High-Risk Newborns - Taking Your Baby Home

Although parents are excited to take their baby home after days or weeks in the NICU, it may cause many parents some anxiety. When a baby is ready for discharge depends on many factors. Each baby must be individually evaluated for readiness and the family must be prepared to provide any special care for the baby.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has proposed discharge guidelines for high-risk newborn babies. The following general information about discharge is based on those guidelines. Consult your baby's physician for more specific information, based on the needs and medical condition of your child.

Generally, babies may be ready for discharge when they:

  • are steadily gaining weight.
  • have a stable temperature in a regular crib.
  • can feed from a bottle or the breast without difficulty breathing or other problems.
  • have mature and stable heart and breathing ability.

Babies also need:

  • any required immunizations or screening tests, including vision and hearing.
  • checking for risks for additional complications.
  • plans for treatment of on-going medical problems.

Parents and other home caregivers need instruction in:

  • feeding.
  • basic baby care (baths, skin care, taking temperature, etc.).
  • infant CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
  • symptoms of illness.
  • sleep positioning and car seat safety.
  • use and care of special medical devices or equipment.
  • giving medications.
  • performing special procedures or care such as suctioning or special dressings.

The follow-up care plan for each baby includes identifying a primary care pediatrician and specialists for any special needs of the baby, and readying the home for the arrival of the baby. This may include arranging for special home care services or equipment.

If possible, request a parenting room to stay with your baby a night or two before discharge. This often helps parents feel more secure as they can assume total care with nurses and other care providers nearby. Ask about the hotline number or call center number if you need to call and ask questions once you take your baby home.

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