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Bringing Up Babies

7: Preemie pointers

We were both lucky enough to carry our twins full term (just past 38 weeks) and bring them home from the hospital a couple of days after they were born. But so many parents of twins end up spending some time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Experts say that 60 percent of twins are born prematurely, and 90 percent of triplets are. Preemies are at higher risk for respiratory and intestinal problems. We talked to Elizabeth S. Klein, the vice president of the Tiny Miracles Foundation, Inc. (ttmf.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families with premature babies.

* Insist that your twins spend time together in an incubator. Hold them together, if possible. Twin-to-twin contact helps them survive.

* Get two bonding Ookie Dolls ($16 each). Both Mom and Dad should sleep with them for a night so they can retain your scents. Leave them in the NICU for baby to learn how you smell vs. how their hospital caretakers do.

* Don't answer your phone. Use carepages.com to create a website to explain what's going on with your children, or do email blasts.

* Become a NICU expert. Educate yourself through preemie support groups and websites like preemie-L.org and MarchofDimes.com.

* Try not to compare your babies' progress. They will not develop at the same pace, and they will have their own medical issues.

* Divide and conquer. If you're at the hospital, your husband goes to work or cares for kids at home, and vice versa. This way the babies get more parental time.

* Ask the NICU nurses to stagger your babies' schedules so you can give each twin equal time doing as much as the nurses will allow you to do.

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