There are various reasons why babies are admitted to a SCBU. Some are born too early and as a result their lungs have not developed properly so they may need additional support from a ventilator. Others may require intensive care because their circulation is not fully established.
Most of the babies admitted to our unit are born at 34 weeks or more and have had more opportunity to develop and grow. As a result they have fewer problems with breathing or circulation.
The majority of the babies we care for need support with breastfeeding and growth. Some babies are nursed in an incubator, which helps to keep them warm and allows nurses and doctors to observe them more closely.
Generally our premature babies are able to breastfeed but only for short periods. Nursing staff will help to feed them through a feeding tube or by a cup, until they are ready to fully breastfeed.
Some babies do not tolerate any feeds in the first two days and may need to have fluids through an IV cannula (a fine tube which is inserted into the baby's vein - a sterile glucose solution is given through this). As a baby tolerates more feeds the IV fluids are gradually reduced and then stopped.
All our staff are very supportive of breastfeeding and are there to support mothers in establishing successful feeding.
Involvement as a parent in caring for your baby is extremely important. We encourage parents to be involved in decisions about their care of their child.
Nursery nurses and nursing staff realise that many first-time parents have not had an opportunity to attend antenatal parentcraft classes. They are happy to show parents what to do and supervise them while they gain confidence in caring for their baby.
We have all sorts of written information to help parents and can answer any queries you may have about looking after your baby.
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Psychological support for parents
Having a baby in hospital makes huge emotional demands on parents and families, especially if your baby is ill or premature. Mothers are often trying to recover from a frightening or traumatic delivery and find coping with a very vulnerable baby who cannot yet go home is very stressful and upsetting. Talking about these experiences can help you and your baby’s recovery.
You may have a lot of concerns about your baby’s health and development, and how you are getting to know each other in the confines of the unit. You may feel exhausted and find it hard to concentrate. Parents often describe feeling positive one minute and down the next. It can be a lonely time, even when you are surrounded by lots of people and activity going on around you. It isn’t only mothers who can feel like this – fathers do too and other children in the family.
Someone to talk to who is not involved with the medical care of your baby can help you, your baby and other members of your family.
Child psychotherapists work with parents and babies on their developing relationships and are part of the team on the neonatal unit. They offer support you might need to help cope with the emotional aspects of your baby’s stay in hospital. You can be seen at the cot-side or elsewhere on the unit if you prefer more privacy. We can see you on your own or with your partner. If you are concerned about another child or children you have, you can ask us how to support and help them during this stressful time.
If you wish to make an appointment with a child psychotherapist please ask one of the nurses. You can also call direct on 020 7830 2931 - say that you are calling in relation to the special care baby unit.
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There are several screening tests offered to babies on the unit.
Newborn blood spot screening:
This is offered to all babies born in the UK to help identify rare but potentially serious conditions. Most babies screened will not have any condition but for the small numbers who do, the benefits of screening are enormous. Early treatment can prevent disability and improve health. On admission to the unit you will be given a leaflet with more information about specific conditions screened for in our area.
How is the blood spot collected?
On the day of admission to the unit, on day five and at a corrected age of thirty six weeks, the nurse or doctor will prick your baby’s heel using a special device to collect some drops of blood onto a card. The card is sent to a laboratory for analysis.
Occasionally the test may need repeating. This may be because there was not enough blood collected or the results were unclear. It is important that the repeat test is carried out to enable a complete set of results.
Newborn hearing screening:
This test allows babies with a hearing loss to be identified. Early identification is important for their development. We know that some babies are at a higher risk of hearing loss and therefore offer screening to any baby who requires a stay on the SCBU of more than forty eight hours.
The test will usually be done before your baby leaves hospital otherwise you will be contacted after discharge with an appointment if you consent to the screening test taking place.
The test is simple, safe and painless. You will be given an information leaflet describing the tests, how they are carried out, and what the results mean before the day of screening. We do not screen your baby without verbal or written consent.
Screening for retinopathy of prematurity:
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is an eye condition which affects the blood vessels of the retina. It can occur in very premature or those with a very low birth weight. The condition is usually very mild and settles on its own without the need for any treatment. However, in a very few babies (usually the smallest and most premature) the ROP does not get better and treatment is necessary. If left untreated, serious ROP may affect a baby’s sight.
If your baby requires screening for this condition, the first examination will be carried out between four to six weeks of age by an ophthalmologist, a specialist eye doctor. The examination may need repeating several times.
If your baby requires screening you will be given a leaflet explaining the examination and how it is carried out in more detail.
Premature babies - those born at less than 32 weeks - are at an increased risk of bleeding in the brain. Ultrasound scans of the head may be performed to look at the structure of the brain and to see if there is any bleeding or other problems. The results of these scans will be explained to you by the medical team looking after your baby
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