Taking Your Baby Home

Woman securing baby in carrier.Most are excited to take their baby home after days or weeks in the NICU. But the idea can make some parents nervous. When a baby is ready to go home depends on many things. Each baby must be checked to see if he or she is ready. And, the family must be prepared to provide any special care for the baby may need.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a policy statement on when high-risk newborn babies should go home. The following general information about discharge is based on those guidelines. Ask your baby's healthcare provider for more specific information, based on the needs and medical condition of your child.

Generally, babies may be ready to go home when they:

  • Are steadily gaining weight

  • Have a stable temperature in a regular crib

  • Can feed from a bottle or the breast without difficulty breathing or other problems

  • Have mature and stable heart and breathing ability

Babies also need:

  • Any appropriate immunizations 

  • Screening tests, including vision and hearing

  • Exams to look for additional problems

  • Treatment plans for on-going medical problems

Parents and other home caregivers need instruction in:

  • Feeding

  • Basic baby care (baths, skin care, and taking temperature)

  • Infant CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)

  • Symptoms of illness

  • Sleep positioning and car seat safety

  • Use and care of special medical devices or equipment

  • Giving medicines

  • Performing special procedures or care such as suctioning or special dressings

The follow-up care plan for each baby includes identifying a primary healthcare provider and specialists to help with any special needs of the baby. Parents also need to get the home ready for the baby. This may include arranging for special home care services or equipment. It also includes not smoking in the house and making sure there are no extra blankets, toys, or other objects in the baby's bed. 

If possible, request a parenting room so you can stay with your baby a night or two before taking your baby home. This often helps parents feel more secure because they can take over the care of their baby with nurses and other care providers nearby. Ask if your hospital has a hotline number or call center you can call if you have questions once you take your baby home.