University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
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Coming in to the unit

When your baby is admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), you will have lots of questions to ask. We'll do our very best to answer them for you.

Below you will find some of the more frequently asked questions on admission.


How long will my baby be in NICU?

We usually say to aim for your due date. Babies born nearer their full term may be home earlier. Some very premature babies may still need to be looked after in NICU beyond their due date.

Will I be able to care for and cuddle my baby?

Yes. We encourage you to spend as much time with your baby as you wish. A nurse will show you how to care for your baby and support you in this.

You will be encouraged to touch and care for your baby and provide skin to skin or kangaroo care if your baby's condition allows.

When your baby is older and having regular periods of sleep, it's better to allow them to wake naturally rather than disturb them, even if this doesn't coincide with your visiting times.

What's the best way to touch my baby?

Premature babies prefer a firm touch to light stroking. You can give your baby a finger to hold or use containment holding. This is when you place one of your hands firmly but gently on your baby's head. Place your other hand either on your baby's tummy or around their legs and bottom.

Can my baby show me how they are feeling?

Your baby can show you if they are comfortable or uncomfortable. Babies do communicate and by watching and listening to your baby you can learn what kind of touch to use, and when it is appropriate, safe and nice for your baby.

To start with you may find it much easier to recognise when your baby is over-stimulated or distressed. In time, you'll get to know your baby's individual ways and your baby may respond to you more often.

As soon as your baby is well enough, you will be able to cuddle them, even if they still need to be ventilated. We encourage skin to skin cuddles, as this promotes bonding and helps mum's breast milk supply. Please ask staff for more information.

Can I see my baby anytime?

Yes. We have open visiting for parents.

Will I be able to breastfeed my baby if they're pre-term?

Not straight away, but eventually, yes.

Preterm or sick babies are fed via a nasogastric tube until they are able to co-ordinate sucking, breathing and swallowing.

This might take several weeks or months, but in the meantime you will be supported to express milk for your baby. A pump will be provided for you by the unit.

Staff will give you as much support and advice as possible, so please ask for help if you are finding expressing difficult.