Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Multiples with Multiple Discharge Dates

Big bro meets little Twin A the day he is discharged.

Big bro meets little Twin A the day he is discharged.

When I found out we were expecting twins, I tried to bury the idea of potential premature delivery deep in the back of my mind. I was so excited! I was having twins! I tried to be positive and think about all the fun things my twins would do “two-gether” once they arrived and grew up together.

When my twins did arrive at 27 weeks, it felt like many of my hopes came crashing down. The scariest question I wondered to myself was: will my babies survive?

When the neonatologist met with us to give us updates, he was talking about two, not just one little life in his hands. We had to think about what was best for each baby, and sometimes things were touch and go. Every day I would find myself willing away any potential harm, such as the devastating necrotizing enterocolitis or hospital-acquired infection. I just wanted to quietly tip toe through the neonatal experience and be on our way as soon as possible.

Initially upon meeting what would become the neonatologist providing the most lengthy care to our babies, my husband and I were specific in saying we wanted both our babies to be beside each other and to stay in the same hospital, if at all possible. We wanted to avoid having one baby transferred to the  level II NICU closer to our home, about 100 kilometres away, if the other baby had to remain back at the level III unit. It was a big ask, we know, but they did what they could to keep our babies in the same unit, and actually right next to or across from each other in the same pod.

We quickly learned this experience in the NICU was going to be rockier than when we had our first premature child two years prior. This time I had to monitor the care of two babies, different nurses watching over them, two charts, two feeding times, two baths and some similar and some different diagnoses. The time spent in the unit was extremely taxing and at times frustrating. In the midst of all of this, when the babies were ready, I was trying to get comfortable with breastfeeding these tiny little babies, much smaller than their “big” preemie brother. And oh, did I mention they unfortunately did come down with a hospital-acquired infection? So not only was I trying to breastfeed, I was also doing it in contact isolation, times two.

It was at this point the big lightbulb turned on in my head.

Big brother meets his twin brothers for the first time after a little over 3 months! There are two of them?

Big brother meets his twin brothers for the first time after a little over 3 months! There are two of them?

I suddenly knew in my heart the twins did not need to stay in the hospital together until each was ready to come home. The twins could come home one at a time, if that was how it was going to work out. It dawned on me one afternoon that if one baby was discharged before the other, I would actually get some one-to-one time with each baby in a separate setting. I would not be splitting my attention between two babies in the NICU. Instead, one baby would be at home (also known as the Home Away from Home), and I would be able to get to know him better in a more natural and private setting. I would be able to breastfeed him without the chimes and dings in the background and we would have some special time before the other twin was discharged. The same would apply for the baby who had to remain at the hospital. I would have all the same one-to-one time with him and have my stress would be reduced because I wouldn’t have to be juggling two babies in the unit and keeping on top of their hospital routine feeds, their charts, their stats and so on. In other words, if the babies had to be discharged at separate times, it would be okay and it might actually be a blessing in disguise!

And wouldn’t you know it, the twins did require discharge on different dates. Three weeks to be exact.

And then there were two!

And then there were two!

So while I thought I knew what I wanted in the early days, life and reality took over, and I decided to roll with it. I didn’t dwell on the two separate discharge dates. Instead I got to celebrate each little baby one by one as they came home. While they share the same birthday, they share the same DNA, they share the same bedroom, one thing they did not have to share was their NICU graduation date!


Carolyn Leighton-Hilborn About Carolyn Leighton-Hilborn

Carolyn (Ontario, Canada) is a mother of three premature children. In 2008 her first son arrived at 31 weeks; she trusted her instincts and made it to the hospital in time. In 2010, she had identical twin boys at 27 weeks. The twins' NICU stays lasted 3 months and just shy of 4 months. During this time Carolyn felt extremely isolated and began to reach out via social media. On her personal blog, she writes about raising preemies, twins and parenting topics; you can also find her on Twitter. Currently, she is a peer health worker in her local multiples organization, Chairs Multiple Births Canada’s Preterm Birth Support Network and joined the Board of Directors of Canadian Premature Babies Foundation.


  1. Susan Hundley says:

    Such a great article thaat stresses the positive when things work out differently than planned! Of course all planning, goes out the window the day you welcome preemies into your life. As the grandmother of twin 26 week preemie granddaughters, we too faced seperate release dates. Twin A was due to ne released first, 5 weeks before her sister. Going home almost 2 hours from th hospital meant some serious plannning. Eventually,Mom and Dad decided I would stay full time with Baby A, while Mom would spend most of her with Twin B. Mom was breast feeding, so both babies were bottle fed the breast milk, until they could take enough by breast only. The day Twin A was to come home, she had some breathing issues while feeding, so release was delayed. Eventually, she repeated the same issue with feeding, until the day her sister was due for release. Both babies ended up coming home on day 96. Now, 5 days away from turning 2, we are blessed with two perfect little miracles!

    • Carolyn Leighton-HilbornCarolyn Leighton-Hilborn says:

      Hi Susan. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment. My twins’ grandmothers had a huge role in helping us getting through the NICU experience. Couldn’t have done it without them. Congratulations on your twin granddaughters! I’m glad to hear they are doing well too.

  2. As a mother of premature twin boys at 28 weeks, I remember the day 1 twin had to be transferred to another NICU. It took insurance 5-6 days to approve the transfer of the other twin to the same hospital. It felt like weeks! Mine to had a 2 1/2 week discharge difference. It was hard but at the same time it was nice to gradually step into having twins plus a big sister at home. After almost 6 months each in the NICU we finally became a family of 5!

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