When you are bringing your newborn home from the hospital, NICU parents can experience a mix of emotions. Parents can be happy and excited to finally have their baby coming home but nervous about not having the neonatal team to answer questions. Today we are sharing ten tips to make the transition from the hospital to your new life at home a little easier.
1. Understand your baby’s home needs
Your baby may have ongoing medical issues at the time of discharge, and you should have a good understanding of what those issues are. Some babies may need special equipment for ongoing breathing or feeding issues at home. Before your baby’s discharge, you should have that equipment at your home and feel comfortable using it. Additionally, ask the NICU staff if you can have a family meeting. These meetings are when the physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists, and other important staff can review your baby’s current medical status, discuss expected ongoing needs, and review discharge criteria. If a family meeting is not possible, then speak with your neonatologist. Either way, become familiar with your baby’s needs and know how best to take care of them before discharge.
2. Take your baby to their follow-up appointments
Know when your baby needs to see their outpatient pediatrician or other pediatric specialists. This is particularly important if your baby has had a long or complicated hospital course and will be seeing multiple doctors for their care. If transportation is a concern, be sure to speak with social workers about ways to assist in getting your baby to those appointments. Other ways to handle multiple appointments are to choose providers that are close to one another (when possible) or schedule appointments on the same day to avoid several trips.
3. Ask questions and write down information
Taking your newborn home can be a little scary. Ask your child’s neonatal team any questions you might have. Even after you leave the hospital, you can call the neonatal team or your pediatrician with questions. Families should keep a notebook to write down questions and the responses that are given. With the stress that comes with having a baby in the NICU, it can be helpful to refer back to what the doctors have told you.
4. Make Mom’s recovery a priority
Having a baby with no medical issues can be challenging, but there can be additional stressors if your baby has ongoing medical needs. As a parent, you worry about your children; however, remember to take care of yourself. Moms need to care for themselves so that they can give the best care to their babies. Before your baby’s discharge, try to get as much rest as possible, go to any required doctor’s appointments, and find an outlet to manage any stress or anxiety, such as support groups, a new hobby, or establishing a relationship with a therapist. After your baby’s discharge, make time for yourself, even if it’s only just 30 minutes daily.
5. Limit your visitors
Newborns, particularly premature infants, are more vulnerable to getting sick due to immature immune systems. As a result, you should avoid taking your baby to public places (e.g., grocery stores, crowded parks, large parties, family gatherings, etc.). Don’t hesitate to ask visitors who are ill to wait until they feel better before visiting. Ensure you and any caregivers are up to date on vaccines and wash your hands often, especially during cold and flu season!
6. Allow time for family adjustments
A life-altering event just occurred; you added another person to your family dynamic. It does not matter if this is your first baby or your fourth; it will still take time to adjust. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few months. Don’t force the adjustment to happen; just let it occur naturally over time.
7. Build a support team
Caring for a newborn is a lot of work. Make sure to have a support team to help. Ask family and friends to help by preparing meals for your family, doing some laundry, or coming over to watch your baby so you can get some rest. If you don’t have family that lives nearby, consider hiring a postpartum doula.
8. Prepare before the baby comes
About a month or so before your baby arrives, prepare some frozen meals to keep in your freezer. This will be a lifesaver after your baby’s arrival on the days when you don’t have the time or energy to cook. Try to think of foods that are easy to eat with one hand, as you might be holding your baby and nursing while eating. Stock up on baby products like diapers, wipes, and diaper rash ointment to avoid having to go to the store often.
9. Prepare for new routines
Once you bring home your newborn, your day will revolve around them and their new schedule and routine. Plan their feeding, sleeping, and playing schedule with your partner.
10. Keep up with “Kangaroo Care”
After you leave the hospital, continue with skin-to-skin contact, also known as kangaroo care. This is when the newborn and parent’s skin touch one another, usually on the chest. This has many benefits, including reducing stress, encouraging successful breastfeeding, and helping to keep the baby’s body warm.
Having a baby in the NICU for any length of time is difficult – but it is rewarding to see them improve and go home. Hopefully, this information is helpful and gives you the insight needed to prepare for your baby’s transition out of the hospital. From all of us at Onsite, we hope that your NICU graduate continues to thrive and grow in your care.