Having a premature baby can lead you down a path with a few bumps in the road. Many things are different and going home with your precious cargo can be scary for most parents. So what can you expect as you take your baby home?
Before discharge, the medical team will want to make sure your baby is stable and able to tolerate basic care such as bathing, feeding, and sleeping. Your baby will have a “car seat challenge” as well. You’ll bring your car seat in for your infant and they will spend about 90 minutes in the car seat connected to a cardio-respiratory monitor. If there are any concerns, the medical team may recommend you bring your baby home with a monitor. The medical team will walk you through the use of any medical devices and medications your baby may use. Many parents will be able to “room in” with their baby, where the parents stay the whole night at the hospital and assume all care for their baby. This helps you to become comfortable with your baby and the care they need. When taking a premature infant home it is recommended that parents and caregivers go through CPR training as well, sometimes this is a requirement for discharge. While your infant is still in the NICU you will select a pediatrician to care for your baby, and follow up with them within a few days of discharge. The medical team in the NICU may have suggestions for you—especially if your baby has a specific condition that a pediatrician may be more familiar with.
When planning your trip home, you may want to limit the amount of people that come visit you and your newborn. Premature infants are especially vulnerable to illness and it is best try and limit the amount of people who visit with the new baby. For the same reasons you may want to limit the public places you take your baby while their immune system builds up. In the hospital you had dedicated time to hold your baby, skin to skin. Keep that time as part of your life at home as well. Skin to skin has been shown to increase the bond between parents and infants, increase breastfeeding success, help infants sleep better, and improve neurodevelopment (Campbell-Yeo, Disher, Benoit, & Johnston, 2015). It is also important that you take care of yourself. Making time for yourselves as parents is important to relieve stress and encourage a healthy relationship with your child.
What suggestions do you have for new parents who are heading home from the NICU? Share with us in the comments.
Campbell-Yeo, M., Disher, T., Benoit, B., & Johnston, C. (2015). Understanding Kangaroo Care and its Benefits to Preterm Infants. Pediatric Health Med Ther., 15-32.