Monday, February 25, 2008

How to do Two: Nap (and nursing)

I have been really excited about the response to my "How to do Two" series. I think other expectant second time moms are running into the same problem I did, which is that there just isn't a whole lot of information out there on the logistics of having two small children! I'm really pleased to be able to fill that gap.

One of the scariest parts of having two small children is that you think you will never sleep again. When you think this, you are actually right. Sorry. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you're hosed. You'll be up with the baby. Then you'll finally get the baby to sleep, and the big one will wake up. Then you'll get the big one to sleep, and the baby will wake up. Then you'll finally get them both to sleep, and your husband will be snoring. It's enough to make your hair turn white (or fall out altogether, if your hormones are anything like mine).

Your only defense is to nap. Remember all those times people told you to "sleep when the baby sleeps" with your first child? And you ignored them and knitted cute little booties and sweaters while your precious older child napped. Yeah, me neither. I've always been good at naps. I get it from my dad. But how do you nap with two?

I'm a big proponent of breastfeeding. I nursed MG while I was pregnant with Claire and after Claire was born - until she was 28 months old, actually. If I had had a brain in my head I would have weaned her when I was pregnant. Yes, La Leche League, you heard me. Sure, it's possible to tandem nurse. It's also possible, in a technical sense, to put your head in between the door and the wall and then slam the door 100 times. Just because someone can do something doesn't mean that she should.

I went to the LLL for advice, and frankly, I found it lacking. They made me feel like the Worst Mother Ever for wanting to wean MG before she self-weaned (honest to God, if I let her she would nurse until she went to college). They made it competitive. You thought the guilt to nurse to begin with was intense, and it paled in comparison to this. Ugh-ly.

I half-heartedly tried to wean her a few times while I was pregnant, and I secretly hoped that my milk would dry up and she'd self-wean (it did, she didn't). Then when I had Claire her little life was so upheaved that I didn't want to take that away from her too, and we ended up tandem nursing for 9 months. (In other words, my body was supporting two kids for 18 months - 9 of pregnant with C, nursing MG, and 9 of nursing them both. I have been pregnant, nursing, or both since November of 2004!!!).

Here's how that worked - I determined which breast was the better producer and I only nursed Claire on that side. I nursed MG on the other side. If I felt like Claire didn't have enough, it was nice to be able to nurse her on MG's side for back up.

Yes, it is possible to nurse two children. After all, for most of human history mothers of twins didn't have any choice. You will be thirsty all the time. You will need lots of lotion and chapstick, because you will feel dehydrated constantly. It's like living in your own personal Arizona. You will eat like a horse. You probably won't lose any weight (after burning 1000 calories a day nursing for 9 months, I do not have any idea why I'm still the size I am. It just doesn't make sense). If you nurse while you're pregnant, there will be times when your nipples hurt as badly as they did when you first started nursing #1, if not worse. You will have days, nursing two, when you totally feel like a dairy cow.

However, tandem nursing did make nap really easy. I would lie on "Claire's side" (my left) and nurse Claire. Then MG would lie kind of on top of me, and nurse "the tops." When Claire fell asleep I would pop her off, then I'd roll over to face MG and get her to sleep, too. And since I was pretty well trapped with both of them sleeping on either side of me, I'd generally fall asleep with them, and we'd all get a good nap in.

Now that MG is weaned (glory, hallelujah!) we do pretty much the same thing, except MG doesn't nurse. I lay on my side, Claire nurses, and MG lays on my side. She likes it when I rub her back. She also likes to have her feet rubbed, which annoys the crud out of BJ but is actually easier for me. Then, when Claire falls asleep, I turn over and MG lays on my arm and we go to sleep, too.

MG is down to the 0 - 1 naps a day range, and Claire is transitioning from two a day to one a day. We try to do this for the big nap of the day, whenever we can, which is generally the one after lunch.

Of course, if you're blessed with children who sleep like normal people (that is, you put them in their beds with a kiss, they lay down, and they go to sleep) you won't have to do all of these foolish things, but if, like me, your kids need to be coaxed to sleep... this is the way to do it.

1 comment:

Cathy Holmes said...

Ignore my other comment. This is exactly the advice I was looking for. Your blog rocks and so do you!