Your Baby's Health at Home
A Snuffly Baby
BLISS advises that some babies may become snuffly as a result of going home to a slightly dustier environment than the hospital (most homes have carpets and lots of fabrics). Try not to worry if your baby seems fine and is feeding well, as this will settle down after as much as a few weeks. However, if your baby seems unwell or is not feeding well, ask your health visitor or GP for advice.
Taking your baby out is safe as long as you remember to dress him or her appropriately for the weather (i.e. protect from the sun and take extra layers for the cold). Some parents like to stay at home for a couple of days to let the baby get used to the new environment.
Occasionally, some babies still need oxygen to help them breathe when they are ready for discharge in all other areas. It may be appropriate for these babies to go home with some oxygen to support his or her breathing until oxygen is no longer needed. If this is the case, you will be shown what to do and supported by the community neonatal nurse.
Infection and RSV
Babies who have been ventilated, oxygen dependent or premature may have a higher risk of infections, particularly chest infections.
RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) affects around two-thirds of babies and children and causes cold-like symptoms. This occurs most commonly between October and March and oftens presents like any other cold or sniffly episode. However, if a baby was premature and prone to breathing problems, he or she could be affected more seriously by RSV. To reduce the risk of infection initially, you can:
- Avoid large groups of young children and crowded public places
- Avoid big air conditioned buildings such as shopping centres
- Make sure everybody who comes into contact with your baby washes their hands thoroughly.
- Reduce contact with people who have colds or fevers.
Premature or fragile babies will be affected by being in a room where people routinely smoke (even if he or she is not there while they are smoking). Smoking increases the risk of cot death by 100% for every hour that a baby is in a room where people smoke regularly, i.e. if a baby is in the room for 8 hours a day, their risk of cot death is 8 times higher than normal.
Babies who have been discharged home from neonatal units may have become accustomed to sleeping on their front, and so it may take some time for them to settle on their back. You should position your baby to sleep on his or her back as recommended by the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID). The FSID also recommends the following:
· Cut smoking in pregnancy - fathers too!
· Do not let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby
· Place your baby on the back to sleep
· Do not let your baby get too hot (aim to keep room temperature around 18 - 21 degrees Celsius). If you are worried, can can buy a thermometer (a baby's temperature measured under the armpit should be roughly 36.5 - 37.2 degress C).
· Keep baby's head uncovered - place your baby with their feet to the foot of the cot, to prevent wriggling down under the covers
· If your baby is unwell, seek medical advice promptly
· The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in your room for the first six months.
· It's dangerous to share a bed with your baby if you or your partner:
- are smokers (no matter where or when you smoke)
- have been drinking alcohol
- take drugs or medications that makes you drowsy
- feel very tired
- It i's also dangerous to sleep together on a sofa, or armchair.
· There are also risks of accidents when bedsharing with babies: you might roll over in your sleep and suffocate your baby, or your baby could get caught between the wall and the bed, or the baby could roll out of the bed and be injured.
Lastly, if your baby needs to be readmitted to hospital for any reason, it is likely that they will go to the children's ward rather than the neonatal unit. This is because neonatal units do not accept admission of babies who are over 10 days old. This can be daunting if you are used to members of the neonatal team (although you may well see some of the same doctors), however, you will be able to stay with your baby on the ward.