Taking Your Premature Twins Home
When you’re finally told that your NICU stay is coming to an end and you’ll be allowed to take your precious premature twins or triplets home, it’s hard to not have mixed feelings.
On the one hand it’s what you have been waiting for since your babies went into NICU. But it’s normal to freak out a little bit too. Suddenly you won’t have a whole team of doctors and nurses caring for your babies and it’ll just be you (plus your support people).
But before you pack your wee ones into the car and drive off into the sunset, you’ll speak with someone from a Homecare team to help you to prepare for the move. Tisha Klein who leads the NICU Community and Homecare Team at Wellington Hospital works with parents to make sure they’re ready when they take their babies home.
The Homecare team, together with doctors and other health professionals (such as a lactation specialist if there are any feeding issues), help you get a realistic idea of what looking after two or more babies will be like. The team will help parents work out how to manage at home including how often will they sleep. How often they will need to be fed and if mum will also have to pump?
Once the babies go home some families will have visits from the Homecare team (all NICU nurses). This is to check the baby’s growth and feeding and to makes sure everyone is settling in ok. If everything is going well they hand over to a midwife or Plunket/ Tamariki Ora to make sure the family is well looked after.
“Everyone who has babies in NICU can also see a social worker if they’d like to” Tisha explains. “That’s not because anything is wrong, but to make sure the new parents have the support the need”. They may help to get a pump, help with WINZ or just lend an ear.
NICU Wellington offers a class on coping when the babies come home. A lot of NICU parents miss some or all of their antenatal classes due to early arrivals, so Plunket runs a class at hospital where parents learn about practical things about managing babies at home. The NICU Homecare team teaches a more specific class for infants preparing for discharge including car seats, safe sleeping arrangements, bedding, room temperature, clothing, etc.
Preparing for the Babies Arrival
There are a few things premature twin parents are encouraged to look out for when they’re getting their home ready for the new family members.
“We recommend parents of premature twins get separate beds for their babies” Tisha says. Ideally they should have their own bassinets in the parents’ bedroom.
In NICU most babies’ vital functions are continuously monitored, and when these monitors are removed it can be a bit frightening for the parents. Tisha explains that the monitors come off in hospital as soon as they’re not needed, so that the parents can get used to having their babies in cots without any wires attached them before they take their babies home.
“A small percentage of babies will go home with a monitor, and those parents will get special training. But most parents will learn to trust themselves and watch their babies carefully” she says.
It’s only natural to be a bit nervous, and many parents wonder if they should buy expensive baby movement monitors for their twins. If a monitor is required for a clinical reason the unit will issue one. If the baby does not require clinical monitoring at home the parents may choose to buy a commercial monitor for parental reassurance.
“It’s also important to have babies’ clothes and bedding made from natural products like merino, cotton or wool. Babies covered in polar fleece can easily overheat” she warns.
How to Get the Babies Home
A lot of premmies are still very small when they go home, much smaller than full-term newborns, and they don’t fit into standard car capsules. And there aren’t any car seats made especially for premmies.
Of course that doesn’t mean the wee ones have to go home without being safely fitted into a standard car seat. The unit staff will show new parents how to position their precious goods in regular capsules with the help of some cloth nappies to make sure they’re safe in the car.
Before bringing the babies home she urges the parents to make sure the freezer is stocked as full as possible!
“Make a plan of how you will manage your days. Get support from friends or family, but at the same time make sure that everyone who comes into contact with your little ones is healthy” she says.
“In an ideal world we want the babies to be as protected as possible and not exposed to unnecessary outings, such as school runs and so on. But in the real world that’s not always possible so it’s important to keep them warm (in natural fabrics), use buggy rain covers and be sensible.”
Twin parents should be prepared to be very tired for the first while at home with their babies.
“They’ll be getting up a lot to feed and it can be a good idea to limit visitors for a while” she recommends. Some people don’t tell their extended family and friends when they go home from NICU so that they can settle in properly and feel ready to deal with visitors.
Although many parents are over the moon that they finally can take their babies home and want to show them off to everyone, she cautions parents that “over-handled babies don’t settle well or feed well.”
Despite all the advice, the first couple of months can be overwhelming. So if you find that you’re struggling with your multiples make sure to reach out for help!
For more information on where to find the help and support you might need read our article on Support Services for Parents of Twins
What was the most valuable advice you received to help you prepare to take your premature twins home? Comment below.