Isn’t is crazy that something very natural can be really hard? If breastfeeding is a struggle for you, there is hope for a successful nursing relationship with the right resources and help from your village of family and friends.
When I gave birth to my 4th son last year, I knew I would breastfeed. My older 3 kiddos nursed for 24-32 months each. I rarely pumped, except for a night out or a few hours away. I considered myself a breastfeeding pro, and I thought nursing would be sunshine and rainbows because I totally knew what I was doing.
Then, I had my baby.
The downward spiral began and reality slapped me in the face quickly. After a super smooth start in the hospital, baby wasn’t gaining fast enough. We soon found out that baby had a milk transfer issue — which took us over a month (and a long-awaited referral to a Speech/Occupational Therapist) to figure out. I was making the milk; he just wasn’t getting it all.
To add insult to injury, I got sick. I had a postpartum DVT and needed surgery when he was only 13 days old. Medications I received during my surgery required me to pump and dump for 24 hours, and my supply tanked.
I thought my breastfeeding journey was done.
Just a few days after surgery, I visited Milkworks and met with an IBCLC. Lactation services were a new concept to me, and I was surprised to find out that my visits were covered by insurance as a preventative service. I was on anticoagulant medication for my blood clot, so I couldn’t use any herbs, teas, or medications to help with my supply. So, I was introduced to Triple Feeding. I never heard of it, but it became my way of life for over three months.
What is Triple Feeding?
Triple feeding is recommended when moms struggle with milk supply or when baby is not gaining enough weight.
First, you nurse your baby for 20 minutes (I did 10 minutes on each side), then feed baby a supplement (either pumped milk or formula), and then pump for 10 minutes. My IBCLC instructed me to feed him what I pumped (anywhere from ½ oz to 2 oz). I timed it so I fed him what I pumped during the previous session.
I did this routine for all feedings every 2-3 hours during waking hours. My IBCLC wanted me to keep a log of the frequency, amounts, and number of wet/dirty diapers. At night, I set an alarm for 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Baby would nurse, I pumped, and went back to sleep. I saved milk from those pumping sessions to add to his bottles that I fed him during the daytime triple feeds.
It was so hard.
Sounds a bit rough, right? I really wanted to throw in the towel after the first weekend. If I wasn’t attached to my sweet baby, I was tethered to my pump, or washing pump and bottle parts. I longed for the sweet nursing sessions where I’d savor the sleeping baby on my chest after a feed.
Most days, I couldn’t put him down after feeding because he’d wake up and cry. It stressed me out, and stress = lower milk production. So, I pumped while I snuggled him.
I considered exclusively pumping, but realized how much I’d miss the bond of nursing him. Since I was washing bottles all the time, I entertained the idea of switching to formula entirely. My goodness, I was just so tired.
I found my own survival mode – and my village.
Washing and sterilizing pump parts eight times a day was tedious. So, I took the advice from some other nursing mamas. I put the pump parts in a plastic bag in the fridge, and I only had to wash and sterilize once a day.
Then, I discovered a microwavable bottle sterilizer, which made this step even easier. It was the best $25 I ever spent!
The log sheets stressed me out, so I ditched them and used the Medela app on my phone to record feedings, pumping sessions, and ounces he ate after nursing.
Thankfully, my husband, older kids, extended family and friends were a great help those first few months. My house was a mess, dinners weren’t elaborate, and laundry took a few days to fold. I took help from friends who offered to bring meals or carpool my kids to school a few days a week.
We’re still going strong.
After all this, baby continued to gain weight, and we slowly stopped the triple feeds. My baby boy is 9 months old, and we are still nursing. I only pump once a day now, and he doesn’t need supplementary bottles.
Although I didn’t realize how hard this road would be with #4, I’m so grateful for the support I had along the way. If you find yourself in Triple Feeding Territory, I promise it doesn’t last forever. For me, it helped build and sustain a supply while I healed, and while we resolved baby’s milk transfer issues.
Ask for help when you need it, find your village, and enjoy every moment with your sweet baby.