For many, going home is something to look forward to but understandably it is also normal to feel anxious. During the time spent on the Neonatal Unit, you will have been surrounded by staff offering help and support. Ensuring you are prepared for home is the best way to enjoy your special day and this can be done by becoming fully involved in looking after your baby whilst they are in hospital, building up your own confidence until you are completely caring for your baby. Advice should be given about safe sleeping conditions and you will be offered training on basic resuscitation.
As the time becomes close for your baby to be discharged, some units in the region have facilities to allow you to “room in” with your baby so that you are caring for them day and night but with staff nearby to offer advice. Before you are discharged it is important to feel confident in the following areas:
Make sure you know the medicines your baby is taking including the name, what they are for, how much and how often to give it and how long they will need it. It is important to know where you go for your repeat prescriptions.
Be comfortable with the feeding plan for your baby including when and how your baby will be weighed after discharge. You should know how to sterilise any feeding equipment. Your Health Visitor may have made contact with you during your time on the Neonatal unit and will usually visit soon after discharge.
If your baby is discharged with oxygen, extra training will be given prior to discharge including using the oxygen equipment at home. The Community Neonatal Nurse or Community Paediatric Nurse will visit and support you at home. The oxygen company have a 24 hour helpline if you need help and advice with your equipment. You could always contact your local unit/hospital of advice.
4. Car Seats
Your baby must always travel in a car seat; therefore, ensure your car seat is suitable for a small baby.
5. Home Temperature
The temperature of your home should be between 18 to 20 degrees Celsius and does not need to be as warm as the Neonatal Unit. 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.
6. Clinic Appointments
After discharge, many babies require follow up at the hospital clinic and you should be told about this before you leave. This is to check progress and development, particularly if your baby was born very early. You may also have appointments for eye checks and scans. Details about hospital appointments will be explained to you before discharge.
7. Who is around to help at home?
After discharge, if your baby was born extremely prematurely or needs oxygen or tube feeds, you may have the support of community nursing staff. They will either visit you at home or arrange to see you in a local clinic. They will offer support and advice and monitor your baby’s growth, weight, oxygen requirement, feeding and development. All parents will have help and support from your Health Visitor and GP practice. Prior to discharge it is best to register your baby with the GP particularly if your baby needs repeat prescriptions. Your Health Visitor will initially visit you at home and then make arrangements to see you at a local clinic.
8. Contact Numbers
It is useful to have a list of contact numbers before you go home so you know where to get help if you have any problems, e.g. GP, Health Visitor, Community Nurse, Neonatal Unit, and NHS 111 out of hours service.