Support for the first few days in the neonatal unit

Having a baby born premature or sick in neonatal care can cause many different feelings. There is no right or wrong way to feel.

This section gives more information about how you and your family can be supported in your first few days on the neonatal unit.

You may also have practical things which are made harder by your baby being in hospital, for example, family finances, travelling to and from hospital, or looking after your other children. You are not alone. There is support for you and your family.


Sometimes, it might feel that there is a lot of focus on supporting the mum who has given birth, so they can do things like breastfeed or express milk. We sometimes hear that partners can often feel helpless, and unsure what they can do.

Family-centred care helps to involve the whole family in the care of the baby, not just the mum who has carried the baby.

Partners can get involved with caring for the baby too, by having lots of skin-to-skin contact with your baby, washing and changing them, and helping with feeding. This can help them be more involved in the care of their baby.

Grandparents, other family members and friends

Your other children, your baby’s grandparents and other family members and friends can also get involved with taking care of the baby. Every unit has different policies about visitors. Talk to a nurse about how your unit involves other members of your family

It is normal to feel lost, and not know where everything is. Don't be afraid to ask for basic things. If you're in a strange hospital, even finding a toilet or a shop is a challenge!

Jo, mum to Leo

Worries about money

Bliss research has shown that during the time they are on the unit, parents with a baby in neonatal care can spend a lot of money on extra things which they did not plan for. This can be things like travelling to a unit far from home, paying for childcare for other children, or paying for parking or food for the time you are in the hospital with your baby.

If you are worried about money, you can talk to your neonatal unit about what support might be available for you. Many units have options available for parents, for example, free parking or food vouchers.

Talking to someone

It can feel that you are alone when your baby is on the neonatal unit. But you are not alone. If you think that talking to someone about how you are feeling would help you, you might like to try…

  • Talking to friends and family. They will want to support you. You might not know what to say at first - try explaining to them that you just need someone to listen. Sometimes it can feel easier to talk when you can see someone’s face, so you might like to try video-calling. This can help if people live far away or are not able to visit you at home.
  • Talking to someone in your neonatal team that you feel comfortable with. They will want to support you, and will let you know if there is someone in particular who could help you. This could be a counsellor to talk about how you are feeling, or a doctor to explain more about your baby’s care.
  • Your unit might have details of a counsellor, psychologist or psychotherapist you can speak to, if you think that could help you. You can also talk to your GP about how to access support like this.
  • If you want to speak to someone from your faith, or from the hospital’s chaplaincy team, ask the unit staff if there is someone available
  • Asking if there is a Bliss Champion on your unit. These are trained Bliss volunteers who provide emotional support to parents face-to-face on the neonatal unit. Ask your unit if they have a Bliss Champion, or look out for a poster which will give times and days they visit.

Facing the unknown

We often hear that parents can find it hard not knowing why their baby was born early or why they have a particular medical condition. It can also be hard when you do not know what the future might bring.

It is ok to feel this way. You might find it helpful to talk to your family and friends, or to keep a journal. Many parents find it helpful later on to look back on how they felt in these first few days.

You are not alone. You can read other parents’ stories on our website.

We’re here to support you

Bliss offers a wide range of free services for the families of premature and sick babies including a new video call support service.
Read more

The information in this section is due for review May 2021