry in one seating. That’s pretty darn impossible. 

 

the twins · thoughts

5 things to note when hiring a confinement nanny

When we found out that we were expecting twins, one of the first things I did was to source for and book a confinement nanny. I will use the term ‘nanny’ for the purpose of this entry. Good nannies are booked up way in advance and to find one that can manage twins is twice as difficult.

With Elliott, we did not have a nanny. We were staying with my parents and my mum was helping me with the confinement food, etc. However, even though she offered, I did all the night feeds on my own as I did not want to tire her out. It was brutal, to say the least. And I was constantly exhausted. This is also the reason why I knew that we had to have a nanny for the twins for sanity’s sake.

I remember that I started my search for one the moment we cleared the first trimester and I must have spoken to no less than 6-7 nannies. They were either booked for the period that I needed their service, or were unwilling to care for twins. For the record, I chose not to engage a nanny through a confinement nanny centre even though they exist because there were a ton of negative reviews.

Finally, I found my nanny through a friend of a friend. Let’s call her Aunty P.

As with most (if not all) nannies, Aunty P is from Malaysia. She sounded affable and pretty normal over the phone. After a quick discussion with the boy, I bit the bullet and transferred a deposit of S$300 to secure our date.

Aunty P did share that she has never cared for twins before but because time was running out, I wasn’t left with much choice. I knew that we’d be pretty hands-on in the caring of the babies so I didn’t think it would be much of a problem.

We ended up having Aunty P for 56 days (28 days x 2). Having experienced the services of a nanny, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts:

1. Book your nanny early. As early as possible!

This is a no-brainer. I know of ladies who booked a nanny the moment their pregnancy test strips turn positive. Somehow, getting a good nanny is not easy and the good ones get booked up way in advance. And if you are expecting twins/multiples, the search becomes doubly difficult because not all nannies are keen to care for them.

2. Be prepared to pay, especially for multiples 

Aunty P was considered “cheap” as it was her first time caring for twins. She charged us S$3XXX as compared to “experienced” nannies. A friend recommended her nanny who cared for her twins and it was going to cost us S$4XXX! And this price is for 28 days. If you wish to extend their stay, just multiply accordingly. That is A LOT of money.

Also, you have to remember that other than this ‘service’ cost, you have to remember that your household will have 1 more person. Your food and utilities bill (aircon, water, electricity) will go up when the nanny is staying with you.

It is also customary to give the nanny an ang pow when she arrives and when she leaves. There is no ‘set amount’ to give but I remember reading that some nannies expect a minimum amount of S$50 per ang pow!

3. Stranger in the home

Having a nanny means that you will have a virtual stranger live in your home for a period of time. This stranger will come into contact with your babies and will also see you at your rawest state.

I sit in the living room to pump milk which meant that I was in a state of undress in front of Aunty P (and our helper) most of the time. With Elliott, I was more conscious of covering up when I nursed or pumped but when you have twins and you’re exhausted pretty much all the time, modesty goes out of the window.

4. Different habits and standards

Even though Aunty P is Chinese and from Malaysia, we had pretty different habits and standards.

Example 1 – Our household rarely snacks. At least I don’t. We eat 3 square meals a day and we are done with it. However, Aunty P eats small meals throughout the day which meant that on usual days, she would have eaten at least 3 times before noon. She would also snack (a few times) between lunch and dinner.

This meant that the food supply in our home depleted really quickly which honestly, was a bit of a shock to my system. The boy would buy bread from the bakery (5-6 pieces each time) and in less than 3 days, our bread basket would be empty again. Wow.

Example 2 – Because we told Aunty P to ‘treat our home as her own’ and to ‘help herself’ if she needed anything (e.g. food), she took it literally. We buy kiwis for Elliott but before we could get to them, she would have eaten 2. Food was disappearing from my fridge faster than I expected because she’d help herself to them without asking. That is because she took our word literally to ‘help herself’ even though we said it out of politeness and thought that she would ask before taking (nope).

Example 3 – I happened to walk into the kitchen one afternoon and saw that Aunty P was slicing raw pork to prepare for dinner. After she was done, she rinsed the knife with running water and placed it back on the knife rack. To say that I was horrified is an understatement. I quickly told her that we must always wash used utensils with detergent. To prevent such incidents throughout her stay, I told her to leave all the washing up to our helper who have been briefed thoroughly on her first day that hygiene and cleanliness is of utmost importance in our household.

On hindsight, to prevent misunderstandings and unhappiness, I should have listed down all my expectations at the start. Aunty P shared that some households expected  her to sanitise her hand after washing while some others expected her to take a shower every single time she held the babies (which can be up to 6 times a day). So yep, good to make your expectations clear from Day 1.

5. Got helper or not?

One of the first questions Aunty P asked was whether we have a domestic helper. From my understanding after many chats with nannies, they need a helper if they are going to be taking care of twins. This is because the nanny can concentrate on caring for the twins and leave all the washing-up to the helper.

Usually, a nanny will do the cooking, washing (because new mothers cannot come into contact with water), etc. However, caring for the twins (feeding, burping, changing, cleaning) is literally a full time job. At any one point, someone will need to get his soiled diaper changed, or a milk feed.

I can also assure you that with twins, there is A LOT of washing to do – clothes, swaddles, milk bottles…multiplied by 2. I’m not even talking about hand washing the clothes. Even if you use the washing machine, there is still loads to wash!

This is not counting washing up after cooking and general household chores like mopping the floor, changing bedsheets, etc. Even with our helper, Aunty P rarely gets time to rest and can only get small snatches of sleep in the day when the twins nap.

All said and done, Aunty P did a good job of caring for the twins. She genuinely cared for them and showed concern if they were uncomfortable. She always ensured that they had clean and dry diapers – she was religious about changing wet/soiled diapers, as well as applying anti-rash cream at each change.

She was also systematic when she gave them their baths, ensuring that they wouldn’t catch a cold and that they are clean and fresh before noon each day.

Speaking of systematic, because she is old school, she religiously recorded all the milk intake and timings in an exercise book. She also took note of how often they pee and pooped. This simple but effective way of record-keeping was very helpful as this meant that we did not have to rely on pure memory power (which is sorely lacking in my head these days).

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What I really appreciated was how she was encouraging and listened to how we wanted things to be done, instead of insisting that things be on her terms or taking the ‘easy way out’. She did not insist that we feed the twins with formula milk at night ‘so that they will sleep longer’ or make careless remarks about breastfeeding.

At the start, before breastfeeding was properly established, she painstakingly used a syringe to feed the twins, as per our request. This takes up a lot of time but she did it because we said so.

In the beginning, as this was her first time with twins, she would wake me for the night feeds if both twins cried at the same time. As time went by, she became more confident and on most nights, she managed the twins on her own and that allowed me to sleep undisturbed for a couple of hours (i.e. 4-5 hours) – at least until I had to wake to pump milk. That, to me, was the most important thing about having a nanny. Because when I do not get enough sleep, I go quite mad and cannot function.

In case you’re wondering, we made sure that our helper had her full 8 hours of undisturbed sleep so that she is able to handle the chores, as well as to help with the babies in the day when required.

Since we spent so much time together in the house, we would chat and Aunty P  would share ‘best practices’. I learnt quite a bit about baby-caring from her even though I wasn’t a first-time mum. For example, I learnt that when a baby’s forehead is cold to the touch, this meant that he is having tummy problems. I also learnt to place a piece of tissue over a very soiled diaper before cleaning their dirty bum bums so that our hands don’t get dirty accidentally.

She was also patient with the babies (and me). Throughout her stint with us, I never saw her lose her temper at the babies. Can’t say the same about myself!

Aunty P was with us for 56 days (28 days x 2) and we are immensely grateful for her help. She will be leaving on Wednesday – 9 August (National Day!) so please wish us A LOT OF LUCK! 🍀

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elliott · family · lil' things that make me happy · moments · thoughts

The little yellow ball

A few days back, Elliott received a small yellow rubber ball as part of his classmate’s birthday gift pack. He has been playing with it and this evening, he asked if I can play ball with him. It was time for bed and I was a little hesitant but what the heck, let’s play ball for a while.

He sat on the bed, rolled the ball towards me, and I’d roll it back to him. Sometimes, the ball rolled off the bed and he’d get excited because he was afraid that it’d roll under the bed and he can’t get it out.

Throughout our ball throwing/rolling session, he kept squealing with excitement and broke out in fits of giggles. One time, I hit his head with my throw (what are the chances, right?) and we both shrieked with laughter. I found myself wondering: Roll ball also so happy ah?

It reminded me once again that a child finds joy in the simplest of things, and it made me happy that I was part of that joyful experience. 🎈

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