One of the questions that multiple moms get on a regular basis is of course ‘How do you do it?’ The short answer is… we just do it! That’s not very specific though, is it? I thought it would be interesting, for those who are curious, to spill some details about just how I clothe, bathe, cook for, feed, and generally care for three toddlers at once! I will continue to add to this post as time goes on, so if there is something specific you’d like to know about, leave me a comment and let me know!
Please note, this is just a little information about how we did it. If there is anything that I have learned since becoming a mom, it’s that what works for one family will not always work for another. I am not telling anyone that what we do is the right way or wrong way- just our way!
Feeding three babies at once
Why not start at the beginning? When we brought the kids home, it was pretty tricky for a while there, figuring out how to keep three babies fed and happy! We were fortunate enough to have my parents staying with us for the first four months of the babies lives- which was perfect, because those were the hardest days for us.
From the get-go, we kept all the kids on the same schedule, more or less, and I firmly believe that that is the best way to do it.
If there were two or more people on feeding duty, when one baby woke up, we would wake the others and feed them at the same time. If only one of us was on duty (ie, at night we each took a shift by ourselves to let the other parent get a good chunk of sleep), we would feed them one by one. There were times when we would be feeding one, and the others would wake up, crying, and we just did the best we could. Propping bottles never really worked for us, although many multiple moms say that worked great for them. My friend April used receiving blankets to prop for her triplets, and it worked like a charm.
My kids also ate pretty slowly, and took forever to burp, so it took anywhere from 2-3 hours to get them all fed and burped. They were on a 4-hour schedule, so it didn’t leave much time in between. And then of course, there were those growth spurt times when they would randomly decide it was time to eat every 2.5 hours. That usually didn’t last more than a week at a time, but boy, was that rough.
Once the babies were 3 months old, they developed a good enough “suck” to use Podees. Oh, what a glorious day that was. For once, they could be fed, all at the same time, by one person. This cut down feeding times by at least an hour. (Cue “Hallelujah” music) This translated to more sleep, which was awesome.
As far as making formula/bottles/breastfeeding- I decided pretty early on that actual breastfeeding just wasn’t something I could do. I think it is amazing that many triplet moms can do it, some exclusively, for many months but for me it just wasn’t going to happen. I felt like I would have been feeding around the clock, and I was exhausted enough just bottle feeding. However, it was extremely important to me to have the babies get breast milk, especially due to their “preemie” status. They were born right in the middle of RSV season, and I was extremely frightened that they would get sick and end up back in the NICU. So, I pumped. For 4 months, after every feeding, I would go and pump for a half hour or so. I really didn’t enjoy it at all, but it made me feel good to know that I was doing something important to help my kids thrive and stay healthy. They didn’t get so much as a cough until they were about 8 months old, so I like to think I had something to do with that. Even when all the adults in the house came down with something, the babies never did get sick. I am not sure if I would have been able to pump, though, if I didn’t have my parents to help watch the babies after a feeding.
The babies got all breastmilk for the first few weeks, and as they ate more, they got a bigger proportion of formula in their bottles (I mixed it in). When I pumped, I saved half of what I pumped for the freezer, and gave half to the kids in their bottles. This way, even when I quit pumping, I was still able to offer them some breastmilk for another month or two, even if it was just an ounce per feeding. That helped me feel a little less guilty for quitting:)
We followed the EASY method- eat, activity (which for young babies just means “awake”), sleep, you. The “you” is supposed to mean time for yourself, but that is kind of a joke in the early days. The main point is that the kids eat, they stay up for a while, they nap, then do it all over again. We pretty much still stick to this philosophy and it works for us. I have GREAT sleepers. (They get that from daddy.)
The “goal” for us was to get them eating more at each feeding, so that they would outgrow the need to eat in the middle of the night, so I always offered them a little more in each bottle than I thought they would eat. For me, that was the only way to know when they needed more. I would rather have a little extra leftover than to have to go back and make more after a bottle is finished.
We made bottles in one big batch, every day at the end of the day. We washed bottles by hand, and sterilized the tops/nipples in micro-steam bags, for the first 6 months or so. Then, we decided hot soapy water would do the trick for the bottles, but continued to wash the podee parts in the micr-steam bags.
Getting triplets to sleep through the night
Well, this is tricky. They will sleep through the night when they are good and ready to, I think you can only encourage them by doing what works for them. In the second, and third month, I didn’t think I was going to make it some days. But by sometime in the middle of month 5, it just happened. Here’s what we did:
We didn’t feed them every time they cried. We did our best to stay on the schedule- of course there are times when you know they are crying because they are hungry, and we fed them. But if they started crying 2 hours before they were supposed to eat, we soothed them by holding them, shushing them, swaying, and swaddling. It usually worked, unless it was a growth spurt time. Then, there’s not much you can do!
We put them down for naps before they were asleep, and we always put them down for naps, and at night, in their cribs. Sure, there were times they would fall asleep in the swing or bouncer, but we always moved them to their cribs. We wanted them to know that cribs=sleep. We keep their room dark and quiet, with a humidifier. The white noise from the humidifier muffles out sounds from the rest of house and soothes them.
*when they came home, they were in a crib, in our room for two months. We decided to move them into their own cribs at that time because they were very wiggly, and were ending up all over the crib, waking each other up. They slept much better once they were in their own cribs.
As far as sleeping through the night, they did this when I got brave enough to take away the last bottle, and adjust their schedule. I was afraid to do this, and I have a feeling that if I had tried it sooner, they would have slept through the night a little sooner. But hindsight is 20/20:) Overall, I think we were very lucky that they slept through the night when they did, and continue to nap well, and sleep 11-12 hours at night.
Getting out of the house with three babies and one adult
I have to be honest, I didn’t do it much until the kids were about 6 months old. I was scared. My stroller was a big pain in the butt (Peg Perego 2006 model- I had to remove all the seats, fold it up, load it, unload it, hope it “locked” because sometimes it would “fake-lock”, then close up on me later, with the kids in it.. put seats back on, load babies… yuck) Anyway, I met another mom through my Multiples Club and started getting out and going for walks with her, and it got easier and easier.
The first challenge was physically getting the kids out of the house and loaded into the van. Yes, we had to get a minivan, as it was the most efficient and economical option for us. It’s not that cool but it’s safe, holds all of us, and our stroller. Anyway- here’s how it went:
I would load up the diaper bag the night before I went anywhere, and line up the carseats by the door. We usually went out immediately after eating a meal, as that’s when the kids are happy and awake.
I’d always do a diaper change right before going anywhere, so hopefully they would “last” a while before they needed one again.
Next, get each baby in their carseat.
Pick up the diaper bag (diapers wipes, extra clothes, bottles, toys, bottle water, tylenol, the kitchen sink) and one carseat in each hand, and take those two out to the car. Pop them in their seats, then run like mad back into the house to grab # 3. It wasn’t a far walk back into the house but I always get paranoid about leaving them sitting by the door or in the car without me.
*One day, I realized that there was a really simple solution to this problem… we do have a garage. It was just full of junk. We cleaned it out so the van could be parked in the garage, and it’s much easier now to get all the kids in or out without worrying that someone will snatch them while I’m running between the house and the car.
Next, I would load the stroller, grab my purse, and off we went. These steps usually took me a good 45 minutes to an hour when the kids were younger- there was always bound to be someone who spit up or pooped right as we were leaving…..
Once we got where we were going, I would unload the stroller, put it together, and get the kids out of their carseats. I did not have a “triple decker” stroller, or a stroller where I could leave the kids in their carseat and pop them in. Our stroller was given to us, so we were happy to not have to buy one, and just made do when they were younger- it took a lot of receiving blankets to prop them and keep them in place in the stroller when they were younger. I think if I had it to do over again, I would find a stroller that was compatible with carseats for when the babies were 0-6 months- it would have made it a lot easier for me to go places, and I might have gotten out a lot more with the kids!
Reverse the whole process, and you have an “outing”. I’d get home, put the kids down for a nap, then commence the clean-out of the diaper bag, bottle washing, diaper disposing, etc. Then collapse in an exhausted heap for a few minutes before they woke up for their next meal!
Sounds like a lot of work, right? Well, it is, but I know now how important it is to get out of the house, so it’s completely worth it. Well, how important is was for me anyway. Spending day after day at home, by yourself taking care of three babies can make a person feel very isolated from the world, and it’s not good for the nuggets, either! They need fresh air, and new things to see, and so do I! My life got so much better when I started getting out of the house, even just twice a week.
Diapering three babies
…let’s see… 3 babies, times 12-15 diapers a day (in the beginning), times 7 days a week.. 315 diapers a week? That’s expensive. Luckily, we got enough diapers at our shower to last us for almost two months. Then, I made sure to sign up for the multiples program that Pampers and Huggies have, so we got quite a few free diapers and coupons from them. But then, we were on our own. It was quite costly, and then I started looking into cloth diapers. When a family member suggested I look into them, before I had the kids, I thought they were nuts. I had the image of the old fashioned foldy-white ones, with pins holding them on.. they seemed like way more work than I wanted to deal with.
But when I started doing research on them (the kids were about 5 months old), I realized they are not like the old-fashioned kind AT ALL anymore. They come in tons of varieties, systems, colors and patterns, and there is no pinning necessary. I decided to take the plunge when the kids were 6 months old, and it has worked out well. I bought the diapers little by little- since they are expensive (about 15 a diaper for the BumGenius that I use), and eventually phased out disposable almost completely. I always used disposables when we go out of the house, because I figure I have enough to carry around without having to carry a giant dirty diaper:)
Here are my pros and cons to cloth diapers:
Save a ton of money
Much, much better for the environment
No chemicals touching my kids skin
No need to run to the store to buy diapers on a regular basis
Laundry.. lots of laundry
Getting a little more contact with poo than I would really care for
The diapers are bulkier- doesn’t bother the kids, but they outgrow their shorts faster:)
In the beginning, I was gung-ho; line drying to save energy, even making my own cloth wipes so that I didn’t have to buy wipes either. I have changed my ways and found a system that works for me now- the line drying is really tricky in Florida with our afternoon rain, and really was more work than I wanted to do, so now I only do it occasionally (keeps the diapers stain free). I also found that Pampers Swipers wipes work about 17,000 times better than my cloth wipes, so I use those now. I do diaper laundry about every other day now, and the kids use disposables when we go out, at night, and when we get the stomach flu:) (twice in the last 5 months). Overall, we are still saving lots of money, and when the diaper days are over, I can sell them on diaperswappers.com, and get back about half my investment.
Handling 3 sick babies
Well, this one just happened recently, so it’s nice and “fresh” in my mind. When a cold/flu hits, all bets are off in our house. The cloth diapers go out the window, the schedule goes out the window, and it’s basically survival mode. I take whatever shortcuts I can to lessen my workload, because not only am I going to be spending a lot more time holding babies, cleaning babies, and doing laundry, I am probably going to be twice as tired.
I should say that there have actually been plenty of times that someone has gotten sick, but not everyone has gotten it. It IS possible for that to happen, so that’s good to know, right? But I usually go ahead and prepare for the worst when someone gets sick, just in case. I stock up on gatorade, motrin, tylenol, and have lots of clean blankets and T-shirts handy.
The stomach flu is nothing less than a nightmare, when that one hits. If you are lucky, you will not all contract it simultaneously, but at least have a few hours in between the time when it really “hits” each person. As long as the caregiver isn’t sick too, it’s possible to take care of three sick babies on your own. Fun, no, but possible. When you yourself are sick, you really need a rescuer. Here are the few things that I have found to make things a little easier.
Rather than changing crib sheets and packnplay sheets repeatedly, when someone get sick, just go ahead and put some old blankets down over the sheets in the kids’ cribs. (I put two per kid, just to be safe) You just don’t know if/when it’s going to hit everyone, and it’s just nice to be prepared. This way, when someone gets sick, you can just pull up that layer, and not have to (hopefully) turn on the light, take off a sheet, put another one on, etc, wake everybody up. Obviously, the blankets need to be tucked in well so that no one gets tangled up in them.
If they aren’t going to be in the cribs, use those blankets and towels to make a “safe” space on the floor somewhere. Three sick babies are just going to all want to pile into your lap. It’s bound to get ugly at some point.
Keep a big plastic trash bag in the laundry room for the “sick laundry”. You never know how long it will be before you get to it all.. and there will be a lot. Keep it sealed up until you get to it, because it’s not exactly an air freshener, if you know what I mean.
this post is a work in progress.. more coming soon!