From NICU to Home: Caring for Your Premature Baby

caring for your newborn

Bringing a newborn home is a joyous occasion, but for some parents, it brings more anxiety than excitement. This much is true for parents of premature babies.

The journey from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to your home is an added challenge. And when you make it through, it can feel like you’re left to your own devices, leaving behind your sense of safety as you get discharged.

This is not the case at Children’s Medical Centers of Fresno. Our guidance and support extend beyond the four walls of our practice, ensuring you have the right resources (like this blog) to embark on this journey with confidence. As parents ourselves, your baby’s health is our mission as much as it is yours, cherishing each newborn as if they were our own.

We’ve seen countless parents whose preterm babies grew up healthy with personalized advice from our care team. Talk with one of our pediatric experts to get started. 

[Consult a Pediatrician]

Understanding Premature Birth 

Premature birth, defined as the delivery of a baby before 37 weeks of gestation, presents unique hurdles for both parents and healthcare professionals alike. While the exact cause of premature birth is often unclear, certain factors increase the risk, ranging from health conditions to lifestyle choices. 

Babies who are born too early are extremely vulnerable and have a higher risk of developing complications. This is why they must stay in the NICU until they reach the expected pregnancy due date or as the pediatrician recommends. Rest assured that the NICU includes the expertise and resources needed to provide specialized care for premature infants. 

Why does premature birth happen? There are several factors at play, but in most cases, some pregnancies are more prone to preterm labor due to health conditions. Here are some of the known reasons behind premature birth and the associated risk factors: 

Causes and Risk Factors

  • Multiple Pregnancies: Twins, triplets, and higher-order multiples raise the chances of premature birth because they put extra pressure on the mother’s body.
  • Infections: Maternal infections, particularly those affecting the amniotic fluid or lower genital tract, can trigger early labor. 
  • Chronic Conditions: Conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure (preeclampsia) significantly raise the risk of preterm delivery. 
  • Lifestyle Factors: Smoking, substance abuse, and inadequate prenatal care are significant contributors to premature birth. 
  • Maternal Age: Women under 17 or over 35 have a higher risk of preterm labor. 
  • Previous Preterm Birth: A history of premature delivery increases the chances of subsequent preterm births. 
  • Stress and Trauma: High levels of anxiety or physical trauma can precipitate early labor. 

Common Complications Associated with Prematurity 

  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS): Premature babies often struggle to breathe due to immature lungs. They may require respiratory support or surfactant therapy to help their lungs function correctly. 
  • Intraventricular Hemorrhage (IVH): Bleeding in the brain, particularly in the brain’s ventricles, can occur in preterm infants, potentially leading to long-term neurological issues. 
  • Jaundice: Bilirubin is a yellowish pigment made during the breakdown of red blood cells meant to be excreted out. An underdeveloped liver may cause a build of bilirubin in a premature baby’s body, leading to jaundice. Babies may need blood transfusions to reduce the amount of bilirubin in the blood.
  • Anemia: Premature infants often have low red blood cell counts, requiring blood transfusions to ensure adequate oxygen delivery throughout their bodies. 
  • Infections: Premature infants have underdeveloped immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases like sepsis. 
  • Developmental Delays: Unlike babies born at full term, premature infants might not reach developmental milestones—like sitting, crawling, and walking—on time.


Understanding these complications empowers you to recognize potential issues early, make lifestyle changes, and prepare for appropriate premature newborn care. With insights into your baby’s medical needs, you can actively participate in their care, communicate effectively with healthcare providers, and advocate for your child’s well-being. 


NICU Care: What to Expect

newborn baby care

Entering the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is often an intimidating and distressing experience. The sight of your baby hooked up to tubes and monitors may evoke feelings of fear and helplessness. However, it’s crucial to recognize that the NICU is a place of hope and healing for premature and ill newborns. Dedicated healthcare professionals are present, providing the specialized care and support your baby needs. Here’s what you can expect during your baby’s time in the NICU: 

  1. Specialized Care

The NICU is specially designed to meet the needs of premature and ill babies. It’s equipped with state-of-the-art technology and staffed by highly skilled medical professionals dedicated to providing your little one with the best possible care. 

     2. Critical Support

Premature infants often require specialized medical interventions to support their fragile health. In the NICU, your baby may receive respiratory support to help them breathe, nutritional supplementation to support their growth, and temperature regulation to keep them comfortable.

    3. Medical Interventions

The NICU provides a range of medical interventions tailored to your baby’s needs, from ventilators to intravenous fluids. If your baby is jaundiced, they may undergo phototherapy to help break down excess bilirubin in their blood. 

    4. Emotional Support

Feeling overwhelmed or anxious during your time in the NICU is natural, but you’re not alone. A medical team will assist you throughout your journey, providing guidance, comfort, and attentive support whenever you require it. You can also find comfort in connecting with other parents who have had similar experiences by joining parent groups or seeking counseling services. 

Preparing for Homecoming

Transitioning from the NICU to your home marks a significant milestone in your baby’s life, one that necessitates meticulous preparation and ongoing support. As you prepare to bring your baby home, it’s natural to feel excitement, anticipation, and perhaps a touch of apprehension. After all, caring for a premature baby outside the controlled environment of the NICU can intimidate any parent. 

Seeking guidance from healthcare professionals helps you make the best decisions, understand your baby’s needs, thoroughly follow care plans, and promote the most nurturing environment for your baby. Here’s how to ensure a smooth transition: 

  • Discuss with the NICU Team

Start by having a detailed discussion with the NICU team about your baby’s condition and care requirements. This will help you understand your baby’s unique needs upon returning home. 

  • Create a Detailed Care Plan

Work with the NICU team to create a comprehensive care plan tailored to your baby’s needs. This plan should include feeding schedules, medication timings, and special instructions for handling your baby’s condition. 

  • Gather Essential Equipment

Ensure you have all the necessary equipment for home care, including: 

  • A reliable infant car seat for safe transportation
  • A thermometer to monitor your baby’s temperature 
  • Feeding supplies such as bottles, nipples, and breast pumps (if needed) 
  • Set Up a Supportive Environment

Create a calm and comfortable childcare space at home by: 

  • Maintaining a quiet and peaceful atmosphere
  • Keeping the living space clean and clutter-free
  • Providing a comfortable sleeping area for your baby
  • Adjust to Your Baby’s Cues and Routine

Babies thrive on routine, so gradually adjust to your baby’s feeding and sleeping schedule. Pay attention to your baby’s cues and preferences, and adapt accordingly. 

  • Follow Medical Advice

Strictly adhere to any medical advice or instructions provided by pediatricians. This includes administering medications on time and attending follow-up appointments as scheduled. 

By following these steps and being prepared, you can ensure your premature baby thrives in your home after being discharged from the NICU. Do not hesitate to contact a newborn care specialist if you have any questions or concerns. 

Read More: Parent’s Guide to Caring for a Premature Baby

Supporting Your Premature Baby

Once you are home with your baby, it’s time for the hardest job of all, parenting your baby throughout their developmental milestones. While parenting is always challenging, knowing you are not alone is important. Following these tips can create supportive conditions for your premature baby to grow healthy and happy.


    1. Opt to breastfeed when possible. Breastfeeding offers immune system support and optimal nutrition. For assistance, utilize lactation consultants and breast pumps.
    2. Monitor the baby’s growth regularly.  Take note of your baby’s nutritional intake, the color and consistency of their urine and poop, and sleeping patterns. Consult with pediatricians if you notice any irregularities.
    3. Schedule regular check-ups. It is important to regularly check in with your pediatrician on your baby’s general health. The pediatrician will help detect and manage respiratory infections, jaundice, and anemia.
    4. Check on developmental milestones. Babies will naturally progress in their motor skills and cognitive skills over time. Monitor these achievements closely to see if your baby is developing according to the expected milestones. 
    5. Engage in fun activities. The best way to see if your baby is achieving the expected milestones is through activities that would enhance your baby’s skills. Play with your baby and watch them slowly discover the world. 
    6. Provide physical support. The kangaroo care method strengthens the bond between baby and parent by stabilizing the baby’s heart rate and breathing in response to the parent’s close proximity. 
    7. Remember to care for yourself, too. Prioritize your health and well-being too. Find emotional support with your partner or family to manage emotional stress. A healthy parent leads to a healthy baby. 

Expert Preemie Care at Children’s Medical Centers of Fresno

No practice understands the needs of premature babies better than Children’s Medical Centers of Fresno. Our specialized preemie care services ensure that your little one receives the best possible support and treatment from the moment they arrive to the day they go home (and beyond).

1. Through our comprehensive newborn baby care program, we provide: 

Advanced Medical Expertise

Our team of experienced neonatologists and pediatric specialists has undergone extensive training to address the specific needs of premature infants, providing advanced medical care and interventions tailored to each baby’s requirements.

2. State-of-the-Art Facilities

Our facilities have the latest technology and resources, creating a safe and supportive space for premature infants to thrive and mature.

3. Compassionate Support

We understand that caring for a premature baby can be overwhelming. Our compassionate staff is available to provide guidance, support, and comfort throughout your journey, assisting you in confidently overcoming the obstacles of prematurity.

From NICU to Home – Ensuring Optimal Care for Your Preemie

Caring for a premature baby demands patience, resilience, and knowledge. Stay vigilant about health concerns, monitor developmental milestones, and nurture a strong bond with your baby. Don’t forget to prioritize your well-being and seek support from resources and groups to navigate the emotional journey.

Your premature baby deserves top-notch care. Call our clinic today at (559) 455-1500 or click the “Book an Appointment” button for personalized guidance and support. Take advantage of our flexible after-hours appointments, running from 5 PM to 9 PM, Monday to Friday, and 9 AM to 3 PM on Saturdays. Trust our expert team to provide personalized care, either in-person or through telehealth services, ensuring your child receives the attention whenever they need it.

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