How to prepare for bringing your newborn baby home from the hospital

Bringing your newborn home from the hospital is going to be one of the most exciting days in your life. The anticipation, the planning, the preparation for this day starts weeks and months before. So much to consider, so much to do.  

Here are a few ideas on how to prepare so you can have a smooth transition from the hospital to parenthood.

Ask questions:

Before leaving the hospital, make sure you have asked all questions and discussed all concerns you might have with the pediatrician. If you don’t feel comfortable going home, please voice your opinion.

Schedule a follow up appointment for the baby:

Make sure to schedule a follow up appointment for your baby. If the baby is going home before 48 hours old, schedule an appointment within the next 24 to 48 hours. If the baby is being discharged after 48 hours of age, the appointment should be within the next 2 to 5 days.

Clothing and other supplies:

Choosing what your baby will wear to go home is a big deal. Besides choosing a cute outfit that will look great on pics, lets focus on functionality, comfort, and ease.  

Pack an outfit that can keep your baby warm or cool depending on the season. It’s a good idea to have a spare outfit in case there’s an unexpected blowout or spit up on the way out from the hospital. Avoid overdressing your baby. If you think you would probably feel hot wearing a certain fabric, your baby will too.

Not only the coming-home outfit should be comfy, but in general, all outfits the baby wears in the next few days should be easy to put on and take off. Avoid the extra work of dressing and undressing the baby in a complicated outfit, especially if you are not feeling well.

Make sure to have plenty of diapers, blankets, and burping cloths for when you get home.


Prepare your medicine cabinet:

Having a well-stocked medicine cabinet will give you peace of mind. Here are some essential items that would be good to have on hand:

  • A digital thermometer
  • Baby nail clippers
  • Baby scissors
  • Acetaminophen
  • Anti-gas drops
  • Medicine syringe
  • Saline drops
  • Suction bulb
  • Diaper cream
  • Aquaphor

Do not administer any medication to your baby without first talking to your pediatrician.

A safe trip home:

It is advised that all infants ride rear-facing beginning with their first trip home from the hospital. The baby should never travel in the car unless secured in a car seat.

There are two main options for infant’s car seats, rear-facing only and rear- facing convertible. Do your own research and decide which one works best for your needs. Always follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions when installing it.

The car seat installation can be inspected by a certified child passenger safety technician who has been specifically trained to ensure your baby’s safety. Many hospitals, police and fire stations offer this type of service for free. Ask your pediatrician or the hospital about your local resources.

If your baby was born prematurely or has a serious medical condition, the hospital will require that you bring in the car seat for a car seat test. During this test the baby’s oxygen level, heart rate, and respirations are monitored for about 2 hours while the baby is in the car seat.

Keeping family members healthy:

Newborn babies are vulnerable to infections because their immune system is not fully developed.  

Before the baby arrives home, it would be ideal if all family members and caregivers who will spend time with the new baby are up to date on their vaccines. This is an essential aspect of the preparation for bringing your baby home and is often forgotten or not considered important. When everybody in the household is vaccinated, they are indirectly protecting the new baby from getting a devastating infection.

If mom did not receive the influenza (during flu season) and Tdap (whooping cough) vaccines during pregnancy, I would recommend getting those prior to going home. Both influenza and whooping cough could be extremely dangerous for the infant.

All other family members and caregivers who will be in close contact with the baby should have had the influenza vaccines at least 2 weeks prior to meeting the baby (during flu season), and the whopping cough vaccine within the last 10 years.

Please check with your pediatrician about your other children immunization status and catch them up on any delayed vaccines prior to the baby’s arrival.  

If a family member refuses to be vaccinated, you can turn them down when they want to visit the baby. As I tell my new parents, you can always blame it on me and not take the guilt trip for not allowing them to come meet the baby.


Sleep safety:

It is crucial to ensure you have a safe place for the baby to sleep in.
Here are the latest recommendations for Infant Sleep Safety from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Until their first birthday, babies should sleep on their backs for all sleep time including naps. You should always place your baby to sleep on the back. However, if the baby has mastered rolling over both ways (back to tommy and tommy to back), you don’t have to return him to the back every time he rolls over.
  • A crib, bassinet, portable crib, or play yard is recommended along with a tight-fitting, firm mattress and fitted sheet designed for that mattress.
  • Do not allow any blankets, pillows, stuffed toys, or bumper pads around your baby.
  • The baby’s crib should be in your bedroom for the first 6 months or, ideally, for the first year.
  • Do not get your baby in your bed for sleeping. The baby should always sleep in a separate space as stated above. Bed-sharing is NOT recommended.
  • Do not place your baby to sleep on a couch, sofa, or armchair.
  • If swaddling your baby, make sure that the baby is always on his or her back when put to sleep. When your baby starts trying to roll over, stop swaddling.

Feedings and lactation support:

If you chose to breast feed, you probably got the hang of it during the hospital stay, but if you didn’t please don’t give up just yet. Breast feeding can be challenging for a big majority of new moms. It takes time and practice. The hospital lactation consultant can continue to be your support even after discharge. Your pediatrician’s office will be another source of help and support if things are not going as expected.

If you have chosen to use formula, make sure you have enough formula and at least two different types of bottles at home for the first few days without having to worry about making an unexpected trip to the grocery store. Please use nursery water to mix the formula and read the formula instructions carefully before mixing it.

Remember something, you are in charge. Do not let family members, partners, or lactation consultants’ pressure you into what to do.

Siblings:

Bringing a newborn home will probably be a life changing event for younger siblings, so you must prepare them for what’s coming. You can expect some jealousy and regression at first because they will probably feel as if having to compete for your attention. Talk to them in advance about the baby, and how you will have to take care of him/her.

I know you will be tired during the first few weeks or months after the baby’s birth, but it is imperative that you spend one on one time with each one of your other kids. Try to do this daily.

Involve the siblings in simple activities that will make them feel important and useful. For example, ask them to bring you a diaper, or to help you with bathing the baby. Make sure they feel like you are not dumping them to take care of this new little person.

Ask your children how they feel about the new member of the family. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and remind them that you love them very much.


Visitors:

You might not think so, but you may have to create a game plan for visitors. Family members and friends will be thrilled and want to come meet the new baby during the most inconvenient times. Let your close friends and family know that you need time to adjust to the new baby and family dynamics, and that you will let them know when a good time is to come over. People who love you and care about you will understand and will not get their feelings hurt.

Pets:

Please don’t forget to prepare your pet for your baby’s arrival. Getting the pet used to the baby scent can be helpful to prepare the pet. Consider having a family member or your spouse bring a blanket or some clothing home from the hospital before the baby is discharged. Don’t be surprised if your pet shows signs of aggression when the baby first comes home. Never ever allow your pet to be near the newborn without supervision.

Support system:

Do not turn down help or food. If someone is genuinely offering their help, don’t hesitate to take it. You must maximize rest and family time. I know you are a super mom, but it is ok to accept help from close friends and family if it’s going to make the transition into motherhood a little easier.

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