Friday, May 16, 2014

Surviving and thriving in the NICU

A twin Mom's take on surviving the NICU

Whether anticipated or not, the NICU is a scary experience. I found out at 8 weeks pregnant that my girlies had almost 0% chance of coming home with me. They would likely spend weeks in the NICU due to their rare condition. To read about Monoamniotic Monochorionic Twins click here.

My number one piece of advice is this:

You miss one-hundred percent of the shots that you don't take
or in our case, you miss one-hundred percent of the opportunities you never ask for. 

The first time I held Annelise and Olivia together, Annelise reached
out to hold Olivia's hand.

Even though we knew the girlies would be in the NICU, and we had taken a tour, we had NO IDEA what the protocol would be once the girls got in there. We didn't even know what questions to ask. My advice is that you ask every silly question that comes to your mind. 

You want to hold your babies but there are so many tubes and lights and beeping machines that it's intimidating? Just ask.

You have a photographer friend that you would like to come into the NICU to do a photoshoot of your babe/babes? Just ask.

You want to let your baby try and latch even though they've only been feeding through an NG tube? Just ask.  (this is called non-nutritive suckling, and is great for developing a good breastfeeding relationship)

Trust me on this. It's intimidating, and it might even seem silly, but there is no harm in asking! Asking will also inform your nurses that you want to be involved and they will feel more open to asking YOU if you want the opportunity to do something. 

Number Two

Try to be there when the doctors and the nurses do their rounds. This way you get all of the information/orders that the nurses are getting from the doctors and you get a chance to speak to everyone who has care of your baby at the same time. 

Rounds were usually around 7am and 7pm at our hospital. 

In the same vein, if you don't get along with/can't communicate well with a certain nurse, ask the head nurse to schedule someone else for your babies. It's important that you develop a relationship with the people who will be nurturing your babes while you are gone.

Number Three
they call this "liquid gold" (colostrum, the first milk that comes in)
Pump like crazy through the day, but sleep at night.  I pumped every two hours during the day and then I allowed myself to sleep 6-8 hour stretches through the night. I assumed that my body would adjust to nighttime feedings when the girls came home and I was not disappointed. Eight months later and I'm still breastfeeding my little beauties!

This was hard for me to do, because it meant that I wasn't with my girls during the night, but I attribute healing so quickly to this one tip. Also, it was important for me to sleep in my own bed with my husband and to get time with our son. I had been in the hospital for 10 weeks prior to the birth of my girlies and sleeping at home with my husband was crucial to maintaining our bond during this stressful time.  As much as my girlies needed me at the hospital, my boys needed me at home as well. 

If I hadn't spent a little time at home I would have missed out
on precious moments like this!

Number Four

Be involved. This goes along with number one. Help take your babe's temperature, change their diapers, give them baths, do skin-to-skin. Ask what the different monitors mean and what is expected of your babies before they can come home. 

Some nurses might make you feel like they can take care of your baby better or faster, but it is YOUR BABY. Some nurses might even make it seem like it's a big deal to let you hold your baby because they have to remove monitors or switch cords around but it is YOUR BABY. Unless a nurse gives you a sound medical reason that your baby should not be moved or held, or that you can't be involved with their care, don't take no for an answer.

You may feel like you are in the way at first, but believe me, your bond with your baby and your nurses will grow as you take responsibility and get involved. 

This is our sweet nurse showing us how to bathe our girls. Doesn't Rob look like
a natural??

Number Five

Ask for free stuff. Most hospitals get piles and piles of free product to distribute as samples to their patients, especially baby stuff. If you plan on formula feeding, ask if they have samples you can stock up on. If you plan on breastfeeding/pumping, check if they have storage bottles you can keep at home. Ask about diaper cream and nipple cream and anything else you haven't had time to shop for during all of the insanity.

Number Six

Make sure it's covered by your insurance. You will be offered plenty of things/care that is not free, and may not be covered by your insurance. Lactation consultants are possibly one of these things. Some hospitals have them on staff, free of charge. Some insurance companies cover lactation consultations. But some hospitals have independent consultants that come into the hospital and offer care to patients THAT IS NOT COVERED.

Also, your Doctor may talk to you about running some tests and he/she might tell you that "it's your choice". If those words are spoken, it might also be coming out of your wallet. Necessary care is most likely covered by your insurance, but if you are given the choice to do a procedure, then it is usually filed under "elective procedures" and you have to foot the bill. 

I know that it's overwhelming, but you can do it! It's been exactly 7 months since my girlies came home from the NICU and it all seems like a distant dream. Look at them now--


  1. Beautiful little girls!! You're amazing deb!

  2. Having spent 15 LONG days there - the only thing we would add is ask to be transferred to the care of the neonatologist! We were under the care of a rounding pediatrician for the first 4 days and it wasn't great at all...granted every situation is different but putting one toe into that place automatically hit our $12,000 out-of-pocket maximum so paying more the neonatologist wasn't an issue and the care was far superior!