All parents want to know when their babies can go home. Some babies go home a few weeks after their due date, some go home around their due date, and some go home a bit before. Many are transferred from their birth hospital to a community hospital before going home. Generally speaking the earlier the baby, the longer the hospital stay. Babies are ready to go home when their breathing is stable (no spells for a week), they are feeding by breast or bottle well, they are gaining weight reliably, they have passed a car seat test, and they have no pressing clinical issues that need monitoring at a hospital.
Most units have a discharge planner or staff member who will meet with you before your baby is ready to go home to discuss with you the steps that are involved. The days before discharge can be emotionally challenging. One moment you are excited, the next you are worried. You can’t wait to be back home, but you may be nervous about losing the support you’ve had in the hospital. If you do feel this way, you’re not alone; many parents find discharge day to be bittersweet (though mostly sweet).
One concern many parents share is that their friends and family do not understand that their NICU baby, even after going home, may still need to be treated differently than a baby born full-term without medical complications. That’s why we have prepared a letter for you that you can share with friends and family before discharge. You can copy and paste the text below.
Dear Family & Friends,
We are so excited to announce that soon we will be bringing our preemie home, and we know you share in our excitement.
Though we are leaving the NICU, we will be bringing home many of the practices and habits that we learned there. Our medical team has told us that we must be very careful in the weeks and months ahead, since we want to protect our child’s health and development. Illnesses that are minor irritants for term children can send preemies back to the hospital, which is something we all want to avoid. The way we care for our child may seem different than what you are used to or what you may have done with your children, but our actions are based on medical advice that is specific to our child and family. We appreciate your support, acceptance and understanding.
We will be following our doctor’s advice about limiting visitors over the next few months. Big events with many people are not suitable for a vulnerable preemie, so it is much easier for us to visit in small groups or to host a single visitor.
If we are able to have you over, please ensure the following:
- Please be completely healthy. If you have a cold (even a minor one) or think you might be getting ill, please postpone the visit to a later date. If you are not sure, please ask us, and please don’t be offended if we suggest postponement.
- Please wash your hands upon entering our home, and please be thoughtful about hand hygiene during your visit.
- Please do not smoke before or during a visit with us.
- We will be following our doctor’s recommendations regarding vaccinating and medicating our child and our family, and we would appreciate it if you would support us in this. We also encourage you to make sure your immunizations (including the flu shot) are up-to-date.
- We are following very specific guidelines related to feeding our baby, and also following standard safe sleep guidelines. If you are helping us care for our baby, please follow these guidelines as well.
- We greatly appreciate your understanding and your help. We are also grateful for the support you showed us during our NICU stay, and we look forward to seeing you soon.
Thank you to the Canadian Premature Babies Foundation for sharing this with us!