“In a few days my triplets will be three years old. They are walking and talking, they are inquisitive and socialised, they eat three meals plus snacks and drink from a cup, they have all their teeth, they are independent. And they are breastfed. Yes, still…”
Davina is one of my breastfeeding idols. Her triplets have never had donor breastmilk or formula, they received her milk via nasogastric tube at first and then switched to breastfeeding when they were a bit bigger and stronger. She has not only been able to establish her supply but she has been able to produce enough for them this whole time. So what’s it like breastfeeding her triplets now that they are three?! Davina has described her experiences, while giving us insight into this awesome achievement…and how she does it! Her words are in grey…
The early days…how it all started:
“We didn’t start out breastfeeding immediately. My trio were born at 34 weeks, a good gestational age for triplets, but still a little small to get the hang of breastfeeding straight away. They had nasogastric tubes, through which they got my first precious drops of colostrum and within three days my mature milk. I have been lucky enough to have a great supply and as such they have never had formula. My body grew three babies, and then exclusively fed three babies and is still helping to nourish and comfort them and I am pretty proud of that fact.”
“When I was pregnant I knew I was going to breastfeed (even though I had had breast augmentation surgery a few years earlier) and so I tried researching it, looking for anything I could find on how to breastfeed triplets. I was amazed that there was so little information out there. I did manage to find a couple of blogs by women who had done it and so knowing that it could be done, I pretty much set about blazing a trail for others. Online now you can find specific breastfeeding triplet groups, many articles (some written by myself) for all kinds of breastfeeding advocates, many more blogs by triplet mums and even a video montage (which I took part in) showing how many women have achieved their goal of breastfeeding their trio. I feel very proud at the breastfeeding advocacy I have taken part in, and how I have taken this experience and turned it into something that has benefited others around the world.”
So how does it work for them now? ‘’How do you do it?’’ is the question she gets asked most often!
“They have always been demand fed, with no schedule, they have found their own feeding and sleeping patterns, which have been very different for each child. In the early days it was all about frequency, with three babies all having growth spurts, cluster feeds, teething, night waking and that dreaded ‘witching hour’ (which is actually more like 3-4 hours!), it was pretty tough to do anything besides feeding. ”
And as they got older…
“The frequency didn’t slow down but the amount of time it took for each baby to get a full feed was a lot faster so instead of 30-45 minutes per feed it became 10-15 minutes which was brilliant. Since the age of about 18 months our biggest issue is competitiveness and the inability to wait. Lots of people seem to think that triplets have an innate ability to share and maybe later on they will, but at this age they want boobie and they want it NOW! It took me forever to come up with something that kept the third child happy while they waited and in the end it was letting them know that the one who waited would get two boobies instead of just one.”
So then Davina got creative!! This “wait box” idea is a great technique to use if you have an older child to needs something to do while you breastfeed your youngest…
“I have also added a ‘wait box’ , which is a small box full of my own little trinkets, just bits and pieces that they find fascinating and will sit and pick through them until they get their two boobies.”
As with any growing, breastfeeding toddler many of us find that setting boundaries is very important.
“It’s not so much demand feeding now, although if someone is having a rough time or has hurt themselves and wants some boobie comfort we do, but we have boundaries now that I am able to discuss with them.”
And what about night time? How does she managed three babies?!
“We allowed them to find their own sleep patterns, Willow was first sleeping through the night consistently at around 1 year old, but even as a newborn she was the one who would sleep for 6 hour stretches (and still gained weight at the exact same rate as her identical sister who only slept 3-4!)…as most babies do (well all of mine anyway) she just started sleeping 7 hours, then back to 4, then a couple of nights in a row at 8, then back to 6, then one night of 10, then a couple of nights at 7…that’s how I’ve usually found babies build up to sleeping through the night. I never did anything other than just go into her when she needed me and she slept 12 hours when she was ready. The same thing happened with Summer, except it was around 18 months, just before the HK move…a gradual building up to sleeping 12 uninterrupted hours. Connor was freakishly different. He was always a 2-3 hour feeder, all the way through from newborn until 1 week before his second birthday and BAM, overnight he went from every 3 hours to a 10 hours stretch! The next night was 11 hours, the next night was 12 and that was it, 12 hours straight every night thereafter! I have no idea how that one worked!!”
“I still nurse them to sleep for a nap and nighttime, I nurse them when they wake up from the nap and night sleep and that is pretty much it at this point.”
How did she start to wean down the day time feeds?
“I think the weaning down of feeds during the day was partly because we got so busy…there was play and stimulation and they just asked for it less, I really only say no to them now since about 2 1/2 when we are out in public. I say that we will wait until we are home for that now. Simply because I am aware of how many eyes are on us because there are so many and also because the one or two who aren’t getting any at the time will make such a fuss that it draws even more attention to us and then I am trying to deal with tantruming toddlers, nosey stares, and a wriggly feeder! That definitely has become too much for me. I have also had to say no to every little bump and fall getting boobie because honestly they fall and bump themselves dozens of times a day!! So now I say unless there is blood or something is broken you can just have a cuddle!”
“I am a SAHM and a great multi-tasker so I am able to get pretty much everything else done that needs doing. Nursing really takes up such a tiny part of any given day now that it doesn’t interfere with achieving anything else or getting ‘me’ time, as much as simply having triplet toddlers does! Actually breastfeeding is like a break these days as when I nurse I am sitting or lying down with my feet up so who could complain about that??”
I know that ‘extended’ breastfeeding still isn’t seen as the norm by many, I know that lots of people have issues with it, but all I can say is this is what works in my family. This is what they love, and what I love too…a moment of one on one time with each of them, a time of calm if I am nursing them to sleep, an ability to fix upsets and heal bumps, bruises and tantrums. In a life which is often so full of noise, and rivalry, and demands and general craziness, breastfeeding is a small refuge for us all.
Breastfeeding is so much more than just about “the milk”…
“Breastfeeding toddlers is about so much more than nutrition, it’s about comfort and connection, it’s about antibodies and health benefits, it’s a way of easing through transitions, it’s a way of putting them to sleep!! I know I have been lucky to not have had to battle mastitis, I haven’t had biters, I haven’t experienced nursing aversion, I haven’t had to deal with many obstacles that can challenge other women, and so it is easy for us to continue this journey. I don’t know when we will stop breastfeeding. It is a mutual thing that has grown and changed as my babies have grown and changed. We have bonded in many other ways, but I still love this bond, and so do they, so I guess for now we will just keep on doing what we do.”