Assessing infant and maternal readiness for newborn discharge

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The review highlights the shift from prescribed length of stay (LOS) to mother–infant dyad readiness as the basis for making discharge decisions for healthy term newborns. We describe the components of readiness that should be considered in making the decision, focusing on infant clinical readiness, and maternal and familial readiness.

Recent findings

Although the Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act of 1996 aimed to protect infants and mothers by establishing a minimum LOS, the American Academy of Pediatrics 2015 policy on newborn discharge acknowledges the shift from LOS-based to readiness-based discharge decision-making. Healthcare providers must consider a variety of infant and maternal characteristics in determining the appropriate time to discharge a dyad, and mothers should be actively involved in the decision-making process. Criteria for infant clinical readiness include the following: establishment of effective feeding, evaluation of jaundice risk, review and discussion of infant and household vaccination status, obtainment of specimen for metabolic screening, tests of hearing ability, assessment of sepsis risk factors, screening for congenital heart disease, and evaluation of parental knowledge about infant safety measures. Important consideration should also be given to the mother's sociodemographic vulnerabilities, maternal confidence and perception of discharge readiness, and availability of postdischarge care continuity.

Summary

The timing of newborn discharge should be a joint decision made by the mother and healthcare providers based on readiness. The decision should consider the infant's health status, the mother's health status, the mother's perception of readiness, and the availability of social and familial support for the mother and infant. Accessible and comprehensive support postdischarge is also important for helping infants achieve optimal health outcomes.

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