As soon as a baby arrives in the NICU, parents are thinking and asking about when their baby will get to go home. Depending on your baby and how well he/she does, this could vary widely. You'll notice that doctors and nurses are usually quite hesitant to put a date or timeline on when a baby will go home because they don't want to raise hopes and they never know what may or may not happen with your baby. This may mean that you don't get a lot of notice for the big day so try and get prepared in advance. Our daughter was in the NICU for 5 1/2 months and we thought she still had a couple of weeks left on the day they told us her discharge was happening soon. There was a lot of scrambling to get everything ready in time.
Each NICU (and each baby) has their own set of guidelines for when a baby will be discharged however here are some of the basic milestones that most babies need to pass:
- A baby can control his/her own body temperature and keep him/herself warm without the help of an incubator
- A baby can breathe on his/her own without the help of a respirator or ventilator. Some babies do go home on oxygen. There are limited cases where a baby will go home on a ventilator however that is fairly rare.
- A baby is growing well on breast milk or formula.
- A baby's overall medical condition is stable.
- A baby hasn't had an apnea or brady episode for at least 5 days.
Once a baby is getting close to going home, the nurses will start preparing you with a potential date. This date may change - try not to get to discouraged if they have to push the date out.
As your baby's discharge date gets closer, here are a few things you can do outside of the NICU to be prepared:
- Complete a course in CPR. Most hospitals and medical groups offer CPR classes so find out where and when you can go.
- Complete a course on basic baby care. If this is your first baby, it's not a bad idea to take a class on general baby care. Taking a baby home is a big deal and if you feel confident in the basics, it can make the whole process a little bit easier.
- Pick out your baby's going home outfit. To be on the safe side, you might want to pick out two in case of a spit-up or diaper accident. Pack your diaper bag so that you are prepared.
- Put the car set in the car. It's best to have a trained professional at a CHP or fire station check your car seat to make sure it is correctly installed. Many hospitals offer a class in car seat safety as well.