Often, multiples are born small and early. They may be first cared for in a special care nursery called the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
The NICU has advanced technology and trained healthcare providers to give special care for the tiniest patients. NICUs may also have care areas for babies who are not as sick but do need special nursing care. Some hospitals do not have the personnel or an NICU, and babies must be moved to another hospital.
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 methods before entering the area. In some cases, you may need to wear a mask. In some cases, 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. Most NICUs allow other family members to visit babies. But limiting visitors is a good idea. Many sick and premature babies are at high risk of 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 taking part in 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 ways of care will prepare you to take your babies home.
Once babies are able to feed, grow, and stay warm, they can usually be sent home. Other babies who are healthy at birth may need only a brief check in a special care nursery.
Breast milk is the perfect food for your babies. It gives your babies many advantages compared with formula. Your milk contains just the right amount of nutrients. And it is gentle on your babies' developing stomachs, 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 1 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 affects the development of stable body systems and the reflexes needed for oral feedings. A baby's physical condition may also affect when breastfeeding can start.
Lactation specialists can help mothers of multiples learn methods 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 1 baby need help from family and friends. The first 2 months are usually the most difficult. This is the time 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.