Bringing your baby home from the NICU can be a very joyous and overwhelming experience. I talk extensively about our experience in my blog titled: Life after the NICU But, I decided to share a few quick and helpful tips to keep in mind while preparing to bring your little one home and get settled into life at home.
- Make sure you have lined up a pediatrician one who has experience caring for premature babies. Its best to ask for references via the NICU staff or other preemie moms. Once you have found your prospects, its a good idea to call and arrange a phone or in person interview/consult with the Doctor prior to committing. A few days prior to discharge, the nurse may ask if you have a Pediatrician and you will need to provide their info- usually the NICU case manager or social worker will schedule the first appointment 2 days following your babies discharge. It is also important to verify if your baby will need to have any other follow up appointments with specialist.
- Take a CPR/First Aid class- the hospital our son was in required that we take a CPR class prior to his discharge. The class was offered for FREE and was taught buy a certified NICU nurse. The class was very helpful and we gained knowledge that helped ease our minds on what to do in case of an emergency. (NOTE: If you don't have a landline it may be a good time to get one. If there is an emergency and you dial 911 from your cell phone- the call will be directed to Highway Patrol and may take longer to route the call so it's always a good idea to have a landline in the house.) Also, make sure that anyone who will be watching your baby has CPR certification or basic life saving skills.
- Sleeping arrangements: this was critical for us. With Jaxson being discharged on oxygen and a pulse oximeter, keeping him close to us was very important. Although he has his own room, he slept in his pack and play bed at the foot of our bed. We were gifted the halo bassinet which was awesome because of all the features it had; however, Jaxson wasn't too fond of it and didn't want to sleep in it. So plan B was his Eddie Bauer pack and play which is adjustable and all around awesome! So my advice is to make sure you have a plan on where baby will sleep and what the baby will sleep in! I highly recommend a bed of some sort (bassinet or pack & play) try to avoid having the baby sleep in a rocker (for safety reasons)
- Stock up on hand soaps, hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, cleaning wipes. Cleanliness is important for any baby, but especially a premature baby as their immune systems can be a bit more compromised due to their early arrival. If you are going to have visitors make sure they wash their hands thoroughly before engaging with the baby. It is also a good idea to use a blanket for them to put over their clothes before holding the baby. Clothes carry germs and remember, we want the baby to stay healthy and not come in contact with any type of cold or virus that could send them back to the hospital! For us, we still change our clothes once we get home, we wash our hands ALL the time and use hand sanitizer! We have a bottle in each room of our house and bathroom!
- Lastly, when you bring your baby home chances are you will be in isolation (so to speak) for some time. If your baby comes home during the winter months when its chilly outside and cold/flu season is present, you will want to plan ahead. Make a plan as to how you will run your errands or prepare meals, etc. without having to take the baby out and expose them to all of the nasty germs. With the exception of 2 Doctor's appointment a week, we kept Jaxson in isolation for 7 LONG weeks! Was it hard? A little! But, my husband and I came up with a plan and we had a little help from our parents also. We took turns running errands or doing the grocery shopping. And the key is to get it all done in one trip out if possible so that you aren't running in and out and missing valuable time with the baby or sleep!
- Don't be hard on yourself. The adjustment will take time and things may be hard in the beginning. This is normal so don't worry, things will fall into place and you will get into your groove in no time! I encourage you to take it one day at a time, one hour hour at a time, one minute at a time. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed take deep a breath, take a time out- do something to refuel and give you the strength to keep going. Remember, you can't pour from an empty cup :)
I hope this information helps you get a head start on planning for your little one to come home. There are lots of things to prepare for when your baby gets discharged from the hospital. If you grab the essentials: car seat/stroller, baby bed (bassinet, crib, etc.) diapers, wipes, blankets, bottles, pacifiers, baby wash/shampoo, lotion and hand sanitizer then I would say you are off to a good start! Also, don't be afraid to ask for help! Our discharge nurse was amazing and made sure we were prepared before bringing Jaxson home. She even gave 2 big goodie bags filled with tape, left over diapers, syringes, etc. to kind of get us started on our way! (hint, hint)
I am wishing you much success in transitioning to home life and if you have any questions or feel I left out something important, feel free to leave me a comment below or send me a note!