Baby length of stay in hospital

Over time, babies’ length of stay in hospital after birth has generally been getting shorter. The proportion of stays of 3 days or less has risen and stays of 4 days or more has fallen (for example, stays of 1 day have increased from 13% in 2010 to 21% in 2020, whereas stays of 4 to 5 days have decreased from 34% in 2010 to 22% in 2020).

Data are for liveborn babies only and exclude Western Australia.

The data visualisation below presents data on the length of hospital stay for liveborn babies born in hospital, by selected maternal and baby characteristics, for 2020. Click the trend button to see how data has changed over an 11-year period (where available).

The figure shows the proportion of babies by length of stay in hospital by a range of topics for 2020. The figure also shows a line graph of trends in length of stay by topics over the period of 2010 to 2020. In 2020, 172,836 babies stayed in hospital for 3 days or less after birth.

Several factors influence a baby’s length of stay in hospital, including birthweight and gestational age. Babies who had a low birthweight or who were born pre-term were much more likely to stay in hospital for 6 days or more (58% and 59%, respectively), compared with normal birthweight babies (4.0%) and babies born at term (3.4%).

Babies who stayed in hospital for 6 or more days were more likely to be:

  • born in a private hospital (8.7%)
  • born to mothers aged 40 and over (11%)
  • born to mothers who smoked (11%)
  • born by caesarean section (11%)
  • part of a twin birth (49%)
  • born to mothers from Very remote areas (14%)
  • babies who had an Apgar score of less than 7 (34% for an Apgar score of 0–3 and 24% for a score of 4–6). 

It is important to note that many of these factors are potentially interrelated, for example, mothers aged 40 and over are more likely to give birth in private hospitals.

Some groups of babies also have a longer median length of stay in hospital, which is reflected in the data visualisation below.

The figure shows the median length of stay for different groups of babies measured in number of days for 2020. In 2020, babies born pre-term and low birthweight babies have the longest median length of stay in hospital (both 7 days).

For more information on baby length of stay see National Perinatal Data Collection annual update data tables 3.20.