I’m writing this and reflecting after being at home for nearly two weeks. We have now settled into home life nicely, Henry is enjoying his new environment and has gained lots of weight now he has unlimited food on demand and we are all enjoying lots of cuddles.
When we first came home there was, unsurprisingly, some initial worries despite being excited about having your baby home it can be quite daunting at the same time as you no longer have a team of experts on tap to discuss any concerns you may have. You find yourself worrying about everything at first, are they too hot? Are they too cold? Are they gaining weight? These are all normal and the fears start to subside once you get settled into family life, although there will still be times when you sit there watching your baby breathe, just to make sure!
One surprising thing we also found at first was that we missed the routine of going to the hospital and more than that we missed the staff; for nearly four months the NICU became your life and the people are an extension to your family (they will no doubt see a lot more of you during that time than your actual family!) We have actually found ourselves looking forward to visits from the outreach nurse and follow-up appointments just to touch base and say “hi”!
The other thing about being home is the visitors, visiting is usually limited in hospital (grandparents only at ours) so now you’re home it is of course nice to introduce your newish arrival to the rest of the family and your friends. That said it is important to remember that a premature baby will have a weaker immune system than a term baby and just because they are no longer in hospital does not mean they are resilient to the outside world, if like Henry, they also have Chronic Lung Disease thrown into the mix you have to be even more careful with whom they come into contact. Regarding visitors, I found a lovely guide written as a letter from a baby over on Peek-a-boo ICU which we shared with our family before they visited. I’ve summarised the key points below:
- People should not visit if they are unwell, even a common cold can make a preemie baby very sick.
- Visitors should remove shoes and wash hands when entering the house. Also use hand sanitiser before handling the baby.
- Due to a vulnerable respiratory system visitors should not wear strong perfume or aftershave.
- Visitors who smoke should change their clothes and not smoke before visiting, even the smell of second hand smoke can aggravate a preemie baby’s sensitive lungs.
- If it is RSV or flu season visiting is not advised as preemie babies, especially with Chronic Lung Disease are at highest risk for complications like bronchiolitis, pneumonia, and other serious breathing problems that could put them back in hospital.
- Visitors should check with parents before visiting and be mindful of how long they stay as preemie babies can get overstimulated easily.
- If the baby is sleeping he or she should be left to sleep.
Finally, the really exciting thing about having a baby home that has spent time in hospital is that you appreciate everything they do. Kevin and I get excited every time Henry does a burp after feeding, we both enjoy changing nappies, no matter how smelly, and when Henry has me up for several hours during the night I just think of it as an opportunity to catch up on the cuddles we missed out on while he was in hospital, because leaving him there every night was the hardest part.
Well, that’s it for now. If you have similar experiences to share, please leave a comment.