Many families worry when they take their twins or multiples home from the Special Care Nursery (SCN). SCN is for sick and preterm babies. A lot of multiple birth babies do not need to ever go to SCN. Some may have to go just for a few hours for monitoring; others may have an extended stay in there.
Premature babies and the Special Care Nursery
If your multiples are in there as a result of being preterm, then you can usually expect to be able to take them home around the same time as their projected due date. While there is great relief in finally taking your babies home, it is also the start of a different set of challenges. It is perfectly normal to have conflicting emotions. Remember, the hospital won’t release them until they are confident that the babies will be fine at home with you. Hopefully this also means your babies will no longer require any medical equipment, such as oxygen or feeding tubes at home.
The hospital will have been “preparing you”, maybe without you even being aware of it, by getting you to do as much of the babies’ cares as possible. However, in saying that, it can be very overwhelming. Do not feel ashamed to reach out for some help, be it from family or friends or from professionals.
“Rooming in” with your twins or multiples
Before you leave the hospital, you will probably spend a night or two “rooming in” with your babies. This means you are totally responsible for all their care, but have medical and professional help at the touch of a button if needed. This period of time will also allow you to bond a bit more with your babies, away from the eyes of everyone else in the nursery.
Bringing your twins or multiples home from the Special Care Nursery
Make note of the routine the hospital have them in before you leave and, if possible, continue with this routine at home. This is one “advantage” of having your babies in the SCN for a longer period of time. Be warned though, particularly if you take your babies home around their due date, that this coincides with them “waking up to the world” and working out how to get attention. Those lovely, quiet babies who slept all day and never cried may start having short awake periods and letting you know in no uncertain terms when they are dirty or hungry!
Transitioning your babies from the SCN environment to your house environment
Be aware that in SCN there is always a lot of light and ambient noise, with people coming and going and nurses talking. You may find that the babies are unable to settle in the darkness and the peace and quiet of your home. If their sleeping area is receiving enough daylight, there is no need to add additional lighting, however at night, some sort soft lighting at night may be needed. For example, if your lights have dimmer switches, the lowest setting may work or alternatively a bedside lamp placed on the opposite side of the room. For the background “white noise” that the babies have become used to, you could trial using a CD player, or a radio on low volume. Additionally, there are purpose built white noise machines on the market.
Remember, your babies have spent their whole life inside the hospital. The car ride home and the arrival in your house will be all very different for them. Try to keep visitors to the minimum until you have all settled in. Premature babies’ immune systems are not like full term babies and a simple cold can send them back to hospital, so remind your friends and family that if they have any sort of illness that they need to stay away.
The majority of babies who have to spend time in the Special Care Nursery will go on to be healthy and active children. The Special Care journey may not be what you planned when you first found out you were having multiples, but it will soon hopefully just be a memory.
Using “corrected age”
One final point to remember is that if your babies were preterm; always refer to your babies corrected age when speaking to medical professionals. The general consensus is to use your babies corrected age for growth and development until they are two. Corrected age (or adjusted age) is your babies’ actual age, minus the weeks/months they were born early. For example if your one year old twins were born two months early, then their corrected age is only 10 months.
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