Our babies turn six months old today. They’re changing, fast, and I wanted to capture a snapshot of these days before life changes yet again. None of these details are momentous, but they’re things I’m likely to forget as time passes. No day is identical or scheduled to the minute, but we do follow the same basic routine week to week. The structure supports their sleep habits. We also find it’s a big help in reducing crying and helping us accurately diagnose what’s bothering them if they’re fussy without multiple throws at the hungry?tired?wet?uncomfortable?bored?justmessingwithmyhead? dartboard. Overall, with two babies that tend to need the same things around the same time, a routine makes sure they get quality sleep and fit in all their feedings, tummy time, and other needs. It also lets their parents maintain a reasonably clean and tidy house and get quality time together. If Dad has a day off the sleep patterns stay the same, but we feed the kids together when they wake up, and work other activities like church, errands, or hiking into the mix.
0400/0430: The first alarm goes off. Carl is catatonic until he’s had his coffee and dislikes waiting for it to brew and take effect each morning. His efficient solution? Make coffee for the week and refrigerate it in a jug. Each night he pours coffee for the morning into a travel/thermos mug and puts it by the bed. When his first alarm goes off he gulps it down and goes back to sleep. Caffeine has about a thirty minute wait time to full effectiveness – thirty minutes later, it naturally wakes him up. By 4:30 or 4:45 he’s up. I usually sleep about twenty minutes longer than he does, but find getting up well before the kids key to my sanity and a smoothly running home. Every morning Carl works through a small section of a medical review books to keep his knowledge fresh, exercises, shaves, showers, dresses, and sometimes fits in a small chore or two. I may do chores, check email, do my Bible Study reading, or work on paperwork and administrative tasks before pulling breakfast together. I used to feel a need to completely fill this time with chores before the babies woke, but found that a little quiet time writing or reading leaves me in a much better mood for the day. I gladly get up two hours before the kids to guarantee that time. It’s no sacrifice since we go to bed early and get an uninterupted night’s sleep.
~0600-0615: We eat breakfast together every day, a habit passed on from my family. Even if we’re sleepy and just eating cereal or bagels, starting the day with a meal together really helps things get off on the right foot.
~0615 (sometimes 0545 or 0600): Carl heads out the door to work. I shower, tidy the kitchen, wrap up a few chores, assemble bottles, and generally try to make sure everything is laid out and ready for the day.
0700/0730: The twins wake up cooing and happy after sleeping through the night. I pick each one up for a good morning hug and cuddle, then put them back down in their cribs on their stomachs, facing each other. First-thing-in-the-morning tummy time works well for us right now because 1) their stomachs are empty so they don’t spit up, 2) they’ve been on their backs all night so they’re actually pretty happy to spend time in a new position, 3) they love being set down face to face. Much smiling and squealing at each other ensues. I open the curtains, lay out clothing and burp cloths, pick them up to change diapers and put them back down on their stomachs, mix formula, and heat bottles while talking or singing to the kids. “Morning has Broken” is a favorite hymn for this time – the Third Day version on the link has some alterations to the original hymn and gaelic tune, but you get the idea. After about ten minutes of tummy time Jack becomes impatient. I feed him his breakfast bottle in the rocking chair next to Annie’s crib, flipping her onto her back when she, too, eventually gets tired on her stomach. Once Jack finishes he sits in the swing with a toy for some post-feeding upright time (reduces spit up…at least theoretically) while Annie eats. Throughout feeding there’s lots of talk about our day, lots of singing, and lots of making funny noises for our boy if he starts to get fussy and bored while waiting. I wash and lotion their faces, and oil and comb their hair. Usually we head to the guest bedroom for playtime. I put on some classical music – it’s still just background noise to the babies, but it makes the morning more interesting and fun for Mom. Tickling while singing “Ten Little Monkeys” (they know that song is associated with tickling and start flailing and squealing as soon as I sing the first measure), practicing sitting up, kicking around on their backs playing with toys, peek-a-boo, and sometimes picture books round out the morning before it’s time to change diapers, get dressed for the day, and go down for their morning nap. Occasionally I need to do chores during this time, but since having only two kids is a temporary luxury, I try to follow a rule of focusing on them during their awake time and doing chores or computer time during their naps.
0900/0930 – 1130: I watch for their drowsy-but-not-tired signs and put the kids down for their morning naps. It’s a quick routine – into their crib or car seat, tucked in, blinds closed, fan on and out of the room. Put together those cues mean sleep time to them and they’re usually asleep within two minutes with no fussing. They usually nap for two hours, sometimes three. While they nap, I work on chores and sometimes even get a start on dinner. Meal planning happens before our weekly grocery shopping run, but sometimes a meal can still catch you by surprise when evening comes and the meat isn’t defrosted or vegetables need chopping. A quick recipe or ingredient review in the morning helps the afternoon and evening run smoothly. I also try to fit at least 15 minutes of something calm and refreshing in here – sitting down with a book, for example. Sometimes I’ll also eat an early lunch, a meal that migrates throughout the middle of the day depending on the babies’ behavior. Toward the end of nap time I mix formula for the next feeding so everything is set when the first baby wakes.
~1130: The first baby starts chirping. I sneak him or her out for a diaper change and then we settle onto the couch for a little one-on-one time and a lunch bottle. Sometimes we just sit and cuddle, sometimes I’ll play a recorded book, lecture, or sermon in the background. Four hours of feeding babies a day adds up… About 75% of the time the other twin sleeps until almost the end of this feeding. Sometimes they wake up and fuss off and on. Sometimes they drift back off, or kick around contentedly while they wait upstairs. The simple fact of twins is that there are two of them and one of me. I try to be attentive, but of necessity they are also learning quite early to be patient. Once the bottle is empty, the first baby goes in a bouncy seat with a toy for some post-feeding upright time while the second baby gets changed and fed. If the weather is even halfway decent (meaning anything other than a torrential downpour) we’ll often head out for a long walk or errands. The kids love getting out of the house into the sunshine, and it’s good for me too. The logistics of getting two small babies out the door can be off-putting, but it is always worth it. Depending on the outing length it may be time for their afternoon nap when we get back, or we may spend some more time doing tummy time, playing on the floor, flying through the air like superman, etc. There’s no way to hold both babies all the time, and they’re learning to play independently very well, but I try to regularly pick one or the other up for some individual cuddles and play. It’s hard to get all the attention you want with another baby always getting in the way!
~1300/1330: The babies go down for a two or three-hour afternoon nap when they start showing drowsy signs. It’s back to more of the same household routines for me, plus possibly laying out bedtime/bathtime supplies or getting dinner in the oven depending on what time Carl will be home.
– 1530/1600: The first baby wakes. If I got alone time with one twin in the morning, I try to get alone time with the other twin in the afternoon as I change them and feed them their afternoon snack bottle. As with the morning, Twin 1 goes in the bouncy seat for upright time while I collect and feed Twin 2. Usually I pull both babies onto my lap to read a stack of picture books together for 20 minutes or so – about their maximum attention span right now. Sometimes Carl gets home early, around 1630. His shortest days are 10 hours, but by going in early he can sometimes make it home for a little pre-bed play time. Other days he works 12 or 14 or 18 hours, so we enjoy the early days when we can get them. Jack gets a quick spoon-feeding of rice cereal in the evening (after much patient coaxing and regular introductions he’s spoon-feeding like a champ), and Annie will start solids soon as well. If Carl’s home, the kids get Daddy play time, if he’s not, they might hang out in their Bumbo seats watching me cook dinner, play on the floor with occasional Mom visits for cuddles, or kick around in the Johnny Jumper for 15 minutes (a favorite treat for both of them). Around 1730 our son goes down for a short catnap is his swing in the library. Our daughter gave up her evening nap about six weeks ago, but sometimes sits in the library in her bouncy seat for some evening quiet/wind-down time during his nap. Otherwise, she usually stays with us and enjoys getting all the attention to herself. Some evenings we have dinner together before we put the kids down. Twice a week (more often dries out their sensitive skin) we start the babies evenings a little early with 1730 or 1745 bath. Otherwise:
– 1800: Bedtime! We lotion or oil the kids head-to-toe, change their diapers, and suit them up in a fresh onesie, sleeper, and sleep sack for bedtime. Bedtime is peaceful and quiet with one soft shaded light and (often) classical music or Gregorian chant playing from Pandora. We love this peaceful family time with all four of us, talking over the day and feeding the kids their dinnertime bottle. By 1845 they are tucked in with a family prayer and kisses goodnight. Fan on, lights off, and that’s the last we hear from them until wake-up time in the morning. Nights when Carl can’t be home for bedtime are definitely the hardest part of parenting baby twins. It’s doable, but by the time I’ve fed and tucked in the last kid I could crawl into a crib and fall right to sleep with them.
1845/1900: If we haven’t already, Carl and I sit down to dinner together, then do dishes, and prep Carl’s bedtime snack, morning coffee, and lunch for the next day. We also try to do a quick tidy each evening, tossing stray burp rags in the hamper, folding up blankets, returning bouncers and Bumbos to their proper places, and returning toys to the toy basket. It only takes five minutes, and keeps the house reasonably tidy. Carl has his evening snack. Usually, this leaves a nice little gap of time to read or play a game, followed by Bible reading together (we just finished Isaiah and are now reading the epistles of Peter). Around 2000 Carl’s bedtime alarm goes off (he’s nothing if not systematic about planning his day) and by 2030 or 2045 we’re usually brushed, changed, and ready for bed. Carl always goes in to check on the babies one last time. Last night he walked in to Annie talking in her sleep for the first time.