Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Baked Butter-Pecan French Toast with Blueberry Syrup (Page 662)

RECIPE #48

  • Date: Sunday, September 30, 2012 -- 9am
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen Our House:
  • Book: Gourmet Today
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Dave, and Karen H
  • Recipe Rating: B

I like baked French toast because it is so convenient. You can start soaking the bread the night before and then just throw it in the oven in the morning. That's what I did with this recipe, which I made when my in-laws were visiting last fall. This was a simple French toast, made with baguette slices, and topped with a sugary, buttery pecan mixture before baking. The recipe also included a simple blueberry maple syrup. I liked this dish. The French toast was rich and flavorful and had a nice texture. The blueberry maple syrup was fine but not great. Whenever we have berries that are about to go bad I make berry syrup with them by cooking the berries with some sugar and then straining it. I think I prefer that to this recipe, where the blueberries were cooked in maple syrup and the syrup was unstrained. The French toast was pretty good though, and an easy way to prepare a nice breakfast for company. I didn't like it as much as the baked French toast from the original Gourmet Cookbook though.

The recipe in The Book is almost the same as this one.

48 recipes down, 1058 to go!

When I was pregnant people often asked me if I was going to breast feed the twins. I was very noncommittal in my response: "I am going to try!" Doctors have always been a little bit unsure about whether or not it would be a good idea for me to breast feed. For one thing, I can't take my medication for my brain tumor while I breast feed. Also, the type of tumor that I have doesn't always play nice with breast feeding. But I got the go ahead to give it a try, as long as I watch for symptoms of tumor growth (headaches, loss of vision) and get checked out if anything seems off.

I got the very wise advice to set a short term goal for myself. Breast feeding twins would be tough, I was told, and people who set a goal of breast feeding for a year often quit in the first few weeks. People tend to have more success if they start with a more achievable goal. For me, that first goal was 6 weeks.  I figured I would power through for 6 weeks and then reevaluate.

Here's the honest truth: breast feeding premature twins is horrible. Absolutely, completely horrible. There was nothing pleasant or enjoyable about it those first 6 weeks. Teaching the girls to breast feed was totally, completely miserable. I think it's important to be honest about that. It was horrible. BUT, it got better. I want to record my experience before I forget in case it is ever useful to a mother of multiples down the road. If you aren't interested in this sort of thing, just stop reading now!

With twins, supply can be a big issue, so I started pumping 8 times a day from the time the girls were born to establish my supply. Neither of them was well enough to be held right away, let alone breast fed, so I pumped milk and brought it to the NICU. Pumping 8 times a day worked for me, although one lactation consultant told me that really I should be pumping 12 times a day. Oy.

Emmy and I started working on breast feeding when she was still in the NICU. I would weigh her before breast feeding her, then weigh her afterwards to see how many milliliters she had consumed from the breast. She had a certain amount she was required to eat at every feeding. She couldn't do a whole feeding from the breast, so I would give her a bottle of pumped milk with the remainder of her required milliliters in it. It was a slow process teaching her to eat. Several times she "breast fed" for 20 minutes, but consumed only 5 milliliters. She had trouble latching, so I worked with a lactation consultant in the NICU and used a nipple shield. She made slow but steady progress.

Eloise never really breast fed in the NICU. We practiced a few times, but she had a hard enough time eating from the bottle. She didn't have the strength or persistence to eat from the breast.

Two and a half weeks after they were born we had both girls at home with us. The doctors had them on a 3 hour eating schedule which meant that they ate at 6am, 9am, noon, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm, midnight, and 3am every day. Each feeding took almost an hour and a half, then we started it all again an hour and a half later. It was brutal. Here's how a typical feeding went:

- I practiced breast feeding for 20-30 minutes with one of the girls or both of the girls at the same time.
- Since neither of them could do a full feeding from the breast, both girls then got a bottle.
- I then pumped for 20-30 minutes so there would be milk for the next feedings.

Late at night and early in the morning I cut out the practice breast feeding and just gave them bottles to make the whole process a little shorter. And for a brief period my special gentleman bottle fed both girls at 3am by himself so I could sleep a little bit. I still have no idea how he did this, but I do recall that it involved a lot of screaming! My mother-in-law got up every morning to help me with the 6am feeding so my special gentleman could sleep through that one. The schedule was rough, but we survived it. We did that for weeks, during which time my nipples were pretty much constantly cracked and bleeding, the counters were covered with bottles (since we used 16 a day), I could never find my nipple shields (damn things are transparent!), and the pump parts were chronically needing to be washed. I was forever trying to keep track of which bottle needed which vitamin supplements or supplemental calories added (for Eloise). I developed a bottle labeling system. I rarely slept. It was rough. During that period I was flipping through a parenting magazine that was discussing the benefits of breast feeding. They listed "convenience" as a reason to breast feed. I almost threw the magazine across the room. Convenience my ass.

Then one day, right around their due date (so 4+ weeks into it), Emmy finally got it! One day, she just understood how to breast feed. I dropped her bottle feedings one by one and within days she ate entirely from the breast! No bottles! I started pumping only 4 times a day instead of the 7-8 I had been doing! It was amazing. That was my first moment of sheer delight and amazement at the skills of one of my children. She could breast feed! Eloise, sadly, could not.

I met with a lactation consultant to discuss Eloise. She watched Eloise do her "breast feeding" and declared that she just needed more time to get stronger before she would really be able to do it. The girls were down to about 7 feedings a day, and we were no longer required to wake them to eat if they were sleeping. So I was getting a little more rest. It was hard to be patient with Eloise though. She has had eating problems from the start, and reflux that got worse over time. So she was prone to screaming through each feeding and then spitting up many times after eating. We were working so hard to get her to eat and then she would spit up 5+ times during one feeding. It wasn't pleasant. And it felt to me like she wasn't making any progress. But eventually, she started to catch on. I slowly weaned her off the bottle, one feeding at a time. Right around 7 weeks, she decided she actually preferred the breast. One night, she refused to drink from the bottle. And that was that! She was breast feeding. Because of issues with oversupply and overactive let down I had to stop pumping. I was delighted!

Unfortunately Eloise's breast feeding victory was poorly timed to coincide with a dramatic increase in her reflux, so her other eating/digestion issues (a topic for a different post) prevented me from appropriately celebrating her breast feeding triumph. But now I can truly appreciate what an achievement this was for the both of us. Go Eloise!

Now the girls are almost 10 weeks old and I have to agree with the magazine: breast feeding is pretty convenient. I still feed the girls one at a time rather than tandem feeding them (which I practiced and practiced, but hated so much that I decided it just wasn't for me). But feeding times have gone way down. Now instead of it taking an hour and a half to feed them, I can feed them both in 30-40 minutes. It still helps to have a second person around as it is hard to take care of one while the other is eating, especially in this period when they are pretty fussy.

My one piece of advice for anyone who ever considers breast feeding twins is this: if you want to try to breast feed, don't quit before it gets good. With premature twins, the first part will be horrible. But, it truly does get better! If I could do it all again, I would do the same thing I did, but perhaps with more faith that someday they would figure it out and it would get easier. I am well past my original goal of 6 weeks. My new goal is 4 months, although I wouldn't be surprised if I continue much longer. I hesitate to say this, but at this point I actually enjoy feeding them (except, of course, in the middle of the night!).

Because it's funny, here's a video of the girls from when they were about a month old. It demonstrates how their different attitudes about eating resulted in two very different size babies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruIOA6vdVF8


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