Welcoming a baby into your home is a big event. You might be bringing your baby home from the hospital. You also could be adopting or fostering a baby. It can be scary if it is your first baby. There are a lot of things to plan for and consider. It can make you feel unsure or overwhelmed. Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Turn to your partner, doctor, family, and friends for help in this period.
Below are tips and advice for bringing your baby home.
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Your stay in the hospital can last 1 to 3 days. Most insurance companies will require you to be discharged by the 48-hour mark if you had a vaginal delivery with no complications. If you had a C-section, you will usually be released in 72 hours.
While you are there, get all the help you can. You will need the extra rest after delivery and before you leave. It’s okay if you’re emotional at first. Your body just went through a lot physically. There will be a lot of new things to process. It is common to feel this way for several days or weeks.
Most people choose a doctor in advance. Make sure your baby’s first checkup is on the schedule. Ask how you can contact them or a nurse once you’ve left. A lot of practices and hospitals have after-hours numbers. They also can refer you to “warm lines.” These are open 24/7 to new parents with questions and concerns.
The clothes you wear to go home should be comfy and relaxed. You still will have baby weight and your body might be tender. Your baby’s clothes should be right for the weather. You don’t want them to be too cold or too hot once they are in the car seat.
It is a good idea to set up and practice using your car seat in advance. The hospital staff might ask to approve the car seat before you leave. You cannot take your baby home without a car seat. It is not safe to hold your baby in the car. It also isn’t safe to leave your baby in the car alone. Using the car seat takes more time, but it is required by law. You will get better at it with practice.
There are three types of car seats you can get. Infant seats are used only for babies. You must place your baby in a rear seat facing the back of the car. Once your baby is 2 years old or meets height and weight limits, he or she will need a new seat. Convertible seats are made to last longer. They can face the rear for babies and then switch to face the front for toddlers and kids. You also can get a 3-in-1 seat. It can be used as rear facing, forward facing, or as a booster. Follow your car seat maker’s guidelines for limits and when to switch the seat. Make sure your baby is strapped in and secure before you leave.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends getting the car seat inspected. You can find approved places that will check for proper setup. Police and fire stations often provide this service.
Bringing a new baby home is a lot of work. It helps to have your basic baby items ready in advance. A lot of parents do this as part of their “nesting” phase. You also can ask a family member to set up things before you arrive.
Babies start off with a low immune system. They can get germs from anyone who cares for or touches them. Ask people to wash their hands before holding the baby. People who are sick should wait to visit until they are better. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone who will have frequent contact with the baby gets a Tdap vaccine or booster. They also should get flu shots.
You will need to introduce your new baby to their siblings or any pets. You should do this in a safe setting. Don’t ever leave them alone with the baby. Try to make everyone feel welcome. You can ask siblings to help with the baby or love on them. It’s also good to still have one-on-one time with your other kids or pets. They want to be part of the new baby’s life, but also still need you.
Don’t feel like you need to see everyone right away. Spread out visits with people. You need to give yourself a break. It might feel selfish, but you need rest too. Ask family or a friend to take turns caring for the baby.
Try not to forget about your partner. You need to keep your bond strong and work through the changes together. Try to be open and honest with each other about your feelings and stresses. Set time aside for just the two of you.
Bonding with your baby is a process. Sometimes bonding happens right away. Other times, it takes several weeks or months. It can depend on how much time you are able to spend with your baby. It can be harder if your baby needs to stay in the hospital for treatment. It also depends on if you have multiple babies or other children.
There are things you can do to promote bonding. Your baby’s senses, especially touch and sound, are extra sensitive. Spend time holding and cuddling your baby. You can stroke their skin or give them kisses. Try to make eye contact with them. Breastfeeding, bath time, and rocking are common bonding activities. All babies respond different, so take time to learn what works. Try not to get down if it takes longer than you thought it would. Consult your doctor for advice if you are worried.
Communication is another big part of bonding. You should practice talking, reading, and singing to your baby. Smiling and other facial expressions also affect your baby. All of these things help your baby develop.
Babies can’t talk yet, so they cry instead. It might seem like this is all they do, but it is natural to them. Over time, you might find that certain types of crying mean certain things. One type of cry means they are hungry. Another type could mean they need a diaper change. They might cry if they are scared, and all it takes is your voice to calm them.
Once your baby is 2 to 3 months old, his or her reactions will improve. They will start to respond in other ways than crying. Your baby might copy what you do, like smile or laugh. They also will begin to learn and explore all sorts of new things. You’ll get to watch your baby find their hands and feet, and hear all the sounds they can make.
You can help your baby learn and grow. Promote types of play, such as:
- Tummy time. When your baby is awake, set aside tummy time. This helps strengthen muscles and leads to crawling. Always watch your baby during tummy time. Do not put them on their tummy when they are sleeping. This increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Educational toys. Provide age-specific toys that engage their senses. Bright colors, upbeat sounds, and different textures are things to try. Be careful not to overdo it at one time. Allow them to focus and explore. Never leave your child alone with any toys.
- Movement exercises. You can do certain movements with your baby. Practice clapping their hands together. Do stretches with their arms and legs. Dance and move with them while you sing or talk.
When to see your doctor
Remember, you are not alone in this journey. You can call your family doctor or nurse with any questions or concerns. If you notice anything strange, contact them right away.
Things to look for include:
- Drop in temperature or fever of over 100.4°F (38°C).
- Quick or uneven breathing. Call 911 if your baby isn’t breathing or is turning blue.
- Presence of blood in their vomit or stool.
- Constant vomiting or failure to keep fluids down.
- Sign of infection.
- Symptoms can be dry mouth or crying without tears. Your baby might urinate less and have diarrhea. Sunken eyes or a sunken soft spot on their head are also signs.
- Excessive diarrhea. (More than 8 times in 8 hours.)
- Unresponsive with certain senses, such as sound or sight.
It also is helpful to keep a log of all symptoms and changes. You can do this by hand or there are smartphone apps you can use. Ask your doctor if they have one they prefer.
If there is a critical issue with your baby, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.
Questions to ask your doctor
- What are your office hours? Who do I contact after hours or in emergencies?
- How often will my baby need checkups?
- How do I know if I have postpartum depression? How can I treat this?
- How do I know if my baby’s crying means they are sick?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.