Learning to breastfeed triplets by Tanya Hall
Finally, after 2 and a half weeks, my identical triplet boys were almost 34 weeks old and ready to try breastfeeding whilst in SCBU.
I felt clueless and a little nervous as my babies were still so tiny in my hands. The feeding specialist at the hospital showed me how to hold my baby, check that he was latching correctly and how to tell the difference between active drinking and stimulation sucks. This knowledge was so important and helped me so much in the future but learning to latch still took lots of practice both from my side and for my tiny boys.
Soon after we started learning together, my triplets were diagnosed with tongue tie. At 35 weeks, they all had their tongue ties cut which was very quick, and thankfully didn’t bother my babies. They loved their new freedom and enjoyed sticking out their tongues.
At first my babies would tire easily, so I had to time how long they were actively feeding to determine whether they needed a ‘top up’ of expressed milk down their NG tubes. As I had established a large milk supply by this time and had a fast let down, a full feed would take them 10 minutes. Knowing their feed time helped me massively in the future once we were home as well, o I knew whether they were full enough to go 3 hours until the next feed.
I loved seeing watching them breastfeeding and felt so happy to continue protecting them even after they were born. I took countless photos and videos of their cute little faces and loved seeing their milk drunk faces when they were finished. It was our special time together just us two.
For our final stretch in hospital, I moved into Transitional Care so that I could be with my triplets 24/7 to get them breastfeeding without needing to top up using their NG tube. I was determined to go home without feeding tubes as I wanted to say goodbye to the hospital when we finally got to all go home together. We had some more hurdles to overcome, as my two smaller triplets, Rupert and Ethan, were struggling with feeding. I read online that nipple shields can help premature babies create a vacuum and I was willing to give anything a try. The nipple shields were very fiddley to use but I was so happy that they helped Rupert and Ethan with their feeding.
I knew I wanted to combi feed once we were home, so once I was confident that I could breastfeed all of my babies, we introduced bottle feeding.
Finally, the day came when Austin, Rupert and Ethan had all of their feeds without using their NG tube for over 24 hours and we could all go home! I was so excited and dressed them in suits for this special day.
When we were home, I continued to use nipple shields for Rupert and Ethan but each day I would try to feed without the nipple shields. After around one week, Ethan suddenly didn’t need the nipple shields anymore, followed by Rupert a few days later.
I was so proud of my baby boys and myself for all of the hard work we had put in and learned together how to breastfeed. Once breastfeeding was established it was easier than bottle feeding. I always had the milk ready to go and perfectly tailored to their needs. I got to have my special time one by one with each of my boys and would gaze at them as they fed.