I left the NICU thinking we had mastered the basics of baby caring. Of course, things couldn’t be further from the truth. What seemed as simple as breathing in hospital became a complicated mess at home. Indeed, the bottles from hospital worked wonderfully with our babies, they drank everything without issue. The day we left things began to go wrong.

All three of our girls had reflux to some degree so were on anti-regurgitation formula, and while Alicia would down a bottle in mere minutes (which inspired us to sing the Tequila! song every time), Ana would take her time, with Laura coming in somewhere between the two.

Grandma had bought for us 24 Tommee Tippee bottles that she found on offer (3 x 8 feeds a day). They were meant to be top of the range and the closest there is to momma’s boob for a baby, and blah blah. Problem is, my babies have never been breastfed (hats off to triplet mums who do it) and we didn’t stop to think that it wasn’t a factor. Furthermore, they didn’t work that well for us with thickened milk and Ana, who sucked at sucking (and still does) because of her bad reflux past, couldn’t get a drop out of them. And the bottles simply don’t work if you forget to open the fiddly valve before every feed.

To add complications to the mix, Laura was still on premature formula which required thickening in a completely different manner. Alicia wasn’t an issue because she drank like a vacuum cleaner.

Our drying racks

We ended up trying the Avent Natural bottles with multispeed teats and they worked – and still work – like a charm for us. For night feeds we use different coloured bottles so we can keep track of who drank what. We use two drying stations for bottles and other related paraphernalia. (Tommee Tippee rack in the back and Avent in the front, both have their usefulness).

Right at the beginning we made plans for how to sterilise and prepare so many bottles on a daily basis, only for staff at the hospital to ruin our carefully considered preparation. The ‘modern’ policy is that that sterilisation is no longer recommended. The reasoning seemed logical – sterile environments lead to allergies.

Our new plan was to prepare each feed individually, using a bottle warmer for Laura’s milk while relying on microwaved bottles for the other two. We also tried the bottles in a large pan of boiling water but the microwave seemed the easiest method. Until, that is, we realised that it wasn’t warming the milk evenly.

Sterilising solution changed daily

Everything seemed awfully complicated. In the middle of all our attempts to find a feeding routine, our girls got a case of thrush in the mouth, which quickly moved to the potty. It started with one girl, Alicia we think, and soon spread to the others thanks to the ‘no sterilising’ advice. This might be a great progress in baby care for parents with one baby, but when you have multiples, steralising remains a must.

Now we compromise. We don’t sterilise bottles but we do sterilise teats and dummies in cold water with Milton tabs.

Still looking for a long-term bottle preparing solution, one day Paul, who had been researching the issue, came to me proposing we try the Tommee Tippee perfect prep machine. Months before, while pregnant, I had tried to convince him to purchase this machine but he dismissed my proposal. I could have killed him when he came back with it. I would have, except I was really pleased to finally get it, thinking it would save us a lot of time. And indeed it did. It makes the bottle to the desired temperature and there’s no time to waste with testing the milk on the wrist etc.

We have both the UK version (which begins with a hot shot of boiling water in order to sterilise the powder), and the French version (which doesn’t), one upstairs and one downstairs. Turns out that the French version is better for thickened milk as this formula requires mixing at room temperature, which the hot shot would otherwise prevent. However, the UK version still works, you just need to add the formula after the machine has dispensed the water.

Funnily enough we had just returned to thickened formula after a short-lived spell with normal milk (more on this in another post about reflux) and for some reason we found ourselves unable to make a bottle without lumps in it. Never mind how much we shook the bottle after mixing, there was always some bit of undissolved formula that would clump in the teat and totally spoil the feed. “For some reason” turned out to be that we hadn’t read the formula instructions which clearly stated that we had to mix the formlua by gently turning the bottle in our hands rather than with a violent shake. Also, the water needed to be at room temperature which meant the hot shot wasn’t helping.

We now read all labels.

The Perfect Prep machine had made things easier and quicker, but there was an additional improvement that Paul, in a moment of clarity, decided to try – making the three feeds in a jug, then portioning them out into bottles. He bought a special jug on amazon.co.uk and it’s probably one of the best gadgets we have.

So yes, we can safely say that we now jug-feed our babies 🙂

We also prepare the formula portions once a day for the next 24 hours. That way, when feeding frenzy kicks in, we can do it all in the fastest manner possible.

Formula portions ready and waiting to be used

This is as always a long post so I’ll summarise what most people (if they’re anything like me) look for:

What works (for us):

  • Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine (both UK and France versions)
  • Philips Avent Natural bottles with multi-speed teats (with enough to cover a full day without needing to wash)
  • Dr. Brown’s Formula Mixing Pitcher (cannot stress this enough)
  • Portioning feeds in little plastic tubs ready for the day ahead
  • Sterilising teets & cleaning bottles in dishwasher
  • Cold water sterilising

What didn’t work for us

  • Tommee Tippee bottles & teats
  • Microwave sterilising bottles (or anything else)
  • Microwaving bottles

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