Coming home with your pre-term baby
Once your baby has been discharged, this means all is well. Of course they are smaller and more fragile than other babies of the same age, but in the end they are just another newborn baby leaving the maternity hospital to go home with their mother. Here's an overview of the attitudes you should adopt and precautions you should take.
When the long-awaited moment finally comes to take the apple of your eye home, paradoxically you are both filled with joy and terribly worried. Hospital is a protective cocoon where everything is controlled and there is always a medical professional on hand. Now you're alone with your baby. You're apprehensive. You're afraid that you won't be capable of looking after this little being who still seems so fragile. But think about it... if you're at home, it means that the medical team believes that your baby is ready. He or she is considered to be independent in cardio, respiratory and feeding terms. Above all, your baby no longer needs an incubator, as they are now capable of maintaining their own body temperature. So tell yourself that you're just like any other parent leaving hospital with a baby born at term.
Easier said than done... But you must try to forget the difficult start and live as normally as possible with your baby. However you must be very vigilant in some areas, especially up to the age of six months, as pre-term babies are more vulnerable.
Of course you don't need to reproduce the sanitised atmosphere of the hospital! However you must thoroughly wash your hands before handling your baby (washing, nappy changing, feeding) and after you have finished - and make sure others do the same! Try to avoid people who are ill or have a cold. They will want to meet your little darling, but keep them away until they are better, as pre-term babies often have weak lungs. Plus they can't receive their first vaccines until two months after leaving hospital, like any newborn baby. Keep your baby out of smoky atmospheres. Ask smokers not to smoke near your child and if possible, not in your house or apartment. If you have a cat or dog, keep them at a distance. Pre-term babies are often more susceptible to allergies (their lungs again!).
However, don't overheat their bedroom or cover them up as if you were living at the North Pole. As with other babies, the right temperature is 19/20°C. When dressing them, simply choose clothes to suit the season. The most important thing, whether it's hot or cold, is that the first layer can be adjusted, and it's not too tight or too wide. Basically, the right size!
Highly supervised outings
As your little one will still be fragile for a few months, be careful about going out. It's better to stay at home when it's very cold or very hot. Keep them away from environments where germs and viruses breed, especially in winter, such as public transport, shops and other confined spaces. It's not worth them catching a cold, which might turn into bronchiolitis, or a nasty stomach bug! Bronchiolitis and gastroenteritis are two illnesses for which you must take your baby to the doctor's, as for premature babies these can be real emergencies.
Don't be over-protective!
Every mum who has a premature baby feels a little guilty. You tend to worry about nothing and take 1001 precautions, some of which are totally unnecessary. It's because you were so afraid of losing your baby! Probably one of the hardest things to do, when you get home, is not to over-protect your baby. In terms of feeding, care and washing, your baby is the same as any other baby the same age. Follow your instincts and all will be well: he or she will get bigger and grow normally and regularly. Don't worry about their development either, over the months let them discover their own experiences and don't pre-empt all their desires.