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Ask Dr. Sears: Breastfeeding Triplets

Q. I'm due to give birth to triplets -- and while I'd love to breastfeed if I'm able, it sounds like it might be too hard to breastfeed three babies. What are some tips for breastfeeding multiple babies?

A. In our pediatric practice, I can recall at least five mothers of triplets who breastfed for varying lengths of time. Since the majority of multiples are born prematurely, it's actually even more important to breastfeed, if at all possible. Premature infants have a premature immune system, and breast milk contains lots of natural immune-boosters that are vital for your babies. Even Mother Nature knows this: moms who deliver premature babies produce milk that contains extra amounts of the protein and immune-fighters that your babies will need. It is true that breastfeeding triplets will be a triple-challenge, as any mom of multiples will tell you. It can be done, however, and here's what you can do to increase your chances of successfully breastfeeding:

Where there's a will, there's a way. Breastfeeding has been described as a confidence game, and I believe this to be true. If you are determined to make it work, it will. On the other hand, mothers who have an "optional" approach to breastfeeding may be less likely to succeed. Think of breastfeeding as a natural extension of your pregnancy. As your body worked to grow your babies, it will work to produce and deliver milk.

Get professional help. Prior to delivery and in the first few days after birth, obtain the services of a professional lactation consultant (you can get a recommendation from your healthcare provider or hospital; she should have experience with premature babies). The consultant will give you a demonstration on how to properly position your baby at the breast, as well as latch-on instructions. She'll also show you how to first nurse one baby at a time, and then two babies simultaneously. I also recommend joining the La Leche League

Read all about it. Check out The Breastfeeding Book.

Get domestic help. Let's be realistic -- once the babies arrive, the last thing you're going to think about are household chores. You're going to need to devote the majority of your time and energy to your children, and to healing your body from the rigors of childbirth. Don't feel guilty about delegating as much as possible to willing friends and relatives.

My final bit of advice is to nap-nurse with your babies as much as possible. You and your babies will need to take a lot of naps, especially during the early months. Learn to rest with a baby at each breast. The relaxing hormones that you produce during nursing will help you unwind, as well as make milk for your babies. That said, Martha and I send you triple the good wishes!

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