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: 9th July 2020

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

Many neonatal units are limiting who can be on the 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 and be involved in their baby’s care. 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 family as a whole. We are encouraging neonatal units to continue to ensure that parents have maximum opportunity to be with their baby and to be heavily involved 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.

For infection control, you and any other visitors may have to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including a face covering, when you visit your baby, 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 at the cotside without wearing a face covering where possible, in order to support babies’ development and bonding. You can find more information about this in our position statement.

Some units may have additional restrictions affecting how parents are able to be on the unit. Check the information about your neonatal unit online if you are unsure what to do. You can call your neonatal unit if their website doesn’t have the information.

If you have the symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate for 7 days following these guidelines. If you are self-isolating, you should not access the neonatal unit until a negative test has been confirmed or you have stopped showing any symptoms. You can ask for a COVID-19 test online here, but please be aware that there is currently a high demand for tests and it is not guaranteed you will get one. If you are unable to book a COVID-19 test online, speak to your neonatal unit and ask if they can refer you to other local testing facilities.

If you have had a positive test for COVID-19, you will not be able to access your baby on the neonatal unit until at least 7 days after the onset of the illness and only once you have stopped showing any symptoms.

If you live with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate for 14 days following the same guidelines.

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

Neonatal units are currently being advised not to allow other children, including your baby’s brothers and sisters, or other family members to visit.

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).

If your baby has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in need of respiratory support, skin-to-skin may not be recommended.

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

Currently, neonatal transfers to other hospitals are still taking place. However, no parents are currently able to travel with their baby on a transfer to another hospital, unless their baby is receiving palliative care or is not expected to survive.

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

If you are not able to be with your baby as much as you would like, this may 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. They will still be able to give you updates on how your baby is, and involve you in decisions. Talk to your neonatal unit about how they can support you if you are not able to be with your baby on the unit.

Remember, you’re 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 and find more information about supporting your mental health on our website here.

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