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    Prepare to Head Home continued...

    To be safe, your hospital may require you to bring the car seat in for a trial run. During this hour-long test, your baby will sit in the car seat and wear a monitor to keep track of his heart and breathing.

    Set a sleep routine. Preemie, or not, your baby should sleep on his back. Get him his own firm mattress, and put it in your room. This helps with bonding, feeding, and lowers the chances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Also make sure there are no soft objects in the crib with him.

    Pre-term babies tend to sleep more hours per day than full-term babies, but they also wake up more often. “Be prepared to soothe your baby several times during the night,” says Deborah Donohue, RN, a former NICU nurse who now travels the country as a private baby nurse. 

    Know how to soothe your little one. Preemies can be extra sensitive to noise or touch. Sometimes the best place for them is on their parents’ chest. This skin-to-skin contact -- also known as kangaroo care -- helps keep stress levels down.

    “Remember, they had you close for 9 months,” Donohue says. “They still need to be close.”

    A familiar voice will also be soothing to your baby. Talk to him in a gentle tone or sing lullabies.

    Stick with the NICU feeding times. “Premature babies usually come home on a schedule -- stick to it,” Donohue says. 

    Most infants need to eat every 1-3 hours around the clock for the first month. Preemies tend to eat smaller amounts and may have reflux, Donohue says. Holding your baby upright after a feeding can help.

    Your doctor may suggest a supplement with vitamins, iron, and a special formula if the baby is bottle-fed. All breast-fed infants need extra Vitamin D. Try not to breast feed while you are tired. If you do, avoid feeding while sitting in a chair or on a couch in case you fall asleep.

    See your pediatrician often. Schedule a visit with your baby's doctor for a few days after you get home. Set up weekly appointments for the first month.