Taking your Baby Home
Whilst your baby has been on the neonatal unit you will have had a lot of support and people around to answer questions and give advice. For many going home is something parents are really looking forward to but at the same time can cause anxiety as well as relief. Before you leave hospital you will have been encouraged to undertake the cares for you baby and established them on full feeds. The following information is provided as a guide to support you in going home with your baby and answering any questions that you may have.
How long will our baby be on the unit?
It is very difficult to say exactly how long your baby will be on the neonatal Unit as this will depend on his/her condition. However as a rough guide it would be fair to say that if born pre-term your baby will be on the Unit until the original due date i.e. until your baby has reached term. Some very premature babies may still need to be looked after in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit beyond their due date
When can we bring our baby home?
All parents are naturally anxious to get their baby home as soon as possible. We do, however, need to balance this with the best interest of the baby from a medical point of view.
If your baby was born early but is otherwise healthy, he/she can usually go home at about the time that they would have been 'term' i.e. the due date. This can, however, vary depending on your baby's strength and growth.
When the staff on the unit are happy for your baby to go home many or our units across the region have facilities for you to 'room in' with your baby. This enables you to have one or two nights and days practice caring for your baby independently, but within easy access of staff should you have any questions and helps build up your confidence.
If you would like to know more about your baby's condition and when he/she might be ready to return home, please ask your nurse or doctor on the Unit.
I have twins, can one go home without the other?
Yes. If one is much further ahead than the other, it is likely that that twin will go home before his/her sibling. The other twin may return with you to visit.
Can I take my baby home with a feeding tube?
Your baby may be gaining weight, maintaining his temperature and have no other significant problems but still requires to use a feeding tube for some of his feeds.
If they are managing at least two full feeds independently of the tube (at the breast or by bottle) within a 24 hour period, many of our units across the region can support you at home. Our Neonatal Units will provide you with all the necessary training and equipment for tube feeding and will visit you at home and help you with the gradual weaning from the tube.
Can my baby go home with oxygen?
A small number of babies who need extra help with breathing will go home 'on oxygen'. This will be discussed with you before any plans are made. Oxygen can be supplied at home and the community neonatal team and community paediatric nursing teams under supervision of a paediatrician would support you in this. You would not be expected to do anything at home that had not already been explained and shown to you by a health professional.
For more information on having a baby on home oxygen please see the Bliss publication 'Going home on oxygen'
What support will I have at home?
If your baby was born extremely preterm or is receiving oxygen therapy or tube feeding then you may well return home with the help or a community nursing or paediatric team. These teams will visit you in your own home and monitor your babies, growth, weight, feeding and development.
For all other parents, your health visitor will be your main support once you are home. She will have been regularly updated on your baby's progress during your baby's stay in NICU.
Hopefully, you will have met or made contact with her before going home. She will visit you at home within 48 hours of your discharge. Your baby will then be followed up regularly at her clinic.
How do I know if my baby is warm enough?
Generally your house temperature should be between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius. You do not need to have your house at the same temperature as the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (25C).
Dress your baby in layers, which can be added to or taken away. Never use your baby's hands or feet as a guide to warmth, as they are generally cooler than their body. Your baby will adjust to their new environment.
What should I do if my baby appears unwell?
If you feel that your baby is unwell, or is showing signs of the following:
- feverish, fretful
- changes in feeding - becoming disinterested or reluctant to feed
- changes in stools
- sleepy or non-responsive
- irregular breathing or more rapid or noisy breathing
- blotchy skin, or a rash
Then it is recommended that you seek medical help from your GP or call 999, rather than trying to contact the Neonatal Units or community support team.
Will my baby be followed-up?
If your baby has been admitted to Neonatal Services it is likely that they will be followed up in an outpatient clinic. These appointments will be in addition to your usual health visitor milestone checks, and aim to check your child’s development and address any other medical issues relating to your babies stay on the neonatal unit. If your baby has required surgery then he/she may be seen by the paediatric surgical team. If there are problems which they feel would benefit from a specialist opinion then they will will refer your baby to one of the paediatric specialty teams.
What is corrected age?
The corrected age is the age a baby would have been if they had been delivered at full term, or the age calculated from your estimated date of delivery. The corrected age is used when monitoring premature babies' physical and speech development, such as sitting, walking and talking. You stop correcting the age at two years old.