Do what works for you, says Lisburn mum of triplets
Francesca and Brian Sofley from Lisburn are parents of six-year-old triplets Dylan, Tyler and Joshua, who were born on December 12, 2012.
The triplets came into the world at 32 weeks with Dylan and Tyler weighing just 3lb 6oz and Joshua 3lb. They spent the first eight weeks in neo natal intensive care.
Brain (50) is managing director of steel door company Assa Abloy and Francesca (41) works for eight hours a week in Boots.
In an open letter to the new triplet parents, Francesca has some hard earned advice on what they can expect in the first months and years to come.
She says: “I was told at my first scan I was expecting one baby, then at my 14 week scan they told us we were having twins which was a real shock. At 17 weeks when they said it was triplets we both just looked at each other and laughed, we couldn’t believe it.
“You are scared because you don’t know what to expect and because they had to stay in hospital the first weeks it was hard.
“We were in the hospital every single day and they were so fragile and so small. We got Tyler home first and then three days later the other two.
“I have to be honest, it is really difficult. My advice to you is to do what works for you. I read lots of books but when it came to it, we did what we felt was right.
“When they woke up for their night feed we decided to wake them all up at the same time so as they would all sleep at the same time.
“At first we fed them one after the other but by the time you had finished, the first one was ready to feed again and you didn’t get any sleep.
“I also didn’t carry them around as I was mostly on my own during the day with them, so I would sit them in their bouncy chairs and let them sleep there too and then have my one to one time with each of them.
“One thing we used from the start, and still do, is colour coding. Each one has a different colour and that was used for their dummies, their hats and coats, their clothes, their bedrooms and even their toy boxes.
“Our boys are identical and we didn’t want them to be totally different or totally the same so I would have dressed them in maybe the same outfit but in their different colours.
“I had volunteers from the charities Tinylife and Homestart who came to me four days a week for a couple of hours and they were a Godsend.
“That is definitely something you need to organise as you will need a lot of help. It isn’t easy feeding, changing nappies and trying to look after three babies at the same time.
“It does get a bit easier when they start to feed themselves but then you have a new challenge with new foods.
“My advice is to give them what you eat. I always believe that they should try something before they refuse it and I’ve found that usually they like it. Again it makes life easier than having to cook different meals.
“When they started school we were lucky because there are three classes in their school and we were able to put them into different classes so that they could make their own friends.
“They are very close and are always glad to be together again after school.
“I’ve never had any trouble with them fighting. I also had a rule where when I bought toys, each one got a different one so that when they were bored they could play with each other’s toys. It has also taught them to share.
“Homework is difficult as it can’t be done together and I would spend around two hours each night doing homework with them individually.
“I also give each of them ‘huggy time’ which is an hour of one to one time with me each day which is really precious.
“It is expensive as you have to buy three of everything and at the start we were going through 700 nappies a month. It just means you have to plan ahead for birthdays and restrict numbers as you can’t invite every child in the class to the party as that would be 90 kids!
“I think it is important to have a social life and I love my job even though I only do eight hours a week, it gets me out and helps me to feel refreshed.
“The challenges are constantly there but so is the joy. I am really enjoying them more now that they are a little bit older and they are so much fun to be around. They are three times the hard work but three times the fun.”