Bringing Home a Premature Baby
There's no doubt that it's been a challenging experience navigating the NICU. Now you’re preparing to finally bring your sweet baby home, but what will you need? Along with including some tried and true post-NICU necessities, I asked NICU moms Kay, Elizabeth, and Justine what their best advice for life after the hospital is. With their help, here’s my list of things you'll need, as well as what to keep in mind to make the transition back home as smooth as possible.
Going Home: What You Need
Items You'll Need Once You're Home
Here’s a checklist of things to make sure you have ready and waiting for you and your baby:
- Diapers in the right size
- A couple of sleep sacks or swaddle blankets: Since babies can’t be left with a blanket or any other loose items, these are a great way to keep baby warm and cozy when you’re not right there.
- Rectal or ear thermometer: I know, rectal thermometers sound awful but they give the most accurate temp in newborns. A designated infant ear thermometer also works too.
- A few hand sanitizer pumps to stick around the house to make it easier for visiting family and friends to keep their germs at bay.
- Medication pacifier or syringe: If you have to give your preemie any medications, having a delivery device like a medication pacifier or syringe will make that easier.
- Camera baby monitors: As Kay says, “after you’re finally able to bring your beautiful baby home, invest in a camera baby monitor. That way you can always have eyes on your angel.”
Preparing for Special Care at Home
The NICU itself can serve as a breadth of information and knowledge, allowing you to learn about your new baby and how to care for him or her prior to going home.
Even so, it’s possible that when you’re all set to head back home with your baby, there may be a few special care responsibilities that the nurses will need to show you how to carry out by yourself like dealing with feeding pumps, changing diapers and bathing around tubes or mixing your baby’s formula or supplements according to weight. Have your partner or a friend write down any special instructions as they’re given so you can leave knowing you have pertinent information in clear terms.
You might even put up a dry erase board or a chalkboard in your kitchen to keep track of feedings, wet diapers and other things the pediatrician might want to know about at your first visit since returning home. All of that stuff gets lost in the blur or babyhood but if you record that info as it happens, you'll save yourself a lot of backtracking.
Going Home: Making the Day-to-Day Easier
Life with a new baby is an adjustment, but life with a preemie is just plain hectic. Here are three things you can do to streamline your life so you can embrace every spare minute to close your eyes, rock your baby, or take a quick shower.
1. Get Your Groceries Delivered
If you don't already, get your groceries delivered. It's worth the small amount of extra money to be able to shop from your rocking chair, bed or couch and have everything brought right to you. If you can't get up to greet the shopper, make a special set up like a wagon set on your porch or in your open garage, that way the shopper can simply drop your groceries off and go.
2. Set Up Google Calendar
Download the Google Calendar app and fill in all of your upcoming doctor's appointments. The app will send you alerts to remind you when you have something coming up so you don't have to sit there wondering, "Is there somewhere else I'm supposed to be right now?"
3. Consider Online Counseling
Mom culture is heavy with the theme of self-care these days, and a practical application of self-care is therapy. Websites like BetterHelp give you the option to talk to a therapist nearly every day via email so you don't have to worry about getting out of your pajamas or leaving the house. Any mom, whether she's brand new or seasoned, can benefit from the emotional support of a daily check-in with a licensed therapist.
"I think being reminded that it’s not your fault, and you didn’t fail would have been nice," says Elizabeth.
Prepare Your Support Team
The support you’ll have will vary depending on your family, but it is essential. It might just be your spouse, or it could extend to parents, siblings, and close friends as well. Others have the advantage of having their entire church community behind them. None of these approaches is necessarily better than the other. But it’s vital to know in advance who your support team will be and what they’ll do. Likewise, they need to understand what they can do to help you prepare for the big day when your preemie comes home.
Where to Find Support
- Share this article with your partner: Your partner needs to understand this process as well so they can help make things go more smoothly.
- Determine who your support team will be: Once you have your team, decide what they can do for you. Can they do as much as you need, or will you need to add to your team I reaching out to others?
- Decide what kind of support you want: Do you want help with certain chores around the house? Would you like to just be able to take a break and once in a while so you can relax or go for a walk? Would you like someone to cook a meal for you occasionally? Let your support team know what you need. As Justine says in her blog post, What to Say to a NICU Parent, laundry, household cleaning, and proper meals tend to go by the wayside when you're caught up in the hospital chaos. Delegating these things to friends and family who want to offer their support will give them practical ways to help you.
- Join a support group: Having your baby born prematurely can be frightening, and it can result in a lot of stress. While you might like to think that things will normalize once you take your baby home, the truth is the stress will continue for some time. This is where a support group made up of people who’ve gone through the same thing can help.
- Carefully choose your pediatrician: If you don’t already have a pediatrician, try to choose one who has experience with preemies. There’s nothing wrong with asking the doctor about his or her experience in this area. After all, they’re part of the support team as well, which means you want to know you can trust them.
- Find out about any specialists: There is a good chance that your preemie will need to see a number of specialists, including lactation consultants, physical therapists and speech therapists. As a part of your support team, you need to know these people and carefully keep track of your baby’s appointments with them.
© 2018 Kate Stroud