Bonding In Bulk
Early births are not uncommon among women expecting multiple babies. At least half of twins and 90 percent of triplets are born prematurely (before 37 weeks gestation). Writer Amy E Tracy, co-author of Your Premature Baby and Child: Helpful Answers and Advice for Parents discusses the challenges of parenting more than one premature baby at the same time!
Ready for the world
Premature babies,particularly those born very early and very small, often face medical and developmental concerns. However, preemie multiples are typically better prepared for breathing and developing in the outside world because multiples mature faster in the womb.
Also, twins and triplets often arrive in good health because crowding in the womb, and not the mother's medical problem, is frequently the cause of preterm delivery. Even those multiples born too soon due to medical reasons are likely to grow up healthy and strong thanks to today's medical advances -- and their parents' involvement.
If you have more than one preemie, you also have more than one set of medical problems and perhaps two sets of medical experts. Learning about your babies' medical needs can be overwhelming and time-consuming, and possibly affect bonding time. Fortunately, any nurturing you do in the nursery benefits your parent-child relationship. Softly speaking to and gently touching your babies provide comfort. It also makes you feel more like a parent. If your babies are in the same hospital, ask that their beds be placed next to each other to make care giving easier.
At the hospital
As your babies become more stable, ask to hold them. Depending on their health, you may only be permitted to hold one baby at a time, but let the nurses know that you're anxious to hold them together. Resting your diaper-clad babies on your bare chest, with a blanket covering you both, called kangaroo care, can also help create an extra-special closeness.
Your hospital may allow "co-bedding," placing your babies together in a bed, preferably in their womb position as identified by an earlier ultrasound. Though the effectiveness of co-bedding has not yet been studied, many parents and nurses report positive results: previously agitated babies settle down; heart rates stabilize; temperatures regulate; and babies usually fall asleep. However, some medical experts feel possible risks, such as healthcare staff misidentifying a baby or the chance of spreading infection, outweigh possible benefits. Ask caregivers about your NICU's policy.
If one baby celebrates homecoming before the other(s), stay in close contact with hospital caregivers. Call day or night, and ask specific questions: What position is your baby in? Is your baby using a pacifier? When was the last feeding? Your hospital may even allow your discharged baby to visit and co-bed with his or her sibling(s). Caring for your hospitalized babies is the first step toward developing relationships with them. Keep in mind that bonding is a gradual process, and parents of multiples often bond with their babies as a unit first. As their health improves, you can spend more time getting to know your babies as individuals.