Anyway, I'd already introduced rice cereal via their nighttime bottle at the beginning of September. While I know some may frown on this—even our pediatrician's office didn't advise it, but they understood we were working with four preemie babies and our focus was on weight gain and sleeping longer—it went amazingly well. They didn't take long to adjust to the texture and we began with one formula-sized scoop of cereal in their bottles and worked up to two loose scoops mixed into roughly six ounces of formula. (They are still on the Similac Neosure formula, which is higher calorie. And expensive!) Since we use Dr. Brown bottles, I got Level 3 nipples to use with the cereal/formula mix—a great tip from a fellow quad mom!
They continued to gain weight very nicely, averaging an ounce a day, and began sleeping more soundly at night. We found a direct correlation between them staying fuller longer and being more satisfied when going down at night, as well as a slight improvement with spit-ups since the rice cereal was a bit weightier than formula and "stuck to their ribs" better.
But back to the bottle chewing. By this time it was mid-October, and I figured why not, let's go for it! So I nervously chunked some rice cereal into a small bowl and added formula until I'd reached a soupy consistency. Then my nanny, April, and I grabbed a couple of spoons and went to work. It was hilarious. The quads all made the weirdest "what the heck is this" face and smacked their lips, stuck their tongues out, hesitantly swallowed, wiped their arms across their faces and smeared cereal everywhere, wiped it on their boppies and clothes then looked at us all bug-eyed, wondering what we were feeding them. Then, after a few messy spoonfuls, they decided they liked it after all and started swallowing it down. I truly think it helped A LOT that I had already introduced the cereal in their nighttime bottles—so they knew the taste, they just had to adjust to the texture.
After about two weeks of feeding rice cereal before their second bottle of the day, I realized I could feed their bottles first and they'd still eat the spoon feeding afterward. (I was worried if they weren't very hungry, they wouldn't be interested, but it doesn't seem to matter too much.) I did alter the amounts in their bottles a tad bit, shaving off 20 to 30mls depending on the pattern I saw on the charts, since we log everyone's bottle every day.
It was also about this time I decided they were ready for some real food! Here's where the true adventure began. It took me a little while to realize that you must start with basic plain foods, like bananas, apples, peas, squash, etc. so that you can rule out any food allergies as you introduce each of these into their diet. I also learned it's best to wait four to five days after introducing a new food before you add another one—this way, if there are any allergic reactions, you can ascertain that it came from the last food introduced into their diet.
But I still wasn't sure what I wanted to start with or how I wanted to incorporate the feed and once I did add real food, did I still feed the rice cereal? I had no idea. So I ordered the book Super Baby Foods on Amazon and gave it a quick flip through. I have only gotten through the first quarter of the book to get me started and definitely found some of it helpful, while some of it didn't apply to multiples or preemies and other things, like the author's strong advice to give your infants water after feeding foods, didn't hold any, well, water with my pediatrician. It did list, however, foods that are least allergenic like avocados, sweet potatoes, bananas and so on, thus I decided to give bananas a shot first!
Then my next lesson in feeding occurred. I marched to Target and loaded up on TONS of Gerber's basic "first foods" like pureed bananas, peas, prunes, green beans, squash and so on. I bought the organic version if it was available, including some organic peaches from Plum Organics. Then I attracted quite a few curious onlookers at check-out when I filled the conveyor belt with stacks of baby food before hauling it all home and working like mad to find some spare space to store it. Then I took most of it back.
I didn't really read the ingredient labels when I bought the stuff, because I assumed baby food had to be just that: pureed food! Right? Wrong! Some of the regular stuff had preservatives in it and some of the Gerber organic foods, like apples, had all this: organic apples, water, tuna oil, ascorbic acid, gelatin, choline bitartrate, alpha tocopheryl acetate.
The front of the package does claim it has "extra" DHA and choline in the food to help support brain and eye development, as well as added Vitamin C and E. But I figured foods should have vitamins in them as they are and I didn't know where that tuna oil came from and I also didn't see the need for gelatin in the food. So I nixed the Gerber stuff and stocked up on Plum Organics fruits (they don't have a vegetable line yet, but one is in the works!). Their stuff is very straight forward, no additions, no added vitamins and no preservatives, plus all the fruit is organic. I knew I wanted to do sweet potatoes next so I started reading labels and found that I liked Earth's Best brand, which included organic sweet potatoes and water. Boom.
We started off feeding with four bowls and four spoons. Now we're down to two bowls with four spoons (each baby gets their own spoon) and I'm pretty sure it's gonna be one bowl and one spoon before long. I don't like spreading germs but none of the quads are sick so at this point sanity wins! If any of the babies did seem sickly, they would certainly get their own bowl and spoon. Most of the time, there are two people to do feedings so each of us takes two babies and they remain sitting in their boppies just like they do for the bottle feeds. (They're not quite able to sit up on their own yet. When they are, we'll switch to booster chairs.) I've also done a couple of spoon feeds on my own, which typically goes fine unless Trystan decides you aren't feeding her fast enough. She will eat anything any way she can get it. I swear, that girl is ready for a sippy cup!
So now we've successfully spoon fed rice cereal, bananas, sweet potatoes and the newest addition, carrots. We've not encountered any allergies and the feeders (me, my mom, our nanny, my step-dad and the husband!) always show great enthusiasm when feeding to encourage the quads to taste, bite and swallow and not be deterred by any less than savory flavors. So there's lots of incessant, albeit slightly annoying, YUMS! OH!!! YUMMY! talk going on around the 12pm hour. Ah, welcome to babyland. Or quadville. Take your pick. Our living room does look like Babies R Us puked all over it—if puke was made of baby swings, bouncers, pack-and-plays, blankets, toys, floor mats and boppies. And babies. :)
While I have still fed some of the pre-made foods, I've ordered two sets of Mumi&Bubi Solids Starter Kit baby food freezer trays on Amazon. They were the largest ones I could find and I love how easy it is to get the food in and out—I just run hot water over the pods I want to use and then slide the food out like an ice cube. They melt in about 20 seconds in the microwave. Each tray holds 22 one-ounce portions, making it easy for me to prepare and freeze a few weeks worth of spoon feedings. And I can do up to four foods at a time, one tray of each, as we've also begun serving more than one food per feeding. For example, this morning the quads got a serving of bananas and one of carrots. Yesterday they got rice cereal with some banana mixed in. Mmm mmm good.
Then I spoon it into the trays and pop them into the freezer. Done.
Carrots are served!
And they are a huuuuuge mess! But it's okay. Mom comes prepared with face wipes and extra burp cloths. And occasionally new clothes. ;)
We still do bottles of formula and, as of yesterday, have dropped from five bottles to four and increased from three hour feeds to four. It's gone swimmingly and the quads are already learning to take in more of their bottles to accommodate for the lesser amount of feedings. Essentially, we took that fifth bottle and divided it up among their four bottles a day to be sure they are still getting the same number of ounces when it's all said and done. Don't want these growing babes to lose out on any calories!
They aren't finishing all their bottles just yet but I'm giving them a few days to adjust. And we've noticed that they're definitely hungrier at some feeds than others, but overall they're doing very well. So our new feeding schedule (which I pinned down thanks to help from my fellow quad momma, Ashley) is this:
8am - bottle feeding
11:45am - bottle feeding followed by spoon feed
3:30pm - bottle feed
7pm - nighttime bottle feed with 2 scoops rice cereal
The quads are now also sleeping 11 to 12 hours! It's phenomenal. And with the extra time in between feeds, I feel like we're slowly getting part of our lives back. I love it. Happy parents equal happy babies!
I've just about got my second FAQ post finished AND we had our first professional photo shoot with the babies yesterday—four outfit changes and four locations around the house!—so I can't wait to share all that with you soon. As always, thanks for reading!