​Going Home With Your Premature Baby

What can I expect when I bring my premature infant home?

Because premature babies are born before they are ready to leave the womb, they require extra medical attention for a while after birth. 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

The day is finally here and get to bring your baby home! Your ​neonatologist will 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 in an open crib
  • able to take all feedings 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 neonatologit, nurse practitioner and discharge planner 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 your peditrician 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 and how to give them
  • When do you need to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician.  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 Equipment Home With You

Some premature babies need monitors and other equipment at home. For example, if apnea is a problem, monitors will be delivered to you before you go home. Some babies may also need to go home with oxygen. 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 CPR.

Settling In At Home

Premature babies usually 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.

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
  • no smoking in your home
  • getting regular health care for your child
  • breastfeeding

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:

  • Oklahoma Family Network has many families that have been in your situation and are willing to help relieve stress for you and your family.  You may just need a person who listens without judgement
  • Take a parenting class or join a parent support group. OITP can refer you to counselors or other professionals who can help.