A day in the life…

I have people all the time ask about our schedule and “how we do it.” First of all, everyone and every baby is different. So what works for us, may not work for you. My babies were born at 32+5, each weighing very close to 4pounds. They were in the NICU for 5 weeks. I pumped breastmilk while they were in the NICU but stopped and switched to only formula (similac sensitive) when they came home. This is what worked for US but again, please don’t read this as me saying that our way is better. I know that our situation is unique. Dealing with preemies and triplets is obviously different then a singleton, BUT we have had 3 babies sleeping through the night since they were 3 months old and would love to share our schedule in case it is helpful for others. If you are trying to get your baby to sleep through the night and it isn’t going well, I always encourage people to stick to a schedule! We do follow Baby Wise/Mom’s on Call – eat, play, sleep method, but adjusted it to what worked for us. As a statistics teacher with 3 babies, I am loving all of the experiments and problem solving that I have gotten to do. I am big on isolating variables and only changing one thing at a time so that I don’t have as many confounding variables. haha You laugh, but it’s true.

Since our babies were in the NICU, the hospital already had the babies on a 3 hour schedule but they were all slightly different so we adjusted to the middle schedule and got all 3 aligned pretty quickly when they came home. Originally all 3 slept in rock n plays in our room and had to be woken every 3 hours to feed even in the night.

Here is our schedule for months 1-5:

8am – wake, diaper, bottle, “play”, sleep

11am –  wake, diaper, bottle, “play”, sleep

2pm, 5pm, 8pm,11pm, 2am, 5am,…repeat

Throughout these first 5 months, we were slowly able to drop the nighttime feeds. After 2-3 months, we were able to let them have one 4 hour stretch at night, then a 5 hour, etc. (we followed the pediatrician to know when this was allowed). Around 3 – 4 months we had dropped all but 1 nighttime feed (around 4am) and the babies were sleeping from 8pm-4am. We would diaper and feed at 4am and straight back to bed till 8am.

We would wake up the babies if it was feeding time and they were still asleep. This seems crazy to some people, but it really helped them and eventually they would wake up right on the hour and still do to this day. Before we fed, we changed all 3 diapers, then fed each a bottle, then “played” as long as possible and back to sleep. Repeat.

If and when they wake up before the next feed, we would rock, hold, use a pacifier to get them to wait. This is sometimes hard but once they get used to the schedule it is so great. At night, after we fed them, they would immediately go back to sleep in the rock n play. Sometimes we would go 2.5 hours at night if they were losing their minds and we were tired. Haha

Play time during these months included tummy time, laying on their back on a baby play mat, or just holding them and talking to them.

Nap time took place in the living room in these little fisher price infant to toddler rocking chairs that I love. I would wrap them in a swaddle blanket with their arms swaddled up. We used different swaddles for nap and nighttime. At night we used the velcro, straight jacket ones! The light in the living room from the windows and the different swaddle helped them start to differentiate between naps and nighttime sleep. We did not use a sound machine or stay silent during nap time either. They got used to napping with noise and each other’s cries and still do really well with that. Because of this, they can now nap around noises and they are not woken up by each other. Even while I write this, Oliver is in the nursery “talking” very loudly while the other 2 are sound asleep.

IMG_8921

Feeding was either done by multiple people all at one time or I would prop them around 3 months. Then I eventually fed the boys at the same time and then Lucy right afterward once Lucy stopped being a fan of propping.

Again if they wake up before the next feeding time, we just let them rest, put in a pacifier, rock them, but it is clearly NOT play time and we do not feed them early.

At 5 months we moved the rock n plays downstairs, moved their bedtimes to 7pm, and dropped the 4am feed. We did these changes one at a time and waited a few days to make sure each change didn’t mess them up before changing something else. Again, I have to isolate the variables 🙂 At 5.5 months we moved them to cribs. We also started having them nap in cribs at this point.

Here is our 3 hour schedule for months 5-7:

7am – diaper change, bottle, play

8am –  oatmeal cereal+veggie/fruit, play

8:30/9 – when they start getting fussy, I put them in a zippadee zip and lay them down in their crib for a nap. If they wake up early, I lay them with a pacifier in their rocker in the living room without talking to them or interacting. They just lay and relax or fuss a little until the next feed.

10am – diaper, bottle, play

11:30/12 – nap

1pm – diaper, bottle, play

2:30/3 – nap

4pm -diaper, bottle, play

5pm – feed oatmeal cereal+fruit/veggie, play

NO NAP

Bath

7pm – diaper, zippadee zip, bottle, straight down to sleep in cribs

IMG_2556This is a picture of their zippadee zips.

If they cried in the night, we would try to let them self soothe, but would often need to soothe by picking them up, bouncing a couple times, and put them back down with a pacifier. Derek and I worked out a system since he had trouble going back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. I would usually go down if a baby cried between 9pm- 3am and Derek would go if it was from 7pm-9pm or 3am-7am. No nighttime feeds anymore though! Also, sweet Derek has always brought the monitor downstairs for at least an hour in the mornings so that I can completely zone out. haha

They started oatmeal cereal around month 4. Then, we did veggie/fruit puree around month 5. In these months, the puree and oatmeal feeds were not for nutrition but just teaching them how to eat. We didn’t worry about how much they got but just had fun trying different flavors (one at a time of course…keep those confounding variables to a minimum. haha) We first put purees before the bottle but then they wanted less of their bottle. Our pediatrician reminded us that until 12 months, the bottle is their main source of nutrition, so we switched and put the bottle an hour before purees and that was a great order for us. By month 7 they were baby food eating pros and able to stay awake for longer periods of time. Around month 7 we decided to drop a nap and switch to a 4 hour schedule.

Here is our 4 hour schedule for months 7-12:

7am – wake up, diaper, bottle, play

8am – breakfast (from 7m- 10m we still did purees but slowly weaned them into finger foods until they wanted less and less purees).  After bottle and after feeding we play.

9:30am – nap – Each baby gets wrapped in a zippadee zip. Each baby sleeps in a separate room for naps. It is mostly easier on me so that when one wakes up, I can go get that one without waking up the others.

11am – diaper, bottle, play

12pm – lunch (puree or finger food or both)

1:30pm – nap

3pm – diaper, bottle, play

4:30pm – dinner (puree or finger food or both)

6/6:30 – bath

7pm – bed – For a while we had to put them to sleep at 6:30pm because they just couldn’t make it to 7pm. They were still in their zippadee zips until about 10m when the boys really wanted to be able to pick up their pacifiers better. Starting around month 7, we only go into their room at night if they are sick, teething, or hysterical. We RARELY pick them up though. We pat them or make sure they have a pacifier, but picking up is a last ditch effort and very rarely done. This was our own version of Cry It Out. We let them cry for 5-10 minutes on their own without going in to pat them. Usually in those 5-10minutes they figure it out. If the pat did not help then we give them about 15 minutes before going in again to pat.

We are now debating dropping our morning nap and that will of course change the schedule again. I think the teacher in me loves the “lesson planning.” It does sometimes feel like as soon as we get completely used to a schedule, it’s time to switch it up and do something new, but at least that keeps us from getting bored. Also, I really do try to rest when they rest. I’m not a big napper, but am a big fan of rest (see my last post). Sometimes that means that the clothes stay unfolded or the kitchen stays dirty, but a healthy mom is always better than a clean kitchen. My prayer for those of you knee deep in middle of the night feeds, no sleep, endless diaper changes, spit up everywhere, and not knowing which way is up: May the God of peace make your eyes to see the sweet baby smiles and not just the mess around you. May He fill you with strength when you can barely open your eyes so that you are able to be fully present in this moment. May He remind you that those little fingers that grab a hold of your finger will soon grow and that spit up does wash out. May He fill you with wisdom to know when to take a break and let friends and family help. May He surround you with a community that loves you as you love your little one(s). And may you find rest, sweet rest in the midst of the beautiful chaos.

Feeding Triplets and Finding Rest

A lot of people ask me about breastfeeding and feeding in general with triplets. I’m sure you have noticed, but Derek and I are super open about our experience so those questions really don’t bother me. While I was pregnant I knew all along that the possibility of me breastfeeding very long was slim. I wanted to try, but bottom line was that I wanted to do what was best for the babies and was open to whatever feeding method that may be. Since they were born almost 8 weeks early, they did not know how to suck. I started pumping immediately after they were born. Pumping around the clock with your babies in intensive care far away from you is miserable, but it also gave me purpose and made me feel close to my babies at the same time. I tried breastfeeding during the first week and kept trying each time I was allowed to see the babies (once or twice a day) but it was really hard for them. Latching was just not a skill that they were capable of as preemies. Some moms of preemies are lucky and their babies figure out latching quickly but that wasn’t the case for me. I still kept pumping and my babies had my breastmilk the entire 5 weeks that they were in the NICU. Also, it took a few weeks for SLO to even learn how to take a bottle. I had always thought that to leave the NICU a baby had to be 5 pounds. Turns out that graduating from the NICU has nothing to do with size. The 4 things that a baby has to accomplish before leaving the hospital is breathing on their own without their heart rate dropping for 5 days straight, maintaining temperature, maintaining and consistently gaining weight, AND they had to be able to drink 16 bottles in a row (only bottles for 2 straight days). At the beginning, this seemed impossible. We would celebrate when one of them would drink 10ml out of  a bottle (30ml is 1oz). Since our goal was for them to be able to drink a bottle, it felt weird to encourage them to do anything but that.

IMG_3773

The biggest hurdle in breastfeeding though was this terrible thing called mastitis. I had to go through a lot of physical pain in carrying and birthing triplets, but seriously nothing compares to the pain of mastitis. It destroyed me. Because I was only pumping and making enough milk for 3 babies, my body just could not handle it. Mastitis is a really painful infection that causes shakes and fevers and aches. After week 3 of mastitis, I decided that my body was trying to tell me it had had enough. So, I started weaning myself off of pumping. It was the same time that the babies were coming home. Less time pumping, meant more time holding and snuggling babies. I have so much respect for mom’s of multiples that breastfeed, pump, or both!! Seriously, you guys are CHAMPS!! For me, the best decision was moving to formula. Each mom and family has to figure out what is best for them, and I seriously understand and respect moms that sacrifice their bodies and free time to breastfeed and the moms like me that decide to formula feed. Mom shaming and mom guilt is so real, but really we are all just doing our best to take care of our babies and ourselves and just keep doing you!

Derek and I loved getting to tag team with bottles. It was so much fun getting to fully share the feeding task. We had our system in the middle of the night where he would go make bottles and I would change diapers and we would each feed one of the boys and whoever finished first got Lucy. It was always a race. I also love that we got to invite family and friends to join in too. Our parents got to be feeding experts, and I got to watch all kinds of friends that I love feed my tiny babies. There was (and is) always a baby to share.

IMG_0781

It was a sad and wonderful day at the same time when the babies learned how to hold their own bottles. I genuinely loved feeding three babies. When I was on my own, I would feed both boys at the same time while calm Lucy played at my feet. Then I would feed Lucy while the boys rested. Feeding time was really calming and created sweet bonding time for me. Even the middle of the night feeds bring such sweet memories. I loved sitting with Derek (or my mom) in the dark holding babies. We had dreamed of that exact thing for so long, and I love that bottle feeding really allowed Derek and I to be equal partners. We had to be a true team. And together, we learned how to rest with our babies in the midst of the crazy. We would go from all 3 crying and the mad rush of changing 3 diapers and making bottles (side note: the Baby Breeza is the best invention maybe ever, yes ever) to silence while the babies ate. It was so peaceful. We still feed them a bottle before bed and hold all three in the dark to bottle feed. It is often the most peaceful time of my day. I love sitting there with all 5 of us quietly just resting.

IMG_3309

Every year I have a theme verse or verses that cover something that I want to embody or learn that year. This year, my verse is Exodus 33:14: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” I like to get the full context so I have started in Exodus 1 and have been re-reading about Moses and the journey of the Israelites out of slavery and into the wilderness. This is a weird time for the Israelites. They have been slaves for centuries and are now trying to figure out their new identity in freedom. They have not entered the Promised Land and aren’t technically even wandering aimlessly through the wilderness yet. They are just trying to heal and catch their breath after the plagues and the Red Sea. In that time of waiting, God begins to teach and shape the Israelites. He gives them the 10 commandments and really lays out laws and rules of living in harmony with one another. He teaches them about how to communicate with Him and how to obey and respect Him. He teaches them how to remember and celebrate, to dance and to mourn. He teaches them about art and how to build the Ark of the Covenant, the Table, the Lampstand, and the Tabernacle. He teaches some of them how to be priests and how to properly be in the presence of God. He teaches them about sacrifices and incense and altars and so much more. BUT as I have been reading, I am amazed that one of the very first things that God teaches the Israelites as they leave slavery in Egypt and begin a new life is to REST. First God provides water, manna, and quail. He takes care of their physical needs, and then He commands them to take a day off. Not just one time, but one day a week, every week! Exodus 16:23, “ This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord.’” This is where the Sabbath begins. In order for them to truly love God and others, they need to learn how to take a break and just dwell with the Lord and one another.  If you find yourself in a season of wandering or waiting, let God teach you how to rest. Infertility did that for Derek and I. I wasn’t allowed to work out as much, and just really had to be still a lot. So I rested. Now, life with triplets is insane but for us, it is a Promised Land. It is a place that we had longed for and journeyed long and far and we arrived at the most beautiful promise fulfilled. But when we forget that essential piece of rest, we forget that this is the Promised Land. We forget that God is with us and that His presence will be with us through all of the new challenges. In the verses after Exodus 33:14, Moses asks God to let him see His Glory. God responds to Moses, “Stand on the rock, and when my glory passes by, I will put you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.” As we begin year 2 with SLO, my prayer is that God’s presence will go with us and that he will again give us rest. I pray that He covers us with His hand and that we learn more and more about the ever present glory of the Lord.