A reduced hospital length of stay for normal newborns has become common, largely in an attempt to reduce hospital costs. Although evidence in the literature suggests that this is a safe practice, the overall quality of the studies is weak, and controversy exists regarding the advisability of this practice. A review of the rather modest literature and experience with shortened hospital stays lead us to conclude that early discharge of newborns is safe if it is but one component of a larger program designed to transfer portions of care traditionally provided in the hospital to pre- and postnatal care provided outside the hospital. The early discharge program developed at the Harvard Community Health Plan is presented as an example of such a program, with the hope that this model will provide a useful framework to those who are involved with shortened hospital maternity lengths of stay.
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