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Home after the NICU

  • Learn about your baby's condition, treatment and care.
  • It's OK to feel worried about bringing your baby home.
  • Find a provider to care for your baby outside the NICU.
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Feeding your baby formula after the NICU

Your baby's health care provider will tell you the type and amount of formula to feed your baby. Some babies leave the hospital on regular infant formula. Others need a special formula that has more calories or specific nutrients. Be sure to follow your provider’s feeding plan to make sure that your baby is gaining enough weight.

Formula comes ready to serve or in a liquid or powder that you mix with water. Be sure to prepare the formula exactly according to the package directions or your baby's health care provider.

Babies are usually fed "on demand." This means you feed your baby whenever she is awake and hungry. If your baby sleeps for long periods of time, you may need to wake him up every few hours to eat. Ask your baby's provider for help if you need to wake up your baby for feedings.


Nipples and bottles

If your baby has done well with the nipples and bottles used in the hospital, ask to take some home. Ask where you can buy them. If the nipples and bottles used in the hospital didn’t work well, you will need to try different ones to find out what your baby likes best. Clean and store the bottles and nipples according to the package directions. You don't have to sterilize them unless your baby's health care provider says to do so.


Warming a bottle

The best way to warm your baby’s bottle is to put it in a cup of warm water. You might also want to get an inexpensive bottle warmer. It will heat the formula to just the right temperature. Test the milk on your wrist to make sure it isn’t too hot. Never microwave your baby’s bottle. The milk can heat unevenly and burn your baby's mouth or throat.

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Last reviewed August 2014

Call your doctor now if your baby...

  • Has a temperature above 100.4 F
  • Has trouble breathing or is hard to waken
  • Has blood in her vomit or stool
  • Has yellowish skin or eyes
  • Is having a seizure

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I calculate adjusted age for preemies?

Chronological age is the age of a baby from the day of birth. Adjusted age is the age of the baby based on his due date. To calculate adjusted age, take your baby's chronological age (for example, 20 weeks) and subtract the number of weeks premature the baby was (6 weeks). This baby's adjusted age (20 - 6) is 14 weeks. Health care providers may use this age when they evaluate the baby's growth and development. Most premature babies catch up to their peers developmentally in 2 to 3 years. After that, differences in size or development are most likely due to individual differences, rather than to premature birth. Some very small babies take longer to catch up.

Is it OK to invite people over after leaving the NICU?

Babies who've been in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) are often at higher risk of getting an infection than other babies. Be careful where you take the baby and who comes to visit her. But you don't need to stay in your house alone for the first months after your baby comes home.

If you do have visitors, make sure they wash their hands before touching the baby. Also, don't let adults or children who are sick, have a fever or have been exposed to an illness near her. Lastly, ask visitors not to smoke in your house.

My baby has developmental delays. Where can I find help?

Some babies leave the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) just fine while others may have developmental delays. The earlier these delays are identified and treated, the more likely your baby will be able to reach his potential later in life. Most NICU babies will be evaluated before leaving the NICU to see their strengths and any areas that can be improved. If you think your baby has developmental delays, talk to his health care provider about where to find early intervention services. Contact state and local programs for help.

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