Most hospitals will discharge you and your baby within forty-eight hours if you have delivered vaginally. However, if you undergo a Cesarean section, you may stay at the facility for four to five days. If your baby is born in an alternative birthing center, you may be able to go home within twenty-four hours. Nevertheless, just because a full-term, healthy infant could be discharged from the hospital in less than forty-eight hours doesn’t mean it should necessarily occur.
The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that the health and well-being of the mother and her child is paramount. Since every child is different, the decision to discharge a newborn should be made on a case-by-case basis. If a newborn does leave the hospital early, he or she should be seen by a doctor twenty-four to forty-eight hours after discharge.
Prior to making the decision about when to go home, you and your doctor need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages carefully. From an emotional and physical standpoint, there are arguments for both a short (one to two days) and a longer (three-plus days) stay. Some women simply dislike being in the hospital and feel more comfortable and relaxed at home; as soon as they and their baby are proclaimed healthy and able to travel, they’re eager to leave. By keeping the hospital stay short, they’ll certainly save themselves—or their insurance company—money. However, many new mothers often cannot get as much rest at home as in the hospital—especially if there are older children clamoring for attention. Nor are they likely to have access to the valuable support that trained nurses can offer in the hospital during the first days of breastfeeding and baby care.
If a newborn does leave the hospital early, he should have received all the appropriate newborn tests such as a hearing screen, and he also should be seen by the pediatrician twenty-four to forty-eight hours after discharge. Of course, the doctor should be called immediately whenever a newborn appears listless or is feverish, is vomiting, has difficulty feeding, or develops a yellow color to his skin (jaundice).
Before you do leave the hospital, your home and car should be equipped with at least the bare essentials. Make sure you have a federally approved car safety seat that is appropriate for your baby’s size, and which you have correctly installed rear-facing in the backseat of your vehicle. It is extremely important to follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions on installation and proper use carefully, and if possible, it is helpful to get your car seat installation checked by a certified child passenger safety technician to ensure that you’ve gotten it right.
At home you’ll need a safe place for the baby to sleep, plenty of diapers, and enough clothing and blankets to keep him warm and protected. If you’re formula-feeding, you’ll also need a supply of formula.