In honor of World Prematurity Day and Prematurity Awareness Month, we want to help parents be best prepared for the birth of a preemie. According to statistics from the March of Dimes, one in eight babies born in the US are born prematurely. This means that your baby may need special attention during his or her first months, so take some time to prepare your home before your baby leaves the hospital.

At the Hospital. Although it varies by state, doctors will give a preemie a variety of tests when he is born and during his first week in the hospital. A baby can usually be released once it is determined that he shows little to no signs of these health issues, and is:

  • breathing on his own
  • able to maintain body temperature
  • able to be bottle-fed
  • gaining weight steadily
Before you leave the hospital, be sure to ask doctors:
  • how to care for and feed your baby
  • how and when to reach your doctor
  • how to know if your baby is eating well, getting enough sleep and gaining enough weight
  • what medicines to give and when
  • how often to bring in your baby for an exam

Prepare for Emergencies. Babies who have spent time in the NICU have a higher rate of re-hospitalization than the average newborn population. Prepare for an emergency by:

  • knowing the fastest route to the nearest hospital
  • being prepared to call the EMS system or 911 if your baby’s situation is critical
  • learning infant CPR
  • understanding how to use your baby’s monitor or machine, if she continues to use one at home
  • alerting the EMS system and your utility providers that you have a baby with special needs in your home to ensure that you will receive top priority help in emergency situations (Be sure to follow up and notify them when your baby graduates from these machines!)

Settling in at home. Though a new parent may never truly feel prepared, get as ready as you can by:

  • having a clean home (But use common sense– no need to go overboard, especially since harsh chemical odors can irritate or harm your baby.)
  • babyproofing your home (There’s a lot to do! Learn more here, here and here.)
  • limiting exposure to smoke (Premature babies are at especial risk for problems from exposure to tobacco smoke, so no one should smoke in the house or car, around your baby or anywhere she spends time.)
  • spending special time with your other children to help them adjust to the new baby
  • prepare your cats or dogs by bringing home a piece of clothing with the baby’s scent (Pets can grow jealous of new family members, so never leave your cat or dog alone with the baby. Also, make sure you lay your baby on a clean blanket to minimize contact with dander or fur.)
  • setting up times for family and friends to visit the baby
  • taking care of yourself and sleeping when you can (Preemies need to be fed more often, so accept the help offered by others as you settle in.)

You can find additional resources and articles at March of Dimes and the American Academy of Pediatrics’