Tommee Tipps

It's important to remember that your baby is coming home because they are well enough to leave the hospital, and the staff on the unit will be there to help you feel confident in all areas of your baby’s care.

Tips for Bringing a Premature Baby Home

Getting ready to leave the hospital with your premature baby and head home is really exciting and daunting at the same time. You might be feeling nervous about the prospect of looking after your baby at home without the constant support of the unit, and these feelings are normal, it's a huge step!

It's important to remember that your baby is coming home because they are well enough to leave the hospital, and the staff on the unit will be there to help you feel confident in all areas of your baby’s care. 

They will talk through the following points with you to make sure you're ready…

  • Do you know how to reassure your baby and make them comfortable?
  • Do you know how to give your baby a bath?
  • Have you been shown how to give your baby medication?
  • If your baby needs them, have you been shown how to use and order any specialist equipment, such as a nasogastric (NG) tube and home oxygen?
  • If you're breastfeeding, do you have enough information and support to breastfeed and know where to go for help?
  • If you're expressing and bottle-feeding, or formula feeding, do you know how to sterilise bottles and make up your baby’s feeds?
  • Have you had resuscitation training?
  • Do you know how to check, monitor, and control your baby’s body temperature?
  • Do you know safer sleep guidelines to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)?
  • Do you know how to recognise if your baby is ill and what to do if they become ill?

During their time in hospital, you will hopefully have had the chance to change your baby's diapers, feed them, and have lots of bonding time and skin-to-skin contact, but what else can you do to prepare and what can you expect when you get home?

Rooming-in

Before your head home, your hospital might offer you the chance to stay with your baby in a room on or near the unit and care for them overnight for a few days. This is called 'rooming-in' and gives parents more confidence in caring for their baby, while having the support of unit staff to help.

So, before you get ready to bring your baby home, you could talk to the unit staff about whether rooming-in is available.

Travelling home by car

The first drive home with their baby is a rite of passage for lots of new parents, and it's even more special if you're the parent of a premature baby who's finally coming home!

When the time comes, it's important that you've got an appropriate car seat for your baby to keep them safe. Some babies may have a test to check if they fit properly in their car seat, this is sometimes called a ‘car seat challenge’.

If you're travelling home by taxi, you can often borrow or hire a baby seat, so ask the staff on the unit if there is a local loan scheme available.

Feeding your baby at home

Every baby is different, and should be fed according to their own needs. Just like they did in hospital, once your baby arrives home, they'll continue to demonstrate cues that they are ready for a feed, such as moving their eyes rapidly, putting their fingers into their mouth, making sucking motions (rooting) or becoming restless.

You can be sure that your baby is feeding well if they…

  • Are settled and calm between feeds
  • Have plenty of wet and dirty diapers
  • Are growing and gaining weight

Remember, no question is too small and it's important to ask if you need support with feeding your little one at any time!

Having visitors

When they first arrive home, many parents with a premature baby decide to limit visitors for a time after leaving the neonatal unit so that they have private time together to settle into being a new family.

Not only are babies born premature more sensitive to bright or noisy environments, but they also have a higher risk of infection, so limiting visitors can also reduce the risk of them passing infections on to your baby.

When your loved ones do visit, you might find it stressful if they want to hold or touch your baby, so try and explain the situation to them before they arrive. Don’t worry, they will understand!

Getting 'back to normal'

Some parents find that they are able to get back to everyday life with their new baby relatively easily, but not all do! It's important to take time for yourself as you adjust to life with your baby at home. Things like heading out to stretch your legs in the fresh air can really help clear your head in times of stress.

Remember, you'll get to know your baby and learn to understand their needs at different times, so try not to feel pressured and take it one day at a time.

March of Dimes educate medical professionals and the public about best practices, support lifesaving research, provide comfort and support to families in NICU, and advocate for those who need help the most, moms and babies.