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The Unit

  • Unless told otherwise, the parents of a baby on the unit can visit at any time. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

  • Visiting hours can vary for other friends and families, so please check the notice on the doors to the unit or ask unit staff.

  • There is a quiet time on the unit 12noon - 2.00pm. Please try and observe this where possible.

  • Parents can obtain a pass for free hospital parking. Please speak to the staff to find out how to register for this.

  • Parents can order meals while on the unit. Please speak with unit staff to order. 

  • Follow hand washing and other hygiene protocols as displayed on notices around the unit

  • The ward can be noisy at times - try to keep conversation noise levels low when around the babies, to help protect their little ears.

  • You can hire your own Medela breast pump. Click here to order and use code NICU30 to receive a discount. 

  • There are also a small number of breast pumps which the unit loan out on a first come, first served basis.

  • You will need to supply certain care/hygiene items for your baby, such as nappies, cotton wool and soft muslins (so the nurses can use them to make your baby more comfortable). If you need support with this for any reason then please speak to unit staff. They do have limited supplies but please note these are for emergency situations, not general use. 

  • There is an ASDA located nearby where you can pick up lots of items you may need including nappies and cotton wool.

  • If you are pumping breastmilk for your baby, there is a dedicated room where you can pump in privacy if you want to. It is absolutely fine to pump cot side (in fact, being around your baby can help with breast milk production).

  • Hand breast pumps are available on the ward for a small donation. Please speak with staff if you would like one.

  • There is a family room and kitchen for your use, so you can take a break without having the leave the ward. Tea, coffee etc is available and there is a microwave should you wish the heat up food. 

  • There are two rooms available for parents to sleep over on the unit in certain situations (for example, before your baby is discharged). Please speak with unit staff for further information.

  • Vcreate is a secure messaging service that you can opt into. It means that when you take some time away from the unit, the unit staff can send you photos and videos of your baby. This can help you feel in contact with your baby when you take some time to care for yourself. This is a free service which is funded by BURPS. If you would like to make a donation to help support Vcreate, please select the donate button within Vcreate or click here.

  • You can ask the doctors and nurses questions so that you understand more about the care being provided for your baby - do not worry about 'pestering' them, they want you to feel involved and understand. It can be helpful to write these down as you think of them and ask them during a ward round or during a quieter period.

  • There is a very friendly psychologist available on the unit on a Tuesday and Thursday.

  • Having your baby in the NICU can be difficult to deal with. If you are struggling, don't be afraid to ask for help. 

  • If you are not sure about something, ask a member of NICU staff. They are very friendly and understanding.


Caring for your baby in NICU

  • Talk/sing/read to your baby. This can comfort your baby as they know your voice. There is a big selection of books for parents to borrow. The bookcase is in the reception area. You can also read from a kindle/app on your phone. It’s a great way to introduce your little one to your favourite songs or books! You can tell them about your day or if you have other children you can tell them about their day. Babies will love hearing the soothing sounds of their family’s voices.

  • Try to avoid using perfumes or scented lotions for yourself. Babies can be very sensitive to this and they enjoy your natural scent!

  • You may find the unit can be noisy and may find that using ear plugs or headphones for music can give you a break from the sounds on the unit.

  • If you can, try to do skin-to-skin with your baby. This is a great bonding tool for parents. There may be some procedures that make this challenging but speak with the nurses and they will do their best to help support you with this.

  • When going to touch your baby or pick them up, speak to them first so they know you are there and you don’t startle them.

  • If you gently rest one hand on your baby’s head and the other on their feet this can help soothe them as its familiar gentle pressure, similar to when they were in the womb. 

  • Consider offering a soother/dummy. Some babies really like the comfort of these, others are not as interested.

  • If your baby is in an incubator then opening the portholes (if possible) can help them to hear your voice more clearly.

  • The unit can provide you with knitted bonding items (such as squares or hearts) that you can carry with you and then put next to your baby. This will have some of your scent on, which is very comforting for your baby. Check with the unit staff if you don’t receive any in your welcome pack.

  • You can ask to be present during procedures – the doctors and nurses will tell you if this is possible. 

  • Ask the nurses about how to be involved as much as possible with your baby’s care. Studies show this can help with parents’ mental health. You can bond with your baby by doing nappy changes, changing bedding and clothing and feeding. If your baby is tube fed, don’t be afraid to get involved and where possible – the nurses will show you how.

  • Make notes during doctors’ ward rounds, as the amount of information may be overwhelming sometimes. Don’t be afraid to ask for more information at the time or afterwards if you don’t understand something. No question is a silly question.

  • Self-care is very important. The staff will encourage you to go for a walk around the hospital and get some fresh air. They will also encourage you to go home and get proper rest. Time out for parents is essential, even when you don’t feel like it. Being well-rested (to the extent possible in the circumstances) will help you to deal with the difficulties of being on the unit. If you feel anxious while you are away from the unit, you can call the unit any time and ask for updates. Use v-create (as mentioned above) for photo and video updates while you are away. The nurses fit this in when they can between caring duties.

  • Allow your baby time to rest after procedures.

  • Sometimes, partially covering babies incubator or cot can help reduce stimulation from the surroundings. Staff may be able to advise when this is appropriate and provide suitable and safe covers.

  • Clean and warm your hands before touching your baby. Resting your hands gently on your baby (rather than using feather strokes) can be more soothing for them.

  • Never be worried to ask unit staff for help. If you are concerned about anything, then please ask. You are not being a bother or a nuisance. All questions and worries are valid.


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Neonatal Unit Parent Information

Funding research into stillbirth, premature birth and miscarriage

National charity for babies born premature and sick 

Twins and multiple births association

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Changing the life of children with neurodisabilities

Providing support to families affected by HIE

Guidance for parents of children with cerebral palsy

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Safer sleep for babies, support for families

Preemie nappies ordering platform


Mental health support

Southampton-Oxford Neonatal Transport

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