Breastfeeding Triplets – Starting a Routine: Reality vs. Expectation

This is a post that I have wanted to write for a long time. This morning I saw a “Mom to Mom”, (or Mum to Mum in my Aussie vernacular), blog hop about Feeding and Scheduling for Multiples. It’s the perfect motivation I need to finally write about the topic.

When I was pregnant with the triplets, I had some ideas of how I might breastfeed the babies. I was prepared to change should it be necessary, but I had to feel prepared within myself by having some sort of mental plan, even if it was to be broken. I’m flexible like that, and I changed my plans very quickly while the babies were in hospital after talking to the midwives and finding out what worked best for me. What I didn’t take into account, was that The Accountant was still wanting to carry out the original plan, and his mentality wasn’t as prone to change plans.  That was one hurdle we had to jump in the early days. I had The Accountant prepared that he was going to have to bottle feed all throughout the night and mentally, he was ready to do it. As it turned out, I was fine breastfeeding all three babies in one session, but if all were awake at the same time, I needed his arms to hold a waiting baby. The Accountant could see how tired I was and could feel how tired he was, and just wanted to give them a bottle. I wasn’t prepared to give them formula at the start, especially when I had enough milk. I knew that once I started feeding them formula, my production would decrease, so I didn’t want that to happen. It also seemed pointless expressing a feed before (like my original plan) because in reality it didn’t save any time. I could understand how it was frustrating for The Accountant getting up in the middle of the night and just holding a baby. He felt like he was doing nothing. Of course he wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him. It just took awhile for us snapping and fighting with one another before we worked out that it was our different mentality to following a plan. Generally, when Accountant’s follow a plan, there is seldom reason to deviate from the original plan. Once we had recognised this and had a discussion of what we needed from one another, it got a lot easier. Once again it was proof that communication is vital within a marriage.

The early days. A tired Accountant, on the home front job, holding babies.

I had thought, (and if you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you may remember me saying), that I planned to twin feed two babies then express a bottle for the third baby. I thought I would rotate the babies so that one baby would be getting an expressed bottle from the previous feed at the same time that the other two were breastfeeding every third time.

What I didn’t take into account, was that this would not be timesaving in any way, in fact it would be longer if I needed to express and feed the bottle by myself. And with multiples, as Finn McMissile says, “Time is of the essence.” I had been basing this on the fact that my first two boys took at least an hour to feed each session as newborns. In reality the triplets would take 30-20 minutes each. I find I don’t let the multiple babies muck around as much. It’s straight down to business when there is mass feedings! A midwife had advised me that the best way to go would be to feed two babies one side each and feed the third and last baby both sides. I was doing this in hospital and continued when I got home.

I had also expected that I would introduce a very tight schedule feeding at particular times in order to cope with feeding three babies. I was rather dreading this. I had trialled this when J Boy was a newborn and hated it. It just wasn’t my style.  I found that I tended to resume a similar pattern of feeding to what I had done with the first children. I would give them a full feed, and then try not to feed them again before they had made the three hour mark. Of course sometimes, they were desperately hungry and this didn’t work. If they were sleeping, I never woke them, but would feed them when they awoke, so if they chose how much longer they would go over three hours.

Before they were allowed to come home from hospital, the triplets had to have a four hour feeding schedule. They went from three to four hours quite easily in the special care nursery. I was pleased, and very keen to continue feeding four hourly when I got home. I had fed four hourly with the big boys, and had watched friends feeding three hourly and thought it was incredibly draining (and that was with one baby!) It just doesn’t take very much time for three hours to roll by, at least with four hours, you have a little bit of a chance to get something done in between feeds.

Within a couple of days, one by one, each triplet started sliding back into the three hourly routine. I tried to convince them otherwise, but they strongly disagreed. It was easy to give into their demands when you looked at how tiny they were. I figured extra milk, especially when it’s split three ways, would probably be helpful to the little darlings anyway.

In order to breastfeed triplets, you do need to mentally prepare yourself to exist on very little sleep. You need to mentally be committed to it, and continually think of how this is benefiting the babies, and to a large extent push your own feelings to one side. After all, it’s only for a time. The season will pass, and you must remind yourself that eventually them and you will be able to sleep throughout the night once again. (8 months later, and I’m still hanging onto this concept!!!) Even with the quicker feeds, breastfeeding was often taking 1 1/2-2 hours per session. That left me with 1 1/2-1 hours sleep. In the evenings the babies were very unsettled, reflux made sure of that. We were often not getting to bed until anywhere from 10pm-12am. Most evenings I was averaging a total of 4 hours interrupted sleep in the early days. (Sometimes more, sometimes less.) This still happens occasionally, but it’s more likely for another reason, such as currently the babies are sick, so they are waking more at night. Sometimes I would catch a nap in between feeds during the day if I were really exhausted. Most of the time I didn’t feel comfortable doing it with people in the house, even though they were there to make the burden easier. It’s a really weird feeling leaving someone in your house and just going to bed.

The early days. Even though I had a house full of people, my hair wasn’t done, no make up and trademark bags under the eyes.  People would always comment with a note of amazement that I was still smiling. It was a statement that I still find baffling. Take a look at that angelic face combined with the feeling of utter contentment having a tiny baby sleeping and snuggling into you and tell me that’s not worthy of smiling.

I’ve got plenty more to say on this topic, but I think this might do for now. If you are a mother, can you remember (or are you currently in) the newborn mother’s haze of sleep deprivation? What did you do to cope? Are you a rigid sched

ule feeder, or do you prefer to have a bit more flexibility?

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  1. Oh feeding and all the different approaches is such an interest to me. My baby really struggled with the concept of scheduled feeding, despite my ardent desire to make it work (Babywise promised my marriage and entire life would be better if I persisted). I ended up giving up on the concept and embracing demand feeding when she was about 6 weeks old, after 5 weeks of lots of tears and dreading each and every feed. It got a lot better after that, although I was sometimes feeding every two hours, although never through the night thankfully.

    I plan to demand feed the next baby, and never wake them to feed especially at night (something I was doing with A and I believe this helped to throw her off) . For me, it makes for a happier mother and I don’t care about much else. If the baby is needy and demanding every hour, I might rethink it, but my experience last time showed me that demand feeding didn’t put me at the beck and call of a screaming infant who would never self-soothe like the books seemed to threaten.

    I can’t imagine balancing all of that with three. I think you’ve done wondrously, especially in light of getting them to feed all at once (generally). You’re a hero. x

  2. Great post – I was worried my nipples would fall off if I read it, but I got to the end and am now summoning up courage to check.

    I am not sure if this really happened or if it’s a sleep-deprived dream memory, but I *think* I remember soothing a crying, feeding baby at 2am one morning beside the warm flames of a bonfire in the backyard fuelled by page after page ripped out of “Babywise” … but that can’t have really happened! Could it? It’s as strong a memory as any other from those early days. But it was Winter. But it is a strong memory …

    Look, now I’m not sure.

  3. Great post – I was worried my nipples would fall off if I read it, but I got to the end and am now summoning up courage to check.

    I am not sure if this really happened or if it’s a sleep-deprived dream memory, but I *think* I remember soothing a crying, feeding baby at 2am one morning beside the warm flames of a bonfire in the backyard fuelled by page after page ripped out of “Babywise” … but that can’t have really happened! Could it? It’s as strong a memory as any other from those early days. But it was Winter. But it is a strong memory …

    Look, now I’m not sure.

  4. I can see that there isn’t alot of support for Babywise but with my 3 children I adopted their flexible routine and fed every 3 to 4 hours with the last feed around 10pm at night and then letting them go through the night not waking them and it worked for them. I think the key is always being flexible and sometimes that word is forgotten. Babywise always stipulated being flexible and never rigid with the feeding routine and to always feed if the baby is hungry 🙂 I think you are amazing to breastfeed 3 children and they will thank you for that in later years!

  5. Thanks for your encouragement everyone! Justine, I have no issue with Babywise as a schedule, and cannot deny that there are loads of Mummys whose households are all the better for it. Just not mine. In the early days I was feeding the babies three hourly, and I was waking the babies up to feed so they were feeding at the same time. It never resulted in my babies sleeping through the night though. I think that sometimes, like Lacey, you need to let go of what you think that others think you should do, and do what works for you. I actually tried The Contented Baby Routine with J Boy, and it made us both miserable. I read Babywise before the triplets, and to be truthful, found I was doing much of what they say to do anyway. I also do see that they promote flexibility. (Unlike Gina Ford…) I think one of the great challenges of motherhood is listening to all the information that is out there, and discovering what will work best for you and your family.

  6. But Givinya – feeding the pages of what was to you an unhelpful book – hilarious! I wish I thought to do the same with The Contented Baby. It made such a discontent mother!

  7. In hospital, my firstborn fed vigorously for 90 minutes every feed. And he wanted to be fed every two hours. I would pry him off after 90 minutes, and he’d be screaming within half an hour, and helpful nurses and cleaners and visitors would say, “Your baby’s hungry now.”

    I’d say, “I just fed him, he can’t be hungry,” and I remember one lady saying, “Who says?” and laughing.

    Another midwife said to me, “I hope you don’t have a windy baby,” another said, “He’s just using you for a dummy,” another said, “He’s still sucking strongly, he must need it,” another said, “If you persist you’ll make enough milk,” another said, “Feed him a bottle,” another said, “Only ever breastfeed – every woman can do it if she really wants to,” and another said, “You must have very excellent muscle control in your nipples making the flow a bit slow.”

    And we took him home and he always fed two hourly. So the 90 minute feeds had to be forcibly reduced to 30 minutes.

    He slept while he was feeding, and seemed to cry the rest of the time.

    Six weeks later the only sensible lady in the entire world came over to my house with some bottles and formula, told me I was a great Mum, and when he’d drained a bottle in 10 minutes flat he popped it out of his mouth and slept.

    And when people say, “Breast is Best,” I throw something and burst into tears.

    And I think you’re awesome!

  8. First, to Crazy Sister. Bless your heart. I KNOW what this is like. Oh, how my heart goes out to you!!! You ARE a good mom and did what was best for you and baby! Great job! :o)

    Caitlin, I have to say that our stories are very similar. I also am amazed that yours were born 6 days after mine – must be the October air! :o) And I also have been writing my bf-ing adventures and someday hope to use them to help other moms. I could find NOTHING when I was starting out in the fall. Now, it seems, there are moms everywhere who bf triplets! :o)

    Are you on the (worldwide) Fb group of Triplet’s Mommies? There is also a group of us who had trios born in 2011-2012. Let me know on one of my blog posts if you’d like me to add you. The help there has been INVALUABLE.

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