Following on from yesterday's tips about surviving special care, here are my tips to surviving the first weeks at home. Joseph did not come home on oxygen, and did not have any serious ongoing health issues, he was just very small, 4lb 7oz.
1. You will get suprisingly little notice of your baby's discharge. In our case it was 6 days. Take the time to get everything you need organised, but don't go overboard. A place to sleep, a car seat, nappies, bottles (if needed), steriliser, and some sleepsuits and vests. Also make sure you have enough food in for a week or so, so you don't have the pressure of shopping.
2. Don't tell people baby is coming home unless you want them to visit. You might want to keep it a secret until your settled. Your baby has been in a safe, quiet environment for many weeks, and has been protected from germs and over stimulation. You have also been through a lot of stress and you need the time to get to know your baby.
3. It isn't rude to tell people to go away, and come again some other time. Nor is it rude to not answer the phone
4. Be guided by your unit, but if you are going out, be aware that people will be curious, particularly if your baby is still small. People will touch, so just self-check how happy you are to tell people not to touch. If you don't feel you can do this, keep the rain cover on.
5. Let your GP know your baby is coming home. The unit will send paper work but this can take time.
6. Consider baby wearing. Your little darling will enjoy being kept close to you, it will help you bond, and kangaroo care is proven to help weight gain too. Kangaroo care doesn't have to stop when you leave hospital.
7. Make time for yourself. Premature babies tend to sleep quite a lot (mine certainly did), so sleep, read, embroider, whatever makes you happy. Or just gaze lovingly into the crib!
8. Consider how much you want to tell people. I wish I had done this and I tended to have to go into the whole story every time. You can retain a sense of mystery if you wish!
9. Don't let yourself be pressured by well meaning people. One of Joseph's doctors told me off for not having a dummy for Joseph, so I spent many many evenings trying to get him to take a dummy. He didn't want or need one, and it caused me a lot of stress and tears.
10. Be aware that you may feel quite unsupported. You are used to lots of doctors and nurses around and suddenly you are on your own. Your Health Visitor may not have a lot of time for you. Ring your local sure start centre and find out what is on offer. If you are unable to leave the house, they may be able to come to you. The Bliss forums are a great source of support, and you may find it helpful to look at some "normal" baby forums too.
11. Enjoy your baby. The first weeks are terrifying in many ways, and its a whole new ballgame, but take time to enjoy your little tiny person.