The Transition from Hospital to Home with the Baby
Can you believe it? You finally get to go home! I don’t know about you, but for many, the 1-4 days in the hospital post partum can be very stressful. Whether it be any discomfort or complications after delivery, the stress of breastfeeding and getting that perfect latch, or even just not feeling totally at ease in a hospital room, there’s no doubt that getting the green light for discharge home is a happy feeling!
As you get ready for discharge and the transition from hospital to home, you may understandably have a lot of questions – especially if you’re a first-time parent! Don’t allow yourself to feel rushed or hurried as you’re preparing to leave the hospital, so you can ensure all your questions are answered by your pediatrician. If it helps, write down a list of questions before or while you are at the hospital so you don’t forget to ask anything important between packing, feeding and changing your little one. Keep in mind that you will also likely schedule your baby’s first check-up with the pediatrician before being discharged. Depending on if the office is open on the weekends for scheduling, sometimes you may need to call the first week day the office is open to schedule for a same day or next day appointment for the baby.
Having a proper infant safety seat securely installed in your car before leaving the hospital isn’t just crucial from a safety perspective– it’s the law in every U.S. state! In some hospitals, a nurse director or coordinator will have to check the car for a car seat before your baby is even allowed to leave the hospital. If you purchase and install a car seat prior to arriving at the hospital for delivery, as most do, make sure you get an installation inspection to make sure your seat is in properly. (Seatcheck.org is a wonderful resource to find safe installation tips along with inspection centers.) Under no circumstances should you consider holding your baby during the drive home, even if the hospital is just a few minutes away. Instead, be sure that you have either a rear-facing infant car seat or a rear-facing convertible car seat installed in the backseat ahead of time to ensure a seamless safe drive back. Don’t skimp on these important safety measures! And don’t distress if the baby begins to cry in the car seat. This is very normal! It takes time for them to get used to it. After all, they did just come from a totally different environment a few day(s) prior! Often, the gentle hum of the car once it’s driving calms them down.
Now that You’re Home…
It’s okay to be nervous when bringing baby home from the hospital, especially if this is your first child. It’s also completely normal to feel uncertain and overwhelmed as you and your newborn discover sleeping and feeding routines that work best.
However, if overwhelmed feelings worsen or develop into feelings of depression, hopelessness, or despair, contact your healthcare provider right away. There’s no shame in doing so. Many women frequently feel guilty for having feelings of hopelessness which worsen the feelings of depression. Having a baby is a major life change, and yours and your infant’s wellness are incredibly important right now. Even in the days to weeks after delivery, maternal hormones continue to shift drastically which can contribute to the roller coaster of emotions.
As you transition from hospital to home, make sure you and your significant other decide how and when you’d like family, friends, and other visitors to stop by. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask anyone who was recently under the weather to wait until they’re feeling 100% well before coming over to visit you or the baby. Remember, your baby’s immune system is still brand new and while they have transfer of some maternal antibodies from you, it’s safer to keep sick individuals away from the baby. This may be hard to do if you have another toddler or school age child at home who brings home an illness but try your best to keep up with hygiene at the home with frequent hand washing. A sibling can still kiss the baby if they want to but refrain from kissing near the mouth or nose. Instead, they can kiss the back of the head or even the baby’s feet!
You may also consider asking any visitors to wash their hands before helping with or holding your little one, since his or her immune system is still very immature and continues to develop after birth before being at full strength.
While difficult to remember in real-time, try to go with the flow during your newborn’s first few weeks and months at home – whether you are experiencing motherhood for the first time or you have other children. The first 6-8 weeks are known as the “fuzzy gray period,” for a reason. It’s important to realize your family just got bigger, and it may take some time to get back into routines (or even get a full night of sleep!), but these are precious moments that won’t last forever and should ultimately be enjoyed. You will soon develop new routines and traditions that will take on another special place in your heart.