After I had my first baby, I spent the first three weeks struggling with nursing. Because he wasn’t gaining weight, before we left the hospital, the doctor recommended “triple feeding” – or nursing, pumping, and bottle feeding – each time I fed my baby.
Triple feeding is difficult and exhausting, but can lead to a successful breastfeeding relationship (whether that ends up being nursing or exclusive pumping). Here’s how to make it work.
What is triple feeding?
As mentioned above, triple feeding means that you do three things every time you feed your baby – nurse, pump, and bottle feed. The idea is that first you nurse your baby as much as you can, then, if your baby is still hungry, you top him off with a bottle of either pumped breast milk or formula. (It’s also sometimes called “breast is best but follow with a bottle.”)
Then, to make sure your supply stays even with what your baby is taking, you pump in order to remove as much milk as possible from your breasts. (You can then bottle feed whatever you pump to your baby at a later feeding.)
Why would you triple feed?
Nursing moms generally end up triple feeding when their baby isn’t gaining sufficient weight from nursing alone. This can happen for a number of reasons – some babies who were in the NICU have a hard time switching from breast to bottle, for example.
The goal is to keep the baby fed, both via nursing and the top up from the bottle, while continually working on nursing so that eventually the pumping and bottle feeding steps can stop.
How can you make nursing, pumping, and bottle feeding easier?
Here are seven ways to make triple feeding manageable.
1. Get a hands-free pumping bra.
Since you’re going to be spending a lot of time pumping, you need to be able to do other things while you pump. A hands-free bra can be life-changing! You can get stuff done on a laptop, eat dinner or even just relax a little bit while you pump.
2. When possible, get someone else to do the bottle feeding step.
If you have a partner or another caregiver around when you finish nursing, ask them to do the bottle feeding while you get started pumping. This is the step you can hand off to someone else, so don’t be afraid to do just that!
3. When that’s not possible, see if you can do the bottle feeding step while you pump.
If you pump with a hands-free bra, you might be able to pump and bottle feed at the same time. Some babies need a lot of burping or to be held at a special angle due to reflux, and this might not be possible for those babies. However, if you can lay your baby in your lap and feed while you pump, this will save you 10-15 minutes each feeding session, or almost two hours total each day.
4. It’s okay to skip either the nursing step or the pumping step once in awhile.
In most cases you should try to do all three steps to make sure you keep your supply up and your baby learns to nurse. However, burnout is a real concern. If you need to take a break and skip nursing or pumping once a day to save your sanity, it will be okay.
5. If you’re having pain with nursing or pumping, don’t just grin and bear it – see if you can fix the issue.
Ideally, nursing and pumping should not hurt. If you’re having pain while nursing and you’re not working with a lactation consultant, it might not be a bad idea to see one to see there is an issue with your latch.
6. If possible, do something you enjoy while nursing/pumping.
Watch Netflix, read on your Kindle, or talk on the phone – whatever you can do to take a break. If that’s not possible and you need to wrangle your baby while you pump, here’s how to do it.
7. Let as much go around the house and in your life as you can.
You cannot keep your house perfectly clean and cook when you are spending an hour and a half feeding your baby eight times a day. That is 12 hours a day, and no one who works 12 hours a day gets everything else in their lives done – they either have help, or it just doesn’t get done.
8. Remember that this isn’t forever.
Triple feeding is something that should be very temporary – a way to keep your supply up while you and your baby figure out nursing. Hopefully, you can switch to nursing fairly quickly, and if that doesn’t work out, either exclusively pumping or formula feeding are good options too. Whatever you choose, you are doing a great job!
How do you transition from triple feeding to nursing?
To transition from triple feeding to nursing, you’d reduce the amount that you’re topping your baby off after a nursing session until the top offs aren’t necessary. This could be gradual or abrupt – as soon as your baby is getting what he needs from nursing, you don’t need to pump and bottle feed anymore.
How do you know when he’s getting enough from nursing? I would get a baby scale and weigh baby before and after nursing. The difference in weight is the amount he took. (Poop can complicate this, so try to weigh as soon as you’re done feeding.)
How do you transition from triple feeding to exclusive pumping?
Once you decide you what to exclusively pumping, you can just drop the nursing step. If you want, you can continue to comfort nurse if you’d like, or you can continue one triple feeding session a day to keep working at nursing.
Have you used triple feeding to feed your baby? Give us all your tips in the comments!