Pumping and Breastfeeding Triplets by Tanya Hall

It was such an incredible feeling to finally be home with my babies and thrown into 24/7 triplet life. Based on their time in NICU, my babies were on a 3 hourly feeding schedule when they first came home. I practiced tandem feeding a few times, but I didn’t enjoy it as I couldn’t get my babies to latch and feed as well as I could individually feeding them. It was faster and more enjoyable for us to feed one by one and thankfully a full breastfeed was only 10 minutes per baby (sometimes quicker than the bottle!).

Around their due date, Daddy returned to work and my triplets decided Mum’s first week alone would be the perfect time for a growth spurt! They wanted to feed every 2 hours. Considering it took me an hour and a half to change, feed and wind them all it was very intense but thankfully only lasted for 2 weeks. It was very easy to question my milk – are they not getting enough milk? Is my milk not filling them up? Are they not latching correctly? But I had a wonderful outreach nurse who always supported me, she weighed my babies regularly and showed me their amazing growth charts with each baby gaining up to 1lb a week. I was so happy, and it reminded me to trust in my body and the milk that it is making.

I had decided early on that I would use a combination of breastfeeding and bottle feeding to enable my husband to help with the feeds and bond with our boys, and also so I could get some much-needed rest. I had introduced my babies to bottle while we were in transitional care after I was confident that we had all established breastfeeding. What I didn’t expect was how complicated bottle feeding would be when it is often seen as the ‘easier option’. It was a minefield of bottle types, teat shapes, teat flow rates, etc. Then there was the expressing and washing of pump parts! I loved the convenience as well as the closeness of breastfeeding but expressing and bottle feeding gave me many benefits.

I would express milk if I had family coming over to visit and there was chance for them to help with feeds, if I was going somewhere, I wasn’t comfortable to breastfeed triplets (as they attract enough attention as it is), or as and when I felt I needed to relieve my breasts around breastfeeding as my supply was in excess of the boys demand at the beginning. I would usually express for between 10-20 minutes until I could feel relief. I would express milk before bed and give it to my husband so that I could go to bed early and he could do part of the night feeds before we would swap over. That period of uninterrupted sleep was my saviour. When I woke up after 3-4 hours I would express again as I could feel I was engorged and knew the triplets wouldn’t be feeding again soon enough. After my sleep I would be amazed at the amount of milk expressed because I’d had some rest. I would express 22oz in one go, with a record of up to 28oz, that’s almost 800ml or over one and a half pints in one pump session. Expressing was also helpful for quickly boosting supply if I got worried my supply was not keeping up with the boys demand. Being so busy, we didn’t have time for cluster feeding so I would express for a few extra minutes than usual and it would stimulate more milk and trigger a second let down.

Overall, it has been amazing to be able to produce milk for my babies, and I loved being able to breastfeed them. It took a lot of hard work and dedication to build my milk supply and teach them to breastfeed, but it was worth overcoming every challenge we faced. It felt so special and my privilege as their mum. I loved them holding my arms while they breastfed and seeing their milk drunk faces. The weigh ins were so exciting in the first 6 months, seeing how much weight they had gained and knowing my body had created everything of the boys to that point. My NICU outreach nurse was so encouraging and found it remarkable to see breastfed babies gain weight so well especially when feeding multiple babies at once. Our bodies are incredible and are very capable of breastfeeding multiples if we choose to do so.