Taking Home Your Premature Baby

Waiting to take home your premature baby can feel like it is taking forever.  No matter how long your baby has been in hospital for whether it has been days, weeks or even months the day you take your baby home you will be feeling a mixture of excitement and fear. You have been used to the routine of going to see your premature baby in the hospital and the regular support and advice from the neo natal nurses. If you are feeling anxious about taking your premature baby home it is important to remember that your baby would not be discharged if the health care professionals do not believe they are ready to be.

Discharging a premature baby from hospital is not one single event but a process that has been built up to during their stay in hospital. During the period of time that your baby is in hospital nurses and other health care professionals have been assisting you in learning to care for your premature baby. When it comes time for your baby to be discharged the nurses on the Neonatal unit will ask you to ‘room in’ for a few nights. ‘Rooming in’ is when you will be asked to stay in the hospital either in a room with their baby or very close by. This is to allows you to get used to looking after your premature baby 24/7 with nurses and doctors close by to assist you if you need anything. When I took home my daughter I ‘roomed in’ for 5 nights. During this time we found that she lost weight when she was solely breast feeding so the nurses agreed to discharge her with some special formula milk for very small babies and I was instructed to do a combination of breast and bottle feeding in order to keep her weight up. Problems like this are only found out when you ‘room in’ and the process allows them to be rectified before you take your premature baby home.

Transporting home your premature baby can seem like a challenge but in reality it is not very different from transporting a term baby. Premature babies are normally very small and so a normal car seat will be too big for them. You can buy car seat inserts for premature babies from the shop and this will allow your baby to be safe and comfortable on their journey home. All babies under 1500g will be subject to a ‘car seat challenge’ this is a test to ensure they fit properly in their car seat. Try not to keep your premature baby in a car seat for more than an hour at a time as their body is still developing and as soon as you arrive at your destination get them out of their car seat as soon as possible. I had a car seat that also folded out to be a carry cot so when I arrive at my destination I would turn the car seat into a carry cot as soon as convenient.

When you take home your premature baby a support system will be set in place in order to ease the transition from hospital to home. The Neonatal unit have a community team that will visit you very soon after your baby is discharged and your health visitor would have also been in contact with you in order to arrange a date to visit you. Your GP will also know your baby’s medical history and be fully aware of the treatment they received whilst in the Neonatal unit and any medication they may be on.  The Neonatal unit usually give you their contact number and are more than happy to give you advice over the telephone if you feel you need any. As you have a premature baby there will be check-up’s and assessments to come that a term baby will not normally have. This is only to ensure that your baby is developing correctly. These are normally paediatric assessments, physiotherapy assessments and orthotics assessments and audiology assessments. However, if your baby has been discharged with oxygen or other medicines then there will be other further check-up’s needed and the hospital will arrange all of these for you. 

It may be scary and daunting - but it’s also very exciting! Try not to be too overwhelmed and most importantly enjoy it!