Bringing Home Your NICU Graduate
NICU graduates are some of the most amazing and resilient babies. They're also some of the most fragile, and it can be tough to bring them home from the hospital and into a new environment. Your family has endured a challenging time, but with a little help from the experts, bringing home your newest family member can be a little easier. Our team of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Nurses at CaroMont Regional Medical Center share their best tips for making sure your NICU graduate has a smooth transition home:
Prepare as much as you can in advance.
The last few days, weeks or months in the NICU have likely been very stressful. Every parent looks forward to leaving the hospital with their newborn, but in your case, this time of your life has been a rollercoaster.
Before discharge day, double check you have what you need to bring your new baby home. This includes a safe car seat, a safe place for your baby to sleep, diapers, formula (if you don’t plan to breastfeed), clothing that fits and any medication or equipment that was prescribed and/or recommended to your baby. Those are the most important items for your NICU graduate’s health.
It is likely you will forget something. Everyone does. Be kind to yourself and ask for help.
Understand controllable risk factors.
It’s easy to worry about every little thing, from the temperature of your baby’s room to whether someone will ring the doorbell during nap time. Remember you cannot control everything, even in your own home.
One risk you can control is your little one’s risk of infection. For the first two weeks after discharge, NICU graduates should stay at home with minimal visitors. Public places carry a higher risk of infection, and the more people in any given space increases the likelihood of illness and infection.
In your own home, visitors should be limited for the first two weeks. And every visitor who interacts with your child should practice good hand hygiene. It is also critically important that friends or family who are sick, have recently been sick or are currently experiencing any symptoms of illness, should forgo a visit until they are symptom free.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Every child is unique, and your NICU graduate is going to need some extra care. Ask friends and family if they can help with meals or transportation while your new baby adjusts to life at home. Your pediatrician can recommend a lactation consultant who can give a professional opinion on how best to feed the baby, based on their specific needs.
Once you've settled into a routine as parents of a preemie, it's easy to get overwhelmed by all there is to learn about caring for this very special little person in your life. Don't be afraid to reach out for help—your doctor will most likely have some suggestions on lots of topics.
Get support from a doctor who knows your baby's history.
If you don’t already know who your pediatrician will be, get a recommendation from your NICU team. It is important to ensure that your baby’s doctor understands their medical history, so as they continue to grow and thrive, you have the support you need.
It is also important to understand what your baby’s follow-up care after leaving the NICU should be. Take notes or ensure another person is involved in the discharge conversations. Doing so will help you remember the important details, or rely on someone else who can help you remember.
One of the most important tips I give every new mother is to look after yourself and get the post-partum care you need. Your family has been through a lot and you both need and deserve the same attention and care as your incredible new baby.
Congratulations! Our NICU family is cheering for you and your family! We know you can do it.
The Birthplace at CaroMont Regional Medical Center is a world-class birthing center featuring 52 labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum (LDRP) rooms, three C-section operating suites, a 16-bed single-room Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), a family dining area, children’s play area and family resource center. Learn more about welcoming your new addition at The Birthplace.
Contributors: April Hullender, MSN, RNC-NIC; Brittany Welch, RN; Andrea Turner, RN; Holly Roberts, RN; Wendi Benfield, RN; Heidi Postell, RN