During your baby’s stay with us, you may visit as often as you like. We will support you to be involved in your baby’s daily care and feeding and help you to get to know each other.
Premature babies usually go home at, or slightly before, the date they were due to be born. This means that if your baby is born six weeks early, it could be six weeks until he or she goes home. By the time they go home, babies will be feeding well, gaining weight and sleeping in a cot.
Only parents of the baby may visit the unit unless special circumstances have been agreed with the nurse in charge. Very sick or premature babies are at increased risk of infection. We limit the number of visitors and how much your baby is handled by other people to reduce this risk.
Please do not visit If you have COVID or flu-like symptoms, vomiting or diarrhoea. Contact the unit to speak to the nurse looking after your baby if you feel unwell or have been in close contact with someone else who has these symptoms.
Please wash your hands before you enter the nursery and use the alcohol gel by the bed before you touch your baby.
To protect your baby, we also recommend taking off rings (especially those with stones), bracelets, watches and false nails. Please keep your nails clean and short.
Keeping your baby’s bed tidy
Balloons, flowers and banners are not allowed on the unit. A small machine washable toy is allowed if your baby is in an unheated cot. Toys are not allowed in or around the incubators.
Your baby’s bed space is cleaned regularly by our staff. Please keep your baby’s bed tidy and clear of personal belongings and take any soiled clothes away with you after each visit. If you would like to help with cleaning and changing your baby’s bed, please speak to the nurse.
Mobile phones and cameras
Mobile phones can be covered in bacteria and viruses. If you bring your phone into the nursery, please wipe it with an antibacterial wipe before and after your visit. Please remember to use hand gel after handling your phone and before touching your baby. You are welcome to take photographs, or to video your baby, but please respect other family’s privacy.
Each unit has a small kitchen for you to use, equipped with a microwave, kettle and toaster. You will find limited supplies of tea, coffee, milk, bread and butter. Please don’t take hot drinks or food on to the unit.
Having a baby on the unit can be a very anxious and upsetting time for parents. Please respect the privacy of other parents and babies by giving them space and not asking questions. We will ensure that information about you and your baby is also kept confidential.
Caring for your baby
Clothes and nappies
Your baby may be very small, and you may not have been prepared if they arrived early. We have a large selection of baby clothes, so don’t worry if you don’t have any that fit. If you do want to bring your own clothes, please label them. Use the laundry bag at the end of the incubator/cot so you can take them home to wash. Clothes and bedding should be washed at 65 degrees during their stay on the neonatal unit.
We also supply nappies, cotton wool and cotton buds to help you for the first few days of your baby’s stay. Your nurse will tell you which nappy size to buy.
You may feel frightened to touch your baby at first, but we will support you in learning how to do this until you feel confident. The type of touch must be adapted to your baby’s response, their medical condition and their degree of prematurity.
Even small babies can benefit from close contact. The nurse may suggest you hold your baby in the ‘kangaroo-type’ position by tucking your baby inside your top away from too much light and noise stimulation.
Breast milk is the best food a baby can have – it has important ingredients that encourage growth and help fight infection. The birth parent of a premature baby produces appropriate milk for their baby. Even if your baby needs to be fed by a drip or by tube at first, they should still be able to breastfeed eventually. We will encourage you to express breast milk for your baby, as it clearly reduces the risk of serious infections and bowel problems.
You may find it difficult to express milk at first, especially if you are worried about your baby, but it’s important to do this as soon as you can. Your milk can be stored in the unit’s freezer until your baby needs it.
Expressed breast milk
Your baby may not be able to suck very well at first, so we would encourage you to express your breast milk until he or she is able to do so. We supply breast pumps for use whilst you are visiting your baby on the unit. Breast pumps may be hired from outside companies for home use, or you may choose to buy your own – please speak to the nurse looking after your baby for details.
Pasteurised donor expressed breast milk
You might struggle to produce a certain amount of breast milk at the beginning. If your baby is at high risk for developing feeding related gut problems, we may consider using donor expressed breast milk. We will ask for your consent before doing so.
Donor expressed breast milk comes from a donor breast milk bank. The milk bank receives expressed breast milk from donors who are recruited on neonatal units. Donors are screened for infection and the breast milk is pasteurised. The benefit of the milk bank is to make donor breast milk available for preterm and sick babies when birth parent breast milk is not available.
Your baby may not be able to suck very well at first, so breast or bottle feeding may be difficult, but as they become stronger and with practice, this will become easier for both of you. The unit also has a speech and language therapist to support your baby with feeding. We may also recommend non-nutritive sucking (NNS) practice.
Until your baby can feed orally, they can be fed through a small tube, which passes through the mouth or nose and down into the stomach.
If you are unable to breast feed or express breast milk, manufactured milks are available on the unit. If your baby is preterm and/or weighs less than 2kg we may use specially formulated milk.
If your baby cannot tolerate milk feeds, it may be necessary for your baby to be fed via a drip. We call this parenteral nutrition (PN).
If your baby was born before you had the chance to prepare your home, you may want to use the waiting time before discharge to do this. If you feel unsure about what to prepare, please ask the nurse looking after your baby, who will be happy to advise you.
To help you prepare for going home, we may suggest you stay overnight and gain confidence in caring for your baby on your own with support nearby if you need it.
We also offer a basic resuscitation skills session, which involves practical training.
You must register your baby with your GP before they are discharged from hospital. We notify both the health visitor and your GP when your baby goes home so that they are up to date with your baby’s progress in case you need advice.
Following discharge, your family health visitor will visit you at home. They will be able to answer questions about your baby’s health and development, as well as carry out developmental assessments at key stages.
- Registering your baby’s birth
- Special care, ill or premature babies (NHS)
- Early Birth Association
- BLISS, national charity for premature and sick babies
- TAMBA, Twins and Multiple Birth Association