Key questions

What to ask before you leave the hospital

After hours of labor in a sterile hospital, you’re probably ready to go home. Before you do, there are some important questions to ask your nurse or doctor. The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, a group representing 22,000 health care professionals worldwide, knows.

"No matter how many [parenting] classes they go to, once the baby is there ... there is this flurry of activity to get mom and baby ready to go home," says Anne Santa-Donato, a nurse and associate director of the group's childbearing and newborn programs. "But the really important issue is, ‘How do I take care of this baby when I get home?’ "

1 How often should I bring my baby in for examinations? This varies, Santa-Donato says, but it could be as early as 24 hours after birth.

2 What is the minimum number of times I should feed my baby each day? Breastfed babies should usually be fed every three hours, or six to eight times every 24 hours, she says.

3 What is the longest period of time I should let him or her go without eating? This also varies, Santa-Donato says, but it’s important to know when to be concerned about your individual baby—or when not to be.

4 What sorts of things should I be watching out for in terms of behavior or appearance? Your doctor may want you to watch for specific warning signs. But there are some things all parents can look for, such as excessive crying, Santa-Donato says. All infants cry. But it might be time to call your doctor if your baby doesn’t stop after changing or feeding. "Babies crying—that’s their way of communicating." Santa-Donato says you should also look for signs of jaundice, marked by a color change in a baby’s skin or mucus membranes.

5 How will I know if I should call you and how do I reach you? Having the right number to call—whether it’s your doctor’s office or hospital—is important if a problem arises. "If you’re not sure, don’t hesitate to call," Santa-Donato says.

Lorien Menhennett


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