A baby born before 37 weeks of gestation is considered premature. It is unlikely that you will be bringing home your preemie from the hospital after just a couple of days. Your baby may need to spend some time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to support their growth and development. This can mean a few weeks or even months of anxious hospital visits until your baby has the strength to function on their own.
Once the day arrives when you can take your baby home, you may have mixed feelings of joy and concern. Leaving the security of hospital professionals and caring for your little one on you own can be daunting. Be comforted by the belief that your baby needs the love and care of mummy and daddy more than anything.
Bringing home your preemie – medical milestones
The hospital will only discharge a premature baby once they are satisfied that they are ready for the outside world. Your baby will need to meet some medical milestones before they can go home.
- a minimum weight as set by the doctors who are caring for your baby
- your baby must be able to maintain their body temperature outside of the incubator for at least 24 -48 hours
- your baby is feeding from the breast or bottle all the time without needing any tube feeds
- steady weight gain
Your baby will be cared for by you and the experienced hospital nurses. Together you will create a routine and feeding scheudle which helps your baby to develop, mature and gain weight.
Although your baby has to stay at the hospital, you can express breastmilk for him or her. It will be fed through a nasogastric tube, until they are ready to try breast or bottle feeding with you. You can go to the hospital everyday to borrow their electric breast pumps. Alternatively, buy your own pump to express the milk at home and bring it to the hospital in storage bags.
Bringing home your preemie
Find out what you’ll need to take your preemie home on the next page…