Bringing Your Preemie Home

Whether your preemie was in the hospital for several days or many weeks, being able to welcome your baby home is a big achievement. You should feel free to celebrate the day just as you would with a full-term baby (balloons, a big sign), but also take a few precautions after you’ve settled in. A preterm baby will require a bit of special handling and attention paid to development milestones during the early weeks and months. For your baby’s safety (and your sanity), keep these tips in mind.

Cool and calm
It’s normal to worry a bit when your preemie comes home, but remember that she wouldn’t be with you if her doctor didn’t think she was ready. She’s being discharged from the hospital because she’s out of the woods, able to breathe on her own, feed at the breast or from a bottle, and she’s gained some weight. Your baby’s pediatrician will give you all the information you’ll need about her care, but you can always call if you have a question or concern.

Buckle up safely
Most preemies are able to travel home in an infant car seat, though a few will need to ride in a special infant bed if there are any lingering respiratory issues. Your hospital may also want to check the seat or bed you plan to use and monitor your new baby while she’s in it. Some car seats may need to be adjusted so that your baby’s head is well supported (be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when installing and using it).

Shh, baby’s sleeping!
Not every preemie is startled by bright lights or a little noise, but you may want to start off with a quiet environment during the early weeks of your new baby’s arrival at home. Ask family and friends to wait on their plans to visit until you’ve established a routine and are feeling comfortable. Because your preemie’s immune system is still developing, insist that all visitors wash their hands before holding your baby (anyone with an obvious cold should simply stay away for now). Also, be vigilant about cigarettes: Secondhand smoke (blown near your baby) and third-hand smoke (residue on clothes or in the car of a smoker) are unhealthy.

As you welcome your sweet new baby home, don’t forget to take some time for yourself. It can be stressful being a new mom, especially for a parent of a preemie, so try to follow the old adage of sleeping when your baby does and letting others pitch in with housework and other chores.