If you are anything like me, you are completely terrified to bring home your little NICU miracle. You can be full of excitement and also full of anxiety at the same time. Your experience bringing home your little one will be totally different from bringing home a full term baby.
I know you are probably scared, so first things first, take a deep long breath and don’t forget to exhale. Tell yourself everything is going to be okay and that you’re now ready for the next chapter in your journey. You’re ready for your baby’s homecoming!
Once it’s time to be discharged, you will get written, detailed discharge instructions. I know you are anxious to get home, but really set aside some time to listen and go over the discharge instructions carefully. Take notes if you need to or highlight the important information like medication schedules and follow-up appointments. Ask questions and remember that no question is a dumb question. This is especially true when it comes to your baby.
I know first-hand that several NICUs offer CPR training and other classes. There are even some NICUs that require parents to take infant CPR before they will let the baby get discharged. Take advantage of any classes the NICU offers. You already spend so much time in the hospital, so take a few minutes and join in on a class because that’s why they are offered. My husband took a class on infant care that went over the proper way to feed a newborn. We both took a CPR course. Knowledge is power and you want to be on your “A” game for your baby.
Next, if you are going home with any supplies like a feeding tube pump, oxygen, or heart monitor, practice a few times with your discharge nurse using the equipment before leaving the hospital. Have your spouse practice too. It’ll be double the brain power. Even though you have seen the nurses use the equipment what feels like a million times, once you get home you don’t want to get so nervous that you freeze and forget everything you learned. You can even take it a step further and video record yourself practicing using the equipment as a reference for when you get home. I didn’t do this and I wish I had. There is a lot running through your head, so just take the time to practice and don’t leave until you know you got it down.
There is a big chance your baby will be coming home on meds. Find a good place in your house to store all of the meds together. You will need lots of syringes, so just keep them handy. Write the medication schedule down and put it right smack in the middle of the refrigerator. After a few days you will get the routine down and it will become second nature. Talk to your spouse and figure out who will be responsible for what duties. It may work best for your family to have just one person be in charge of the meds. My husband and I shared duties. I did meds and follow-up appointments and he took care of the oxygen machine and ordering new oxygen and feeding tube supplies. Figure out what works best for you and come up with a plan.
Keep all of your medical records in one place. I have a binder that I keep everything in. It’ll help you stay organized and when you go to doctors’ appointments you can bring it along with you so you don’t forget any valuable information.
Lastly, once you are home and settled in people will start calling and knocking on your door to visit. Have hand sanitizer everywhere. Your family and friends will be super excited to visit. Don’t be afraid to tell them to wash their hands first. Speak up for you and your baby. It’s not rude, it’s just how it is. You and your baby have worked too hard to end right back in the hospital with a bug or something serious like RSV. With that said, don’t be afraid to hold off on having visitors for a while. You have been on a roller coaster like no other full of so many twists and turns you literally could make yourself sick thinking about it all. Take some time to get back into the swing of things. Enjoy showing your baby around his or her new home and snuggling. Take full advantage of your snuggle time.