During their time in SCBU, I had been breast feeding in addition to bottle feeding the boys. I would try to take it in turns as to who would breast feed, and they would roughly feed for 20 to 40 minutes which I considered enough and acceptable (and had satisfied the nurses given the length of time they lasted until their next feed and ability to settle after this feed – each baby and breast is different though so don’t take this as a guide).
On the first morning at home, I decided to give T2 a turn breast feeding for his 10am feed. He fed for 25 minutes which I considered enough. However, two hours later he was hungry. I suspected this as he didn’t sleep. As with lots of newborns, the babies would generally feed then sleep until they were hungry in the first few weeks and not do much else. T2 wasn’t happy and I took this to mean he was hungry. Whilst I enjoyed breast feeding, I had no idea how much milk he had had. In order to follow a strict routine, I needed to know that he had had enough. So I decided there and then to stop breast feeding. That said, I still wanted my babies to benefit from my milk so I continued to express four times a day, transferring my milk to bottles and supplementing with formula milk (check latest guidelines on how to supplement breast milk with formula milk). I would get on average 500ml in morning express and on average of 260ml other times. I was happy with this approach and given that I had breast fed my first born for up to five months, I wanted my other babies to benefit from this.
With my husband at home that first week, in the day time hours, we would take it in turns to ‘do milks’ in the safety of the lounge, the other entertaining toddler boy and doing the jobs. I no longer had a hire pump from hospital which I handed back when we ‘checked out’, so purchased an additional electronic Medela swing pump, so used one on each breast. This worked very well and I was able to maintain my milk at a good level.
The 10am feed would be performed by one of us and would take place in the lounge. In the first few days, we would hold each baby individually and feed them one at a time, rotating depending on how quick they were with their bottle. It would generally take between an hour to an hour and half to feed all three babies. The 2pm feed would be in the lounge, sometimes with both of us as toddler would be having his afternoon nap which I had been so keen to maintain. The 6pm feed again would be in the lounge, solo, whilst the other took toddler boy through his bedtime routine.
People have always asked if it is possible to feed three babies at the same time. There are ways and I will tell you some of the ways I managed this. You may not find similar ideas in reference books or recommended by health visitors, quite frankly because there are risks involved. However you decide to feed your babies must be in a way that you are completely in control of and observant of all babies at all times. The first key thing to remember is that the baby is crying because it is hungry. You are preparing the milk, and it will get its milk. If the baby has to wait a few more minutes because the temperature isn’t right, you incorrectly measured out the powder and had to start again, it will be fine. It will get its milk. Stay calm.
If you have three crying, you will have one crying the loudest. Deal with this one first. Quite often, a baby is happy with a few ounces to take the edge off their hunger, and then you can move on to give another a few ounces. Or maybe not. T2 was always hungry and the loudest significantly and still is. He would always go first, and would not be fended off by a few ounces. But at times he would have to wait whilst T1 or T3 had a go.
You can keep track of bottles by simply just keeping that babies bottle next to the baby. You can buy different colour rims, pink and blue, which wouldn’t have been enough for us anyway. Just try to keep them separate for obvious hygiene reasons, and so that you know who has had how much. In a few months time they will be swapping dummies (although we did always make the effort to keep them to their own allocated colours), chewing toys at baby classes and eating mud off the pushchair wheels in the hall (yes, we did have that, and still have the brown stain on the carpet where the particular child was sick after), and you will wonder what all the fuss was for. But babies are small and their immune systems need to build up, so best to try to keep things separate.
As for winding, siblings would not allow time for me to have a baby on my knee and rub its back for a significant amount of time. There are other ways again, take note of my comment above and never leave a baby unattended and ensure you are observant of all babies at all times. At times when doing milks in the lounge, to wind them all, I would sit on the floor with my legs spread out in front of me, and have a baby over each knee (with head facing sideways for breathing and possett access) and hold the other over my shoulder. You will notice that some babies are windier than others, and some will burp with ease. My babies all burped with ease which was great. For those having trouble with wind, Infacol (available from supermarkets and chemists) is a great solution which a baby has before a bottle, and this can help with wind. Although I never needed to use this on a frequent basis, I had friends who swore by it.
Now the boys coming home in a good routine was a great outcome from being in SCBU. Another great thing was that they did not need cuddling or rocking to go to sleep. In SCBU, the nurses had just fed them and put them back. No fuss. That was great and over the months and years, if they have ever woke in the night, they would not appreciate being rocked or cuddled back to sleep and could generally settle themselves. I can remember the hours I had spent rocking my first born to sleep, place him down only to wake him again by a squeaky floorboard whilst sneaking out of the room and starting the whole thing again. Painful. There was no time to do this with three, and they didn’t expect it. That said, during the afternoon 2pm feed, if the boys took it in turns to wake over a short time, I would have a lovely cuddle with them. As the weeks progressed, sometimes it was just a manic feeding frenzy. These, whilst made my knees shake getting all the milks ready as they all kicked off in the other room, could be over in 20 minutes. Some feeds were slow, long and relaxed with a few episodes of Emmerdale and cuddles. Others were quick, frantic and more stressful. Nice to have a variety.