I literally froze when the nurse told me my baby is getting discharged. I’ve waited for an eternity for this day to come and it’s finally here. Chunbao had a dramatic entry to the world and ended up staying in the NICU for 44 days. Just about a week into his stay, I was already getting ready for him to come home because I was desperate to bring him home! As organized and somewhat obsessive-compulsive as I am, I just want to be sure I have everything prepared for that special day. Here, I outlined the top 8 most important things to consider when bringing home a baby from the NICU.
Tip #1: Get Organized with documents
When Chunbao was in the NICU, I inherited piles of documents including NICU welcome handbook, MRI scans, consent forms, caring instructions, feeding guides… and the list goes on. I knew that there will be a lot more documents to come so I filed all of Chunbao’s related documents in an accordion file organizer. As we begin to see different specialists outside of the NICU, I started filing all the records we’ve compiled. I love it that all of Chunbao’s documents are in one place and I know exactly where to find them.
Tip #2: Put all doctor’s appointments on your calendar
NICU baby needs extra TLC to ensure that he stays healthy after getting home. This is especially important when it comes to keeping up with all the necessary doctor’s appointments. If all you need to see is the pediatrician, you’re in the lucky bunch! However, If your baby needs to be followed by different specialists, make sure that you start scheduling them now and put all the appointment reminders on your calendar so you won’t forget!
Prior to Chunbao’s discharge, we were told he needs to be followed by the pediatrician, hematologist, orthopedic, neurologist, pulmonologist, and the high-risk infant clinic. There are specific timeframes he needs to see each doctor (for example, seeing the pediatrician within 5 days after discharge) so I started making appointments with them while Chunbao is still in the NICU.
Tip #3: Apply for Early Intervention Program
Early intervention programs are designed for children younger than 3 years old at risk for developmental delays. The program consists of therapists, specialists, service coordinators, and clinicians to provide assessment and services for children at risk for delays. Since the infant’s brain is still developing, teaching babies key skills early on can help with catching up in their development faster. Ask your NICU nurse if your baby may be eligible for the state-funded early intervention program so your baby can start receiving services. Each state has its own program for early intervention. In California, the program is funded by the Department of Developmental Services and it’s called Early Start. Prior to Chunbao’s discharge, his nurse recommended us to apply for the Early Start program. Since it can take a couple of months before our little boy starts receiving services, I applied to the program right away. Chunbao has physical therapy, occupational therapy, and child development sessions each once a week. His initial assessment placed him 3 months developmentally delayed. After 6 months of therapy, he’s now all caught up! I honestly feel that if it weren’t for the early intervention therapies, he wouldn’t be doing so well so fast.
Tip #4: Create Medical History Form
A medical history form is like a resume for your baby’s health status. Within a page, it includes parents’ contact information, pediatrician and/or specialist’s contact information, medical history, insurance information, and current medication. I place Chunbao’s medical history form in the diaper bag so we have it at all times when we’re with him. The medical history form can be useful in case of emergencies and visit new doctors.
Tip #5: Install Car Seat
The most important thing can be easily overlooked when getting your baby to be discharged. For new parents like us, we had to learn how to install the car seat. So, before bringing your baby home make sure you properly install that car seat and learn how to use it! Also, your NICU may require a “car seat test” to see how your baby behaves in the car seat. For Chunbao, he needs to remain in the car seat with no panic attack for at least 60 minutes. He will need to repeat the test the next day if his alarm starts beeping. Luckily, he passed the test in a breeze 🙂
Tip #6: Keep Up With Milk Supply
Breast milk is the optimal nutrition for a baby, especially for a hospitalized one. I understand how difficult it is to pump or breastfeed while dealing with the physical and mental stress the NICU can bring. However, to help your baby grow and develop, keep up with your pumping schedule even after you bring your baby home. If you are struggling to get your milk supply up, read How to pump more milk for the NICU baby to get some amazing tips. I was able to create a mini freezer stash by applying all the tips I mentioned in this post.
Tip #7: Start to Look into Child Care
Looking into childcare was definitely not on my priority list after we bring Chunbao home. Since I took 4 months off from work, I still got more than 2 months to get the childcare situation figured out prior to returning to work. I guess I’ll just start looking for daycare a week before I head back to work. Wrong! Needless do I know that there are long waitlists for daycare. I mean for 8 months! Are you kidding me? All the better daycare centers have an average of 6 months waitlist, at least in the metro Los Angeles where I’m at. So, to ensure that there is a smooth transition from your maternity leave back to work, decide on child care early on.
Tip #8: Caring for Low Birth Weight baby
Despite going home on oxygen, Chunbao was rather healthy when he got discharged. However, he was still a preemie and underweight. In the NICU, he was monitored for his vitals. The alarm beeps at the slightest increase in blood pressure (a nice way to know it’s time for a diaper change ?). At home, there was no alarm to tell us if he’s getting enough oxygen or if there is an issue with his blood pressure. Home care for a preemie, especially low birth weight baby, can somewhat be frightening for parents. You should receive a discharge instruction on how to care for your baby at home and things to caution on. To name a few, I’ve kept my home warmer than usual (72 degrees Celsius), buy preemie size diapers (I love Pampers Swaddlers and it’s the same brand our hospital uses), feed every 2 hours with my fortified breast milk, add Poly-Vi-Sol With Iron supplement to every bottle. Last but not least, treat my preemie like a normal, healthy kid as he is now.
Without a doubt, you and your baby have been through so much in the NICU. Bringing him or her home is just the beginning of an awesome motherhood. Leave a comment and let me know what you’ve done to get that bundle of joy to come home.