The day has finally come! You have received that wonderful news that it is time to bring your baby home.
Preparing for Discharge
The discharge of any baby is always process, but even more so with a premature baby. Even though you may be anxious to get your little home, this process will help secure that your baby can thrive outside of the hospital. This will prepare you and your partner how to care for you baby on your own.
There are a few hospitals that offer a rooming-in period. This means parents of preemie babies can briefly stay in a hospital room with their baby. This ensures the parents will gain the knowledge, and confidence, in caring for the baby’s needs and make the transition easier from hospital to home.
To help your baby, and you, get through this experience easier, you can make sure these items listed are taken care of:
- Check your insurance coverage and medical records
- Learn CPR and any other specialized training needed
- Decide if circumcision is right for your baby
- Install your baby’s car seat in your vehicle
- Take part in your discharge briefing
As soon as you have the chance, contact your health insurance company to ask if your baby has been added to your policy. Insurers usually require this to be done within the first few days of birth.
If your baby is premature, or has a more complex medical issues, some insurers will take part in home visits. Social service and nursing providers can assist you in determining what your insurer will cover.
With any baby there is always a ton of paperwork and records, even more so with a preemie. Setting up a file for medical records, financial statements and any hospital related paperwork will help you with making the correct insurance choices more easily.
Your baby will need a three, or five point infant-only car seat before they can be discharged. Due to preemie baby’s being smaller than full-term babies, your car seat may need to be modified with extra padding and head support to keep your baby in position. This will help ensure your baby’s head is positioned correctly to keep the airway open. Muscle control for a preemie baby is underdeveloped, so keeping their head upright will prevent them from having issues breathing.
In many hospitals you are required to bring your baby’s car seat up to the NICU for a car seat test. During this test, your baby will be placed i the carseat to make sure everything is adjusted properly. Your baby may also be attached to a cardiopulmonary monitor to ensure their heart and breathing are functioning fine.
In some cases, babies have respiratory issues that will prevent them from being able to use a traditional car seat. Speak with your neonatologist, or doctor, about using a special restraint system, if this is your baby’s situation.
If your baby requires an apnea monitor or oxygen, you will need to travel with these devices in your car. Be sure to secure this equipment properly in your vehicle, so in the event of an accident they will not be dangerous to passengers. talk to the hospital staff before leaving to be sure your vehicle is outfitted properly for the ride home.
Due to potential breathing issues, it is recommended that preemie babies spend a limited time, an hour or so, in a vehicle. If you plan on traveling longer than this, consult with your doctor on if this is ok for your baby. Do not leave your baby asleep in their car seat. When you are home, lay your baby on their back in their crib to sleep.
You may expect a meeting regarding medical care after discharge to confirm any appointments, or questions, but this varies for each hospital. Debriefings should always include a thorough conversation about caring for your preemie at home. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, and be sure to understand all of the advice and instructions.
When you are finally ready to leave, take down the number to the NICU. If you have any questions, this care team can be a valuable resource while waiting for your baby’s first appointment with their pediatrician.
Since premature baby’s immune systems are still underdeveloped, they are at risk for infections. At first, your home should be calm and quiet, you you will need to take a few precautions to help your baby thrive:
- Limiting visits. For now, outside visits should be limited for the first several weeks. This is especially the case if your baby has been discharged in the winter months. Your outside visits should try to be limited to the doctor’s office. Since doctor’s offices are where other sick children will be, try scheduling your appointments as early as possible. Some offices provide a separate area for healthy and sick children. Speak with your pediatrician on how limited contact should be between your baby and other kids and adults during the first few weeks.
- Avoid some visitors and public areas. Limiting visitors to your home can prevent your baby from becoming sick. Anyone who is ill should not refrain from visiting. No one should smoke inside of your home. Everyone should always wash their hands before touching the baby. Some visits with family or friends may need to be postponed, so your baby’s immune system has time to grow. Most pediatricians will advise against visit public places with your preemie for awhile.
- Always put your baby to sleep on their back. It is to be expected that your baby will sleep more than a full-term baby. Though, these periods may be for a shorter time. Sleeping is very important for your baby’s development. To reduce the risk of SIDS, all babies should be put to sleep on the backs.
- Kangaroo care. Skin-to-skin contact is also known as kangaroo care, and is a great, quiet way of bonding. The majority of hospitals will encourage both parents to take part in the before discharge. If you have any questions, the staff will be more than happy to answer them. Dress your baby in a diaper only, in a warm room. Place your baby on your bare chest with the baby’s ear to your heart. Research has shown that this type of contact promotes bonding and breastfeeding. This has also been shown to improve a preemie’s health.
With all of this going on, parents seem to forget how important it is take to care of theirself. There is so much time spent caring for a preemie, or any baby, that we just forget about us. It is in everyone’s best interest to take a step back, and relax for a moment.
After giving birth, women are expected to have between 6 to 8 weeks of rest. Though, this may not be the case if they deliver early. A lot of time may be spent in the NICU and it can take a physical and emotional toll on both parents.
Both parents should be sure to eat well, rest and keep active. Try to create a support system with friends and family who can help out with babysitting older children, cleaning or just to help give you a moment to yourself. This will help adjusting your home life with a new little one easier. You will also find veteran parents, nurses and doctors are supportive and encouraging. You may also find a local support group, or even a group online that may help you.
Never hesitate to seek help for yourself if you are feeling extremely overwhelmed or depressed. There are a wide range of emotions during the first few months with a new baby. Do not let baby blues, or postpartum depression, get in the way of you being able to fully enjoy your little one.
If you have questions or concerns about caring for your premature infant, please give us MacKoul Pediatrics at call at 239-573-2001.
MacKoul Pediatrics is an amazing local pediatrics office in Cape Coral, FL where caring, compassionate doctors and nurses work with you to keep your children as healthy as possible. MacKoul cares for children from birth to college age, from Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples, and beyond.
February 24, 2017