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Having a baby is an exciting, life-changing experience. After your baby is born, many new parents are happily sleep deprived, which is why it is important to do a little prep work ahead of time. When bringing home a newborn for the first time, the following are some important (and helpful) tips to keep in mind.

Leaving the Hospital

Pick your pediatrician.

  • Have your pediatrician picked out, and have an appointment scheduled for 2-3 days after discharge (sooner if your baby is premature or needs a follow-up for something else).

Have the infant car seat fitted in your car PRIOR to leaving the hospital.

  • Many places, such as police/fire stations/hospitals have car seat specialists who will make sure your car seat fits your vehicle and is installed properly.

Baby’s First Car Ride

Make sure car seat is rear-facing.

  • All car seats should be REAR-FACING for newborns.
  • The car seat should be placed in the BACK seat, and it should be tailored to the appropriate weight of your baby.

Install the correct car seat based on weight.

  • Small (or preterm) babies may need a special 4 lb. infant seat as most are made for 5 lbs. or more.
  • Be sure the car seat is installed properly. There should be no padding or extra blankets near the baby’s head.
  • Most babies love the sound/movement of the car, which will likely cause them to fall asleep.

Home Essentials

Have the “key essential supplies.”

  • Diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream are a must-have.
  • Keep a healthy supply of onesies (especially the kind that button up the front).
  • Have plenty of burp cloths on hand.
  • Infant dish soap, and hypoallergenic infant laundry detergent are always a good idea.

Have a place for your baby to sleep.

  • You should have a bassinet or crib set up prior to your baby’s arrival.
  • Make sure you put your infant on his/her back to sleep (face up).
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants sleep in the room with their parents for at least the first 6 months (ideally for the first year of life, if possible). Therefore, many parents opt for a bassinet during this time.

Consider a swing or rocker.

  • Many families enjoy a swing or rocker for awake time with their newborn.
  • Newborn carriers are convenient and allow you to keep your hands free to do other things.

Consider your feeding method(s).

  • If breastfeeding, nipple ointment and breast pads are lifesavers.
  • If formula feeding, make sure you have enough formula and bottles at home.

Introducing Baby to Family & Friends

This is an exciting time for your friends and family, and most of them will want to meet the new baby ASAP. Pace yourself, and set aside certain days/times that friends and family can come visit. They should always take care to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer prior to touching your newborn.

Please advise anyone who is sick not to visit the baby until they are well. Keeping your visits brief and focused will help both you and your baby from getting too exhausted with visitors.

Bringing Home a Preemie

Premature infants are particularly susceptible to getting sick, especially during cold/flu season. Therefore, it is EXTREMELY important that you keep your premature baby away from others who are sick. It is an absolute must that everyone washes their hands prior to touching your baby.

Preterm infants also need more sleep than their full term counterparts. Minimizing visits from friends and family is, therefore, important. As your baby gets older, they will be able to tolerate more activity. At the beginning, however, it is important to give them time to rest so that they can conserve energy to feed and grow.

Finally – if you have a preterm baby, it is important to follow up with all of your pediatric visits. Call your pediatrician if you feel that your baby is getting sick or not feeding well. Prevention and early care is key!

About Claudia Cadet, MD

Dr. Cadet is part of WakeMed’s Neonatology team and is board certified in general pediatrics and neonatal-perinatal medicine. Her clinical interests include: simulation as a way to improve resuscitation and clinical care, and improving maternal-child health in Latin America.

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Claudia Cadet MD