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Preparing to Go Home

Mom Kissing BabyWe want your stay at Women’s Hospital to be enjoyable and safe for you and your newborn.

After delivery, mom and baby are considered two individual patients. When you are ready to be released from care may be different from when your baby will be ready to go home.

The birth of a baby is a significant physical, emotional and life-changing event for both the mom and the new baby. During the immediate period following the birth, most moms quickly begin physical changes that make intensive medical care unnecessary.  New babies may take longer to adjust to life in the outside world.

How long will my baby and I stay after I deliver?

Newborn babies usually stay in the hospital at least 24 hours before they can go home. During this time both the doctor and the nurses will give the baby a check-up and several screening tests are done. When you and your baby will go home is based on how mom and baby are doing. There is no standard number of hospital days for all patients.

For newborn babies to be ready for discharge to home they must complete all the screening tests. More importantly they must be feeding well (6-8 feedings in 24 hours with 1-2 wet and dirty diapers). Baby’s temperature as well as breathing and heart rate need to be in normal ranges. Most newborn babies are discharged home by 3 days of life. However, all newborns need a follow-up appointment with their doctor within 2 days after discharge, regardless of how many days they spent in the hospital.

Although you may be released from care prior to your baby, you will remain in the same room, continue to have lactation support, and nurses who can assist you with caring for your newborn. You may continue to obtain meals and order room service as if you were still a patient.  Most moms are ready to be released from medical care approximately 24 hours after a vaginal delivery and 48 hours after a cesarean section delivery. 

Are there some babies that need to stay longer than average after birth?

Babies born more than 3 weeks before their due date (< 37 weeks) need to be observed in the hospital for at least 48 hours after birth to help them establish feeding. Many of these “early babies” need to stay 3 or 4 days after delivery.

Mothers who test positive for group B strep (GBS) receive antibiotics in labor. If mother does not receive antibiotics at least 4 hours prior to the baby being born we observe the baby in the hospital for 48 hours to make sure they don’t develop signs of infection.

Other babies that may need longer stays are babies with birth weight less than 6 pounds, babies with low blood sugars, and twins.

What are the newborn screening tests?

Hearing Screen: The hearing test is done in the mother’s room and can be done anytime the baby is quiet and comfortable

Newborn Metabolic Screen: this is a blood test done on all newborns born in North Carolina. It tests for 36 different diseases such as low thyroid, PKU and sickle cell disease. This test cannot be done until the baby is 24 hours old and has eaten several times.

Congenital Heart Screening: All babies have oxygen levels in their blood checked by the nurse in one hand and foot to rule out serious structural heart disease. This test needs to be done as close to 24 hours of age as possible for the most accurate result.

Jaundice test: Most new babies develop yellow coloring to their skin sometime in the first week of life. For most babies this is normal but around 1 out of 10 babies develop significant jaundice that needs a treatment. All babies have a skin test for jaundice before they are discharged. Your baby’s doctor will explain the results to you before you leave.

What do I need to do before delivery to be ready for discharge?

  • Choose a doctor’s office for your baby

It is important that mothers have identified a doctor’s office to provide medical care for their baby after the baby is discharged. Once your baby’s provider has been identified you should check with them to see if they will see your baby in the hospital after birth. For offices whose providers who don’t come to the hospital our pediatric faculty doctors will see your baby in the hospital. As noted above your baby will need a follow-up appointment scheduled before leaving the hospital.

  • Car seat for your baby

Make sure your car seat is approved for newborns.

  • Support Person for help at home

All new mothers need someone to help them at home for the first few days so it is important to identify someone who can help them.

How long do mothers stay after delivery?

Mothers are frequently medically ready before the baby has met all the goals for discharge home. As a Baby Friendly hospital we offer the unique opportunity for mothers to remain with their baby until the baby is ready to go home.

Preparing to Go Home