THE NICU, KANGAROO CARE & MY JOEYBAND
THE NICU, KANGAROO CARE & MY JOEYBAND
SPENDING SEVEN WEEKS IN THE NICU WASN’T THE GREATEST EXPERIENCE BUT HAVING MY JOEYBAND HELPED ME THROUGH IT GREATLY
When the twins came flying into this world they unfortunately decided to do it at 28 weeks. While we now had a set of preemies to take care of we were lucky enough to have two healthy preemies with no complications. Being 28 weekers they still had a long NICU stay ahead of them no matter how healthy they were: you can’t be discharged from the hospital before 35 weeks gestation. So I now had to figure out the best way to survive at least seven weeks of daily care with twins in a hospital. My Joeyband very quickly became a huge part of it – kangaroo care was my top priority every day.
Kangaroo care, alternatively kangaroo hold, is skin to skin cuddles. It’s a practice that’s recommended to be done immediately after birth and throughout the fourth trimester but also highly recommended in NICU care because it comes along with a great list of benefits. There’s actually a Grey’s Anatomy episode that revolves around Alex Karev helping save a baby by practicing kangaroo care! (Yes, I totally did initially learn about it while watching Grey’s. Episode 608.) Skin to skin contact helps:
- Stabilize heart rates, breathing and blood pressure
- Regulate babies temperature
- Encourage milk production
- Assist in weight gain
- Encourage better sleep
- Improve immune system
- Reduce stress
OKAY, SO WHAT IS THE JOEYBAND?
Maybe you’ve heard of the Sleepbelt – they’re actually the same company!
The Joeyband is a device that helps in prevent infant falls and helps you become a confident, hands free parent during skin to skin cuddles. It’s a structured, stretchy band with a velcro closure – and super comfortable. It’s approved for hospital use and can be used in the delivery room, during a c-section, in recovery and in the NICU. So if you aren’t expecting a preemie you can still use it! It’s adjustable to use for either a singleton or multiples. Important to note that it is not for co-sleeping or as a carrier.
When I first started in the NICU I was honestly terrified at the idea of holding my babies one at a time, let alone together. It took a few days before I was even slightly confident in changing their tiny diapers and having a nurse place them on me one at a time. They were very small, floppy humans (about 3lbs each!) without much to their bodies. It felt like breathing on them would hurt them. I’ll never forget the nurse who snapped at me on my first day in the NICU for not immediately hand hugging one of the twins when they started crying.
At 11 days old I finally had the chance to hold them at the same time. I was so excited as they placed each twin on my chest. But it was also awkward. They’d start to slide in different directions, I felt like I needed to sit stiff like a board and it became uncomfortable fast. There was no way I’d be able to take them in or out of their incubators alone; there were too many wires to control and the twins were too fragile.
When my Joeyband arrived everything changed. I still couldn’t take them in or out alone but I could finally sit in a hospital chair with my babies strapped onto me and feel safe. They were snug, secure and supported while I could listen to music and find us a new house. As much as I want to pretend we sat there blissfully as I smelt their heads and soaked in each second of their life that wasn’t the case.
There were days I was at the hospital for up to 12 hours. I would take small breaks here and there to eat and pump but for huge chunks of time it was just me sitting in an uncomfortable chair, with no shirt on and two tiny, sleeping babies curled up on my chest. I binged Netflix, house hunted and wrote. While I may have spent a lot of it bored and exhausted I got to do it without the stress of worrying about injuries.
As the days passed my confidence and independence grew. I knew the NICU well, knew most nurses by name and eventually got moved into a private pod too! I could pick up babies, take temperatures, change diapers, swap outfits and give baths.
There was a checklist that hung in our first NICU room and it was a checklist of those kinds of tasks. On that first night as a preemie mom changing a diaper or detaching monitor cords sounded like my nightmare. But a few weeks later and I was rocking the preemie mom life and ready to take my babies home at any moment. It sounds silly but I honestly don’t think I would have gotten there as fast as I did without my Joeyband.
I know I said it shouldn’t be used as a carrier – and I will repeat the Joeyband is not a certified method for baby wearing – but I slightly used it as one. I had found a rhythm that worked for us and you have to remember, the twins were fragile little things still under 4 lbs each!
MY NICU ROUTINE
- Arrive in the NICU pod and hand sanitize
- Prep the nursing pillow, iPad, water bottle (cough secretly coffee cough), phone and Joeyband
- Twin A’s housekeeping (temp check, diaper change…)
- Twin B’s housekeeping
- Strap Twin A securely into the Joeyband, making sure no wires get tangled
- Detach Twin B and hold Twin B in my arms over to the chair, making sure no wires get tangled
- Sit down, get my butt comfy, lean back, lay Twin B in my legs
- Open Joeyband, place Twin B on my chest, double check everyone is in perfect positions, close up the Joeyband
- Layer with a couple of blankets
It was a rhythm that we working on with a nurse to make sure it was smooth and habitual before I was doing it alone. I craved the safety and independence of not needing to call a nurse for every single thing that needed to be done. My Joeyband gave that to me.
This is when people usually wonder why a Joeyband instead of a baby carrier or a woven wrap. Aside from the fact it’s a hospital grade item the biggest factor is speed. If anything on the monitors started to indicate something was wrong the Joeyband is only one layer that can be immediately opened. Because it’s a wrap around strip it also doesn’t impede any chords or breathing devices a preemie needs to be attached to.
ISN’T IT A SHORT TERM ITEM?
As my needs shifted, the Joeyband shifted with me. We tried bottle feeding the girls earlier than they normally would since they were doing so well and they took to it easily. So now I needed to balance a schedule of bottle feeding two babies every three hours and still pump and still get in every minute of cuddles I could.
I always had a certain amount of anxiety surrounding skin to skin. I felt the need to assure each twin not only had a long cuddle but that they always had equal amounts of cuddles. I didn’t want feeding time to take away from it either. So instead of having one baby in their bed while feeding the other, I would secure one in a kangaroo hold under the Joeyband while I bottle fed the other! Some nurses called me a superhero. I just saw it as practical.
When the day came that we could finally go home I was nervous about having a very excited, attention needing toddler alongside two very small, still growing babies.
While I had a Moby wrap I could carry the twins in it was big, heavy and not really comfortable. So the Joeyband continued it’s journey with us. It allowed me to sit on the couch and have cuddles with the twins while reading, colouring and playing with our toddler. I was a way the toddler could be around her sisters without worry of injury. It was a perfect way for me to spend quality time with all three of my kids and give each of them what they needed from me. They did eventually grow out of the Joeyband and I replaced it immediately with a Sleepbelt, the slightly less structured version of it. It’s been the gift that keeps on giving: it’s been used countless times for tandem breastfeeding in public, it’s been used to strap kids to a chair and it’s been used to keep a heat pack attached to my back.
HEY LOOK MA, WE MADE IT
I often wonder if we would have had the same amount of luck without doing so many hours of skin to skin and the truth is I don’t. I really believe in the benefits of kangaroo care and understand why companies like Joeyband are here to help make it easier.
I don’t think my milk oversupply was by chance and I don’t think our breastfeeding journey was out of the blue. I think all the skin to skin I did helped with it.
I can’t say for sure if we would have been able to leave at 35 weeks without it, but I think skin to skin helped keep the twins stable and healthy. Their temps, their breathing – everything was better when I was with them.
While I’ll never really know what our life would have been like without the Joeyband in the NICU I do believe it would have been ten times harder and stressful. So Joeyband, I will forever thank you for your product. I will forever thank you for existing and changing our lives the way you did.