Family-centred care

Parents with nurse in unit by cot looking at their baby while the nurse provides care for the baby

Find out how family-centred care can help you can be involved in caring for your baby during their stay on a neonatal unit.

What is family-centred care?

Being involved in your baby’s care while they are in hospital can really help you and your baby. Units should support you to find the best way to be involved.

You might hear health professionals call this family-centred care. You might also hear people saying family-integrated care or FiCare. This is a more advanced form of involving families.

Family-centred care means involving the family as much as possible in the daily care and routine of their baby. Many neonatal units now care for babies and families in this way, and Bliss work to help them do this through the Bliss Baby Charter.

At first, it can be hard to know what you can do for your baby on the neonatal unit.

Getting involved on the unit can have a positive effect on you, your baby and your wider family. You might not feel very confident at first, but many families find that getting involved helps to build that confidence.

What can I be involved with?

Parents are sometimes surprised at how much of their baby’s care they can get involved with, day to day. You can talk with health professionals on the unit to support you with this.

If it’s possible, you might like to try:

You can also comfort your baby, especially when they’re having tests which might distress them.

You could spend time watching your baby and getting to know how they show you what they need and how they are feeling. These are sometimes called cues.

Giving your baby something that smells of you can also help. The health professionals on your unit can help with this. If you’re unsure about any of these ways to get involved, have a chat with health professionals on your unit. Everyone is different and there is no right or wrong way to be involved.

What can't I do for my baby?

Every baby will be getting different care, depending on what they need. But in many cases, even if your baby is born very prematurely or is very unwell, you might be surprised by how involved you can be.

It might be that, to begin with, your baby isn’t well enough for you to do all of the things listed above. But the staff will support you to find ways to be involved.

For example, if your baby was born very prematurely, they might not be well enough to breastfeed yet. But the unit will support you to find other ways to feed your baby, such as giving them expressed milk or helping them to feed by tube.

If your baby is having help with their breathing through a ventilator, having skin-to-skin care can still be done. The staff will support you to do this in a safe and comfortable way for you both.

If you cannot hold your baby outside of the incubator right away, you can usually put your hands on your baby in a comforting way. This can help you feel connected with them and lets them know that you are there.

Bliss is funding research to find out if a parent's touch could help manage pain in premature babies.

You can also ask staff about other things you can do, like reading and talking to your baby, and using smell to connect.

If you are at all unsure about what you can or can’t do for your baby, you can talk to the staff on the unit. They will be able to tell you how they support parents and families to get involved in the care of their baby.

Remember - there's no pressure

You don’t have to get involved with all of your baby’s care right away, or at all. The unit will support you in a way that is right for your family.

How can health professionals support my family to get involved?

The nurses, doctors and other health professionals on a neonatal unit can support you to feel more confident in caring for your baby.

They can help by talking through anything that might be stopping you being more involved.

You might like to ask a nurse of other health professional on the unit to support you by:

Showing you how to do your baby’s daily cares, like changing nappies, washing them, and dressing them

Giving you clear information about your baby’s care, in a way that you understand

Understanding your emotional needs and how staff can support you

Making sure you understand and agree to the treatment your baby needs – this is called consent

Giving you practical information about how the unit works and the policies they have

Giving you any financial help that’s available for car parking, hospital food, or other expenses

Showing you where to find further financial support if needed

Showing you where to find support if you are having to travel a long way from home to see your baby

Supporting you to help them, by letting you be a part of life on the unit. For example, many units let parents be there for the health professionals’ ward rounds

Do you live in Scotland?

The Neonatal Expenses Fund offers financial support to parents and guardians of premature and sick babies in Scotland.

Who can get involved?

Neonatal units should always work to make sure that the baby is cared for as part of the family. This means that different members of your family can be involved, in different ways. Parents are encouraged to be as involved as possible, and to care for their baby on the unit.

We often hear that partners can feel like their role isn’t as clear as it is for the mum who has given birth, and who might be feeding your baby too. Unit staff must give all parents the opportunities that are right for them.

Partners can get involved with many different things like skin-to-skin, bathing, dressing and feeding your baby. And if you are ever unsure, you can always ask. Many units also involve the wider family, such as your baby’s siblings and grandparents.

Different units have different policies around wider family visiting. Even though wider family members might not be able to be there as much as parents, most units will have ways to involve these members of the family.

This might be by taking photos when they do visit, encouraging siblings to make pictures which can stay with your baby, and giving your wider family information about how they can support you.

Some units also have resources for siblings, written in a way to help explain what is happening to young children.

Need more support?


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