Guidelines for discharge vary across hospitals from discharge at calculated delivery date to early discharge at about 34 weeks of age with care support at home from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), especially, if additional treatment such as oxygen or ventilator treatment is needed.
Going home is usually determined by the overall development, the stage of adaption, and the current health status of the baby. There are different requirements for discharge such as control of breathing without apnoea, no signs of illness, sufficient feeding skills, weight gain, and independent control of body temperature. Parents should also feel well-prepared for taking over the responsibility to care for their baby at home. A plan for regular contacts with the NICU, home visits or other follow-up care services (e.g. medical check-ups, lactation counselling, …) should exist before leaving the hospital as well as an enrolment in a follow-up programme for the development of preterm infants.
When parents are being told that it is finally time to take their baby home from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), they are often overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions: on the one hand, they have been longing for this moment since their baby was born, while, on the other hand, they may feel worried about the prospect of having to care for their baby all by themselves, without the protecting environment of the NICU and the support from their health care team. Parents may have many questions about going home and what to expect during the next days, weeks, and months.
The health care team can help reassuring the parents, guiding them towards this important moment by teaching the parents all they need to know and by involving the parents step by step in the daily care procedures from the time of admission to the hospital until the parents finally take over all parenting activities. Should the baby require special equipment at home, parents receive training and detailed instructions. Some units provide a “room in” facility, where parents have the possibility to life together.
The following content was last reviewed in August 2017