How to feed triplets is a good question—a really good question. It’s a question we asked ourselves multiple times before we brought the Tagalongs home from the NICU. It’s a question fellow triplet parents asked themselves, each other, and the Internet before they brought their own trios home. Is it even possible to feed three babies at once?
The answer is yes, but … We found that every triplet parent chooses to feed their triplets differently. Some parents choose to prop bottles, while others choose to use hands-free bottles. Some parents have enough help that each baby can receive an individualized feeding, while others contort their bodies into crazy positions because they’re going it solo. We chose a graduated approach that ended with our triplets feeding themselves.
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We thought long and hard about how to feed our triplets before deciding on our approach. We didn’t enjoy having each feed take 1½ hours, but we didn’t feel comfortable with the ideas of bottle props and hands-free bottles either.* And while the Tagalongs were healthy for preemies born so early (at 28 weeks), we did experience two feeding issues common to preemies: reflux and slow feeding. Our approach helped us feel in tune with our babies, which allowed us to respond to their reflux cues or pacing needs.
Most important to us, though, was that our approach gave us some much-needed one-on-one time. The Tagalongs spent their first 2 months of life in the NICU attached to wires that stretched only so far from the machines they were connected to. We couldn’t hold our own babies until they were 7 days old, and kangaroo care could be done for only 60 minutes at a time. Our time with them was further limited by our decision to work through their stay in the NICU and take parental leave when they were discharged.
When they did come home, snuggling with a baby was a luxury. There was always someone who needed something, bottles and formula to make, or sleep to try sneaking in. We struggled with whether we were really forming that crucial parent-baby bond, and our approach made us feel like we were—if only for 20 to 30 minutes every few hours.
In short, our approach made us feel better equipped to help our babies with their feeding issues and somewhat eased our concerns about connecting with them.
*This statement is not meant to judge families who choose these methods. It is simply an expression of our personal comfort level.
One Bottle at a Time
We started out with each of us feeding one baby at a time. Chris usually tackled James in all his reflux glory, which left me to wrangle slow eaters Caleb and Danae. It took anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour to feed James, sit with him at an incline, and clean up the puke that inevitably came with each feed. Both Caleb and Danae had to be paced almost as much as James in the beginning, so Chris generally finished feeding first.
The time of day determined what Chris did next. If the sun was up, he usually fed the baby who hadn’t been fed so I could pump or prepare sandwiches for us to eat. If it was dark outside, he made formula or prepared bottles because they were mindless tasks he could do while sleeping with his eyes open.
This approach went on for the first 3 months the babies were home. Feeds took about 1½ hours.
Two Bottles at a Time
We changed our approach slightly when our parental leave was over. Chris’s work schedule meant that I’d be flying solo 1 day a week, and I sure as heck wasn’t going to spend all day feeding babies. I had to pee and eat at some point. And the babies weren’t going to be on one schedule with us on the weekends and another schedule with our nanny on the weekdays. So we looked into how one of us could feed two babies at a time.
We initially used their Leachco Podsters, either bringing them up to us by placing the pillows on a low table or going down to them by sitting in front of them on the floor. Then a Table for Two popped up on a local resale site. We snatched that sucker right up and used it until the kids were 1 year old. (See our review of both products here.)
We were still trying to get James’s reflux under control then, so we needed all eyes and ears on him while he ate. This meant that he wasn’t placed in a seated device and continued to be fed one-on-one. When there was just a single feeder, the baby who hollered the loudest got fed first. That baby was usually Caleb, so he and Danae ate while James played. This placed James slightly off schedule from the other two, but not enough to make that big of a difference.
What happened if all three babies were screaming at equal volume, and there was only one feeder? We got creative. Usually, we broke our “rule,” placing James into the mamaRoo or a bouncer (we recommend the Fisher-Price Comfort Curve) placed next to the Table for Two and rotating between feeding the three as we sang and acted like an idiot to distract the one who didn’t have a bottle in their mouth. That 3 a.m. feed where Chris handed me a hangry James—who wanted the contents of the bottle he’d just spewed all over Chris the third time that feed—with an, “I can’t do this anymore,” and walked to bed? I propped James up between my legs and balanced his bottle with a bicep while feeding the other two. It wasn’t always pretty, but we always got the job done.
Although James was still Pukey McPukester, Caleb and Danae needed less pacing help. This, coupled with our newfound approach, reduced feed times to between 45 minutes and 1 hour.
Bottles on Their Own
Having one baby hold their own bottle was a game changer. Danae was the first to do it, and I cried big fat tears of elation the first time she held her bottle for an entire feed. The boys followed suit not long after. This milestone brought feeds down to 30 minutes—30 minutes! We could do more with the babies, accomplish more around the house, and adult for longer. We were like Julie Freaking Andrews frolicking through the mountains of Austria. And boy did it feel good!
The downside to this was not getting as much one-on-one time with the babies. That hadn’t been happening as much since we’d moved to having one person feed two babies at a time, but with all three babies holding their own bottles, there wasn’t really a need for someone to hold a baby during a feed. Nevertheless, we tried to do so when there were two or more feeders present. And we tried to rotate who was held so that everyone got equal snuggle time.
That was a lot of info! The following are our top 3 takeaways on how to feed triplets.
Develop a feeding plan before your triplets come home. But be flexible to accommodate for their individual medical needs.
Get comfortable feeding at least two babies on your own shortly after your triplets come home. Prop them in Podsters or Boppies, secure them into a bouncer or a reclined high chair, balance them against your inner thighs—the choice is yours. But find a way to make feeds faster and give you more time with your babies, partner, and life.
Work one-on-one feeds into your approach. Your babies will be short-changed from “normal” one-on-one time by nature, so be intentional about inserting it into the little moments where you can.
A Final Word
Figuring out how to feed triplets was one of the most stressful parts of our babies’ early years. Just know that, as we did, you’ll figure out something workable. And remember that bottles are only a season. Then you get to introduce and transition to solid foods. Start the wailing and gnashing of teeth now.