“You’re having triplets? Are you going to try and breastfeed?”
I got that question quite a bit before the babies came. Many asked me when I was pregnant with C how I would feed. There are so many pros and cons for breastfeeding and formula feeding that it can be a tough decision to make for any new mom.
I remember the crazy lactation nurse from C’s delivery and how she was rough, getting mad that we had one of those little formula bottles on the table. Having a c-section made my milk come in a bit later and I felt bad for the poor little guy!
The whole experience of breastfeeding that first go around is something I kind of block out. Feeding him was painful and I dreaded every second. Then I tried to pump but it was a single pump so it took way too much time to feed him and then pump for 45 minutes to get milk from each side.
Feeding with Help from Lactation Nurses
After delivering the triplets, they brought me back to the NICU an hour or two later to see them. The lactation nurse was there and I felt those same feelings of shame, anger, frustration and everything else combined when she started to talk to me.
My philosophy before delivery was that I would try to breastfeed and pump as best as I could, as long as I stayed sane. I knew triplets would be time consuming and my sanity comes first.
Since the babies were around 4 lbs each when they were born, they had to be on all sorts of wires and tubes. Oxygen tubes wound around their heads, staying in place with little band-aid like stickers. A feeding tube started in their mouth and later moved up to their nose so we could try doing oral feeds. Every day I would walk in, they would have their IV line in a different place, sometimes in the head. Those were sad moments.
As they grew stronger, the nurses helped me get situated to breastfeed them. The system they used to gauge how much they were eating was confusing but I was like, “Hey, maybe I can do this!”
I pumped every 3 hours, placing the milk in small bottles the NICU provided. I would gather up my supply and carry it to the hospital in a little cooler almost every day. In a weird way, pumping gave me some sanity and a bit of control over something I couldn’t control–how long my babies would be there.
Not sure how much milk was a good amount for the babies, the nurses would congratulate me on having a supply. That may sound funny, to be congratulated on being a milk cow but there are so many ups and downs, so many perfect or scary moments in the NICU that anything I could grab onto that might help the babies grow stronger, I held with an iron fist.
The Time Saver
The advantage I had for pumping this go around was a double pump. I look back and want to whisper to my younger self that I needed to just splurge and get the better pump. Instead of going for 45 minutes at a time, I could be done in 10-15 with more milk than before (granted this time it was for 3 babies!).
I grew a little more comfortable with the lactation nurses and even started joking with them, having been stern before. The hospital was easier to navigate. I knew that I could use the free valet service at the back of the hospital so I didn’t have to walk a mile while recuperating from the c-section.
The nurses became like friends, rooting for each of our little ones and being patient as I would call each shift I didn’t come in to see how they were doing.
At three weeks old, the babies were making strides and improving. M was taking most of her feeds by mouth long before the boys and I would try to breastfeed her the most. Each time I came in, I would wait for any word of when they would be able to come home.
One day, we got a call from the NICU head nurse saying they had an influx of so many NICU babies (another set of triplets and several twin births that day) that they needed more space. They asked if we would be willing to transfer the babies to the hospital closer to our home.
It was a little nerve-wracking but we did it. The NICU at the new hospital was a lower level and smaller but the nurses were friendly.
This hospital did things differently and at first I was a little stubborn. I was used to counting how many seconds the babies would actively suck when breastfeeding. They wanted to weight the baby, have me feed them and then weigh them again.
So we did it. We weighed D and then I fed him for what seemed like forever. In my head, I was thinking, “He’s got to be well over the amount he needs to eat for this feeding!” Twenty minutes after starting to feed him, the nurses put him on the scale and it said he’d only taken a fourth of what he needed.
The nurses didn’t want me to go too long because the effort of too many minutes would make him actually lose weight from burning the energy to eat.
The Pumping Decision
It was then that I figured pumping was my best option. I saved a bunch of milk in the freezer and kept pumping while they were in the NICU. Realizing I couldn’t spend the time to try and feed them, then pump and then feed a bottle for three babies would have been insane. I know other triplet moms have breastfed just fine, this was my own decision.
So I pumped away. The babies came home a week after transferring to the other hospital and I was adjusting to feeding the babies every three hours. All. Day. Long.
In my mind, I thought I could pump forever. It took only a little bit of time and then I could warm up bottles and get help from Max and others to help feed the babies. It helped to give me a break for one of the feedings as I was getting hour stretches as it was.
The Turning Point
Two weeks after coming home, G got sick. His face was pasty white and his breathing was struggling a bit. We had weaned all of the babies off oxygen within a week of coming home and so we put him back on and took him into the ER since it was Sunday.
They said it was the flu and so we saw the doctor on Monday afternoon. M showed the same symptoms that morning and at the doctor’s office, D looked the same. Our pediatrician took a spinal tap on our tiny, 6-week old babies to test what it was. They were then all admitted to the hospital.
The stress of it all caused my milk to go down a little bit, not enough to be too much of a worry but I noticed a difference. Our babies were in three separate rooms, which, hello! New mama hormones going crazy made that hard.
I felt bad not spending time with each and the typical mom guilt trips we use on ourselves.
The boys improved enough to go home. M was struggling and as I couldn’t feed her or help her in any way, I went home to help with the boys.
The next morning, we received a call from the hospital saying they were flying M down to the Children’s Hospital over an hour away. She had stopped breathing because of the viral meningitis and they were worried. They wouldn’t give me much information but I left Max with the three boys and rushed down there, hoping she would be okay.
I decided to stop pumping. Before I left, I decided I needed to be done. Emotionally, mentally, physically I was already exhausted and the thought that something might happen to her made me realize something had to give.
M came out of it just fine and we were able to go home after a couple of days. The milk I had pumped lasted 3 more weeks and we’ve been on formula ever since.
The Moral of the Story
Obviously, these are some pretty extreme circumstances. You probably have one baby and won’t have to face all the craziness of hospitals. But then again maybe you will.
I think the biggest thing to remember is that how you feed your baby is your choice. Some mothers can breastfeed with ease and they love every minute. And others are grateful for the advancement in formula to give babies the nutrition they need.
It’s not a cause for judgment and it’s not something we should divide ourselves over. Moms are feeling so much already by way of hormones that they shouldn’t have to feel like they are failing if they can’t breastfeed. And formula moms shouldn’t judge breastfeeding moms for their choice.
So ask yourself, what is best for me and my baby? The best thing you can do is try and breastfeed. If it doesn’t work out, no worries!
Honestly, the most important thing should be that your baby is healthy and fed and that you are happy with whatever decision you choose.
Don’t feel like you have to explain your situation to every. single. person. Because you will get the questions from either side and stand by your decisions. Walk away if someone is being rude about your situation. They don’t know what you’re going through or what you need.
Being a good mom comes with many doubts but once you decide, stick with that decision. Happiness is the overall goal.
If you’re looking for some other great stories on this topic, go here.
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