Every baby is different, and it can be difficult to predict when it is time for babies to leave the NICU. The baby’s original due date can be an indicator. Babies are close to going home when they are able to keep themselves warm, sleep in a crib (not an incubator or the Giraffe Omnibed), weigh about 4 pounds or more, have learned to bottle or breastfeed, and can breathe on their own.
When the time comes for a baby to leave the Dayton Children’s NICU for home, parents often feel both happy and nervous. After all, their baby has been receiving round-the-clock medical care from an experienced team of physicians and nurses for days or even months. Our team eases the transition to home, helping families prepare for discharge day so that they can feel confident about caring for the baby at home.
Throughout a baby’s stay in the NICU, our team involves parents in the baby’s care as much as possible. They provide informal bedside instruction, which can include how to give medications and use medical equipment at home. The NICU also offers a weekly class that covers well-baby care, proper car seat usage, a review of infant CPR and how to comfort a crying baby. Our team provides one-on-one teaching before discharge, and a social worker is available to meet with families to talk about hospital and community-based resources that can provide additional assistance if needed. This can take an entire day, and it is very important in helping parents feel confident about what lies ahead.
Additionally, the NICU offers parents the opportunity to share a room with their baby prior to discharge. This means parents can provide care on their own while still having the expertise of the NICU staff just steps away. This is especially helpful when the baby will need to use medical equipment at home, such as a feeding tube or supplemental oxygen.
Within 24 hours of discharge, a nurse will call parents to check on the baby. Dayton Children’s offers two follow-up clinics for babies who were born prematurely or experienced a critical illness after birth. These include the newborn follow-up clinic and the high-risk nutrition clinic, which is for babies who continue to be on supplemental nutrition after they go home. Our NICU team will talk to parents about the kind of follow-up care their child needs and set up an appointment if needed.