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Note: The information featured on this page is currently under review, and will be updated in due course. Please ensure that you speak with your health care professional about any queries you may have about the issues covered here.
Over the weeks or months that your baby has been on the neonatal unit, you will have got used to a high level of support, always having people around to answer questions or give advice. At home you will be the main person caring for your baby. So as well as being a happy time, bringing your baby home can be emotional and worrying too.
It is very common to feel nervous and unsure about being able to cope. The transition from hospital to home is a big step for you, your baby and the whole family. But remember - your baby is only coming home because he or she is well enough to leave the unit, and the staff are confident that you and your partner are able to look after them.
The right time to go home
The staff involved in the care of your baby will have kept you up to date with your baby’s progress while on the unit. To decide if your baby is ready to go home, they will assess if your baby is able to control their temperature, how well they are feeding and if their cares can be continued outside of the unit, without constant professional support. If your baby still has certain feeding or breathing difficulties or requires specialist attention, they may well still be able to go home, but only once you have been given enough information on how to look after your baby confidently and follow-up support has been arranged.
It is also very important that you feel it is the right time to bring your baby home too. You may well have questions or concerns, so make sure you discuss them with the staff or discharge team.
Will my baby have to stay in hospital until they reach their due date?
Not always. In your discharge planning meeting, which should take place in what would have been week 33/34 of pregnancy, you will meet the multi-disciplinary team and they will assess your baby’s progress. If your baby is feeding well, gaining weight and has no other problems, they may be well enough to go home before their original due date.
What if my baby is on medication or is very small when I am told they can go home?
The staff on the unit wouldn’t discharge your baby if they thought it was unsafe. Even though some babies may still have ongoing medical issues, these issues will be ones that staff are sure you are able to cope with at home. You will have access to advice and support if you need it, and staff will explain to you all you need to know to become the main carers of your baby.
I have twins - what if one baby is ready to go home before the other?
When you have twins or triplets, it sometimes happens that one of the babies will be ready for discharge before the other/s. This can be very difficult for parents, both on an emotional and practical level, with visiting and caring for two or more babies in different places. Your babies will only be separated if there is likely to be a long period between them being ready for discharge; if it’s a matter of a few days, it would be reasonable to expect them to come home at the same time.
Will my baby's development be the same as for a baby of the same corrected age?
Your baby’s prematurity will be taken into account when looking at their development. However, this does not necessarily mean that your baby will be at exactly the same stage of development in all areas as babies of the same corrected age. Like term babies, premature babies will have their own individual pace and abilities, which may be faster or slower.
For certain things, such as immunisations, your baby’s age will be worked out according to their actual birth date, not their corrected age.