Having a baby born prematurely is stressful on a good day. Seeing the wires, breathing apparatuses, and more coming from such a tiny baby can take an emotional toll on parents. But as soon as babies are strong enough, there is physical interaction that can be had with these little ones that help build the bond between preemies and parents. And because there is assistance from medical professionals, it does not seem as scary to care for the babies while in the confines of the hospital. The time when anxiety can kick in is when the countdown begins to when babies can come home. But if parents are prepared before bringing babies home from the NICU, those fears can be decreased exponentially.
While the NICU may feel like a setting in which parents cannot truly care for their premature babies, it is a setting in which quite a bit can be learned. Because of this, if parents absorb what their babies need, participate in all aspects of caring for babies, and if possible, live in with their babies so that they can take over the bulk of the responsibilities of the babies’ care, there will be less of a scary transition when the day comes to go home. A day in which parents both long for and have fears about all in one.
Here are preparations to make before bringing baby home from the NICU.
10 Take Care Of Baby In NICU
When babies are in the NICU, parents may be tempted to let hospital staff take care of the babies because parents feel like fish out of water caring for a baby so small who may be attached to equipment and the like. But the best thing for parents to do is to take every opportunity to learn from doctors and nurses so that they can participate in care as well.
According to Nationwide Children’s, there are many things that parents can do to help care for their babies in the NICU. Those things include:
Give baby a bath
Breast or bottle-feed baby
Talking to baby
Singing to baby
Decorate baby’s space to make it feel more like home
These are just some of the things that parents can be involved in when caring for their baby in the NICU. The more involvement from day one, the easier it will be to transition to home.
9 Room-In With Baby If Allowed
As babies get closer to the time when they will be discharged from the NICU, if parents have the opportunity to room with their babies they should. It helps to alleviate fears that may be had about taking babies home to care for them outside the NICU settling.
According to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses, when parents room with baby, they take total care of their babies. This means that everything from feeding, changing diapers, giving medication, baths, and the like is the responsibility of parents.
However, if there are any questions, there are hospital staff there to assist and answer any questions. As such, it is a trial run for what life will be like at home when babies are finally able to leave the NICU and enjoy the comfort of home.
8 Have Healthcare Professional Selected For Baby Before Leaving Hospital
Parents will want to choose a healthcare professional to care for their baby before leaving the hospital, according to Hand To Hold. This is because not all pediatricians or other professionals are trained to care for NICU babies. And because of this, parents do not want to be left scrambling to find care for their little ones. All it will do is add stress to a situation that already has enough stress to go around.
7 Make First Appointment With Healthcare Professional Before Leaving Hospital
When a pediatrician or other professional has been chosen for babies, according to KidsHealth, parents will want to make an appointment with them before babies leave the hospital. This will give the doctor a first-hand idea as to what care is required for little ones and what tests or treatments will be needed in the future.
Per the publication, these appointments will be needed approximately two to four days before discharge.
6 Have Medicine & Equipment Ready At Home
Many babies that are ready to come home from the NICU do not necessarily need to be hooked up to equipment any longer. However, some equipment may still be needed to keep babies in good health.
According to the March of Dimesequipment that parents will need to have ready to go in their homes when babies are discharged includes:
Feeding tube with a syringe
How long babies will need these things is dependent on the health of each child. But with proper training before discharge, parents will be able to give their babies top-notch care.
5 Take Specialized CPR Classes
No parent wants to think about having to give their baby CPR. But, according to the American Heart Association, NICU babies are at a higher risk for “respiratory or cardiac distress.” As such, it is important for parents to learn specialized CPR to assist their babies, should they need rescue breaths or CPR.
4 Have A Car Seat That Baby Will Fit In
Because NICU babies are smaller than many babies coming home for the first time, they will need a car seat that fits them. And because infant car seats are the smallest on the market, those are what should be purchased for the ride home.
According to VeryWell Family, the car seat should go in a rear-facing position, just like it would for babies who were born at term. But, because more care needs to be paid to the babies’ airways, someone should ride in the backseat with babies, trips should be short in the car in the first few months home, and car rides should be at least an hour after eating, per the publication.
3 Have Baby Wearer
All babies thrive when there is skin-to-skin contact. NICU babies especially so. As such, having a baby wearer to keep little ones close is recommended after being discharged from the hospital.
According to Sanford Health, when there is skin-to-skin contact or babywearing to keep babies close to parents, babies fall asleep easier and sleep longer. The production of milk is also increased for those who are breastfeeding or pumping and bottle feeding their babies.
Furthermore, babywearing releases oxytocin, according to the publication. This increases the bond between mothers and babies and reduces stress and anxiety levels at the same time.
It is important to remember to keep babies’ heads turned in one direction while practicing kangaroo care, per KidsHealth. This means that while babywearing, parents will not be freely moving around. They will need to be seated while doing skin-to-skin or holding their babies.
2 Communicate With Family About What Visits Will Be Like
According to ABC EveryDay, setting ground rules for visitation with babies who are born at term is necessary to keep babies healthy. Imagine how much more important it is to do so with NICU babies.
Things like whooping cough, colds, flu, cold sores, and the like can be easily transferred to babies. For NICU, this is especially true given that their immune systems babies are not fully formed. As such, visits should be limited to just seeing the doctor for the first few weeks, according to KidsHealth. Then, when babies are strong enough, parents can welcome visitors at their discretion.
1 Check-In With Your Mental Health
NICU mothers and fathers are at a higher risk for developing depression, according to the Cleveland Clinic. With the stress and anxiety they face, this is not a surprising fact.
Before babies come home, new moms should take stock of their mental health. If they find that they are not feeling at their best, speaking to a professional is warranted. After all, the stress will not end once babies are discharged. And moms will want to be as mentally healthy as possible to tackle like with a NICU baby head-on.
Source: Nationwide Children’s, National Association of Neonatal Nurses, KidsHealth, Hand To Hold, March of Dimes, American Heart Association, VeryWell Family, Sanford Health, ABC EveryDay, Cleveland Clinic
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