Published April 2012, next review April 2015
Support for you and your premature baby at home
Taking your premature baby home can be daunting but the community care team will help you make the transition.
As your baby moves on from the baby unit, the hospital staff will transfer his care to the community team. This multidisciplinary team - made up of professionals from many different areas of expertise - will be responsible for supporting you and your baby. How much, if any, contact you have with this team will depend on your baby's needs. Many babies are discharged from the baby unit with no follow-up, because none is needed.
Getting ready to leave the baby unit
The hospital team will update the community team on your baby's progress while he is still in hospital. You may have the chance to meet some of the community team before he is discharged so they can understand your needs and help prepare a home care plan to support you when you go home. These two teams are responsible for helping you develop the skills, knowledge and confidence you need to keep your baby safe and well.
Who will help me look after my premature baby at home?
The midwife is a qualified health professional who will provide postnatal care and support in the short term. They may advise on feeding and will check the overall health of you and your baby. Midwives have a statutory duty of care until 28 days after the birth, but after the first week most families are transferred to the care of the health visitor.
A health visitor
A health visitor is a nurse who focuses on promoting the health and well-being of both you and your baby. They will follow a national screening programme until your child goes to school, and will talk to you about his feeding and development. They will also (with your consent) screen you for health conditions such as mental health problems, and are trained to spot families that need extra care and support. They can prescribe medication for straightforward conditions, and may refer you for specialist care or practical support.
Community neonatal nurses or midwives
You may be in contact with nurses or midwives who specialise in caring for babies who have been unwell or were born prematurely. They have a particular knowledge of the conditions that are more common in premature babies, such as difficulties with breathing or feeding. They will also support you and your family, to make sure you are coping with the situation.
Your GP will be the doctor who is your first point of contact for medical care. You will usually visit your GP in your local surgery, although they may visit you at home for the first six weeks after birth. At six to eight weeks they will give you a health check, including contraception advice, after which you are officially discharged from maternity services. If you have a healthcare problem, your GP may be able to offer advice or treatments themselves, or may refer you on to a specialist.
Other specialist staff
You may have contact with feeding experts, equipment technicians or other specialists, depending on your baby's needs when leaving the hospital.
In this section
Taking your baby home:
You can also read about
The following organisations can give you more information about the topics covered in this section.
Henderson D, Macdonald S (2004) Mayes Midwifery (13th edition), London, Balliere Tindall
NHS Careers (accessed 2011) Explore by career A-Z, http://www.nhscareers.nhs.uk/atoz.shtml