For many expectant parents of multiples… a big question is “will my babies spend time in the NICU?”
And… the answer is…
…potentially, but not necessarily.
What is a NICU?
First of all, what is a NICU? NICU is short for Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit. But for the purposes of this discussion, we’re also referring to time spent in ANY hospital nursery.
Time in a NICU is not uncommon for twins, triplets and more. And so a lot of parents of multiples assume that their babies will spend time in a NICU. But time in the NICU is not a guaranty.
Now, with multiples there IS a higher rate of prematurity. So many multiples DO require additional time at the hospital after birth.
Sometimes it’s just for a few days so the doctors can monitor them, while others might enjoy a longer stay. The length of time largely depends on how early your twins are born and their overall health.
So the earlier your babies arrive, the more of a chance there is that you’ll be spending at least some time in a NICU or hospital nursery.
Hospital Nursery Levels
There are different levels of hospital nurseries. And each level corresponds to the level of care they can provide. Specifics will depend on your country or region. But, for example, here’s a simplified explanation of typical nursery levels in North America:
Level I is pretty much a regular newborn nursery, equipped to deal with babies born after 35 weeks gestation
Level II is often referred to as a special care nursery – which is a nursery that can care for babies born after 32 weeks gestation
Level III nursery is what is typically known as a neonatal intensive-care unit – and that’s a nursery equipped to care for babies born before 32 weeks gestation.
So it’s a good idea to know what level of nursery your hospital has, and plan for contingencies in case your babies come earlier than expected.
Our triplets in the NICU
Our triplets for example, were born at 32.5 weeks (which is pretty average for triplets) and they weighed 3.9lbs, 3.14lbs and 2.9lbs. They were in a Level II nursery for just over 4 weeks.
They had no serious health issues at birth. But because they were premature (and small and skinny), they had difficulty regulating their body temperatures. So they needed some time in incubators to keep baking.
Feeders & Growers
Also, at that gestational age, infants don’t have the cognitive ability to coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing at the same time, which is necessary for breast and bottle feeding. For the first week or so they were fed via tubes. So, our guys are what NICU nurses usually refer to as “Feeders and Growers.” Because that’s all they needed to do… grow a bit, gain some fat and learn to feed on their own.
Benefits to your twins spending time in the NICU…
The prospect of spending time at the NICU can seem scary. I’m sure you’ve all seen images of premature babies, hooked up to all sorts of wires and monitors. But once you know what all those things are there for, and that they’re there to keep you babies safe, it doesn’t seem so scary.
Like we said, we spent about 4 weeks in the NICU, and we had a great experience.
The Nurses were wonderful, helping us get into a rhythm and onto a schedule with the babies. They taught us how to bathe and feed them. And were on hand to coach Kathleen with breastfeeding.
Another big plus of having our babies at the hospital was that it also gave us time to go home in the evenings, and rest. Especially since Kathleen was recovering from her C-Section. In the beginning it was hard leaving our babies at the hospital overnight. But we knew they were in good hands. AND – the rest it gave us was invaluable… as we prepared for their eventual homecoming.
So to recap:
- Time in the NICU is not a sure thing. There are many parents of multiples, twins especially, who won’t spend any significant amount of time in a NICU.
- BUT… this will largely depend on how early your babies arrive
- The likelihood of spending time in a NICU will increase if you’re pregnant with higher-order multiples… so that’s triplets or more.
- Time in the NICU isn’t necessarily something to worry about. We have very good memories of our time in the NICU. We learned a ton from the nurses. It gave us time to recoup after the birth… and it gave us an opportunity to get into a rhythm with our babies before we got them all home.
Free Prenatal Video Training for Expectant Parents of Twins, Triplets and more…
If you’re currently pregnant with twins or more, and you’re in the midst of preparing… we encourage you to check out a FREE pre-natal video training we created called “Preparing for your multiples”
In it, we talk about everything from pregnancy and delivery to navigating the NICU – and bringing your babies home.
And you can access that free training by visiting us at lifewithmultiples.com/prepare