Your newborn baby is getting stronger and healthier every day, and any day now you will get the green light to take him home. It’s time for baby’s NICU Graduation!
What a moment of anticipation! Still, you have been on a whirlwind ride for the last few days or weeks. What do you need to have ready to welcome your baby home from the NICU?
Make casual plans for a NICU graduation party
At the hospital take lots of pictures. Take pictures of your baby with his nurses, of family and siblings with your baby, and baby in his car seat getting ready to meet the outside world for the first time. What a moment!! Don’t feel the need to rush it.
Hopefully, your baby will spend very few days in the NICU, and you will not have time for ordering a special NICU Graduation cap or shirt. NOT NECESSARY, RELEASE ANY MOMMY GUILT IMMEDIATELY! And proceed to rejoice in his quick NICU stay.
Suggest to older siblings that they make a welcome home sign to put on the front door of your home and get balloons to celebrate baby’s NICU Graduation and arrival home. A welcome home sign also serves as a way of announcing your baby’s arrival to friends and neighbors as well.
Having a NICU Graduation Party of sorts serves to close this chapter in your child’s journey and move on to the healthy newborn, healthy infant chapter. This is a crucial mindset to adopt.
After the NICU Graduation Party, it’s time to bring baby home!
Follow your neonatal doctor’s orders on what visitation rules will be for the first month. If your baby has a healthy immune system, then you can feel confident in accepting the requests of a few close (and very healthy) family and friends to come over and welcome baby home.
But be firm and don’t feel bad if anyone has any cold, sniffles, cough, or God forbid, FLU symptoms in asking them to stay away until they are better. You do not want a setback in your baby’s health.
It is my understanding that siblings do not count in this way (unless they have the flu of course). Baby will want and need to become accustomed to her sibling’s germs. It will build her immunity. She needs to live in that house with them after all.
Follow your doctor’s suggestions in any case! And explain to older siblings, Do not cough or sneeze on the baby. This should be logical to older siblings, but if your older children are toddlers themselves, you may need to use more caution and explain this concept very well to her big sister or big brother.
Concentrate on these essentials for life: Clothing, safe transportation, food, and sleep.
Going home clothes – keep this simple
When my son came home, it was 90 degrees outside, and the idea of putting him in a full outfit was ridiculous. He came home in a simple N (newborn) sized onesie that said: “Tiny but Mighty” and HE WAS! I draped him from the waist down with a refreshing soft, thin muslin swaddle blanket to eliminate any hospital air chill. But once we hit the car, I took it off of him as it was so warm I didn’t want him to overheat.
I still love seeing those pictures of his skinny legs and arms in his car seat and also from when we arrived home. And I relish the thought of seeing how far he has come. His grip strength at 19 months rivals that of all of us combined!!! LOL!
Don’t shy away from documenting his humble beginnings, when he is 14 and taller than you are he will smile at what a peanut he was when he came home.
Car seat especially fitted for the baby
Your NICU nurses will prepare the car seat with rolled up baby blankets if they need to adjust it for size, in case your baby happens to be on the smaller size.
There is no need to get special paddings for your seat. Your baby will quickly outgrow the need for these paddings in just a few weeks maximum.
If your car set comes with the padding, awesome! But no not spend an extra dime on padding that one of the many baby blankets you’ll surely receive for your baby could easily provide.
This Mesa Car Seat from UppaBaby and the Matching Cruz Stroller are home runs! The Mesa is optimized for Preemies at 4+ lbs. Both of my preemies were 4.1 and 4.13 lbs respectively when they came home, so having a car seat that accommodates that preemie is a wonderful example of how far technology has come in car seat safety for preemies.
But hear my heart on this right now, almost NO ONE expects their baby to be born prematurely when they prepare their baby registry. So if you have a car seat that is not optimized for preemies, please do not worry about it one single bit.
As I said earlier, your baby will grow quickly and will have no use for the extra pads in a few weeks. Please do not fuss over this point.
I only even mention the Mesa in case you have not picked up yours yet, as was the case when my firstborn came into the world at 31 weeks. I had nothing, so we had to go out shopping.
At first, your little baby will be light enough to carry in her car seat by hand. However, this will get old very quickly.
Now is the time (or very soon after your baby is home) to go and pick up a stroller if you haven’t already. Get one that the car seat can snap into the frame.
If the toddler seat portion can come off to make the stroller a frame stroller for the car seat, this is the IDEAL situation. It will be much lighter and less bulky with that function.
The UPPAbaby Cruz Stroller was my choice when I finally made a move to upgrade after the hand-me-down stroller I was using those first few days, made mostly of plastic, snapped.
I am so delighted we invested the UPPAbaby. And I honestly wish I had it from day one. It is so versatile, so durable, lightweight, adaptable to your needs for the situation and just the right size. I cannot recommend any other stroller more. Plus, it connects with the Mesa car seat without adaptors, so that it acts as a frame for the car seat. PERFECT!
Try putting this on your Amazon Baby Registry too. Shop Amazon – Create an Amazon Baby Registry Your baby might get lucky with a generous Grandma. It’s been known to happen!
Get the diaper bag ready to go. You’ll take trips to the pediatrician regularly at first.
Just the absolute basics at first: 3 diapers, wipes, a muslin blanket (that acts as a blanket, a burp cloth, a cover-up for nursing, and a swaddle to keep baby warm until the pediatrician comes in after they ask you to strip baby down to weigh her. Also, you will want an extra pacifier if baby uses them and baby bottle/formula if you are supplementing or bottle-feeding.
Keep this diaper bag light.
You can keep a “Car Bucket” with extra supplies in your trunk, if necessary. This plastic tote container can hold all the emergency supplies like extra changs of clothes and extra diapers and wipes, etc.
But do your back a favor and keep your diaper bag light. I even recommend you use a light backpack you love as your diaper bag/purse.
You can hold a ton if you need to (like some groceries or books from the library) or hardly anything at all, but your back will be spared from carrying the weight across two shoulders verses one.
And when you consider that you’ll be hauling a car seat with a baby inside, keeping your diaper bag from flopping off your shoulder is a good idea.
No matter what, make your diaper bag reflect who you are. You can even transform your favorite bag into a diaper bag.
No mommy rule says you have to carry a plastic baby blue or pink bag around just because you brought forth a baby into the world! Trust me.
Have enough food in your home for all the meals you need for the next three days. See The NICU: 7 Simple Ways to Support the Family
Do not fool yourself into thinking you are going to want to:
a) Cook for the family.
b) Go to the grocery store.
c) Do anything other than care for your pumpkin for the next 3-5 days.
Have all your food for the family ready to go in the fridge, pantry, and freezer. Pick up gift cards for takeout, accept casseroles from neighbors, etc.
Have Food ready to go and planned out well in advance.
You could even ask a close friend or family member to grocery shop for next week’s food.
Another idea is to Grocery shop online even. You would be amazed at how simple this is. Some also suggest it is a way to stay on budget because you know in advance of arriving at the check out what the total will be. Now is the perfect excuse to Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial and Try AmazonFresh Free Trial. I cannot live without my Amazon Prime, its a stress relieving game changer on so many levels.
Baby needs a safe place to sleep. Your baby spent the last few days/weeks in a NICU incubator or bassinet. Your baby is happiest in a cozy sleep setting like one of these. She may not be ready for a spacious crib just yet.
Our son thrived in a simple bassinet for the first four months of his life until he was about 15 pounds when he transitioned beautifully and seamlessly into a crib.
Please take my advice and do not spend $250 on a tool that will last your family only 3-4 months. That is not a good use of money. Truth be told, if you put your baby in a lined, clean box, it would serve the purpose of keeping her contained and safe.
You don’t need your bassinet to sing or shake or light up. The NICU Bassinets did none of the above, and somehow your baby was able to sleep just fine there.
I like these because they are highly portable, letting you put the baby down wherever you need to at the moment.
Here are a couple of inexpensive choices: Brica Fold ‘N Go Travel Bassinet
Side Blessing of the NICU: The noise of the NICU (bleeps, alarms, babies crying, etc.) means that your baby will now sleep through anything!!!! BONUS! Thank you, NICU!
What you don’t need – The SWING!
PRO TIP: ixnay the Swing. They take up too much room, and they are too tempting to put the baby down for the day in there and mentally check out (if you aren’t careful). Baby needs your arms for the first few weeks, more than a cold, hard, artificial plastic mommy swing. Plus, your baby will only be able to use a swing until he’s 15 pounds anyway. A waste of money. TRUST ME!
Our friend gave us her used swing, and I was so grateful. But like all swings, it was much too big, took up too much space in the living room, and when I put our son down in it, he WAILED!!! Every time! Oh well, that got donated in a heartbeat!
Plus, a swing may be far too stimulating for your baby. Would you take your baby in your hands and swing them side to side at such a speed and for so long? It’s a bit unnatural.
For the first few weeks devote yourself to being the swing. I know this is a huge sacrifice, especially when you are recuperating from delivery and still in the postpartum phase yourself. But your baby will be MUCH better off, and her excellent health and well being is worth the investment in your time and energy.
Trust me. I did it both ways.
Getting your child accustomed to so much movement is not going to be a good long-term strategy.
If you need to take a break, that is why you have the bassinet.
And for God’s sake, do NOT SPEND $300 on a device that your child may not like, that acts as a poor substitute for a human’s warmth and heartbeat, and that your child will surely outgrow in 3 months. BAD IDEA! Take that $$ and invest in a top-notch stroller (like the UppaBaby) that will last you for three years instead!
Don’t forget to keep up the Kangaroo Care.
Your baby thrives on the sound of your heartbeat, the warmth of your skin and the sound of your voice. Secure in your arms is where your newborn baby will thrive and grow the most.
Keep up this beautiful bonding activity for the first few months of your baby’s life. She will thrive, and your bonds will become tighter each day.
Read to her, sing to her, or rest together.
It is also a fantastic way for you to stop and get rest as well. This goes for dad too!
What are your emotions now that your NICU Grad is home?
It is natural to have a sense of fear that your baby will no longer be surrounded by trained professionals and monitoring equipment picking up every lapse in oxygen saturation or heartbeat rhythm.
You might even find yourself obsessively listening for your child’s breathing in the first few days.
Try to quiet these fears. Your baby would not be discharged from the NICU if she was not in a fit, healthy state to live without these protections. Your child soon will be growing and developing as every other healthy infant does.
Allow her to blossom and flourish without the burden of fear and constant worry. With every healthy sleeping session, allow yourself to trust that your baby will be alright, more than alright, GREAT!
Of course, if your doctor gives you special instructions, heed these. But otherwise, do not buy into the idea that you need to go out and buy an oxygen monitor for your baby’s foot. This is just some marketing company playing into every parent’s worst fears.
Do not get me wrong. These tools are wonderful advances for those exceptional circumstances that require them. But unless your doc says so, your baby will not be one of those cases.
Relieve yourself of this fear.
Don’t forget to be THANKFUL. Your baby has passed this significant hurdle in her life. She is a strong, resilient cookie. You should be very proud and also very grateful.
I know that because of my daughter’s experience in the NICU, I was reawoken to the source of all creation. I saw prayers answered before my very eyes.
My daughter was born at 31 weeks only 2 pounds 1.9 ounces (and she went down to 1 pound 15 ounces). It was a miracle that she was even alive.
When we had our NICU Graduation 6 weeks later, she was just over 4 pounds.
I thanked God that he saw her through that trial. And he has been by her side every day since. Almost 15 years later, I still see the way He is shaping and walking with her.
It has not always been easy. Mostly it has been hard. But all our experiences, the good ones and the hard ones, are a gift.
Do not forget to be grateful for yours.
Congratulations to the Proud Parents on your baby’s NICU Graduation!
Congratulations Mom and Dad! You are NICU Parent Alumni and have joined a group of people who are the most resilient, hopeful, and determined of all parents.
Best wishes for the next step in your parenthood journey. After this experience, you are primed to handle just about anything!
That is all you need for now.
Be on the lookout for more posts from Laboy Joy about what you need for raising your healthy, happy baby and what you can give a polite pass on.
And be sure to scroll down and pick up the NICU Experience Journal Page. It will be helpful during the first few weeks your baby is home and to reference for your pediatrician visits as well.
We will also give you access to other useful goodies too. Look for it below.
In case you missed these other Laboy Joy posts about the NICU Experience:
Please share these with other families that may benefit too!
Chandra is the chocolate-chip loving mother of 2 teenage girls who started over again with a baby boy in her 40’s! She is the author of The Mom’s Playbook to Conquering Softball Season. She gives other moms the tools they need to prepare their daughters for real life. Her content is centered on helping girls grow up to be well-rounded, equipped, expressive, confident, intelligent, capable, kind and independent.