A friend asked me yesterday what was the most unexpected about my first month as a triplet mom. I would say the amount of time I’ve had to spend with a breast pump. At 5-6 pumps a day, each session lasting between 40 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on whether I have clogged ducts, that’s spending between 5-8 hours/day dealing with my new “breast friends.” That’s also 5-8 waking hours NOT spent bonding with my trio.
I knew I would need to use a pump, and am supremely thankful that my friend gave me 3 different pumps that she tried, but prior to my first pump, I had no idea how these things worked. To be honest, the suction cups and tubes looked rather scary and painful. I had no idea what the proportion of breastfeeding and pumping needed to be in order to feed my triplets, and on top of that, how much formula (and which brand of formula) I would need. I also had no idea how much milk I would have, and whether it would be hard to get my milk started.
Thankfully, it wasn’t too difficult to get my milk started, despite the fact that I didn’t get to see my babies until day 3 of their lives because I was flat out from my C-section and they were one floor below me at the observation unit. At 35 weeks, their suction power was limited, so Chris and I started hand squeezing the precious initial drops of colostrum from my breasts. Literally, he hand harvested the colostrum drop by drop and suctioned it off with a syringe. We celebrated when we had 3ml after an hour, celebrated again when the nurse said we could “graduate” from the 5ml syringe to the 10ml syringe, and celebrated again when the nurse said we could start using a pump.
I tried a Mamaway pump for my first pump because I found it to be more friendly looking instead of medically scary, and because it had infrared heating capabilities to warm the areola to help get the milk going. The bright colors and cute design made pumping feel more approachable.
Surprisingly, I got my milk going in the first pumping session, and had 25ml. We pumped every 3 hours, and within the first 24 hours we had enough to make regular milk deliveries to the observation rooms for our 3 kids.
At this point, my 1.2L of milk/day (more than a 935ml standard milk carton) meets 80% of my triplets needs, and the rest is supplemented by formula. I primarily pump because my trio is still building up their suction powers (2 out of 3 have learned to feed from my breast), but also because it’s easier to allocate pumped breast milk amongst the three.
The hardest physically was working through the clogged ducts, and finding a system of hand massaging, electric pumping, and manual pumping that worked for me. The hardest emotionally is all those hours alone with my “breast friends” and not spending enough time bonding with my kiddos.
I’m still trying to figure out how to add in more breastfeeding, and whether I can tandem to feed to cut down on total feeding, pumping, and burping time for our trio (21 feeds/day!). A step at a time.
Mamas out there, how do you guys do it?