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: 6th January 2021

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

Many neonatal units are limiting who can be on the unit. Some neonatal units are currently letting one parent at a time to see their baby, or have set visiting time limits.

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 whole family.

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.

Some units may have additional restrictions affecting how parents are able to be on the unit. You can check the information about your neonatal unit online, or call them.

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?

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

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 self-isolate for 10 days following NHS guidelines. If you are self-isolating, you should not go to the neonatal unit until a negative test has been confirmed and you have stopped showing any symptoms.

If you have had a positive test for COVID-19, you should not go to the neonatal unit until at least 10 days after you have had your test 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 10 days following the same guidelines. They should also have a COVID-19 test.

You should not go to the neonatal unit while you are self-isolating. 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 visit my baby?

For infection control, you and any other visitors may have to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including a face covering, when you see 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. 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?

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.

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.