Discharge from the hospital
Premature babies need to attain several milestones before they can be safely discharged from the maternity hospital. These include:
- Breathing without external oxygen support
- Steady heart rate
- All feeding through the mouth
- Steady weight gain
- A stable body temperature
Key points to aid a smooth transition
- Care for the baby while in the maternity hospital NICU so you develop readiness under trained supervision.
- Learn how to use and maintain the baby’s medical equipment. Also, practise administering medication.
- Identify a healthcare provider for the baby’s follow-up care before discharge from the NICU.
What can you expect on discharge day?
The doctor will meet you before discharge from the maternity hospital to give you key instructions and to answer questions you may have. Make sure to get a copy of the baby’s discharge summary as well, since it documents the treatment in the NICU and the follow-up required.
Key points of concern after discharge
Breast milk is the best source of nutrition, even for premature babies, and the baby can be exclusively fed breast milk until six months of age. It is advisable to follow the feeding schedule recommended by the maternity hospital to determine the frequency of feeds.
Premature infants are at risk of anaemia. This makes regular screening essential. In case of deficiency, the doctor should be consulted for suitable supplements.
Premature infants have relatively lower immunity. To reduce the risk of their contracting infections, the environment at home should be extremely clean. Avoid too many visitors as they may transfer viruses. Take care to immunize the baby properly as per the immunization schedule shared by the maternity hospital. Being at higher risk for respiratory infections, premature babies should specifically be given Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) antibody injections.
Premature babies are at higher risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) wherein seemingly healthy babies sometimes die in their sleep. Active measures can be taken to reduce the risk for this. Babies sleep safer on their backs. Make sure to keep his/her head uncovered and tuck the blanket under the arms. Maintaining a comfortable temperature that’s neither too hot nor cold helps reduce the risk too because extremes are dangerous for the baby.
Warmth and security
Warmth plays an important role in the baby’s health. Mothers and other caregivers should use the Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) approach wherein the baby is placed between the mother’s breasts. This provides warmth and intimacy, improves the baby’s respiration by syncing it with the mother’s, and also allows it to feed on demand.
Parents should be able to identify signs of alarm such as breathing trouble, high fevers, reduced food intake, decreased activity or convulsions. In such situations seek medical help immediately.
Regular follow- up
Premature babies may be prone to long-term health problems related to vision, hearing and respiration. Regular monitoring ensures timely detection and corrective interventions in case of anomalies.