When can my baby go home?
Our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) does not have a specific weight criteria for discharge. Instead the baby must meet the following criteria:
- Be able to keep his/her body temperature normal in an open crib
- Be on complete breast and/or bottle feeds, taking in an adequate number of calories
- Be gaining weight on all breast or bottle feeds
- Stable apnea with infrequent spells
- Most babies are off oxygen when discharged, but some infants who will need oxygen for a long time are sent home on oxygen
The average baby meets these criteria about two to four weeks before their “due date”, but there are big individual differences. Hospital stays vary from a few days to many months. Infants who stay beyond their “due date” usually are infants who:
- were on breathing machines and oxygen the longest
- were born with malformations
- needed surgery.
What should I do before my baby is discharged?
- Get to know your baby and feel comfortable caring for him/her
- become involved in your baby’s care in the hospital
- learn ways to comfort or settle your baby
- change diapers and clothes
- feed your baby as often as possible
- learn to give a bath
- learn to give medications that your baby will receive at home
- learn any treatments that will be given at home
- Learn to properly position your baby in a car seat.
- Identify which physician will be caring for your baby after discharge. Be sure you have an appointment shortly after discharge. Your baby may have several other appointments after discharge. Be sure to go to all of the appointments, even if your baby seems healthy.
- If your baby is a boy, decide if you want him circumcised.
- Inquire about immunizations. Depending on the age of your baby, some immunizations may be started before discharge. Others are given at the time of discharge. Be sure you have a record of those given.
- Learn the results of the routine screening tests performed on your infant and if repeat testing is needed. Common screens are listed below. Your baby may not have all of these.
- Neonatal Screen – All babies have blood tests to look for the presence of certain diseases. Sick preterm infants often have “false positive” results and the test may need to be repeated when the infant is older and healthier.
- Eye Examination
- Hearing test
- Head ultrasound
- If your infant is going home on an apnea monitor, complete monitor training. Learn the important contact numbers for problems or emergencies.
- If your infant is going home on oxygen, be sure you feel comfortable working all of the equipment that you will use at home and when going out. Learn how to secure the nasal cannula. Learn the important contact numbers for problems or emergencies.
- Ask for a copy of your baby’s discharge summary, so you will have it in the future if problems develop or if you move.
High Risk Follow-up Clinic
All babies admitted to the NICU are at some risk for abnormal development. Very small and very sick babies are the highest risk.
Our High Risk Follow Up Clinic follows your baby over time to monitor growth and development. The clinic team has a variety of specialized staff to see how you baby is progressing.
If any problems are identified, the clinic will make referrals for treatment. They also inform your baby’s doctor of any plans for intervention.
The clinic is very important to your child’s future as the earlier problems are identified and treated the sooner your child can improve and reach their full potential.
You should make your first clinic appointment before leaving the NICU