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My son was born prematurely a few weeks ago and is still in the hospital. If all goes well, he will leave the hospital when he reaches the equivalent of 36 gestational weeks, weighs at least 4 lbs, can sustain his vitals (pulse, temperature, etc) outside of the incubator for a prolonged time, and can feed himself orally. He is currently at the equivalent of 32 gestational weeks, so he may be home in a month.

Is anyone aware of any special preparations for the arrival of a premature baby? I am sure the hospital and the baby's pediatrician will advise us on the medical aspects. I am interested in other aspects of regarding his arrival, such as keeping him comfortable, adequate toys, etc.

I am aware that we already covered the arrival of full-term babies in What to buy before the baby is born? so I am interested on suggestions specific to the arrival of premature babies.

UPDATE

Baby is home since last week and is doing great! Your advise has been very useful. Thank you.

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Wow -- I'm kind of shocked. 4 pounds is tiny! My baby was born at 2.5kgs (5lbs 8oz), 35 weeks, and he's staying still for some time yet. Make sure your baby's not coming home too early; a rushed trip to the hospital a few days after he comes home is unpleasant. Best of luck :) –  Yuki Mar 29 '11 at 23:14
    
Lucky - you're at the end of the RSV season! We had to spend the entire winter of 2009-2010 under RSV lockdown. –  ceejayoz Mar 30 '11 at 0:47
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Congrats! Brought me back as my 1 lb. 14.5 oz preemie is now 7 years old and 50 pounds. My only additional piece of advice would have been to catch up on sleep while health insurance is still paying for your babysitters. –  Karl Bielefeldt May 12 '11 at 21:30
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5 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It's going to depend a bit on how medically complex your kiddo is. My twins (born at 26-and-6, 1,000 grams / 2 pounds 3 ounces) came home on feeding tubes but otherwise were pretty straightforwards medically.

I wouldn't worry about toys etc., ours slept about 20 hours a day and wanted to snuggle the other four for the first month or two. They're not supposed to be out of the womb yet, so just breathing etc. is pretty taxing.

Get an Amazon Prime account, it'll save your life. With feedings, diapering, etc. every three hours you'll probably find it hard to get out for anything more than groceries. Being able to snap your e-fingers and have necessities on your doorstep in a day or two is amazingly helpful.

If your preemie has respiratory issues (BPD, home oxygen etc.), consider getting a heating/AC service in to clean your house's ductwork if you have central air. A lot of gunk builds up in there.

Hand sanitizer is good to have in every room of the house. Put one by the door and insist that visitors use it. Anyone who grumbles can come visit next year!

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I used Amazon Prime to get his premature baby formula. I later found that it was much cheaper at Target, however the convenience is worth the cost when needed. –  Jaime Soto May 12 '11 at 20:49
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Our 24-weeker came home on lots of meds so I would recommend a couple of dry-erase boards with one being placed where the medicines are kept.

And we tracked feedings/meds with a google spreadsheet for the first couple of months, in addition to the dry erase boards.

If the babies room is situated on a different floor than the kitchen, you may wish to consider a small fridge in or near the babies room for bottles and for meds that have to be refrigerated). Or just use a cooler with ice packs (that's what we did).

Video monitor--early on, we situated it so we could see the pulse-ox readout and the baby so we could see if it was just a sensor issue due to him moving around (happens a lot) or if he was actually low due to something like the canula popping out (happens a lot too). We later used a tablet running IPWebCam to view the pulse-ox (can be viewed from web browser).

I'll also echo the Amazon Prime--a must have (IMO)!

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  • Be sure to have added baby to insurance
  • Sometimes the baby gets discharged but requires a monitor to bring home (that I assume you return later). The staff will teach you how to read it.
  • When you get a better sense of the date you might get discharged, schedule pediatrician appointments. Maybe just schedule some a few weeks in advance just so you are in the books. You can always cancel them if baby is still in hospital.
  • Make sure your car seat will secure baby, there are extra paddings for head support you can add to better secure smaller baby. Ask doc if baby needs a "special car seat" (if there is a respiratory condition)
  • You may want to consider getting certified in infant CPR
  • Once baby is home, avoid having little kids visit or adults who are sick until doctor says baby's immune system is stronger
  • Make sure temperature at home is comfortable for baby. As preemie, they might want it warmer.
  • Bond with baby (look into "kangaroo care"): like skin-to-skin contact

Reference

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When our twins came home at 5 pounds, we didn't have to make any changes due to the fact that they were small/premature. If I recall correctly, the only difficulty was finding size "P" preemie diapers. We'd sometimes have to visit 3 stores as they only stocked a small quantity in that not-frequently used size. Having twins, we were going through 20 a day.

In short: stock up on diapers, especially if they are size "P"

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Amazon.com is your friend, especially Amazon Prime! Free two-day shipping on everything under the sun, including preemie-sized diapers! –  ceejayoz Mar 30 '11 at 0:47
    
Yeah we are huge on diaper delivery from Amazon now. –  efalcao Mar 30 '11 at 17:19
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Amazon Prime you pay for don't you? I did Amazon Mom and so long as you make a certain monthly purchase, you get the same status as "Prime" but free. –  Rhea Mar 31 '11 at 1:41
    
@Rhea: Prime applies everywhere, Mom seems to only apply to a handful of categories. –  cabbey May 12 '11 at 21:04
    
You can get a 1-year Amazon Prime free trial with Amazon Student. All you need to sign up is an email address ending in .edu. –  Jaime Soto May 13 '11 at 13:25
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We got really good advice from the hospital, but one thing we oversaw was having enough clothes with size "premature". I had to quickly buy new clothes, although we did have enough "normal" size clothes. Finding really small sizes appeared to be quite challenging

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