A quick guide to parents’ involvement in their baby’s care and procedures

Mother gazing intently at her child in an incubator

This page contains a quick guide on how you can be involved in your baby’s care and procedures on the neonatal unit.

As part of your baby’s neonatal care, they will probably have some tests and procedures. You have an amazing ability as their parent to provide comfort and help soothe them in a way that no one else can.

This page offers some quick answers to questions you might have about your involvement and how you can help to comfort your baby.

Can I be with my baby when they are having a test or a procedure?

During and after most routine procedures, it should be possible for you to hold, touch or talk to your baby. Some procedures need to be done under sterile conditions (in a germ-free environment) or in emergencies. It is less likely you will be able to be involved in those, but some units do support this.

How can I help with pain relief?

Research shows that parents can have a positive impact on their baby’s experience of pain. A parent’s touch, voice and smell can help reduce a baby’s discomfort or pain. If you are not able to, or don’t feel comfortable holding your baby during tests and procedures, talking to them or placing something with your familiar scent near them can help bring them comfort.

How will I know what to do?

There are different types of holds, touch or contact that can help comfort your baby. These will vary depending on the needs and care of your baby, so ask the care team for guidance. They will be able to show you the best ways to be involved in your baby’s care.

Parents often tell us that they were frightened to hold their baby because they were so small or because of all the tubes and wires attached to them, but with time and practice, this will become easier.

Always check with healthcare staff before lifting or holding your baby – they will be able to guide you in the safest way to do it.

What if I don’t feel ready to be involved?

Some parents choose to be with their baby during procedures , others choose not to be, and some cannot be there. Many parents tell us that they didn’t feel able to touch, hold or be with their baby at first, perhaps because they were themselves recovering from a difficult birth or they had other children to care for.

It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong decision here – it’s about making the choice that’s right at the time for you, your baby and your family. When parents are not able to provide their own touch or presence, nurses, doctors and therapists will make the baby as comfortable as possible.

What can I tell my baby's neonatal care team?

The neonatal staff will want to know how your baby is doing. This includes anything you have noticed. If you are concerned that your baby is in distress or discomfort – for example, perhaps they’ve been crying more than usual – you should tell a member of staff.

If you don’t want a procedure to go ahead until your baby seems more settled, you can ask that it happens at another time. You can also talk to staff about how much you want to be involved in your baby’s care and ask them to show you what you can do to help comfort your baby.

How do I talk to staff about being involved?

Each neonatal unit operates differently, with some encouraging parental involvement in procedures more than others. Some procedures are unpleasant, painful or uncomfortable for the baby, and staff may suggest that parents step away while they’re being done.

To help you decide what’s right for you, you might need more information about the procedure. Consider asking questions such as:

  • “What does this procedure look like?”
  • “If I’m not there, how will my baby be comforted and soothed?”

If you feel unsure about what is going to happen, you can say to the staff “Please tell me again why this procedure is happening and what it involves.”

What do I do if I want to be involved in future procedures?

If you’re not able to be on the ward all the time but want to always be there during your baby’s procedures, tell the doctors or nurses. You can raise this with staff saying something like “I know my baby went for a procedure before I got here today, but in future, I would like to be involved. How can we make this happen?”.

Neonatal staff can then work with you to schedule a time when you can be there for your baby’s procedures. Unless it is an emergency or a procedure done under sterile conditions, it should be possible for you to be there with your baby.

For more guidance about comforting your baby, visit our full information - Being involved in your baby’s care and procedures.

The information in this section is due for review November 2026