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Caring for a premature baby at home

It is very common for parents of premature babies to feel nervous and unsure about caring for them at home.

Moving from hospital to home is a big step for you and your baby. It takes time, but gradually you will learn what you need to do.

Your baby is coming home because your healthcare team believe they are well enough to leave the hospital and that you are able to look after them.

Contact your neonatal hospital, GP or public health nurse at any time if you have questions about caring for your baby at home.

If possible, ask a friend or family member to organise your home before you leave the hospital. This will make caring for your new baby easier.

Temperature

Keep your home temperature between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius. This will stop your baby becoming too cold or overheating.

Do not overdress your baby. They won't need to wear a hat indoors if your home is a comfortable temperature.

Sleep

Your baby’s cot should be kept away from radiators and open windows.

Always use a “cellular” blanket (a blanket with lots of little holes in it) to stop your baby overheating or being smothered.

Lay your baby down on their back and make sure that their covers are tucked in loosely so that they can't move down further.

Never put a pillow, quilt or bumper pad in the cot of a baby under 1 year old.

The safest place for your baby to sleep at night is in a cot in the same room as you. Never fall asleep holding your baby.

Keeping your baby away from cigarette smoke can greatly reduce their risk of cot death.

Visitors

Too many visitors can overstimulate your baby. Premature babies are more sensitive to sounds and touch.

If your baby becomes overstimulated they may:

  • shut their eyes and turn away from you
  • extend their arms and legs
  • yawn

These signals are your baby telling you that they need to rest.

Make sure everyone washes their hands thoroughly before holding your baby.

Never let anyone with a cold or cold sore hold or kiss your baby.

Don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for help with housework or caring for older siblings. It's normal to need extra support as you and your family settle into a new routine.

Other children

If you have older children, they are probably excited about the new baby coming home.

It's important to let your older children be a part of your new baby’s care. You can do this by letting them help you look after the baby.

Activities like storytime are an opportunity for all of your children to spend time together.

Planning a trip out

After a few days at home, you may be ready to take your baby on a small trip outside. This could be a small walk or a trip to the local shop.

Always bring spare clothes in case your baby gets cold.

Wait 30 minutes after feeding your baby before putting them in the car. This will reduce the risk of them vomiting.

Related topics

Premature babies and development

page last reviewed: 29/04/2021
next review due: 29/04/2024