Special care for babies is sometimes provided on the ordinary postnatal ward and sometimes in a specialist newborn (neonatal) area.
Having a baby in neonatal care can be worrying for parents, but the staff looking after your baby should make sure you receive all the information, communication and support you need.
Not all hospitals provide specialist neonatal services, so your baby may be transferred to another hospital if she or he needs special care.
Why babies need special care Babies can be admitted to neonatal care for a number of reasons, including when they:
are born early – 1 baby in 13 is born early, and babies born before 34 weeks may need extra help with breathing, feeding and keeping warm
The special care baby unit may seem strange and confusing at first, especially if your baby is in an incubator or on a breathing machine. There may also be tubes and wires attached to their face and body.
Ask the nurse to explain what everything is for and show you how you can be involved in your baby's care. You may be able to change your baby's nappy, wash them and change their clothing.
Once your baby's stable, you'll be able to hold her or him. The nurses will be able to help you take your baby out of the incubator and show you how to have skin-to-skin contact.
Your baby will benefit greatly from physical contact with you. You can talk to your baby as well – this can help both of you.
You should wash your hands carefully and dry them thoroughly before touching your baby.