Caring for multiples
If you have more than one baby, you have the added challenge of getting to know each infant's needs and personality. Even in the NICU, your babies can show differences in their medical needs, preferences, how they respond to their surroundings and what they need from you. For instance, one baby might prefer a light touch, while the other prefers a firm hold. One baby might sleep calmly through sudden noises, while the other startles and cries. As you get to know your babies and their unique preferences, you can fit your responses to meet each child's needs.
Getting to know each child as an individual can be especially challenging at first, because you may feel there is not enough of you to go around. You may feel torn between babies, not knowing who needs you more.
- Trust yourself to give each infant what he or she needs on any given day, or even hour by hour.
- If there is a day when you feel especially drawn to one of your babies, spend more time there. Encourage your partner to focus on the other(s).
- You can enlist the help of family members to spend time with your babies.
- Let yourself appreciate and rely on the attention given by your babies' nurses. They are there to help you take care of your little ones.
- Have confidence that your babies will do just fine, even if your attention is split some time. You can be flexible and so can they. By doing your best, you are giving them enough to thrive.
When you have more than one baby, feeding decisions regarding the breast or bottle, breast milk or formula, can seem complicated. You may be able to breastfeed them all, or one baby may feed better from a bottle. One baby may do better on breast milk, and another on formula. Or you may try to pump milk for all your babies, and substitute formula when needed.
If breastfeeding them all is your ultimate goal, flexibility is key. Whatever the situation, take your time to figure out what works best for you and your babies. And expect to adjust your plans as your babies grow.
March of Dimes Share Your Story
An online community that serves NICU families. Share your story, participate in online discussions, meet other NICU families.
Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More, by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada (La Leche League International, 1999).
Mothers of Super Twins (MOST)
A support network of families who have or are expecting triplets, quadruplets or more. Provides information, resources and emotional help. State chapters with area coordinators. (631) 859-1110.
National Organization of Mothers of Twins Club
Provides advice regarding multiples and makes referrals to local support groups. (800) 243-2276.
Last reviewed August 2014
Excerpted from the March of Dimes booklet, "Parent: You & Your Baby in the NICU", written in collaboration with Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D., and Mara Tesler Stein, Psy.D., authors of "Parenting Your Premature Baby and Child: The Emotional Journey."
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it OK to hold my baby in the NICU?
It depends on your baby's health overall. Some newborn intensive care units (NICUs) will encourage you to hold your baby from birth onward. Other NICUs will want you to wait until your baby's health is stable. Ask your NICU staff about its policy on kangaroo care (holding your baby on your bare chest). Kangaroo care has benefits for both you and your baby. The skin-to-skin contact is a precious way to be close to your baby. You may be afraid you'll hurt him by holding him. But you won't. Your baby knows your scent, touch and the rhythms of your speech and breathing, and he’ll enjoy feeling that closeness with you.
My baby was born full term. Why is she in the NICU?
Not all newborn intensive care unit (NICU) babies are born premature. Some babies, even those born full term, may need special care. Your baby may need to spend some time in the NICU if she had a difficult delivery, has breathing problems, has infections or has birth defects.
Most babies leave the NICU just fine. Others may need more special care once they're home.