How Babywearing in the NICU Changed My Life

My twins’ premature birth was traumatizing. Micah and Zachary were born at 27 weeks gestation, weighing just over two pounds each. As the twins fought to live, our family and friends surrounded us with love and support.

During the twins’ hospitalization, my husband Noah and I received many thoughtful gifts, one of which changed our lives forever – the skill of babywearing.

Micah and Zachary had been in the NICU for nearly three months when my friend Becca asked if she could visit to show us how to wear our babies in a wrap. I hesitated. Zachary was relatively stable, but Micah was struggling just to live after developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Micah was in renal failure, intubated, and recovering from a bowel resection.

I didn’t want to have to answer any of Becca’s questions. I didn’t want Becca to see Micah like this. I didn’t want to have to explain that Micah might die from NEC.

Thankfully, I mustered up some courage and arranged for Becca to visit.

Becca walked into Zachary’s room, her arms overflowing with two woven wraps, a ring sling, gifts for the twins, and food for us. Zachary was tethered to his monitors, snuggled with Noah in a chair. Becca stretched out a rainbow carrier and asked if she could wrap me up with Zachary.

Moments later she began her magic and Zachary was securely wrapped on my chest, just under my chin, leaving my hands free. I stood up, paying attention to Zachary’s cords and wires, and instantly fell in love with babywearing.

With Zachary wrapped on my chest, I reclaimed so much that had been taken away from me just by being in the NICU: the ability to be close to my babies, the ability to care for them, and feeling like a competent mother.

I asked Zachary’s nurse if we could walk across the hall to Micah’s room for a visit. Micah and Zachary had been separated since birth, each of them independently too sick to leave their room to visit the other. But now, Zachary was stable, and securely wrapped on my chest. The nurses had never seen one of their patients in a wrap, and inspected Zachary’s airway and lines before they agreed to allow me to carry Zachary into Micah’s room.

Holding Micah’s hand with Zachary wrapped on my chest

For the first time since giving birth, I made physical contact with my twins at the same time. Even though Micah was too sick to be held, I could reach my hands into his isolette and touch his soft skin, while Zachary slept next to my heart. From that moment on, I knew I needed to master the art of wrapping my fragile infants so that I could be close to both of them. For months, we had been separated. Babywearing brought us back together.

With some practice, I soon became competent in wrapping Zachary. Weeks later, Zachary was discharged, yet Micah’s hospitalization continued. Once Zachary was strong enough to be worn on my back, I learned how to tandem carry, with Micah wrapped in front. Babywearing became an essential part of our journey.

Babywearing my medically fragile babies required me to communicate and demonstrate to our medical team that I knew how to keep my babies safe. Here’s how to safely wrap medically fragile babies, you must:

  • Demonstrate that you have the skills to keep your baby safe while wrapped. You may need to build confidence in your baby’s care team.
  • Understand how to protect your baby’s lines, wires, cords, and devices.
  • Be attuned to your baby’s signs of distress, and understand how to read your baby’s monitors.
  • Know how to keep your baby’s airway open and unobstructed.
  • Be skilled at wrapping and unwrapping.

A medically fragile infant may be ready to be wrapped if s/he:

  • Does not have difficulty breathing
  • Can be easily moved and carried
  • Has central, PICC, or other lines that are secured and protected
  • Is stable and predictable

Babywearing is one of the most incredible gifts for families with fragile infants because it facilitates the closeness they desperately need. Babywearing can even help to support a mother’s milk supply, and mothers own milk offers medically fragile infants the best protection against necrotizing enterocolitis.

Tragically, our sweet Micah died from complications of NEC when he and Zachary were 11-months-old. Days after Micah’s passing, Becca came to us with another extraordinary gift. She designed a woven wrap in honor of Micah, using the maize and blue colors of our children’s hospital to celebrate his care team, along with a rainbow to celebrate Micah’s bright smile and soul. Becca named the woven wrap Micah’s Rainbow

The gift of babywearing continues to touch our family today. Micah and Zachary’s baby brother, my rainbow baby Elijah, spent much of his first year of life in a carrier, wrapped up in our love. Babywearing rocks and we could not imagine parenting without our carriers. I am forever grateful to have received such an incredible gift during my twins’ hospitalization.

If you know a family with a medically fragile infant, ask if you can help them learn how to wear their baby. If your baby is in the hospital, get a carrier and start practicing so that when your baby is ready, babywearing can bring the two of you together. If you want to change someone’s life, teach them how to wear their baby.

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