A Memorable Meeting

We had the most memorable meeting of our lives nearly one year ago. After the miraculous delivery of our quintuplets, now fondly known as the V-5, I had to wait over 24 hours until I could meet them.

This moment has a very special place in my heart…

As we prepare to celebrate the V5’s first birthday, we will be releasing video compilations of each quint beginning with Mr. Theo! Stay tuned!

Baby Central: The V-5’s Domain

The Vanderwall home has quickly transformed into baby central with pack and plays, bouncy seats, burp cloths and pacifiers abounding. Everywhere you look you see signs of our little ones. We are also trying hard to create an environment at home that is conducive to growth and development.

Theo is home!
Theo staking out in the Pack N Play

We hope that the V-5’s domain will:

  • Help them differentiate between night and day.

During the day the kiddos stay on the main level in well-lit areas. Here they are exposed to the sounds and hustle and bustle of day time. At night we keep them upstairs in their nursery where it is dark and quiet. We also are intentional about not talking or playing with them during their night-time care times. We are down to business at 12am and 3 am. This has proven to be very helpful in getting them on their care schedule.

  • Practice good nutrition.

All of the quints enjoy breastmilk for all their meals. However, since they were premature it is common practice to fortify their milk for additional calories, protein, vitamins and minerals (sodium, calcium, phosphorus to name a few).  Their calorie goals vary quite a bit and like adults are based on their weight, ranging from 108-120 Calories per kilogram body weight. On average breastmilk has 20 calories per ounce, whereas the quints require 24 to 26 calories per ounce to grow at the desired rate. Therefore, we are adding Similac Neosure to their milk. We also are sure that they get their multivitamin (poly-vi-sol) daily.

Rare Occurrence- Ellie is quiet and alert, awaiting lunch.
Rare Occurrence- Ellie is quiet and alert, awaiting lunch.
Mommy & Lily
Mommy & Lily
  • Exercise their Mind.

Lots of time and attention is poured into identifying strategies to develop baby’s brains. There are an assortment of toys, books, apps, programs, etc. that promise to make your baby a genius. However, I’m a firm believer in simplicity and believes that attention, bonding and communication, or ABC’s, develop the brain just as efficiently as any of these other tools. I have actually learned that some toys touted for brain development can actually over-stimulate the child and increase the risk of ADHD/ADD.


Currently, the V-5 enjoy tracking exercises where we use a black and white images or toys and move the image from left to right. This activity strengthens communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, or communication across the corpus callosum. We also love to chat and sing with our little ones. An ideal time to chat is when we are changing them, because we are 12-14 inches away from their little faces and are able to maintain their attention.

  • Massage for Emotional Well-being. 

There are many benefits of baby massage, including stress management. Massage can help to foster emotional health and promote self-soothing.  Touch via gentle strokes stimulates the central nervous system to produce more serotonin, the happy hormone, and create less cortisol, a stress hormone. Typically, as a result the infants breathing and heart rate will slow and they become more relaxed. Often times, this relaxed state does not result in sleep but rather a quiet, alert state perfect for play-time, snuggle-time, or positive feeding interactions.

  • Massage for their Tummies.

Our quints are a gassy bunch. It is no joke that post-feeding sounds much like a barnyard. Therefore, anything we can do to ease their gas pains and help their digestion is a must. Frank loves to take them on bicycle rides all over “town,” moving their little legs in a circular fashion. They have also come to enjoy this and almost do it on their own when you lay them on their backs. Frank tends to take them to the Candy Shoppe, where Mom prefers a trip to the Puzzle Place. We also practice the “I Love You” strokes on their bellies, which can help to stimulate movement throughout the digestive tract. A fool-proof method for gas relief is to place them on their tummies with rounded shoulders and knees tucked up and to glide your hands down their back while supporting their bottoms.

  • Stretch their Bodies.

Since sleep is one of their favorite past times, these little ones can get awful stiff. We continue to try to prevent flattening of their heads and promote good neck mobility. Moving their limbs up and down and inward and outward can help to preven

t these little hedgehogs from staying all bound up. We also like “windshield wipers” with their bent knees to help open up their hips.

Tummy time is also a great way foster good motor development and upper body strength.  It is best done when the infant is alert. Some of the quints love tummy time and others are still learning to like it. It can be quite a frustrating position for them, so we are sure to keep the sessions short and sweet.

Ellie Lays
Elliott is prepping for her calisthenics
  • Encourage Good Coordination.

Newborns are able to open and close their hands, but often times these movements are reflexive. During the first three months of life grasping becomes more intentional and an ideal time for developing foundational skills for hand-eye coordination. The quints are already starting to show signs of good coordination as they reach and grab items from their mobiles, as well as, objects near their face…including mommy’s hair.

Quints circled up for Yoshi Calisthenics
Quints circled up for Yoshi Calisthenics on Halloween
Yoshi egg line-up
Now it’s time for Follow-the-Lily.

All of these activities certainly add up for a full day, but there’s nowhere else we’d rather be!

Two Simple Acts

Mama Kanga and her Roo's, Lily (right) & Kali (left)
Mama Kanga and her Roo’s, Lily (right) & Kali (left)

When becoming a new parent, best practices, guidelines, and all of the “must-do’s” flood our mind.  All mom’s and dad’s want the best for their children. I find peace in getting back to basics and focusing on two simple acts: Kangaroo care and Breastfeeding.  Both of these can be practiced whether a parent takes their newborn home shortly after birth or for those trying to learn how to be mom and dad in a NICU setting.

Kangaroo care is an endearing term used to describe skin-to-skin holding.  This snuggle time has benefits for both mom, dad and baby. The newborn benefits from skin-to-skin holding because they learn their parents’ scents. The sense of smell is the first to develop and is quite strong, which is why many encourage the use of scent cloths. Additionally, the baby’s vitals mimic those of the person, which is holding them and can help to regulate their heart and respiration rates.  When mom is caring for her baby this way, the infant can be soothed by the sound of her heartbeat since it is what they heard for many months while in utero. Kangaroo care can foster quality sleep for infants. This is why it is typically done for at least 90 minutes at a time. We know that sleep is critical for a newborn, or preemie because it encourages both growth and healing. If time is of the essence, swaddling and hold the baby is also beneficial and many hospitals have “cuddlers” who are happy to help.

"Nana B" & Bella cuddling
“Nana B” & Bella cuddling

Kangaroo care also benefits parents as a unique bonding experience. One is able to simply hold, love and adore their baby. This is also a great time to sing, read or gently speak to the baby while they drift to sleep. A mother can specifically benefit from this practice because oxytocin is released during infant bonding.

Oxytocin is known as a love hormone, but plays a significant role in building, maintaining and letting down a mother’s milk. It also can cause uterine contractions that help the uterus return to its normal state. Therefore, it is evident how the first act leads to our second- breastfeeding.

The breast is best! Breast milk is often referred to as “liquid gold,” due to its nutritional superiority over other methods of feeding. A mother’s milk may vary in composition of nutrients, but on average it is 4.5 % fat, 7.1 % carbohydrate and 0.8-0.9 % protein. It is produced in the body by the mammary glands by pulling sugar, protein, cholesterol and other nutrients from the mother’s bloodstream. Therefore, good nutrition is also very important during the “4th trimester.” Most hospitals recommend fortifying breast milk to increase the calories from the natural 20 calories per ounce, to 22-24 calories per ounce. These fortifiers can also supplement the baby with much needed vitamins and minerals.

UnknownBreast milk is also unique because it contains IgA, or Immunoglobulin A, which is critical to helping to build the infant’s immune system. IgA is quite high in breast milk from day 10 through the 7th month. Additionally, if the mother is breastfeeding, the child can expose the mother to their bacteria and in turn the mother will create antibodies to fight the bacteria, which in turn will be delivered back to the baby via the breast milk.

I have never breast-fed; I have only pumped, but I certainly hope to in the future. The act of breastfeeding is a remarkable bonding experience that also provides an outlet for giving the infant attention. Pumping, with a caretaker present, is also not bad and can grant mother’s a few minutes alone to think, pray, or even grab a quick snack. Another benefit of breast feeding for mothers is that it can foster post-partum weight loss to help the mother achieve a healthier weight after pregnancy. Typically, mothers burn 300 to 500 Calories when breastfeeding or pumping 8 times per day, or every 3 hours. Again, it increases oxytocin which assists the uterus in returning to normal size. For further tips and information on breastfeeding, visit La Leche League.

Both of the acts described above may be simple on paper, but more difficult to practice in daily life. I hope the benefits listed above encourage mom’s and dad’s to explore these ways to attend to, bond and communicate with their baby.