Babies that require extra care are also described as receiving neonatal care. Neonatal care is the type of care a baby born premature or sick receives in a neonatal unit. Units are a part of hospitals which provide care for babies who are born prematurely (before 37 weeks), with a medical condition which needs treatment, or at a low birthweight.
We know that having a baby in neonatal care is likely to bring up a whole range of emotions, and some of these can be hard to face.
It may be that you feel anxious about why your baby has been born prematurely or sick, or about the treatment they are receiving. The team of health professionals can give you more information about your baby’s condition and the needs they have.
Why is my baby in neonatal care?
Babies are admitted into neonatal care for many different reasons. The main reasons for a baby to be admitted are:
- they are born prematurely
- they have a low birth weight
- they have a specific medical condition which needs treatment in hospital
Neonatal care in Lincolnshire
There are neonatal units at Lincoln and at Boston. These two units are part of a regional network of neonatal units that work together across the East Midlands to help ensure babies get the right treatment in the right place.
Pilgrim Neonatal Unit
Lincoln Neonatal Unit
Your neonatal journey – on admission
Seeing your baby in neonatal care is scary. It is not the journey to parenthood you were expecting and quite often, you are also recovering from a traumatic birth. The staff on the ward know this and are there to support you and work with you to look after your baby. Talk to the nurses and doctors as much as possible about the condition of your little one and ask lots of questions, even if they may seem obvious.
Over time the nurses will help you to feed, change and run observations on your little one. Importantly they will encourage, where possible, kangaroo care. This will help you bond with your baby and has been shown to have many benefits to your baby too.
What will I see on the ward?
Parents are able to come onto the ward whenever they want and nurses are keen to work in partnership with them for the care of their babies. The ward is usually locked for security reasons and you will be granted access by the nurses or a receptionist.
The wards must be as clean as possible to avoid the little ones catching any illnesses. There are usually many sinks for you to wash your hands and each cot or incubator usually has alcohol gel nearby so please use these and help us to keep the germs away.
Depending on the level of care needed your baby will be in an incubator or cot. The incubator regulates the baby’s temperature- something she may not be able to do by herself initially. Often the incubator is covered up with a blanket. This is to help prevent your baby from becoming overstimulated by the lights and noises around them. In fact, many wards have a quiet time where they turn the lights low and ask that visitors stay away (parents always welcome).
As your baby becomes better at regulating their temperature they will be moved into a cot with a heated pad and then a cot by itself.
Your baby may be tube fed at first. This is where a feeding tube runs from their nose into their stomach and there will be regular and frequent small feeds for your baby that you may be able to give. If you are able, you will be supported to express breast milk that can be fed to your baby. The wards have a discrete expressing room and storage facilities for your milk.
Initially the ward will have all the items required for your baby including nappies, wipes, blankets etc. As you are able, you will be encouraged to buy your own nappies and wipes and the nurses will advise on the best type for your baby’s delicate skin. You may also wish for your baby to wear its own clothes. It may be suggested you wash these in advance, even if brand new, to protect your baby.
On the last few days or weeks of your baby’s stay you may be able to room in on the ward. They have a couple of rooms for parents and these are often used to help the parent get used to taking greater care of their baby, particularly overnight and particularly with bottle and breastfeeding.
Going home can be both exciting and daunting at the same time.
You will want to make sure that in the first few weeks, anyone with bugs stays away and all visitors continue to wash their hands, as they would if visiting the ward.
This time can be both precious but also isolating as you try to keep your little one safe and also the trauma you’ve been through can start to sink in.
In the first couple of days your health visitor will be in touch to arrange a visit. S/he will talk through all activities in the area – stuff that you might have missed out on if you didn’t make it to antenatal classes.
There are also informal support networks out there. If you stayed at Lincoln you will be invited to join the Kangaroo Club Facebook group. This is for staff and all parents who have had children on the ward. It’s where people share stories and keeps in touch with other parents. It’s where you’ll also be invited to regular family get-togethers and events such as the Christmas party.
If your little one stayed at Boston , there is the SNAPP Facebook group where there are also details of regular get together and events.
Better Births also has a number of Neonatal Voices – parents who are working with them to help develop support for parents of Neonates. If you would like to know more or be put in touch with one, let us know.
The neonatal voice in Lincolnshire was created in January 2019. A group of passionate mothers who have had babies that have been premature, poorly or needed extra care from a neonatal service.
Their aim as a group is to listen to families and help support and influence safe quality neonatal care. Their experiences and those of the families they have listened to has given them a starting point to help projects working closely with Better births. A really good communication network helps them link up with professionals and also share innovations across Lincolnshire.
Neonatal care can sometimes be the forgotten area but the Neonatal Parent Voice certainly brings it to the forefront!
Meet Our Neonatal Voices
In October 2017 I gave birth to my daughter Jessica just 25 weeks into my pregnancy. It was a complete shock, my husband Craig and I weren’t prepared and had only just started buying little bits for the baby. We spent 148 days between Lincoln County, Nottingham City and Nottingham QMC hospitals before we were finally able to bring Jessica home. It was a long and terrifying journey and certainly didn’t end on discharge like many believe. I really struggled on the outside and became very isolated, Jessica was on home oxygen and has other medical conditions so I didn’t feel able to take her to baby groups like I’d planned to do as a new mum. I was scared that she’d pick up germs and end up back in hospital, and worried we’d receive negative comments from others who didn’t understand.
In January 2019 I joined Better Births Lincolnshire as a volunteer Neonatal Parent Voice. Together we started a monthly family group for neonates at our local Children’s Centre. Little Roos continues to run and I hope it’s reassuring for families knowing they have somewhere they can go if they’re feeling isolated like I did. My volunteer role has also lead to me attending various clinical meetings and I’ve done several talks to professional audiences on our neonatal journey. It’s extremely difficult to talk about but seeing the impact it has, and the changes that have already taken place as a result, encourages me to continue.
Each parent volunteer has an incredible story to tell and we are here to ensure all families have a voice that’s heard. I’m really enjoying being part of the team; it’s very rewarding knowing that I’m helping to improve neonatal care for future families and extremely reassuring to see the improvements being made by such dedicated people.
Neonatal Parent Voice
I have 3 young children all born at Pilgrim Hospital in Boston. Two of my children were born prematurely, now both doing well. We have experienced a lot of different aspects of neonatal care across two different hospitals, so I joined Lincolnshire Neonatal Voices when it began in 2019. I am interested in all areas of neonatal care, but as my professional background is Human Resources, I am particularly interested in staffing, culture, safety and family-integrated care. From experiences with one of our children, I am also interested in infant feeding in the neonatal unit and am a member of a clinical trial steering group looking into that. In my spare time……..actually I don’t have spare time!
Neonatal Parent Voice
As a Neonatal Voice, I work closely with Better Births Lincolnshire to help improve the experience of families whose baby is admitted to a neonatal unit. I love meeting families who have experienced time in NICU, or are currently there, and hearing about their individual stories. After having my daughter at 29 weeks in 2018, I love that I am able to give something back to the teams who helped care for her (and us), and to help ensure others receive the best experience they can. I have now returned to work part time, working in logistics as a supplier manager. I’ve also recently been successful in my application to be a parent representative on the project board for the National Neonatal Audit Programme, led by the RCPCH, which I’m really excited to be involved in. In my spare time, I love reading and watching films. When we can, my husband and I love taking our daughter and our dog out for long walks, and particularly enjoy visiting the Peak District.
Neonatal Parent Voice
Storks for the Units
Following on from the innovative knitted Stork Project from the London Neonatal Transport service. “Better Births” in Lincolnshire would like to replicate a similar project in Lincoln and Boston neonatal units.
We ask for some help with knitting some little friends to give to all babies on the unit on admission and also accompany babies on their travels when transported to another unit for care.
The stork will hold information on how to contact “Better Births” and important neonatal informationfor parents.
The only requirements are that the wool/yarn needs to be machine washable.