Coming home from a neonatal or special care unit

Some babies need to spend time in a neonatal or special care unit after birth.

When your baby can go home

Your baby will be 'discharged' (allowed to go home) when:

  • at least 36 weeks have passed since you became pregnant
  • they're no longer being tube fed
  • their body temperature is stable and normal
  • they don't need medication that can only be given in hospital

Preparing to go home

Most parents feel anxious about their baby coming home. This is because their baby was getting constant medical and nursing support in the unit.

Everyday tasks

You can prepare for going home by doing everyday tasks with your baby, such as feeding, bathing and changing nappies, while they're still in the unit. This will help you become more confident about bringing your baby home.

Discharge plan

Your neonatal team will create a discharge plan to help you care for your baby’s health.

Medication and equipment

If your baby requires medication, you'll be shown how much to give and how often. Staff will arrange a prescription if needed.

Nurses will show you how to use any medical equipment you may need at home.

Information for your GP and public health nurse

The hospital will send a discharge summary to your GP and public health nurse (PHN) so they know what is happening.

Baby care classes

Most hospitals have classes and demonstrations on baby care. These can help you prepare for going home with your baby.

You may be offered baby CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) classes. You don't have to take it but it's useful to do it.

Planning the journey

Plan your journey home from the hospital. Make sure you have supplies for the journey, for example, clothing, nappies and feeds if your baby is bottle-fed.

You need a particular type of car seat to take your baby home in your car. You can read more information on child car seats on the Road Safety Authority website.

Staff in the neonatal unit will give you information on how to position your baby in the car seat. Never place straps around the head or tummy.

Going home

A neonatal doctor will check your baby and their weight before you go home. It's important to remember their weight at this stage so you can track your baby’s growth.

Follow-up appointments

Your baby will need follow-up appointments after leaving the neonatal unit. These may be with the hospital clinic or specialist appointments.

A public health nurse will also visit you in your home.

Page last reviewed: 18 September 2018
Next review due: 18 September 2021

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