What can I expect when I bring my premature infant home?
Because premature babies are born before they are physically ready to leave the womb, they require extra medical attention immediately after delivery. Your child may need special tests as well as medical help that is different from that needed by full-term babies. It may be a few days or weeks before you can bring your baby home.
The OK To Go Home
It's a great day when you finally get to bring your baby home! Your pediatrician will approve the discharge of your baby from the hospital, based on the following guidelines. Your baby should be:
- breathing on her own
- able to maintain body temperature
- able to be fed by breast or bottle
- gaining weight steadily at time of discharge
Other medical problems should also be resolved, or home care should be set up before your baby leaves the hospital.
Questions To Ask Before You Leave The Hospital
Your pediatrician will talk with you before your baby leaves the hospital. Be sure that he or she explains the following:
- How to care for your baby at home
- When to call his or her office or go to the hospital
- How to know if your baby is eating properly, getting enough sleep and gaining enough weight
- What medicines to give, if any are needed
- How often you will need to bring your baby in for an exam. Regular contact with your pediatrician is very important to your child's health. Be sure to discuss any worries that you have about your baby.
If You Must Bring The Hospital Home With You
Some premature babies need monitors and other equipment at home. For example, if apnea is a problem, monitoring may be done at home. Some babies may also need to go home with oxygen or other treatments. You and other caregivers will be trained on how to take care of your child's special needs before you take her home. You will also be taught how to perform infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Settling In At Home
Premature babies need to be fed more often, and it will take a little while for them to adjust to being at home. Accept any offers of help around the house during the first few weeks, so you can take time to get used to having a new baby in the house.
A Good Night's Rest For Both of You
Your baby needs plenty of sleep in order to grow and develop. She will rest easier—and you will, too—if you follow a few simple rules when you put your baby down for a nap or for the night.
Sleeping Position: Back To Sleep
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that healthy infants be placed on their backs to sleep. Babies who are placed on their stomachs to sleep are at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Placing babies on their backs to sleep does not increase the risk of other problems (for example, choking, flat head, or poor sleep). However, premature infants with certain medical problems (such as lung problems) may need to sleep on their side. Whether your baby sleeps on her back or side, a certain amount of "tummy time" is needed when she is awake. Ask your pediatrician about the best sleeping position for your baby. In addition to proper sleeping position, you can reduce the risk of SIDS by:
- keeping blankets, pillows, soft bedding, and large stuffed toys out of your baby's crib
- making sure your baby's room is not too hot or too cold
- not smoking in your home
- getting regular health care for your child
If You Need Support
Sometimes parents need help taking care of a premature baby. Or they may need a shoulder to lean on when facing the stresses of being a new parent. If this is the case:
- Talk to your pediatrician, he or she can be a great source of support.
- Take a parenting class or join a parent support group. Your local hospital may offer these or can refer you to counselors or other professionals who can help.