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Section 1 - Introduction


This site has been put together by the neonatal staff exclusively for you and your baby. While every parent with a baby in the neonatal unit has a unique and different experience, there are a number of common concerns that everybody will encounter.

It is common to worry about how you will cope and how you will be supported.  For many parents the birth of a sick or premature baby will be totally unexpected, while for others the medical problems will already have been known before birth.  

Support through this difficult time will be provided by your family and friends, and professionally by the neonatal staff.  Medical, nursing, allied professional, and social work support will be available to you.  They will try to anticipate your needs.  If you need additional help, please ask for it.

The amount of treatment, the number of investigations, and monitors that your baby will need, depends on their underlying condition.  Breathing difficulties are the commonest problems.   

Your first visit to the neonatal unit can be upsetting.  The staff will explain the medications that your baby is getting and the purpose of the various pieces of equipment.  When you have a better understanding about what is happening, the unit will appear less intimidating.

The physical separation between you and your baby makes it more difficult for you to get to know them. There are a number of things that can be done to reduce the impact of not having your baby with you. You will be encouraged to visit the neonatal unit frequently.  If the baby is sick, you can stroke and touch them through the incubator porthole. As soon as they are more stable you will be able to hold your baby.  In some units, a camera can let you see your baby from outside the hospital. 

At the beginning, most of your baby’s care will need to be undertaken by the team in the neonatal unit.  As the baby improves, parents play an increasing role in their baby’s care.  You can perform tasks such as nappy changes, help with the tube feeds, and bath your baby.

Getting ready to take your baby home is an exciting time.  At this stage you will be spending increasing amounts of time in the neonatal unit.  There is lots to learn as your baby moves on from tube feeding to breast or bottle feeding. You will learn to feed your baby. 

There will be instructions from staff on how to establish a routine, how to settle your baby, and how to recognise and respond to their needs.

You will need advice on what to do if your baby is unwell, and where to seek medical help.  The immunisation schedule will be explained to you.

Watching a small baby grow and develop is a very rewarding experience for all parents. During the early months, your baby’s weight, length, and head circumference will be measured at regular intervals.  Checks will be made to ensure that developmental milestones are being reached. 

The key development stages are illustrated and explained in this booklet.

At age 2 years corrected age, very low birth weight infants, birth weight less than 1500g, and term infants treated with therapeutic hypothermia are asked to return for a Bayley’s assessment.  This assessment is carried out by our psychologist.  It is a detailed check of your child’s motor, cognitive, speech and language, and behaviour.  If any problems are identified, you will be given guidance and support on how to treat and correct them. 

We hope you will find this helpful and welcome any feedback you may have.