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0-2 years old: twin must-haves

Whenever I look at must-have lists on the Internet, I'm usually surprised to find that I own little of what is on them. So consider this Kimber's Must Have list. What is something that makes it a Must Have for me? For one the cost must not outweigh the amount of time we will use it. I have always wanted a Nap Nanny (like, really, really, really wanted a Nap Nanny... well, two Nap Nannies...), but I could never justify the cost of something that is so easily outgrown that costs over $100 a piece, plus the cost of additional covers-- not to mention the later recall of the product. As long as the cost isn't just totally over the moon, I don't mind an expensive product that is worth the investment, especially when I can use it from 0-2 years. I heart convenience.

Many of the products on this list are overlapped with my past lists. Here are the links to my previous must-have lists:

If you are into lists, you will find those links interesting. Here we are approaching the toddlers' 2nd birthday and we still have baby products that we absolutely love-- great investments. Other things didn't pan out liked I hoped they would (such as the Bright Stars Play Yard mentioned later). Save for my stroller, I don't think that all of these are the end-all-be-all world's best baby products. If you are wondering what baby products you should buy that will last or be a good investment, these are my tips. There are similar products (some even better-- those Fisher Price Rock and Plays look awesome and I wish I had them!) that will do the job just as well. This ought to just give you the gist of things.

You know I'm going to start with my stroller, so here we go.

If you are looking for a versatile double stroller, I highly recommend reading my blog post "I love my stroller." I have yet to see a stroller that does what this stroller does. For starters, it can be a single or a double stroller. I love this feature. When I go to the pediatrician with one baby, I can bring in the stroller with one seat. Fabulous. Go to drop-in childcare and pick up the other baby and use it as a double when we go into Target. Even more fabulous. I have used this stroller almost daily from the newborn days to their second birthday. I mean, seriously. Great investment. I don't want to do the same gushing that I did in my previous blog post, but I can take this stroller everywhere: bark dust, dirt paths, grass, up hill, down hill, the Metro, the book store, the grocery store... It isn't a bulky, wide double. It is a double stroller with the mind of a single stroller. (Can you tell that I'm still in love with this stroller?)

I took some pictures of the boys in the stroller to give you a feel for how it works with 2-year old twins using it. I do have other accessories for it, not pictured. I have the glider board and the trays for the seats. I don't use the glider board as often now, though I did from the time the twins were newborn to about 18-months. Our oldest weighs a little over 45 lbs now and our toddlers weigh about 26 lbs each... combined, that's a lot of weight for a Momma with a bad back to push, even on a fabulous stroller. I do keep the glider board in the mini van for the times I may want it, such as a Target trip where I put the shopping basket on the glider board instead of using a cart, or if we are doing a long day of walking and I'm worried our oldest might give up halfway through, like a zoo trip. The trays were super handy before, especially to just drop the babies in without strapping them in (I know, shame on me). Now their feeding schedule is the same as ours (breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner), so I never need to do quick stroller feeds or anything. I am glad I have them because they were great from the time the babies started using the seats (versus the infant carrier adapters)  to about 15-months. I rarely use them now, but when I do, they are super convenient for keeping toys or giving "please stay happy just 5 minutes longer" snacks when we are out. :)

The accessories and all the attachments are a breeze to take on and off, once you have the trick down. When we first got the stroller, I didn't know exactly where to begin. Now I can pop the wheels on and off, take on and off the glider board, and whip that thing into the back of my mini van after outings.

And, to clear up some confusion, this is not a jogging stroller. Baby Jogger brand does make jogging strollers, but their City strollers are not designed for jogging.

This is how I usually use the stroller, with the boys both facing forward and the foot rests down at a slightly angled position:

I seat them like this when I'm doing shopping trips (usually at the mall) because it gives me more room under the stroller to put shopping bags and underneath is easily accessible. I have the foot rests up some in this picture. This is how I put the foot rests when they are holding their blankets. It keeps the blankets on:

When we are going through a crowd, I drop the foot rest down in the front. It makes the stroller much smaller, comparable to a single stroller. I have the handle extended back to its highest position (because I'm tall), but I drop it down when squeezing into elevators or parking it at the children's museum:

I used to push them like this a lot and I sometimes still do. Sometimes I find that the toddler looking at me starts getting bored and demanding up because he sees me, so looking out is nice to keep them busy:

These wonderful hoods have kept my babes dry and the sun off their faces on more than one occasion  They even have these nifty flaps to peek in and see how they are doing:

The seats fully reclined. There is a middle recline in between the upright (shown in all the pictures above) and the fully reclined (shown below):

Here it is as a single stroller (in one of the many possible positions it can be in):

And here are pictures of the stroller collapsed, just to show you what the pieces look like separately:


2. Bumbo
I still have the un-safe pre-recall Bumbos. These are much more of a "fun" item now when they were a useful item before. I was given these Bumbos around the time the boys turned 6-months old (read "6-month old twins must-haves"). These things came with us as portable high chairs, room to room entertainment ("Wow! We are watching Momma do laundry!" "Wow! We are watching Momma make the bed!" "Wow! We are watching Momma make dinner!"). With two babies, they were fabulous for giving wobbly sitters a different view of the world. I loved them so much I recommended them to my sister, but she didn't like the Bumbo as much as I did. She sold it before her daughter turned one. So, I'm not sure if they are just super wonderful for moms of multiples, but I absolutely loved our Bumbos. Now, the boys love the Bumbos. Our four-year old uses a Bumbo as a high chair for Buzz Lightyear and our toddlers love playing in them. The Bumbos are still a hot commodity in our playroom.

North Carolina March 2013
Want to know why you will find this wagon raved about by mom's of multiples? Because it is perfect for multiples. This wagon keeps the kids separate and seat belted in their own private wagon, complete with cup holders. The curved handle makes it easy to pull, even know that my boys weigh 26+ lbs each. I bought this second hand from a mom of multiples who was selling it. When the twins were about 15- or 16- months, I started bringing this to the pediatrician with us for the well-baby check-ups. I take them to those long back-to-back appointments by myself and this was the perfect way to keep them entertained and contained while still being able to easily get them in and out for weight checks. The seat belts also make me feel comfortable letting their older brother pull them around (a favorite driveway game with all the boys). There is a compartment under the seat where I keep spare diapers and wipes for park trips and walks.

North Carolina March 2013
This is a new find for me. We live in the south and Thirty-One, a brand I had not heard of before, is all the rage down here. Being a Navy wife, I like to do my best to blend in with the locals... and find any excuse for shopping! :) This bag is really popular in our twin group and I know why: portable cup holders! I don't know about you, but I'm always lugging around leaky sippy cups and reluctantly trying to balance them upright in my Coach totes (cringe). This bag has been the answer for times when you don't have cup holders, like pulling the wagon or playing at the park. There are two pockets on the outside of one side and three on the other. I'm not sure my pediatrician will be happy to find I've discovered new ways to smuggle in sippy cups, but whatever. I like that this bag is structured enough to stand upright and wipes clean. Today I dropped my empty Starbucks caramel frappuccino light cup inside the bag without thinking about it. It was a sticky mess by the time I got home. I used a Clorox wipe and cleaned the whole thing up good as new. The tote is also the perfect size to drop your purse into for a quick dash into Target if you are going sans stroller.


I'm still crazy about Amazon. This is where we buy our diapers, wipes, Diaper Genie refills, baby products, dog food, and books. We buy even more than that from Amazon. Seriously, it's the best. Amazon Prime gives you free 2-day shipping and sometimes discounts on products. Amazon Mom gives you an extra 20% off products like diapers and a free 3-month Prime membership. They also have a deal called "Subscribe and Save" that gives you additional savings on staple products, like diapers. We get our Diaper Genie refills through Subscribe and Save; they are shipped at regular intervals (I think we have it set to every 3 months?) and they are shipped right to our door. A friend of mine tipped me off that if you want to get the Subscribe and Save price on, say, a box of diapers, but not sign up for regular shipping, sign up for the service, have one box shipped, and then cancel that Subscribe and Save order. The thing I love most about Amazon is that it saves me from making those annoying little trips for one item. For instance, dog food. I don't have to go the pet store just to get the brand of dog food my dog uses (not carried by Target). The other day I had my favorite disposable fountain pens shipped to me. It is a one-stop-shop that delivers to your door. Amen to that.

There was a lot of debate over which style of high chair we wanted to buy. I hate those big cumbersome high  chairs that take up half of the dining space. At the time, we were in a small apartment and didn't have much space to begin with. There were lots of compact wooden high chairs in style, but they were well out of our price range. So we bought the Ikea ones. I thought the toddlers would outgrow them quickly. However, they are 2-years old and still fit in them! We bought the support cushion to give them stability when they were wobbly sitters. Now they don't use the support cushion and we actually took the trays off and pushed them up to the table around 18-months. These things are really easy to clean and much more compact than the Graco numbers I've come across. Just say no to cleaning plastic high chair cushions! (Read "Baby products.")


7. Drop-in childcare and a baby-sitter
What is drop-in childcare? Drop-in childcare is a wonderful concept for moms of multiples (or, really, moms). It differs from daycare because you don't have a tuition or certain number of hours you need to attend each month. You pay by the hour and only for the hours you use. You can buy hours in bulk at a discounted rate and most offer a sibling discount. Some drop-in childcare places don't accept infants; some do. If they do accept infants, you might need to make a reservation or call ahead to see if they have room. How do you make the most of drop-in childcare, especially as a stay-at-home mom? I use drop-in childcare when I have a doctor appointment for myself or when the kids have individual appointments. I find that it is easiest to take an age group with me, like take the toddlers to their appointment or take our four-year old to his appointment. I've also used drop-in childcare to get one on one time with each of the toddlers while our oldest is at preschool, like taking him to an art class or running an errand with him. My boys love going and they love playing with the other kids there. It has been a great resource for me. I know that many areas do not have drop-in childcare; do a Google search to see if there is somewhere near you. Baby-sitters are a fairly new concept for us. While I grew up baby-sitting, I never left our oldest with a baby-sitter until our twins were born. I don't know what the reason was; it wasn't really a thought of "I'm not leaving him with anyone." Really, it just never crossed our minds to go out. My husband was gone so much with the Navy and we moved so much, that when he was home we did family things, like going to a friend's house for a game night (pack'n'play in tow) or watching a movie together after he went to bed. Now that we have a baby-sitter that we love, I don't know what we would do without her (well, them-- they are sisters). I love having her come over and the boys love having her over. The drop-in childcare is great during the day when it is just me and the boys. The baby-sitter is wonderful in the evening or early in the morning before drop-in childcare opens, letting the boys wake up on the their own time, nap on their own time, and go to bed on their own time. Childcare is expensive-- especially with multiples. To us, it has found a place in our budget because of the sanity it offers. My hubby's schedule picked up so much these past couple semesters and that has put a lot of responsibility on my shoulders, balancing all these different schedules. Having someone come over that the kids love to play with with them, feed them, bathe them, and put them to bed while I go out has made all the difference in the world. I always look forward to the days she's coming because some "me time" allows me to take a breath and feel like a person again, instead of a multi-tasking machine.

8. Housekeeper
While we're on the subject of outsourcing, having someone help with the housecleaning is one of the biggest sanity savers you can invest in. My parents have been exceedingly generous and set us up with a housekeeper after the twins were born. My mom says, "Coming home to a clean house after a stressful day will make you feel so much better." So true. My husband was skeptical at first as to whether this one was worth it or purely a luxury item. After having her coming for almost two years now, it is firmly in the worth it category. Why? Our house is not tidy. We have mail piled on our desk, my papers piled up on our work station, books on every horizontal surface, and toys in every corner. I pick up toys all.day.long. I step on toys all.day.long. We have a designated room for toys, yet they seep into every nook and cranny, invade our bedroom (nothing like crawling in bed to lay on a Lego), and threaten to spill out into the yard. With the constant picking up and the laundry and cooking and carpooling and playing, yeah, the housekeeper has given me time. As a direct result, my family does better. All of us benefit from picking everything up every two weeks to make the house (our definition of) tidy. All of us benefit from clean bathrooms and clean showers and a clean kitchen. I still have to vacuum every couple days and clean the kitchen almost every night (the surfaces), but I don't have to scrub the microwave or our showers. The cleaning I'm responsible for now is all surface cleaning. So, while our house may not be perfect or tidy, our carpets our vacuumed, our floors are clean, and there is a delicious smell of "clean" in the air. When my hubby was underway all the time and it was just me and our oldest at home, then a toddler, I had a chore chart that I wrote up for myself. Every day I did a small chore so that by the end of the week, I had cleaned the house from top to bottom. I would vacuum one day, clean the hard floors the next day, do the bathrooms the next day, dust the following day, etc. When I think of that schedule and my life now, I am so grateful for this housekeeper. I can't imagine trying to do it all at this point in time and my husband isn't even gone; he's home every night. I feel like I don't get things done now. I find it hard to put into words what my day looks like and what rests on my shoulders. My life isn't compartmentalized  When I try to designate a day to accomplish something, one of the toddlers gets sick or won't cooperate and things just don't get done. So when your family asks what you need after the twins are born, tell them a housekeeper. 

9. Graco Pack'n'Play
If you go the Graco website, we have the on-the-go play yards. This item is actually mentioned in my very first must-have post as well (read "One and one and one is three"). I've tried three different types of pack'n'plays or play yards since I've had kids: the Bright Stars Play Yard, the Graco Pack'n'Play, and the Baby Bjorn Travel Light Crib. Our Bright Stars Play Yard cost us around $70-$80, I believe. Our Graco Pack'n'Play was like $120. The Baby Bjorn Travel Light Crib retails at $300. Let me tell you, that Baby Bjorn travel crib is stinkin' awesome. It is super compact when folded, super easy to assemble and take down, super comfortable, and super expensive! We actually have three Pack'n'Plays, two at our house and one at my parents'. If we went with Baby Bjorn, that would be $900 in Pack'n'Plays-- yikes! Since I want one (I would settle for two) so badly, I will defend them by saying they are exceedingly convenient. I can only dream of packing two pack'n'plays in one duffel bag; that would be sweet! Instead I have a Bright Stars and a Graco. The Graco is great. It works fine. It is easy enough to put up and down. It is comfortable enough, especially with a pack'n'play sheet. That Bright Stars play yard was supposed to be a money saver. I thought, "There can't be that much of a difference." I did no research and just bought the less expensive pack'n'play. It seriously feels like a piece of cardboard set on top of steel pipes, which isn't far from the truth. It is annoying as all get out to set up and take down. I swear more at that thing than I do to at the baby socks in the laundry. I dislike it so strongly that I have considered many times buying yet another pack'n'play, this time a Graco, to replace it, and our toddlers are two.

10. Sleep schedule
Want to know what pays off more than having the best baby products? A full night's sleep. In all honesty, I don't think that there is "the one perfect baby sleep book" out there that trumps all other baby sleep books. I think it is much more about finding the perfect sleep schedule for your family. For us, the perfect sleep book was 12 Hours Sleep by 12 Weeks Old: A Step-by-Step Plan for Baby Sleep Success by Suzy Giordano. If you are interested in this book, you should check out my blog post, "Sleeping through the night" where I talk a lot more about this book and how it helped set our family schedule. I do think that a schedule is key when it comes to raising multiples. We would have struggled much more that first year if we weren't getting sleep. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving. The kids are rested and we have a set bedtime to look forward to after a crazy day chasing two toddlers.

Here are a couple tips when it comes to buying for twins from zero to two. I think everyone thinks, "Two of everything!" when it comes to twins. Family starts buying matching outfits or two of every baby item. Even now we'll get two of items we 1. don't want or 2. don't need. Keep the receipt or find out where it was bought. Most stores don't require a receipt anymore for gifts. Be very specific that it was a gift and that you do not want it going back on the original card when you return for store credit (we had that happen with a wedding present-- oops!). We ourselves have bought two of items that we later realized we absolutely did not need two of. Since then, we learned a couple tricks about the "two of everything" dilemma. The first tip is to buy similar items. For instance, we had two Excersaucers, but they were different. They had different toys on them, so when they tired of one Excersaucer, we could just switch Excersaucers. This wouldn't have worked if we had two of the same item. This concept has carried over into toddlerhood. Some of the larger or expensive toys are nice to have two different kinds to keep them interesting.

North Carolina September 2011
The second tip is simple: wait. We bought one swing and ended up needing two. We bought one Fisher Price Lawn Mower and ended up needing two. We have one Bouncing Tigger. We have one big Tonka dump truck. We have one child sized arm chair. We either already only had one of an item or we only bought one but this technique has worked for us. I know we will need more big Tonka dump trucks later, but we don't need them now (and don't have the room now). I know we will not need another Tigger. One is enough. I know we will not need another chair, though I do have an idea how I want to decorate their room in South Carolina after we move to big boy beds... :) So just wait or you will find your house is full of double the junk.

North Carolina August 2012
These are the "big things." I'm working on a blog post with smaller baby products I like, such as toys and sippy cups. What things have worked for you from zero to two?

Comments

Michaela said…
Hi Kimber,

Just wanted to say thanks for your blog! My husband and I currently have 3 under 3, all boys. Our oldest is 2.5 and our identical twin boys are 18 months. Its fun to find a blog where someone else has been in a similar situation. We are getting our City Select today, your blog is what sold my husband. Our Valco Baby Twin Tri-Mode with the Joey seat has been a lifesaver these first few years because our oldest was not yet walking when the twins were born and we needed 3 seats. Now we are ready for something smaller :)

Our lives have been saved these first almost 2 years by:
Summer Infant Swaddle Sacks
A hospital grade breast pump for the early days when we needed to supplement after time at the breast and for when I went back to work and needed to pump.
My Breast Friend Twin Nursing Pillow
Dr. Browns bottles
Fisher Price Rock-n-Play
White Noise Machine
Nuby soft spout sippy cups
The First Years 2 piece sippy cups
Fisher Price booster seats, as soon as those kiddos could sit in them safely we got rid of the high chairs. Now we can all sit around the table and they are so easy to wipe clean!
Thanks again and I look forward to spending time on your blog!
-Michaela

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