Thursday, December 31, 2009

Adapting to life with triplets

How do we find time to do menial things like wash bottles by hand, you ask? Well, we've learned to multi-task with the best of 'em and do everything three times as fast. Seriously. :D

There's rarely a moment these days that I'm not doing 2 or 3 things at once. Pumping, typing and chewing can all be successfully accomplished together, you can fix bottles while holding a baby, or have your morning coffee while reading news online and feeding/burping a baby.

It's a crazy juggling act most days, especially when all three girls want to be held simultaneously. I feel completely overwhelmed much of the time, but despite these moments of inadequacy, I'm lovin' it.

My parents are helping out a lot and are staying with us for a few months, my friends are cooking and delivering meals for us so I can have precious time with my babies in addition to some (interrupted) sleep (I have the most incredible friends), my husband took time off when the girls first came home, then worked a few weeks, and has taken some more time off over the holidays. Despite all of the multi-tasking
and help, sleep is a rare commodity as I'm continuing to pump breast milk every three hours. I'm now managing to sleep slightly longer periods without getting blocked milk ducts. I still get horribly engorged and have to pump longer to get comfortable again, but it's so worth it to get a bit more uninterrupted sleep.

Many of the feedings run into one another without a breather in between, but I realize this too shall pass. There have been some (spectacularly hormonal!) tears of frustration along the way - mostly as a result of sleep deprivation - but I wouldn't have my life any other way. Okay, maybe I'd like my life with a little more sleep, more time with my husband and less time spent pumping, but other than that, life is pretty darn good.

Even though the trio is only two months old, I can't imagine life without my daughters in it.

Our babies are so precious right now. As hard as this newborn phase is, I don't want to miss a moment. I have one shot at kissing their fuzzy little velvety heads, snorting their sweet after-bath baby smells, laughing at their barnyard noises and un-ladylike farts and burps and unbelievable diaper blow-outs, marveling at their chubby leg creases, and watching their cherub-y cheeks fill out each day.

It still feels surreal when I look at them and realize we have triplets. Three babies. Ours. To care for and love. I had always hoped to have children (plural), but never in a million years thought I would have the experience of raising triplets. Who has triplets anyway?!

These realizations are particularly intense when I think back to where I was - mentally - a year ago. Childless, feeling hopeless, trying to come to terms with an Endometriosis diagnosis in addition to the male factor issues and contemplating a future without children... What a difference a year makes.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

About glass bottles and such - Part II

BB raised the issue of how we clean glass bottles:

You mentioned you are using glass bottles to feed them. That is something I would like to do, but I am a little concerned with the cleaning/sterilization part... I mean most people nowadays use the "BPA-free" plastic bottles (which I don't quite completely trust) and the microwave sterilizers, and from whatever research I have done so far, nobody seems to sterilize the glass bottles in (microwave/electronic) sterilizer. How are you managing to clean the bottles while being so caught up with your three lil miracles?

At the moment, we wash our glass baby bottles the old fashioned way (by hand, using very hot water, a bottle brush and dish soap) because I don't have enough of the bottles yet. Once we have a full set of 27 to 30 bottles, we will put them in the dishwasher. The Munchkin bottle brush works really well to clean the bottom and neck of the bottles. I originally used another (generic) bottle brush we had, but it didn't clean the hard-to-reach places that well.

We don't steam sterilize the bottles, but Munchkin's instructions state they can be steam sterilized. Here's what the manufacturer has to say on the topic of cleaning and usage:

"Before first use, place in boiling water for 5 minutes. For easy cleaning use a Munchkin bottle brush and/or place in top rack of dishwasher. Bottle and nipple may be boiled (2-3 minutes completely immersed in a pan of water) or steam sterilized. Boiling of ring and hood is not recommended.

To use: to heat bottle contents, use Munchkin Deluxe Bottle & Food Warmer or place bottle in a container of warm water for several minutes with the cap off of the bottle. Sudden temperature change may cause breakage. To reduce chances of colic & gas, stop feeding before your baby has finished the bottle. Feeding baby in semi-upright position may help prevent ear infections. Avoid over-tightening the bottle collar onto bottle body as this can close nipple vents. Bottle can be frozen to store breast milk. Expressed breast milk can be stored in sterilized bottle in refrigerator for up to 48 hours (not in refrigerator door) or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Never refreeze breast milk or add fresh breast milk to already frozen milk."

When it comes to heating the bottles, you have to be a little more careful with glass compared to plastic, but this hasn't presented a problem for us. I simply immerse the bottles in a cup of warm water. You don't want to use boiling hot water since overheating milk kills nutrients and can scald your baby's mouth. Our babies usually get room temperature to lukewarm milk, but on a few occasions they've been so hungry in between feedings that they've had cold milk straight from the fridge (without complaining).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

About glass bottles and such - Part I

One piece of sage advice I received from parents of HOMs and my friends was to try a variety of bottles before purchasing a large quantity because babies don't always take to whatever brand the parents may prefer.

This turned out to be so true. Our girls were fed breast milk from Similac one-time use bottles in the NICU and are now used to those latex nipples. I have been trying various bottles in search of similarly shaped and sized nipples - with a flow that is on par - that they would transition to.

We are ultimately planning to buy 27 bottles: 3 babies x 8 bottles per day, plus one "spare" set, to enable us to wash bottles only once per day. BB asked how we go about cleaning the glass bottles and I'll get to that in Part II.

Everyone also advised us to skip the smaller 4oz bottles (or buy only a few) and go straight to 8oz bottles. Since we're still in the "test driving bottles" phase, we haven't fully committed to a brand yet, but I'm leaning towards the Munchkin glass bottles.

Fortunately, the nipples and rings we received from the NICU fit on the BPA-free plastic Medela bottles (used for pumping) as well as Munchkin glass bottles and vice versa. The Similac one-time use bottle nipples and rings also fit onto the Snappie bottles the NICU provided me with for pumping and freezing breast milk.

I like the Munchkin bottles for several reasons: I have been trying to use less plastic (yes, even the BPA-free kind), the curved shape of the Munchkin bottles make them easier to hold than other glass bottles on the market, the silicone sleeve covers the bottle better than some of the other brands, and the shape of the nipples match what my kids are now used to. My husband dropped one of the Munchkin glass bottles from hip height onto a hardwood floor before we had a chance to put the silicone sleeves on. Miraculously it didn't shatter or crack. We may not be so lucky next time, so we promptly covered them all with silicone sleeves. We battled to get the silicone sleeves onto the bottles, but I'm willing to deal with that nuisance.

We have also tried Avent bottles (they leaked), Playtex Drop-Ins (the nipples didn't work for my babies, the liners are expensive, and it was a hassle to use these bottles for small amounts of milk). You need to push the milk into the nipple to have the benefit of the bottles reducing gassiness. With the girls still not drinking that much in one go and falling asleep easily during feeds, it required us to reposition the baby and then use two hands to squeeze the air out of the little drop-in bag. Repeat this a few times with each baby, plus the fact that you need to get ALL the air out until milk flows through the nipple (messy) and you have a sense of why this just wasn't worth the hassle.

I've heard great things about the Dr Brown's glass bottles, but parents of multiples have told me that they're a pain in the neck to assemble because they have more pieces.

I'm sure there are other brands we could be trying, so if you have a suggestion for glass bottles or other tips on this topic, I'm all ears.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Two months and growing strong

Our trio is making such rapid progress; it's hard to keep up with the daily changes.

Their little faces are changing by the day. About two weeks ago we noticed they suddenly had eyelashes and this past week their eyebrows started to become more prominent. Just yesterday, I noticed the girls are now crying real tears. It breaks my heart when they cry, and the addition of tears doesn't help mom's coping ability!

They are looking around much more, and able to focus much better than just a week or two ago. We have been playing "tracking" games with high contrast toys and it's very cool to try and figure out what they're staring at.

Julia has managed to roll over from her back to her side, and Ada is kicking up a storm whenever she does tummy time. Emma is my tiniest little pixie, but is catching up nicely to her sisters. They are all able to lift and support the weight of their heads, but not for very long.

I'm still pumping around the clock and we bottle feed them (the adults take turns to feed them), but I have made a concerted effort in recent days to get them all to latch. Breastfeeding has been slow and frustrating because I never seem to have the time to focus on just one baby.

We feed them on a staggered schedule, but it's a moving target as they seem to hit growth spurts just as we figure out their needs. It's incredible to note how much longer they're able to breastfeed now than when they first came home. In terms of their adjusted age they are barely a week old, so I have to keep reminding myself to be patient. As with pretty much all of their development thus far, they are doing things in birth order. Ada breastfeeds the longest (30-45 minutes) and latches best, Julia breastfeeds for about 20-30 minutes, and Emma can go for about five minutes before exhaustion sets in.

The trio has the most inquisitive little fingers. When we bottle feed them they touch the bottle and sometimes look like they want to hold it themselves. We use glass bottles with silicone sleeves and it's obvious that they love checking out the patterns on the brightly colored sleeves.

Their little bodies are so much chubbier now than they were just two weeks ago. The girls are all 7-8 lbs. We used the last preemie size diaper yesterday and couldn't be happier that they've finally graduated to the newborn size. Woot! I just adore the chubby baby creases in their arms and legs, and their cute double chins. What a difference from the scrawny, fragile little preemies they were at birth almost two months ago.

On Christmas day they will be exactly two months old. What an amazing, precious Christmas "gift" they are...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Early days with triplets

It's been a crazy, wonderful, sleep deprived two weeks. We are on a 3-hour schedule with the girls, and it usually takes at least 90 minutes to get everyone fed, burped, diapered and back to bed at night. Often, one will wake up early, throwing our entire happy little "routine" for a loop. We respond by feeding the early waker a little more from that feeding onwards and it seems to get us all back on track for the next round. Well, sort of.

If there's a diaper blow-out, a diaper rash requiring special treatment, spit up, or some other baby funny business - affectionately called "Happy Hour" - then the feedings run into one another and there's no time for the adults to eat/shower/prep bottles, etc. Even with 4 adults on duty around the clock, it's been tough for me to pump uninterrupted for the amount of time I need.

What I've learned so far:

Even a tiny amount of spit-up has a cunning way of getting onto multiple layers of material: onesie, sleep & play clothes, swaddle blankets and crib sheet requiring a middle of the night overhaul.

To minimize the spit-up, we burp them really well and then keep the babies upright in our arms or in their Boppy pillows for 30-45 minutes after they've finished eating.

The girls make the cutest grunting, squeeking barnyard noises. I love listening to them.

One will be awake and start making these noises and suddenly the other two will start to chime in. I swear they're communicating this way and responding to one another because it sounds like a language with intonation, pauses and rhythm.

They make these once-off screaming crying-like sounds, but when I peek into the nursery, everyone's happily fast asleep. I swear they're doing it as a prank to keep the adults guessing.

When using a bulb syringe, make sure the booger is firmly inside it before squeezing out the air for a second goldmining expedition.

Boogers can fly a few feet when propelled by a bulb syringe.

Even preemies have the ability to projectile vomit and poop.

Our girls our burp as if they've enjoyed a few too many beers during the aforementioned "Happy Hour."

When bending down to get a closer look at a diaper rash, aim the baby away from you. (Don't ask. It was actually a pretty funny new mommy moment having to wipe splattered poop from my face.)

Sleeping when the babies sleep is near impossible. There's not enough time in between feedings and pumping to sleep, so the only way to survive is for the adults to take shifts.

More soon. I hear babies surfacing from slumber...