Here are two mums writing on how they breastfed triplets, as well as offering their advice. This article appeared in TT&M magazine some years ago now, but it still serves as an excellent real-life example of how perseverance can pay off, but that whatever the options available, you can only do what's right for you.
I chose not to read any information on breastfeeding prior to the birth of my triplets not wanting to be let down. My mother had desperately wanted to breastfeed me and had been disappointed when as a premature baby, I failed to take to it. I wanted to leave the door open but not be too let down if it wasn't to be.
When my baby girls were born, I was delighted with the encouragement and support I was to get with regards to feeding. They were premature and in intensive care. Every time I visited the unit a nurse or doctor would ask if I had expressed milk. They were very sure of the benefits of breast milk for premature babies who are particularly sensitive.
One doctor did comment however that he doubted that I would be able to express enough milk for three. So they put two of my babies on formula at first and the milk that I expressed was given to my littlest baby. She was thought to need it most, but it wasn't long before I was producing enough milk for all three much to the surprise of everyone in the unit. My milk just kept coming and coming and with each bottle expressed my determination grew. It was tiring, and it was hard when their milk supply increased. I would get anxious about whether I could produce enough milk and try and calculate how much was needed and how many times during the night that I
should wake to express. I stayed in the hospital for the whole time that my babies were there so the access to the machines was crucial. Also the fact that I wasn't the sole carer of my babies during this period helped as I could rest when I needed too. My partner Dave was also instrumental in the continuation of my breast feeding. He continually supported and encouraged.
Never the less I knew it was a big task.
When the babies came up into the transitional care room in the hospital we started the move from tube feeding to breastfeeding. Suddenly we were the sole carers of our babies and the reality of having triplets began to set in. I have never experienced tiredness like this before and it was a
challenging couple of weeks. Dave moved into the hospital with us. There were five of us in this little room. We weren't allowed to open the windows as our babies were so small they couldn't regulate their temperature properly so it got hot and sticky and smelt of milk and nappies. We were exhausted waking every couple of hours for feeds and nappy changes. I was trying to get each baby one by one onto the breast and off their tube. This meant expressing milk for the tube feeds as well as putting the babies on the breast. We had to work out approximately how much each had had from the
breast and begin to reduce the tube feeds.
Lauren was first and seemed to take to the breast quite easily, but with each baby off the tube they became a little livelier and cried more. With the tube feed they are filled up more than need be which acts to pacify them. Once onto the breast they are more likely to be a little hungrier. Lauren became more restless in the night and often needed frequent cuddles. Hannah was next and Ellie was the last one to come off the tube. It was an anxious time for us as we never knew if our babies had enough food and as they were so small it was vital that they gained weight. It also felt like a big responsibility for me to produce enough milk. I felt encouraged by a book called Mothering Multiples by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada which contrary to common belief put forward that breastfeeding of multiples is possible.
Eventually all three babies started to gain weight and we were allowed home. Ellie seemed to have difficulty gaining weight at first. The doctor even suggested that we give her formula. If need be we would have done this knowing that her health and growth were the most important factors but I felt that this particular doctor had made an misjudgment in his assessment. From the beginning Ellie was to get the breast milk due to her size and vulnerability so to stop at this point seemed wrong. I was adamant that I would persist and did not agree with his prognosis. He said on numerous occasions that it would only be a limited amount of time that I'd be able to breastfeed all three. At times I was disheartened by these comments but persevered knowing somewhere that this was the best start I could give to my babies.
Three months later I am still breastfeeding my triplet girls. It has been very tiring at points and draining. It has also been a source of much pleasure and enjoyment. The closeness we all share through it is wonderful, however I often think what bliss it must be to feed just one baby. After about eight weeks of total breastfeeding I introduced bottles. This I found necessary. I was getting so tired and the responsibility became too large. I had to admit that I needed help. I felt that I was feeding continuously and I wasn't sure that I was producing enough milk. They started having just one bottle feed each per day and now have one or two daily. Luckily they all took to the bottle and alternate between the bottle and breast with no problem. Sometimes they decide to be fussy and won't take the bottle and request the breast. Introducing bottles was a great relief for us. It means I can go out for the odd hour or two and know that they are not going to starve. It gives me a break when I get so tired that I need to rest.
(As I write a couple of weeks later one of our girls Lauren has started to refuse the bottle. This means we have to alternate the bottles between the other two girls. After a few weeks of taking the bottles with no problem all girls are becoming a little fussier with these feeds. )
So this is the story of our feeding. We have no routine to our feeds. They just feed on demand. I feel grateful that it has worked out this way as I know many experience different problems with breast feeding. We have had no hiccups. Admittedly occasionally I dream about the day when they start solids and the number of feeds and demands on me are reduced but on the whole it has been and remains a rewarding venture. I never knew that feeding babies could become such a complex and all consuming part of one’s day.
I now feed my girls very occasionally by breast. In April I developed mastitis, which then lead to a breast abscess. I was really sick with a fever, lack of appetite and mood swings. I urge any one who has had mastitis for any length of time to get a scan to check it is not an abscess. Failure
to refer me promptly meant it got quite severe. This was a horrible infection and eventually after many doses of antibiotics and being really poorly I was admitted to hospital for an operation. I had a small operation under general anaesthetic on May 1. It was a long recovery process as they leave the wound open to heal from the bottom up and it has to be packed and dressed daily (For six to eight weeks after the operation). Fortunately after a short time I could continue to breast feed but I did slow down. It is my belief that my body was working too hard and I needed to rest a bit.
Since then breastfeeding has become a comfort rather than a main source of food for my girls. I am not breast feeding much now except at night but have been very glad of the intimacy and closeness it has provided for us all. If you are a mother expecting twins or triplets it is possible to breastfeed. It just takes commitment, a good diet and the support of those around you. However if it doesn't work out then that is also fine. Babies can still be happy and healthy with bottles!
Kristy’s story When I discovered I was expecting triplets I was ecstatic and determined to feed my babies myself. I couldn't see why they shouldn't receive the best I could give them simply because they happened to be born on the same day. So I asked to speak to the hospital Brooke was the strongest feeder so I always fed her first and this caused the downflow for However the hospital staff assured me that it wouldn't hurt to give them my milk through a bottle for a couple of days and that they had done this thousands of times before, so I gave in.
breastfeeding co-ordinator who was extremely supportive.
I had to spend a long time in hospital during my pregnancy and during this time I came across some very negative people. There were times when I felt like giving up before I'd even started but I always fell back on my partner Tim and my mum who was my rock the whole way through.
With the help from the breastfeeding co-ordinator, at 32 weeks when my babies were due to be born, I began preparing. A couple of days before the birth I started gently expressing milk by hand. I knew they were going to be in special care for a while and colostrum is an excellent protection.
When my three beautiful girls, Abby (2lb 14oz), Brooke (3lb 10oz) and Jade (2lb 13oz) were born they were tube fed my milk immediately and within almost two weeks I was able to start coaxing them one by one to the breast. This took a lot of time and patience at first due to their size and strength but gradually they got the hang of it.
the smaller two babies, so they didn't have to work quite as hard. I expressed milk using an electric pump every four hours and soon I had more than enough milk. After about a week of this I caught a stomach bug and had to stay away from the babies for 48 hours, during this time I requested that the babies were cup fed, as I had read that teats can put babies of the
breast in the early stages.
When I came to feed them the next time they wouldn't latch on properly and it was like starting from scratch, it took a lot of effort that next week but I finally got them feeding properly again. By their fourth week in hospital, I could now feed two babies at the breast together and the other had a bottle of expressed milk and I was able to take them home.
When home I carried on with this routine, alternating babies each feed, and I expressed about every four to five hours (except through the night) for just ten minutes which supplied me with enough milk for each bottle feed.
I did this for eight months, but by now my milk was so well established that I could choose each feed whether to feed two or one at the breast or even give them all expressed milk, which I often did when we went out.
I decided to move the girls onto formula at eight months as we were going on holiday and it just gave me that bit more freedom as everyone could help with the feeding.
A lot of people will read my story and think what a lot of hard work just for the sake of breastfeeding, but I can honestly say that it was 100% worth it and I'd do it all again just for the quality moments I spent feeding my babies. The girls are doing fantastic now, and I know in my heart that part
of this is due to my perseverance and that makes feel extremely satisfied and proud.
My advice to other mums
*Stay positive, surrounding yourself with positive people
*When feeling unsure remind yourself of why you are doing it.
*Firmly refuse teats in the early stages
* On a more vain note - Remember how many hundreds of calories you'll
When I discovered I was expecting triplets I was ecstatic and determined to feed my babies myself. I couldn't see why they shouldn't receive the best I could give them simply because they happened to be born on the same day. So I asked to speak to the hospital
Brooke was the strongest feeder so I always fed her first and this caused the downflow for
However the hospital staff assured me that it wouldn't hurt to give them my milk through a bottle for a couple of days and that they had done this thousands of times before, so I gave in.