The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of early discharge of preterm infants, followed by domiciliary nursing care, on the parents' anxiety, their assessment of infant health and breastfeeding. Seventy-five families including 88 preterm infants who were physiologically stable but in need of further special care, such as gavage feeding, were allocated to an early discharge group (EDG) that was offered home visits (n = 40), or to a control group offered standard neonatal care (CG) (n = 35). Seventy families (37 in the EDG and 33 in the CG) completed the study to the 1-y follow-up. Data were collected by means of questionnaires on three occasions: in the EDG, at hospital discharge, on completion of the domiciliary care programme and after 1 y, and in the CG at the corresponding points in time, which were during hospitalization, at hospital discharge and after 1 y. No statistical differences were observed between the groups in emotional well-being, except that mothers in the EDG had a lower level of situational anxiety at the time of hospital discharge compared with CG mothers whose infants remained in hospital. One year after the birth, the EDG mothers said they had felt better prepared to take responsibility for the care of their babies after completion of the domiciliary care programme, in contrast to CG mothers. However, no statistical differences were observed in the recollection of anxiety, confidence in handling the baby and periods of mental imbalance. No statistical difference was observed in breastfeeding rates between the groups. Fathers in the EDG group tended to perceive their babies as being healthier, compared with CG fathers.
Conclusion: Early discharge of preterm infants followed by domiciliary nursing care did not seem to have any major effect on the parents' anxiety and their assessment of infant health.