Care of multiple birth babies
Often, multiples are born small and early. They may be initially cared for in a special
care nursery called the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
In the NICU
The NICU combines advanced technology and trained healthcare professionals to provide
specialized care for the tiniest patients. NICUs may also have intermediate or continuing
care areas for babies who are not as sick but do need specialized nursing care. Some
hospitals do not have the personnel or an NICU, and babies must be transferred to
In most cases, you can be with your babies in the NICU at any time. The staff of the
NICU will give you instructions on special hand-washing techniques before entering
the area. In some cases, you may need to wear a mask. Occasionally, during a procedure,
or when the hospital staff are making "rounds," parents may be asked to wait for a
few minutes before coming into the area. Although most NICUs permit visitation of
babies by other family members, limiting visitors is a good idea. Many sick and premature
babies are very susceptible to infection. Siblings should be carefully checked for
signs of colds or other illness. They should also be helped with hand-washing before
visiting their baby brother or sister.
Most parents find that becoming involved with their babies' care gives them a sense
of control. It also helps them bond with their babies. This is also important for
the babies. It helps the babies feel secure and loved. Once the babies' condition
is stable, parents are encouraged to hold and rock them. Staff in the NICU can show
you how to care for your babies in many ways. Learning these aspects of care is helpful
in preparing you to take your babies home.
Once babies are able to feed, grow, and stay warm, they can usually be discharged.
Other babies who are healthy at birth may need only a brief check in a special care
Breastfeeding multiple birth babies
Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby. It gives your baby many advantages
compared with formula. Your milk contains just the right amount of nutrients. And
it is gentle on your baby's developing stomach, intestines, and other body systems.
It also has the best nutrients for brain and nervous system development and overall
growth and development.
Getting used to breastfeeding more than one baby will take extra patience and persistence.
How soon you and your babies can begin to breastfeed will depend on the maturity of
your babies' brains and body systems. A baby's gestational age influences the development
of stable body systems and the development of the reflexes needed for oral feedings.
A baby's physical condition may also affect when direct breastfeeding can begin.
Lactation specialists can help mothers of multiples learn techniques for breastfeeding
their babies separately and together, and to increase their milk supply. Mothers whose
babies are unable to breastfeed because they are sick or premature can pump their
breast milk and store the milk for later feedings.
Families with more than one baby need help from family and friends. The first two
months are usually the most difficult as everyone learns to cope with frequent feedings,
lack of sleep, and little personal time. Having help for household chores and daily
tasks can allow the mother the time she needs to get to know her babies, for feedings,
and for rest and recovery from delivery.