Twins and higher-order multiples have greater odds of being premature and needing a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) stay. Although no parent wants to spend any amount of time in the NICU, if you are expecting multiples, it is best to know what to expect and be prepared. Start off by asking your caregiver to give you a tour of the NICU facility when you tour your hospital prior to delivery. Ask about private spaces for lactation and consultations, as well as family or sleep spaces. Find out if you are allowed to bring photos, your own linens and other keepsakes for each baby from home to decorate their incubators.
The first things you may notice when you initially see your babies in the nicu are the many wires and tubes attached to them. Some of the most common are a pulse oximeter (a tiny light on their finger/foot), a cardio respiratory monitor made up of three patches, a blood pressure monitor, a temperature probe, a heart monitor, various lines for medicines, oxygen via tubes into the nostril or a respirator, and/or a gastric tube. Ask the care team to explain each one and why they are necessary.
Get to know the staff, doctors and nurses that will be taking care of your babies. The more you communicate with them, the more information they are likely to share. Don’t be afraid to ask questions along the way and if you don’t understand, ask for clarification. You will be faced with a lot of medical terminology and asked to make a lot of decisions, so try to ensure you understand each interaction with a doctor or nurse. Along the way, keep a log for each baby of important pieces of information you receive and concerns or questions you have so you can make the most of the daily rounds.
Request kangaroo care and to interact with each baby as much as the hospital and care team will allow. Even if your babies are not well enough for physical contact, you can interact by reading, singing and talking to them. Another great way to start bonding with your babies even while they are in their incubators is to be involved in their care by helping change diapers, take temperatures, and if possible, to feed them.
Cnsider setting up an online journal or blog to keep friends and family updated. This will also serve as a place where you can share your emotions and thoughts while having a recording of your NICU journey. You can use this outlet as a way to celebrate milestones like weight gain or coming off a medicine. Another way to share your emotions is to talk with other parents in the NICU. They understand and may have resources or tips to share to improve your hospital experience…
… to read more about managing the NICU, about putting your babies together in an isolet, what to do if one baby comes home before the other, and learn about the most important thing to remember while your babies are in the NICU. Turn to page 7 in the Fall 2013 issue of Multiplicity Magazine.
Julie McCaffrey is a mommy to 3 kids, including a set of twins. Julie owns BabyNav Baby Planners where she offers personalized consultation to new and expecting parents. She is a modern baby gear expert and loves to help parents navigate everything from baby gear to preparing for multiples, to getting back to work and getting the whole family on a routine. You can also follow her on Facebook.
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