Baby length of stay in hospital

Baby length of stay refers to the number of days between giving birth and the date of discharge or transfer from the hospital where birth occurred, or death. 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 2011 to 21% in 2021, whereas stays of 4 to 5 days have decreased from 33% in 2011 to 23% in 2021).

Data are for liveborn babies only and exclude Western Australia.

Figure 1 presents data on the length of hospital stay for liveborn babies born in hospital, by selected maternal and baby characteristics, for 2021. Select the trend button to see how data has changed over an 11-year period (where available).

Figure 1: Proportion of liveborn babies, by baby length of stay in hospital and selected topic

Bar chart shows baby length of stay by selected topics and a line graph shows topic trends between 2011 and 2021. 

Many 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 (both 56%), compared with normal birthweight babies (3.6%) and babies born at term (3.0%).

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

  • born in a private hospital (7.9%)
  • born to mothers aged 40 and over (8.8%)
  • born to mothers who smoked (9.6%)
  • born by caesarean section (9.5%)
  • part of a twin birth (45%)
  • born to mothers from Very remote areas (8%)
  • babies who had an Apgar score of less than 7 (35% 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 shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Median length of stay for selected babies born in hospital and discharged home

Bar chart shows median postnatal length of stay for mothers who gave birth in hospitals in 2021. 

For more information on baby length of stay see National Perinatal Data Collection annual update data tables 3.22.