Parents who have a baby on the neonatal unit

Here is the latest guidance about COVID-19 for parents with a baby on the neonatal unit.

Last updated: 19th July 2021

Am I able to be with my baby on the neonatal unit?

The current guidance says that neonatal units should support mothers and partners to be as involved in their baby’s care as possible during this time, and that both parents should have access to their baby. This is because research shows that parents being involved in their baby’s care on the neonatal unit can have long term benefits for babies, as well as the whole family.

Some neonatal units may have restrictions in place which mean only one parent can be with their baby at a time, or that parents can only be with their baby together for a time-limited period.

We are encouraging neonatal units to continue to ensure that parents have maximum opportunity to be with their baby and to be as involved as possible in their baby’s care. We have a position statement about parental access and involvement on neonatal units at this time, which you can find here.

If you cannot be with your baby, speak to the staff on the neonatal unit and ask if they have access to vCreate. This is a secure video messaging service where neonatal unit staff can record and send video updates to parents who are unable to be with their baby.

Many neonatal units are reviewing their visiting policies as the situation develops. If you have concerns or want to talk to someone, talk to a member of staff on the unit such as a lead nurse. You can also email us at hello@bliss.org.uk.

Are my family and other children allowed to visit my baby?

Most Neonatal units are currently being advised not to allow other children, including your baby’s brothers and sisters, or other family members to visit. In Scotland the guidance allows for siblings to visit, but it is likely that this will only be possible for limited periods of time.

What will happen if I or someone I live with develops symptoms of COVID-19? Will I be able to see my baby?

If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, you should get a test and self-isolate until you have the test result. If you have had a positive test for COVID-19, you should make sure the neonatal unit are aware, and you should not go to the neonatal unit until at least 10 days after the onset of your symptoms. You will be informed by the neonatal unit if you need to isolate for longer than this.

If you live with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate for 10 days following the same guidelines. They should have a COVID-19 test, and you may also be asked to have a test if their result is positive.

You should not go to the neonatal unit while you are self-isolating for any reason. You can call the neonatal unit to speak to a member of the nursing team to explain your situation.

I am finding the visiting restrictions on the neonatal unit difficult. How can I find help and support?

If you are not able to be with your baby as much as you would like, this can be very difficult and upsetting. It can also be very difficult to support siblings and wider family members who are unable to visit.

Your neonatal unit may be able to arrange video contact for you, via apps such as vCreate. They will still be able to give you updates on how your baby is, and involve you in decisions. Talk to staff on the neonatal unit about how they can support you if you are not able to be with your baby on the unit. Remember, you are not alone.

If you need someone to talk to, our Bliss Champion volunteers are offering one-to-one video chats to offer vital support to parents on the neonatal unit or who have recently been discharged. To arrange a call, simply fill out the short form here or email hello@bliss.org.uk

You can also email hello@bliss.org.uk for emotional support. We have more information about supporting your mental health on our website here.

Will I have to do anything differently when I'm with my baby?

For infection control, you and any other visitors may have to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including a face covering and comply with social distancing measures on the unit. If you do not have a face covering, your neonatal unit will be able to provide you with one.

However, we are encouraging neonatal units to support parents to care for their baby and provide skin-to-skin at the cotside without wearing a face covering where possible. This is to support babies’ development and bonding. You can find more information about this in our position statement.

Will I still be able to have skin-to-skin contact with my baby?

It is recommended to continue with skin-to-skin contact with your baby if you are well and healthy. This is because research shows that parents being involved in their baby’s care on the neonatal unit can have positive effects on them and their baby. It is important that you follow the hospital’s procedures around infection control before having skin-to-skin with your baby. This might include wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), including a face covering.

If your baby has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in need of respiratory (breathing) support, skin-to-skin may not be recommended. Talk to a member of the staff on the neonatal unit if you are unsure.

What will happen if my baby needs to be transferred to another neonatal unit?

Neonatal transfers to other hospitals are still taking place. However, there are restrictions to parents being able to travel with their baby in most parts of the UK. Parents are able to travel with their baby in all parts of the UK if their baby is receiving palliative care or is not expected to survive.

Can I breastfeed if I have been vaccinated against COVID-19?

There is no known risk to you or your baby from having the COVID-19 vaccine while you are breastfeeding. You should not stop breastfeeding before or after having the vaccine.

Other useful organisations

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have published a Q&A for pregnant women and their families.

Twins Trust have published a Q&A about COVID-19 for anyone who is pregnant with, or who has, twins or multiples. They also have some advice about home isolation when you have multiples, and some other useful links and information that you may find useful.

SANDS have produced a guide for parents about COVID-19 and changes that will impact parents and family members who have been affected by the death of a baby.

Mind has lots of information if you are feeling anxious or worried about COVID-19, and has guidance on how to take care of your mental wellbeing.

We are updating this page as more information becomes available. For more support, get in touch at hello@bliss.org.uk

Getting involved in your baby's care

Even if you can't be with your baby as much as you'd like, there are ways to make the most of your time on the unit to help your baby to know your love, your touch and your care. This animation was produced with support from our partner, Pampers, and narrated by our Ambassador Lady Sarra Hoy.