June 2022 – After the NICU

Jenny R. McCormick, Senior Editor

You’ve spent days, weeks or even months in the NICU and now you have received the best news! Your preemie is ready to come home! You may greet the day of discharge from the hospital with a mixture of joy and worry, but remember, with some preparation and planning, you’ll be ready, too.

Medical needs after discharge: Some preemies will need specialized medical support after leaving the hospital, such as apnea monitors, oxygen, or feeding tubes. Communicate with your preemie’s care team to find out the needs for your child and make sure YOU feel comfortable understanding and using all medical equipment.

Synagis vaccine: Many different viruses can compromise the health of our fragile preemies, but they’re particularly vulnerable to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), in preemies it can lead to severe illness, breathing problems, or even death, and is a common cause for rehospitalization of preemies.

A preventive medicine is available to help protect infants from RSV. Preemies born at less than 29 weeks should receive this medicine, as well as any born under 32 weeks who required extra oxygen for the first month of life. Talk to your medical team prior to discharge.

Medical records: Make sure you receive all of your preemie’s medical records and appointments prior to discharge. It will look overwhelming, especially if your preemie had a long NICU stay, but take your time and read through all records to make sure everything is accurate.

CPR & Specialized Training: To be prepared for emergencies, consider taking a course in infant CPR before your baby comes home from the hospital. (CPR training is required for all parents whose children are on apnea monitors.) Make sure your partner takes the course, as well as grandparents or other caregivers who will be alone with the baby. The NICU staff may be able to recommend a program and in some hospitals, the NICU staff trains parents of preemies in CPR prior to discharge.

Choose a Pediatrician: Prior to discharge, choose a pediatrician and schedule your preemie’s first appointment. Reach out to your team and ask for recommendations, referrals and whether the pediatrician has worked with preemie families before and has knowledge of preterm birth.

Home with your preemie: Expect to live quietly with your preemie at first. Because their immune systems are still developing, preemies are at risk for infections. So, you’ll need to take precautions.

  • Limit visits from friends and family
  • Avoid public places
  • Continue to practice kangaroo care with your preemie at home
  • Set up sanitizing stations around your home
  • Make sure all family pets get familiar with the newest addition to the family and monitor animal behaviors at all times.

Take care of yourself: Parents spend a tremendous amount of time caring for a preemie during the first few months at home. But it’s also important to be good to yourself and not underestimate the stress of delivering earlier than expected. And if you’re overwhelmed or depressed, do not hesitate to get professional help for yourself so you can fully enjoy your new baby.