Premature Babies: We’re Home! Now What?
Dessina King, LPN
This is the second article in the series on Premature Babies and Parenting. Make sure to check out the first article, Ready or Not…Here I Come. In this article we’ll explore the homecoming of your new “little” one and all that comes with it.
Free At Last!
Oh happy day! You have finally made it home complete with your “little” bundle of joy. It’s exciting and scary at the same time, just as if you were to bring home a full-term infant. But with a premature baby, circumstances may be slightly if not extremely different.
You may come home with your baby on medicines, oxygen, and possibly nursing care to help you along the way depending on the course of your baby’s NICU stay. But home is where you will find your new “normal”. Establish a routine and enlist the help of whoever may offer. Just make sure they are dependable and comfortable with helping you and your new baby.
Methods to the Madness
Establish a regular routine. Whether it’s making bottles and getting medicines ready before the baby awakens, or assigning shifts and schedules to family, friends, or home health nursing, it’s necessary to make sure there is time carved out of the day for you as the parent. You need to time to not only pray and reflect, but also to shower and eat. To be functioning at your best as an effective and alert parent, you have to take care of yourself. It is imperative to the well being of your entire family.
When someone asks, “Do you need help with anything?” say, “YES”! There is always something to be done. Take people at their word. If they are sincere enough to offer, they are sincere enough to follow through. You can always use someone to help run errands, do some grocery shopping, laundry, fix meals, or just to sit with the baby so you can shower or do something outside the house for yourself. Anyone can help and never be afraid to ask. It gets tough and can quickly be overwhelming, so having a helping hand is comforting.
Expect to be at the doctor’s office soon after you are discharged from the hospital. You may have visits with your pediatrician and any specialists that may be attached to your child’s care such as a pulmonologist (lung doctor), ophthalmologist (eye doctor), cardiologist (heart doctor), or nephrologist (kidney doctor). You may possibly need to follow up with a surgeon if there was surgery during the baby’s stay in the hospital, or if there will be an upcoming surgery for any reason.
These visits are very important for your child’s health. They are necessary to monitor for any delays in growth and development, immunizations, and just the overall well-being of your baby. Always keep an updated shot record, list of any medicines, and surgical procedures or treatments (oxygen, photo-therapy lights, ventilator, etc.) in your records and take it with you to doctor’s appointments.
Every doctor your baby visits will need to be well aware of the health history and who is a part of the “healthcare team”. If you have access to a computer then you can place this information on a file so it can be easily updated when things change.
As I stated in the first article, you are always your child’s best advocate. This means that their needs aren’t met until they are made known, and this is your often challenging responsibility as the parent. Follow your child’s cues and your instincts, and remain observant. There are resources across this country for families of premature babies to receive help identifying any delays in growth and development with early intervention programs. Some services can be performed at home such as physical therapy and speech therapy which includes helping babies with feeding issues.
Each state, city or county has their own agency for parents or families with children that may have special needs. If you are unsure who to call, please make contact with the social worker or discharge coordinator you may have met during your child’s NICU stay. They are a great source of information for the continued care of your baby.
You Are Not Alone
No matter how overwhelmed or frightened you may feel, always know you are not alone. Many families tackle this everyday and there are support groups that may have insight on your feelings and how to approach issues that you may face while raising your “tiny miracle”. The hard times don’t last always. The emotional rollercoaster does slow down as things begin to settle. You marvel as they grow, make you laugh and smile, and life feels “normal”. This is when you suddenly find yourself wondering how you got through it all.
Dessina is a nurse at a Family Practice office in York, SC. She is raising her bright and loving 7 year old son with her husband Jonathan.