Most are excited to take their baby home after days or weeks in the NICU. But the idea can make some parents nervous. When a baby is ready to go home depends on many things. Each baby must be checked to see if he or she is ready. And, the family must be prepared to provide any special care for the baby.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some ideas on when high-risk newborn babies should go home. The following general information about discharge is based on those guidelines. Ask your baby's health care provider for more specific information, based on the needs and medical condition of your child.
Generally, babies may be ready to go home when they:
Are steadily gaining weight
Have a stable temperature in a regular crib
Can feed from a bottle or the breast without difficulty breathing or other problems
Have mature and stable heart and breathing ability
Babies also need:
Any necessary shots
Screening tests, including vision and hearing
Examinations to look for additional problems
Treatment plans for on-going medical problems
Parents and other home caregivers need instruction in:
Basic baby care (baths, skin care, taking temperature, etc.)
Infant CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
Symptoms of illness
Sleep positioning and car seat safety
Use and care of special medical devices or equipment
Performing special procedures or care such as suctioning or special dressings
The follow-up care plan for each baby includes identifying a primary health care provider and specialists to help with any special needs of the baby. Parents also need to get the home ready for the baby. This may include arranging for special home care services or equipment.
If possible, request a parenting room so you can stay with your baby a night or two before taking your baby home. This often helps parents feel more secure because they can take over the care of their baby with nurses and other care providers nearby. Ask if your hospital has a hotline number or call center you can call if you have questions once you take your baby home.