Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Some babies may require special medical or nursing care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This unit is in the Maternity Hospital.

You may know in advance that your baby will be admitted to the neonatal unit or it may be a decision taken shortly after your baby’s birth. Staff from the unit and postnatal area will support you and keep you fully informed about your baby.

We are happy for you to phone at any time to ask about your baby. Please be aware that we can only give information to parents, unless we have permission from a parent to inform other named family members.

Visiting arrangements

Parents are encouraged to visit at any time. You are the most important person in your baby’s life so you are not a ‘visitor’. You can stay at your baby’s bedside as much as possible. Your presence is important for your baby.

Grandparents are allowed to visit between 2pm and 7pm.

The baby’s brothers and sisters may visit between 2pm and 5pm on a Sunday afternoon. We ask that pre-school children do not visit between September and March as the risk of bronchiolitis is highest during these months. Bronchiolitis can be a very serious illness for babies in the neonatal unit.

Up to two additional nominated adults (including great grandparents) may visit between 5pm and 7pm. The nominated people can only be changed in exceptional circumstances. We have to ensure the safety and security of babies in the unit and having different visitors makes this difficult.

To avoid overcrowding around cots, we ask that you restrict visitors to two at any time.

Feeding in the neonatal unit

If your baby has been born early, very small, very ill, or with other medical problems, you may be asked to consider expressing your breast milk.

Breast milk is an essential part of your baby’s treatment. Breast milk:

  • provides essential nutrition
  • protects your baby from infections
  • promotes optimal growth and development of your baby’s brain and vital organs

No medicine can offer your baby protection and stimulate their development in this way.

Video: Why colostrum is vital for premature babies’ health.

Even if your baby is not yet being fed, breast milk can be used for cleaning their mouth and pain relief.

Starting to express

You will start by hand expressing your colostrum (first milk) within two hours of giving birth. After a few days, you will progress to using a hospital-grade breast pump. Midwives and neonatal staff will teach you how to hand express and use a breast pump.


Breast pumps are available on postnatal wards and in the neonatal unit. The Maternity Hospital also has a small number of pumps available to borrow and take home. Breast pumps can be loaned from the charity TinyLife for a small fee.

You will need to express 8 to 10 times in 24 hours to establish your milk supply, including at night. This is sometimes difficult when you are tired, but it is really important as the milk producing hormone prolactin is at its highest level at night.

Don’t worry if you only get a few drops to begin with. Every drop is precious and your milk supply will increase with time. Help and advice is available if you experience any problems.