When we first discovered we were expecting triplets, besides the joy of becoming an instant family of five, we were overwhelmed with doubts and concerns. Trying to figure out if breastfeeding triplets was a real option or just a dream filled us with even more doubts and concerns.
I started reading whatever I found about breastfeeding multiples, mostly from books because 11 years ago you couldn’t just google your questions. Soon I realized that what I needed to do was to reach out to the world’s experts in the subject: Multiple Moms! As H1N1 was hitting hard, and social contact was not recommended for pregnant women, I joined a Yahoo group for multiple families -that was technology in 2009. The response I got from that group was amazing. The experiences shared were so many and so different from each other. Some moms told me they weren’t able to breastfeed their multiples at all because of stress, lack of help, or the need to go back to work just after a couple of months. Some moms did a mix of breastfeeding and formula, others recommended pumping and giving bottles with their milk to all the babies at the same time. All of them were eager to share their experience, their tips, their lives rising more than one baby at the time. And even when I never got a unique answer about anything I asked, not a single one of those moms told me that breastfeeding was going to be impossible for me.
Our babies were born after 36 weeks of pregnancy, weighing 5, 5, and 6 pounds. They were healthy babies but small enough to spend some days in neonatology, so they were first fed with pumped milk through very smalls syringes. They were three days old when I started breastfeeding them: I felt so blessed, so grateful, so connected with my babies. They were so tiny and still not completely mature that they took 45 to 60 minutes to finish each meal. As I was not allowed to feed more than one baby at the time – a weird rule at that hospital- when I finished with the third baby, the first one was crying again! No one can breastfeed 24 hours a day, and I wasn’t the exception. I continue pumping so my babies could have my milk whenever they need it, but I also could be able to sleep and take a shower from time to time, you know, all that luxury things new moms naively expect to do!
Things changed as soon as we left the hospital. I remember it like it was yesterday – the first hour at home with our three babies, they were all three of them hungry at the same time. My wife fed one of the babies a bottle with the milk I pumped the night before and I breastfed the other two in tandem for the very first time!
After that, tandem breastfeeding was the rule. We were very careful that the babies were rotating so they could not get used to only one side and also that everyone has their chance to breastfeed alone from time to time. We used a special pillow to help with the babies’ position, which was particularly helpful as the babies grew heavier. I found out that one of my babies was struggling at having enough milk in a reasonable amount of time if he was alone, but having another baby breastfeeding at the same time helped him a lot: the stimulus produced for the more mature baby improved the amount of milk for both of them!
It was not so long when we needed to complement maternal milk, but we always prioritize breastfeeding. During the first months, we fed them at night using bottles: when one of the babies woke up, we woke up the other two and fed them at the same time, so everyone could have at least 2 hours of continuous sleep. As the babies grew older and everybody became more experienced, the meals were shorter and more efficient and I stopped pumping. At that point, breastfeeding them at night was the easier and simpler option: I never left my bed, my wife could go back to sleep as soon as she brought the hungry baby to me and no one was woken up if it wasn’t necessary.
My babies stopped breastfeeding when they were 10 months old. I was sad at that time and took me a while – you can count that while in years – to realize that far from failing to my children for being unable to continue producing milk, my body had made an incredible job for a very long time. We moms are often so hard on ourselves!
Breastfeeding triplets was hard and exhausting. But without a doubt, it was an amazing journey. And even when I was the one physically doing it, it was not a personal but a team’s success. If you are a multiple mom, or you are becoming one, the best thing you can do, no matter if you want to breastfeed your babies or not – that it’s up to you and your circumstances! – it’s to create your own tribe. Of course, you will want your partner, your family, and your friends at your side, but be sure to make enough space for other moms.
Believe me, having the support of others that have experienced what you are about to live it’s extremely helpful and from the emotional point of view, it’s just priceless. I made great lasting friendships from the group of multiple moms I joined during my pregnancy. And even when with most of them, we never met in person, I will be forever grateful for the presence of every and each one of those moms in my life, and for the love and support they offered.