While lugging a supplemental oxygen tank and monitor around with your baby is difficult at first, it’s not as scary as it sounds!
It can be pretty scary bringing home a baby on supplemental oxygen, but would you believe me if I told you we went camping with BOTH of our babies on oxygen?
Yes, life can go on, even with the added difficulties of caring for babies on oxygen.
You don’t have to be tethered to the tanks, or overwhelmed at the thought of going somewhere.
While it will take longer, it is so worth getting out with your babies to save your own sanity!
I’m going to give you some tips and tricks to go out, and still feel involved when you bring home your babies on oxygen!
Why might a baby be sent home on oxygen?
Some babies are born prematurely, and their lungs don’t have enough time to mature.
While suffacant shots are options at some hospitals (these help babies lungs develop), at others this option isn’t available.
Every baby is different – some are born “late” for pre term babies (ours were 35 weeks) but may still need oxygen. We live in a high elevation area, and so our babies lungs took a lot longer to develop than expected.
Some babies are born early, but do really well and are able to wean off of oxygen.
A lot of times, this may be the best option if it is the only thing keeping your baby in the NICU. With the right training, you can do this care in your own home and finally get to bring your sweet baby home!
You can check out the March of Dimes info here for more medical information!
What equipment is associated with being sent home on oxygen?
After being in the NICU, you’re probably curious how in the world they condense that equipment down to be transported!
Usually, you will receive the following before discharge from the NICU
- An oxygen tank or two. If you only get a big one, make sure to ask for a “travel” one as well to make going out easier! There is usually a service that the hospital will find prior to being discharged that will make regular deliveries of oxygen to your home, and pick up empty tanks.
- A pulse oximeter set up. This includes a monitoring device as well as the “wrap” that goes around their foot or hand to get their oxygen and heart rate readings. The monitor is often rechargeable and lasts hours!
- Extra tubes and canulas. These need to be changed out for sanitary reasons, so it’s good to have plenty on hand.
- “Face Stickies” or tape to keep the oxygen tubes in place on their face. You can NEVER have too many, because as they get older, they start to pull at their tubing alot and the stickies lose their stick!
I’m scared I won’t know how to operate this equipment at home!
Don’t worry, we were too!
Most NICU’s will have “room in” night with your baby(ies) that will be a crash course in using the equipment.
It will likely be sleepless for you, since typically babies “desat” (go below a set number for their oxygen saturation levels) most during deep sleep and eating. That means everytime that alarm beeps off, you’ll have to get used to checking on your baby to make sure all is good, then dismissing it.
Take this time to ask as many questions as possible!
Also, be sure to do the room in with the equipment you will be using at home.
This means using YOUR oxygen tanks, and YOUR pulse oximeter that you will be discharged with and using in your home.
It’s good to practice keeping track of everything and operating everything correctly while there is lots of help around!
How will I go anywhere or do anything “normal” with my baby on oxygen?
Well, you won’t be able to do things “normally” – but you can still do things!
You can request extra long tubing so that you can carry your baby alot farther without having to take a tank.
While no two families setups are exactly the same, you can generally put your things into a diaper bag or backpack when it comes time to travel out and about.
A word of advice on traveling – avoid high traffic areas such as grocery stores and the like! Especially if it is during flu season! Your doctor will likely say this as well, but it’s worth noting.
If you must travel somewhere during these times, be sure to bring a muslin to cover their car seat with and plenty of sanitizing spray and wash.
Think strolls around the neighborhood, to the local park, or such. We always opted outside because germs from coughing and sneezing were less likely to linger in the open air.
If it is wildfire season and there is smoke in the air, ask your doctor.
While ours OKd camping with some smoke in the air, each baby is different and has different needs!
Here are some tips on how to get out of the house with a baby on oxygen
- Get a good stroller set up – We had a Joovy Big Caboose, and it was perfect for our twins! It had plenty of space below the seats to store their oxygen tanks – it could even hold big tanks for times we wanted to be out for awhile!
- Find a comfortable backpack or diaper bag to put your gear in – This is great for carrying the “travel” tank and the oximeter. I loved this set up while baby wearing. I really missed on that bonding experience with my twins, and wanted to make up for lost time. I used a front carrier and put all their gear in the back so that I could do simple things such as chores while still spending time with my baby!
- Review your diaper bag before going out – You want to make sure you have extras of everything! The most common item needed is face tape or “stickies”. These get pulled or messed up the most, so it’s good to have plenty on hand. You may also want to carry an extra tank as well, in case something happens to the one your bringing or you’re just out longer than you thought!
How do I wean my baby off of oxygen?
I am no medical professional, so please consult your doctor!
I will, however, tell my story!
After monitoring their oxygen levels, and knowing what their normal was, we weaned them off in the following stages
- We slowly lowered the amount of oxygen they were receiving over all until they were at the lowest setting
- During “active” times, such as play, we removed the oxygen. We still kept their stickies on to reattach it after, but we wanted to see where they were at during optimal times. When they were able to maintain over 90 on their oximeter (this was the recommended level told to us by our doctor – your babies needs may be different!) then we increased the number of times they were without oxygen during play.
- While eating, which is often a time of desatting due to the difficulty of eating and breathing, we started to remove the supplemental oxygen. Again, this was while monitoring their stats.
- The last activity, and hardest, we weaned them off of oxygen from was sleep. Deep sleep is scary, especially once you see those stats drop. Our girls struggled to maintain 90 during this time, so we consulted our doctor about this. She said no one knows what the “normal” oxygen levels are for babies during sleep, as healthy babies are not monitored. She said it’s normal for even grown adults to dip (we were dipping as low as 70s!) and to not worry about it. With that in mind, we decided they were ready. PLEASE consult your doctor when it comes to this!
If you want peace of mind after weaning your baby off oxygen, buy an owlet monitor!
Every mom, especially those whose babies have been to the NICU and had such hard battles worry about their babies. That’s why I LOVE the owlet monitor It’s a special “sock” you put on your babies foot that monitors their heart rate and oxygen levels. It connects to your phone as well as a base station and has a VERY audible alarm when there is an alert (such as a super low oxygen saturation)
We were concerned with how accurate these were, so we actually attached the owlets to our twins feet as well as their hospital issued pulse oximeters. They ended up being extremely accurate, which gave us even more peace of mind.
My only nag about the Owlet, which many NICU and oxygen supplementing moms have brought up, is that the oxygen level alarm doesn’t go off until it hits 80. That is very low, and most parents will be used to a 90 level being considered the minimum.
I don’t mind, as my babies still desatted while in deep sleep. I didn’t need to know everytime they hit 88, so for me this was fine. Just keep that in mind before you buy!
While they are a bit pricey, they do have payment plans that approve most people.
There are also amazing foundations such as Knox Blocks that donates Owlets to families in need. I have also known some moms in NICU groups to pass the peace of mind along and give their owlets away for very cheap or free to families who need one!
What is life like with a baby on oxygen at home?
Here’s the scoop – you are likely looking at this page because your doctor has suggested your baby may be able to come home, but will need supplemental oxygen.
If you’re like me, that seemed way too intimidating, and scary thinking about the fact that YOU will be in charge of regulating their oxygen, and possibly making the choice to wean them.
But trust me – it’s SO worth it to bring them home!
Life with oxygen tanks and monitors will become your new norm.
You will become a pro at operating everything you need to, and will learn so much about your baby.
Your baby will likely get better faster when home.
No more bright lights, gloved hands, limited holding time.
Best of all, if your NICU was away from family and other children, you no longer will have to split up time between everyone!
Don’t be scared – embrace the change, and adapt!
Take your baby home, ask as many questions as you need.
This is just a chapter, and soon you will look back on it and be thankful that you got to bring your baby home instead of having them be left in the hospital for months longer for a service that you could do yourself!
Feel free to reach out to me if you need reassurance, have questions, or leave a comment with other positive tips for new oxygen moms and dads!
P.S. If you also are expecting twins, or they are already here, check these out!
- How to bedshare with twins safely and get even more bonding time (which really helped me after the NICU and oxygen!)
- Learn how to tandem nurse twins, and how to figure out what breastfeeding items you actually need!
- Do you already have one or more childen at home? Find out how to get kids excited about the new baby(ies) here!
- If you’re curious, find out how twins are different than a single… it’s not as bad as you think!
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