Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Scheduling Breastfeeding

I've been doing baby-led nursing for the last month, but I've had to give it up.  I think it's a great idea, and it would totally work if I had only one, but two babies seem to want to nurse at two different times 75% of the time.  Add hour long nursing sessions to that, and pretty soon all I am doing is nursing and sleeping (and not much of that).  I don't even have time to shower or eat anything that requires two hands.  So I've decided to put them on a schedule, in the hopes of salvaging a few hours of non-baby time a day.

I talked to my pediatrician, and she said that the babies need to eat every three hours at this stage.  Twinspiration, which I got from my mother-in-law, suggests 15 minutes of feeding every three hours.  I'm not convinced that my babies can get enough nutrition in that time, though, so I'm doing a modified version of the scheduling plan I found in Secrets of the Baby Whisperer.  Basically it's up to 45 minutes every three hours; I anticipate that I can get about 10 hours of sleep in 1.5-2 hour chunks and about 4 hours of non-baby time if I can get them to sleep on the schedule.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer is a bit old (2005), but scheduling is really out of fashion right now.  Google scheduling breastfeeding and you will get pages of results on how putting your babies on a schedule will ruin their lives forever.  Of course, ten years ago, failing to put your baby on a schedule would have done the same thing.  I had a good laugh with my monther and my cousin over thanksgiving on a similar topic.  When I was a baby, you put babies on their back for SIDS and that's the recommendation now.  However, in the eighties, when his children were babies, you slept them on their stomachs.  At the end of the day, I'm going to do what works for me and figure that babies just aren't that fragile.  I think everyone would agree that scheduled breastfeeding is better than baby-led formula feeding, and I refuse to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

However, I don't think that Monkey and Football will just fall right into the scheduling thing - I imagine that I'll be soothing hungry and confused babies for the next few days as we all try to figure this out.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What I really, really want ... Financial Bucket List

Thanks Carla, for pointing me to Krystal's $500 Give Me Back My Five Bucks competition, sponsored by Life Insurance Finder, the life insurance experts.

The contest rules require that you post your financial bucket list as part of your blog post entry. I'm not sure what that is, exactly, since I understand that a bucket list is a list of things to do before you die.  Quite honestly, if I die and my last student loan debt isn't paid off, I could care less.  (I wouldn't be sticking my family with it either - my life insurance would more than cover it).  So I think for a bucket list, I should talk about something I'm saving for that I really want to have or do before I die.

Namib Desert
My really, really big want is a safari to Namibia.  The second least populated country in the world, after Mongolia, Namibia has unspoiled, beautiful desert vistas full of exotic animals, pretty much all of which can be hunted.  I think this would be a wonderful 13th birthday / 45th birthday present for myself and the twins.  I'm thinking they can get some smaller game and I can take my once-in-a-lifetime African trophy hunt.

To be completely honest, I've never hunted in my life.  But I'd like to, and I really want my children to as well.  I live in a rural area and hunting is part of the ethnic heritage that I want them to appreciate.  So part of the appeal of Namibia is the requirement that I become a reasonably proficient hunter over the next thirteen years, and pass along the conservationist values that hunting entails to my children.

Great Southern Kudu
I've looked into it a bit, and I think the trip would cost $15-20K today.  So I'm probably looking at $22-30K in 13 years, assuming 3% inflation and no other changes (I know this isn't realistic, but I have to start somewhere). If I save $2K a year for the next 13 years, I'll have around 30K assuming a 2% annual rate of return after taxes.

I haven't actually started saving for this yet - I'm waiting for my finances to stabilize a bit first (my post about how I've spent >2K in the last month on baby stuff is coming soon, really).  Maybe this post will be the kick in the butt I need to keep myself accountable, since my safari dreams will only become a reality if I start working on them now.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mint = Fail

Before this year, I kept my monthly budget on a whiteboard, writing in expenses as they came up, and keeping a running total on the wall, where it was easy to see.  The downside of this system was that it was difficult to track expenses over time.  Lots of PF bloggers had nice things to say about Mint.com, and so I've been using it for the last six months or so.  On the whole, I've been underwhelmed.

Mint tries to auto-categorize your spending for you.  I can't decide which is more annoying, having my utilities auto-categorized as my toy budget, or having literally every Amazon purchase categorized as shopping, a category that isn't anywhere in my budget.  Their trends section is woefully inadequate to track spending over time.  And it's annoying as all get out to get spam email that "my Paypal balance is low" or "my interest rate has dropped, why don't I change to a bank with an even lower interest rate."  Finally, if I do overdraw a budget, there's no way to zero it out by bringing in money from my EF and reconciling my accounts - I have to use torturous and unsound accounting methodology to make my budgets look right again.

But this week has taken the cake - according to Mint, my toy budget is overdrawn by $2264.  Usually, this means that Mint has again misallocated a credit card payment to my toy budget.  In this case, however, I can't find the source of the two thousand dollar plus overdraft, and I've looked over all my transactions for the last six months.  So, basically, I have to either wait for Mint to fix the error, or put in fake numbers and hope that Mint never fixes the error so that my numbers continue to look correct.  

I'm done with this.  I'm going back to my trusty whiteboard next month.  I still want a way to track expenses well over time, and I'm sure I'll try another budgeting service when it becomes available, but, for me, using Mint has been a gigantic fail.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lactation Update - Football Nurses!

Apparently Football was just waiting for me to gripe about her on the internet before she nursed, because she decided that nursing was OK again the day after my last post.  And it really was just like flipping a switch - one feeding she was totally uninterested in the breast, and the next feeding she was rooting on my husband's chest while he gave her the bottle, so we tried her on the breast and she nursed like she had never stopped.

So it looks like I can get the Medela Pump In Style Advanced Breast Pump Backpack, which is very nice, since it turns out that my FSA does not cover breastfeeding equipment after all.  I keep procrastinating, though, in part because I worry that she will backslide again, and in part because the baby fund is getting pretty low (more on that in another post) and I hate to deplete it.  The second reason is completely irrational, as I need a breast pump, and it's not as though one is going to fall out of the sky and land on me for free if I procrastinate long enough.

I'm not sure what's "stylish" about this, actually.
I've also managed to get both babies nursing both breasts by using AVENT Nipple Shields on the less favored breast.  They aren't wild about it, and it's messy as all get out, but we're slowly getting the hang of this nursing thing over here.

Now if I could just get my breasts under control.  They have a tendency to ache all the time, and I leak like there is no tomorrow.  When I get up in the morning, I leak so much that my breast milk literally splashes on my feet.  Hopefully my hormones will get this stuff regulated out soon.

My mom thinks the problem may be over-pumping and over-feeding; I generally pump 10-12 oz a 15 min session, 3-5 times a day, in addition to nursing when I am awake.  However, it's not as though this gives me a stash - Monkey and Football eat it ALL.  They will sometimes eat as much as 8 oz each in one bottle session, and they usually nurse for at least 30 mins each.  I am lucky if I have 20 oz in the fridge at any one time.  We've never had breast milk last even 24 hours in the fridge at this point.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding says that you should let your babies nurse whenever they like, for as long as they like.  My mother says that I should think about putting them on a schedule so that (a) they won't make me totally crazy and (b) they won't overeat.  They're my first babies so I haven't any real clue.  Anyone have any experience with this?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lactation Problems and the Breast Pump Dilemma

I've always intended to breastfeed my babies.  On the farm, we never use supplementation of any sort for our babies; if it is medically necessary for them, they are culls from our program and we don't sell them to our customers.  If I won't feed formula to baby goats, I'm certainly not going to feed it to my babies.

We're in the middle of week 2, though, and I have one baby that will nurse from one breast.  Monkey will nurse one breast; Football won't nurse either.  In fact, last week, she would scream hysterically if put on a breast and, if her mouth was forced over the nipple, she bit it.   Since she had nursed fine for the first couple of days, I didn't worry about it for a while, but at a week my pediatrician said that she needed nutrition, so I've been pumping and bottle feeding her.

Naturally, I hope this is going to be a temporary solution.  I try to offer her the breast as often as I can, and she's gotten better - she no longer screams, and will occasionally give a desultory suck or two.  I'm actively looking for a lactation consultant in the hopes that one can suggest something that I haven't tried, but, at the end of the day, it just depends on whether she'll flip the switch and breast feed or not.

Which leads to the problems of breast pumps.  I had an Ameda Elite at the hospital, and I rented one for a week.  It was OK, although the case on my rental was broken, which caused an annoying squeak, so it had to be returned.  It was a $60 / month rental, though, so by the time I used it for a year, I might as well have bought a new one. (New ones are $800, resale value on ebay is about $450)

In the interim, however, a friend who had to pump exclusively for her twins recommended the Medela Symphony.  I tried to rent one, but there aren't any available in my area, so I ended up with a Medela Lactina Select instead, which is basically the older model of the Symphony.  At $30 / month, it is very affordable, but it does not have nearly the functionality of the symphony.  In particular, it lacks Medela's 2 phase pumping.  The Symphony costs $1200 and has a resale value on ebay of about $700-800, and rents for $80/month, when it is available.  I prefer the pumping feel of the Lactina Select to the Elite, so I am thinking that I should probably buy a Medela product.

My other option is to buy a high end consumer grade pump. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced also has the 2 phase pumping option, if not quite as many settings as the Symphony.  It costs $260 and has an ebay resale value of around $50.  But it's not really intended for pumping 8x a day for a year, and I may have to buy two of them if one burns out (Although the motor is warrantied for a year, the rest of it only has a 90 day warranty.)

My insurance won't pay for a pump, but it looks as though the cost will be covered by my FSA, so I won't need to come up with the cash for any of these out of pocket.  Still, even though it is paid for in pre-tax dollars, $1200 is a lot of money, and there is no guarantee that the current resale value will hold after I have used it for a year.

If I knew that Football was never going to nurse, I'd buy the Symphony or maybe the Elite; conversely, if I knew she was going to nurse, I would buy the Pump in Style.  But, since the future is uncertain, I have to choose.  Theoretically, I have until my pump rental expires in early December to decide, but since I'm planning to get a better pump, I plan to make the decision reasonably soon.

Does anyone have any experience with these pumps?  Even if you don't, would you consider a hospital grade pump a want or a need, in light of my situation?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Introducing Monkey and Football

Football and Monkey
Since this blog is semi-anonymous, I'm giving them pseudonyms.  Maybe when I'm not in a daze of hormones and generic Percocet, these nicknames won't seem as cute, but since me in millions has Mr. Cupcake, then I'm not the only person on the web who likes silly nicknames.  Football is the girl on the left and Monkey is the boy on the right.

I wanted to write a nice long post about their birth and the hospital experience, but Monkey is cueing so it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Now a Mommy Blog

I gave birth to my twins by cesarean section on Friday. So I expect this will turn into a mommy blog simply because that's where my attention is going to be focused. But I'm still cheap, so I don't think it will be much about how cute my babies look in their matching designer onsies.

My first big issue - to 529 or not to 529? On the one hand, it's tax deferred. On the other hand, what are the chances it won't be counted toward financial aid packages in 18 years?

For the record, if you are having twins, the first week is every bit as difficult as the baby books said that it would be. Be sure to have the help lined up beforehand, because you'll be too exhausted to do it afterwards.