Welcoming Your Preemie Home

Finally, you can take your preemie home! Your first response is…panic! Is that normal?

Many parents worry about handling their very little bundles of joy by themselves. Relax, you’ll cope as well as any parents of newborns – by the time Baby is ready to go home, you’ll have been involved in much of her care in the hospital. The biggest adjustment will probably be emotional; watch out for postnatal depression and make sure you get professional help if you feel overwhelmed.

Be careful not to get caught up in the silly Baby-development comparisons many moms have. Things are slightly different for you and Baby. Some milestones might be the same, but others will be delayed – it helps to calculate Baby’s age from her original due date. The best thing is to be patient, involved and, most importantly, loving! By school-going age, most preemies will have caught up all developmental milestones; some preemies may need special therapies, but your doctor will pick this up at Baby’s regular check-ups.

Something which is a concern for many preemie moms is feeding. I cannot emphasis enough how valuable colostrum (the precursor milk you make in the first few days) and breast milk is. Sometimes, in the bustle and protocols of the Neonatal ICU breastfeeding is not as well-supported as it should be. I encourage you not to give up; express your milk to keep up your milk supply until Baby is able to feed – nursing staff are supposed to feed Baby this expressed milk while she’s still in the incubator. Nursing a preemie directly at the breast is often a bit more challenging, and you might need some extra help. If you aren’t getting support from the hospital, bring in an independent midwife, La Leche League leader or a lactation consultant – you want to do everything you can to help Baby, and that means breastfeeding!

An important consideration is how to bring Baby home.

Preemies have an increased risk of breathing problems while sitting in an infant car seat. These problems are caused by:

  • Position – the more upright the seat, the higher the risk
  • Baby’s poor muscle tone and posture
  • Gender – boys are more at risk than girls

You can get a crash-tested car bed (imported from overseas) or use car seat inserts and preemie head support pillows with your regular infant car seat.

Tips for travelling:

  • Limit journeys to one hour – otherwise, stop and take Baby out of the seat every hour
  • Let an adult sit next to Baby, watching for  signs of respiratory distress
  • Place blankets over Baby once she’s securely buckled in so that the straps aren’t loose
  • Position the car seat as flat as possible

Don’t put Baby in any seating devices until she has good head control in a sitting position. Be careful with your preemie, but don’t make yourself sick with worry. Remember: all new parents face challenges, yours will just be a little bit different. Instead, cherish every moment! Soon you’ll be a pro.