Baby length of stay in hospital

Over time, babies’ length of stay in hospital after birth has generally been getting shorter. Data are for liveborn babies only, and exclude Western Australia.

The figure shows the proportion of babies by length of stay in hospital by a range of topics for 2019. The figure also shows a line graph of trends in length of stay by topics over the period of 2010 to 2019. In 2019, 167,545 babies stayed in hospital for 3 days or less after birth.

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 12.5% in 2009 to 18% in 2019, whereas stays of 4 to 5 days have decreased from 34% in 2009 to 25% in 2019).

A number of 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 (58% and 59%, respectively) were much more likely to stay in hospital for 6 days or more, compared with term babies (3.6%) and normal birthweight babies (4.4%).

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

  • Indigenous (11%)
  • born to Indigenous mothers (11.5%)
  • born in a private hospital (10%)
  • born to mothers aged 40 or older (11%)
  • born to mothers who smoked (11%)
  • born by caesarean section (11.5%)
  • part of a multiple birth (51% for twins, 96% for other multiples)
  • born to mothers from Very remote areas (16%)
  • babies who had an Apgar score of less than 7 (34% for an Apgar score of 0–3 and 25% for a score of 4–6). 

It is important to note that many of these factors are potentially interrelated, for example, older mothers 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 graph below.

The figure shows the median length of stay for different groups of babies measured in number of days for 2019. In 2019, babies born pre-term and low birthweight babies have the longest median length of stay in hospital (both 7 days).

For information on maternal length of stay see National Perinatal Data Collection annual update data tables 2.53, 2.54 and 2.55.

For information on mode of separation of the baby see National Perinatal Data Collection annual update data table 3.21.