When it is finally time to leave the hospital with a newborn, parents are elated to take the baby home for the first time. However, if this is a preemie birth, it can be quite scary. Whether it is a 37-week preterm baby or 31-week-old preemie, being born early does make things difficult. Parents of preemies would have gone through emotional overdrive – starting from feeling guilty, angry, denial and frustration at the baby being a preemie and finally acceptance – but now with the anxiety, if everything is going to be OK?
Don’t worry. We’ve got you. Read on to know everything about taking a premature baby home and how to care for them.
Before you leave the hospital with your premature baby, find out the following details, to help you take good care of the baby:
1. Collect All Baby Records – Medical and others (birth certificate, discharge certificate, etc.). If you have given any scan reports or taken any blood tests during your stay in the hospital, ensure you collect all the results before you leave.
2. Clarify Doubts – You would have observed how the medical staff cared for your premature baby and what all they did to comfort your baby. Make note of them all, ask your questions and clarify your doubts before you leave the hospital. Sometimes, your doubts might lead you to other specialists, who could help you more. Cloudnine offers “rooming in” on the day with the baby before you go home – so that you “experience” the reality – and that allows you to clarify any doubts, ask any questions that may arise in your mind etc before you finally take the baby home.
3. Prepare Home – There are high chances you were not prepared to welcome the baby so early. Your house may not be “baby-ready”, especially when it is a premature baby. You may want to stock up on all baby things and get the room and bed ready for your baby.
4. For all parents of premature babies – especially extremely premature babies (i.e., less than 28 weeks) we teach the first aid basics if the need were to arise before you go home.
After you reach home, you are on your own, taking care of your baby and putting to use all the information and knowledge you gathered from the hospital in the last few days. It can be quite confusing and overwhelming in the beginning, but you will slowly get used to it and get more confident taking care of your premature baby by yourself. Make sure you have the NICU direct number and emergency number handy in case you need any emergency help – please remember to use these numbers for emergencies only.
Ensure your baby does not get too hot or too cold. Premature babies cannot regulate their body temperatures as well as full-term babies. They need a little more time to develop this ability and adapt to their surroundings. This does not mean you need to constantly keep checking their body temperature. Ensure the temperature stays within 36.6°C and 37.2°C (97.88° F – 98.96°F). Anything lower or higher needs immediate attention. Remember babies also go through 4 seasons – so dress accordingly – as a general rule they need 1 layer of extra clothing than what you wear.
Make your baby sleep on their back and not on their stomach, even if that is how they were sleeping in the hospital, because in the hospital they would have been attached to monitors. Similarly, ensure there aren’t any soft toys or too many pillows around, that can fall on them and smother them. Such unsafe sleeping positions or environment increases the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Babies need flat firm surfaces and not any cushions and definitely NO pillows till they are 18 months.
Your doctor might ask you to limit your baby’s baths to twice or thrice a week to prevent drying their skin. You can clean them using cotton wool and warm water.
If you plan to use soap, check with your doctor for recommendations. If your baby’s skin reacts negatively, you must avoid using that soap henceforth (no matter how well it is doing in the market). You can use plain water or try other brands approved or suggested by your doctor.
A newborn requires a diaper change very frequently. Some warm water and cotton are enough to clean your baby’s bottom. If a rash is your concern, you can use a thin layer of diaper rash cream every time you change a diaper. The purpose of the diaper cream is to protect the skin from contact with stools which can cause rashes. Finding the right size diaper is not so difficult anymore. Many brands have diapers specifically designed for premature babies.
Your newborn’s skin can be very delicate. Some babies might suffer from very dry or itchy skin and will need medicated products to help them. Use doctor-approved products only.
Some premature babies need extra assistance from the outside. Your doctor might prescribe a few supportive medications. Ensure you note down the various doses and timings for the medicines and give them to your baby without fail.
Here are 10 useful tips to help you care for your premature baby all by yourself, at home:
1. Relax – It can be very stressful to take care of a premature baby by yourself. It is important to relax a little and not stress too much. Get all the help and support you can.
2. Say No to Guests – Your premature baby’s immunity is very low and they can get infected very easily. Give your baby some more time until they can have visitors.
3. Reduce Handling – Limit the touching, hugging, kissing and even carrying. It will reduce the risk of infection. Anyone who wants to handle your baby will need to wash their hands thoroughly to reduce the chances of infection.
4. Swaddle – Babies love to stay warm and snuggled up. Learn to swaddle and keep your baby swaddled as much as possible.
5. Skin-to-Skin – Your baby needs more warmth. Skin-to-skin contact can help your baby. Kangaroo care is an effective way to practice.
6. In Touch with Doctor – Stay in touch with your baby’s doctor and the hospital. In case of an emergency or an unexpected complication, you need to address it as early as possible.
7. Feeding – Since your baby is small, he/she may not be able to suck properly. They might also get tired easily. Try increasing the feeding frequency and reducing the quantity per feed.
8. Sterile Environment – Keep your baby’s surroundings clean and ensure you sterilize all baby’s items, every time they are used (breast pumps, bottles, pacifiers or spoons)
9. Limit Noise – Try to limit the noise around them. It can be very difficult, especially if you have an older child at home. You can use some white noise to prevent sudden noises.
10. Keep Track – Keep a close watch over your baby’s hearing, vision, and other developments. They will be according to their “corrected age” and not chronological age – which you need to learn so that you don’t get unnecessarily worried. If your baby is born 5 weeks early or just born 2 weeks early, give them those extra weeks to meet the milestone.
Whether it is a baby born 4 weeks early or a baby born 4 months premature, taking them home can be very scary. With all the help and information you can get, you can care for your premature baby too. It will get better with time.
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