by Stephanie M. Bushak
Not only is it possible- it's practical, too. When I had my bundles of joy fourteen months ago --- yes, I said bundles --- I had every intention of raising my children as naturally as possible. Although circumstances have occured to make some of my efforts fruitless, I have chosen to be an AP'er by design. I would like to share with other parents of multiples the joy of attatchment parenting from my perspective. I have decided that this is best descibed in categories.
My husband, Matt, and I, being rather rigid environmentalists, did not even consider an option on this subject. Cloth diapers are considerably more environmentally friendly, consume much less energy, and cost considerably less than disposables overall. You can find your nearest Baby Diaper Service online or in the phonebook. They will send you lots of information and direct you every step of the way! As far as multiples are concerned, it is a given that you will occasionally use disposables. A night at Grandma's, your summer camping trips, and a visit to the daycare at the local YMCA (so Mommy can work off her baby fat!) gave me considerable cause for using disposables. Overall, my children wear their cloth diapers much more than the disposables, so, alas, I do not beat myself up over these exceptions.
When Michelle and Ryan came home from the hospital after twelve days in the NICU, I had some misgivings about laying their frail, helpless little bodies in my king-sized, fluffy-blanket-covered bed. Although it was my intention to have a family bed, (after all, that's how mankind has slumbered for thousands of years), I was feeling overwhelmed by all the family and friends (not to mention all those magazine articles) who told me that it was wrong. Add a second baby and you double your
anxiety! But, always being a determined person, I chose a temporary alternative: bassinets. (You may want to visit your local baby resale shops; they have alot to offer.) The bassinets served their purpose well, and I got to know my babies' personalities and their sleep patterns.
After just a few short weeks, I had them in bed with me, but with some modifications. Right away we discovered that they slept much better if they were swaddled. So at night when it was time to go to sleep, we would get the bed ready. Half the bed automatically belonged to the babies. All sheets, blankets, and pillows were removed, and their half was prepared by rolling up two blankets and spacing them apart on the bed with just enough room to lay the babies between them (with the babies about 6
inches apart from each other). Then my half of the bed was made: a blanket folded over, open side facing the edge of the bed, pillow tucked inside. I always had a burp-cloth, water, and nursing pillow on the floor next to my side. Then, we made the couch for Daddy! I reminded him that I love him just as much as the babies, and that this is only temporary, until I was confident that everyone could be comfortable in the bed together. It only took a few weeks before our family bed included
Matt, and the babies loved to nuzzle with us both. I have to admit that for several months, because of all the space we took up, I was very automatic in waking up at night to make sure that everything was okay. But, I was used to being up from having to breastfeed at night,
so it didn't really make a dent in my sleep patterns. Now, over a year later, we all still sleep together, although now I get woken up occasionally with a baby's foot in my face!
Not only is breastfeeding best, but in general, it is much more convienient than bottle feeding. It is also free, which is something I can truly appreciate! While the babies were in the hospital I tried several times a day, unsuccessfully, to nurse. I was also pumping my breasts every three hours to build a supply, a supply that was very futile the first several days. Although there was a lot of akwardness and frustration, (such tiny and tired mouths, trying desperately to latch on to an exhausted new mother), after a few days of this taxing ritual, I made a new plan. I would feed breastmilk mixed w/ formula several times a day (with total skin-to-skin contact each time) and attempt to breastfeed only once each day. What a relief! This relaxed us all tremendously, so in turn, we had much more pleasant visits with each other. It took a couple of weeks (with help from lactation
consultants and other mothers who had nursed) just to feed them one at a time. Then after that, my husband and mother-in-law were by my side to hand me the other baby so that I could nurse them together. I practiced my
positions until I found what I was comfortable with. Around the time they were one month old I could nurse them together with no help. I knew from the start that I would feed on demand, and this proved much simpler than I had imagined. One or the other would generally want to nurse about every two or three hours and the whole procedure was very erratic. However, after a couple of months, they sort of created their own schedule, about every three and a half hours. I finally had a routine -- - this was becoming so convinient. I had to admit that I was rather proud of myself! From about two months to about 8 months we nursed exclusively. The introduction to solids was a crimp in our schedule, so time-consuming to nurse and prepare solid food at the same time, but, it was pretty short-lived in the big picture. Plus, it's so much fun to see thier reactions to new foods, and their cute little messy faces. I personally chose to start a gradual weaning at the time solids were introduced, because they were fighting for attention a lot on the breast and I got bitten once too many times. I was getting touched-out a lot of the time, and I figured they were staring to lose some interest anyways. I substituted the missing feeding with an introduction to the sippy cup. It went over very well, and at one year (on their birthday to be exact) they were completely weaned. If I had had more stamina, I would have stuck to it until they had weaned themselves, but they have never showed signs of even missing the breast, so I digress. I do know of several multiple moms (of an even higher order) that breastfed until the second or third year. I suppose a lot of it depends on everyone's habits and personalities. Starting solids was exciting, and there are many aspects that we could discuss, but let's just say, keep LOTS of washcloths around! Be patient, and don't forcefeed --- it will backfire in the long run. If they've been playing with it for more than 3 minutes, they are probably done. And take lots of pictures! It usually helps to have your own table seats (the kind that connect to the table) once they can sit up all the way. Most restaraunts don't have two highchairs available at the same time.
Soft packs and baby slings work really well around the house. Many times I would have one in the soft-pack carrier while playing with, changing, or laying the other down. I could also get a few mild chores done around
the house. Matt and I both had our own soft-pack for when we went out shopping or walking. The carriers worked well many times to get a fussy baby to sleep. Many around-the-house items are great for play: empty boxes, egg cartons and canisters, pots and pans, big spoons, plastic dishes, old hats and shoes, pillows and blankets all make for lots of fun when the children are toddlers. Also, check your local resale shop for a wanted toy; you may be suprised at the great selections and even better prices some of these stores have to offer. I 've saved a ton of money on toys and clothes at these places, not to mention that each purchase would be helping to recycle, too.
It may not always work the way that you wanted; in fact, I can promise you that a lot of the time, it won't. This need not chage your course to AP'ing twins. You may not have the time to comfort both babies at once;
this is inevitable, as any mother of twins will agree. But, if it has been your intention to raise your kids in a natural, loving environment, you can be successful. You should have your spouse participate as much as possible; he or she is a very important tool of attachment parenting as well. You will occasionally have to bend the rules, but, for the most part, things will work if you are persistent. After all, you will reap twice the reward from having secure, loving, responsive twins. It's a hard game to play, but you can do it, and I promise you that it will be well worth the effort. Who said you can't AP twins?