Information About Higher Order Multiples
Tips for Breastfeeding Triplets
Higher order multiples are often born earlier and are on average smaller than singleton babies, which can affect their ability to nurse. Their moms may have had complications with blood pressure, gestational diabetes, etc. and may have complications from being on extended bed rest or from undergoing a c-section. Each mom will face her own unique set of circumstances, so it's important for everybody to give her a break (including herself) if things aren't working out. Possibly the mom and care team can work out other solutions - even some breastfeeding is good for mom and baby, so don't feel it's an "all or nothing" situation.
There is a big emotional component to breastfeeding, so everyone needs to take it one step at a time and be very upbeat while being realistic.
Having said that, breastfeeding triplets, quads or more is very possible and very rewarding! Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible food, it helps mothers adjust hormonally, and it is much cheaper than formula.
Plan ahead - visit the NICU and check out the set up. Usually there is a rocking chair to use for nursing - are there pillows as well? Will a nurse or breast feeding consultant be available (including at night) to help situate a baby for breastfeeding? Can a relative or friend come to help at any hour?
Check out the pumping room at the hospital and have someone show you how the breast pump works. If the babies are very small or can't nurse right away, it will be necessary to pump to start the milk supply and keep it at a good level. Learn about storing breast milk, ask about the hospital's milk bank. Ask about renting a pump or buying one.
If this is a first attempt at breastfeeding, possibly attend a La Leche meeting or get together. It's very helpful to see another mom breastfeed and talk to her about products, such as nursing bras, pumps, etc.
If possible, practice feeding two babies at a time in the hospital, where you will have help and where they can weigh babies on a scale to determine how many ounces of breast milk each baby is getting during nursing. You may want to look into renting a digital scale for awhile after you get home with a baby or more if you're worried about intake.
Have a chart ready to go at home - keep track of feeding times, diaper changes, etc.
Breastfeed each baby as often as possible at first to build your milk supply. If you don't make enough milk at first, you may need to use formula as a supplement or milk from the milk bank. Talk to your pediatrician about supplementing if you feel you're not making enough milk or the babies never seem satisfied. As your supply increases, you can decrease the amount of supplement.
Increase your food intake while eating wisely. Eat very wholesome foods, and avoid "gassy" foods such as cabbage and cauliflower. Lots of lean protein, such as fish, chicken, and lean beef is very good - go easy on the peanut butter as a source of protein. Eat your whole grain breads and try to get your 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Eat a wide variety of foods, but lean toward the bland side. Take note if babies seem to have digestive discomfort after you've eaten certain foods. Keep in mind that all of your diet goes into making your milk.
Try to drink about 100 ounces of fluid each day! Try to drink about a quart of milk each day, maybe 8-12 ounces of fruit juice, and the rest water. Go very easy on the caffeine products, such as coffee, soft drinks, and tea - restrict them to an occasional treat.
A suggested pattern for feeding is starting with Baby A on one side for 5 minutes and Baby B on the other side for 5 minutes (if it works out to nurse both at the same time, you will save some time). Breast feed Baby C for about 3 minutes on each breast. At the next feeding, nurse B and C at each breast and let A finish nursing at each breast. Then feed C and A, etc. This is why a chart will be handy!
The more you nurse, the better your chance of not having sore nipples or blocked ducts. Be prepared to spend a lot of time nursing, and prepare your spouse and other children as well. Plan ahead so you don't skip a feeding - you will have a lot of milk in your breasts at feeding times and it can be very uncomfortable if you go too long.
Try and pump milk in between feedings and store for later use. Give each baby a bottle occasionally. Emergencies happen, and it's good if the babies have had some experience drinking from a bottle if mom can't be there. Also, it's a nice experience for dad or relatives to feed a baby.
Remember that babies often suck just for comfort. It can be very difficult in the early months to recognize when the babies have eaten enough and when they just want to be with you and touch you. You will definitely have some days when all you do is have a baby at the breast.
Recruit some good helpers who will take care of things while you nurse. You need rest and relaxation in between nursing and time to eat and drink. You don't want a helper who expects to be entertained or to just hold babies.
When a baby wakes up at night, feed all the babies. Do not sing or talk to the babies while you feed them, try to keep the light very low and things very quiet. Make night time feedings very uninteresting so babies don't get into party mode.
You will undoubtedly need to adjust your feeding routine to fit your needs. In theory, it's good to feed babies on a certain schedule, but it may not work out that way in the first few weeks. If you go back to work, your body will adjust to feeding in the morning and in the evening (but prepare for it - ease off midday feedings at home a couple of weeks before you're gone all day). Many women have worked out creative ways to pump at work, so it can be done.
Keep a happy thought - you are giving your babies the best possible nutrition and providing a skin-to-skin experience that will make all of them feel loved and safe. Try to be optimistic and know that this won't last forever. Focus on the good parts. After a while, the babies will hold hands while they nurse two at a time. It's a beautiful thing - cherish it!