Special care baby unit: information for parents and families

Staff at the special care baby unit (SCBU) will work closely with you in all areas related to baby care, such as:

  • breast feeding
  • other forms of baby feeding eg tube feeding
  • daily hygiene and baby bathing
  • baby handling, moving and positioning
  • holding your baby against your body (kangaroo care)
  • massaging your baby
  • soothing your baby
  • appropriate baby stimulation
  • learning to read baby body language.

Newborn screening to check your baby’s development

We will regularly observe your baby’s development and we may carry out specific newborn screening and monitoring tests.

The neonatal nursing team will check and record temperature, heart and respiratory rates. Your baby may be connected to monitors to allow for continuous observations.

Some babies may require saturation monitoring - this is where a probe is attached around a hand or foot to show the level of oxygen in your baby’s blood. 

How early or how often your baby feeds is a key part of baby development and can be determined by their blood glucose levels. These are measured using a single drop of blood collected from the heel.

Your baby’s intake and output will be monitored with every millilitre of fluid or milk. In addition to a record of your baby’s weight, this information shows how your baby’s development is progressing.

The environment on the Royal Free special care baby unit

We try to maintain a quiet, calm environment on the SCBU. Light levels are kept low and unnecessary noise is kept to a minimum. 

We encourage appropriate baby stimulation and handling to avoid agitating your baby - and allow for the baby’s rest and recuperation. 

We believe that each baby is an individual and is able to cope with different levels of stimulation at any given time so we will help you to gauge the best level of interaction with your baby.

Involving you in neonatal care

Involvement as a parent in caring for your baby is extremely important. We encourage parents to be involved in decisions about the neonatal care of their child.

Neonatal nursing staff realise that many first-time parents have not had an opportunity to attend classes so we are happy to show parents what to do - and supervise them while they gain confidence in caring for a baby.

We have all sorts of written information and baby care tips to help parents - and can answer any queries you may have.

Psychological support and child psychotherapy for parents

Having a baby in hospital makes huge emotional demands on parents and families, especially with ill or premature babies. 

Some mothers find recovering from a frightening or traumatic childbirth and coping with a very vulnerable baby who cannot yet go home to be stressful and upsetting.

A child psychotherapist, someone who is not involved with the medical care of your baby, can help you and other members of your family. Our child psychotherapist teams work with parents and babies on their developing relationships and are part of the team on the neonatal care unit. These specialists can provide the psychological support you might need to help cope with the emotional aspects of your baby’s stay in hospital. 

If you wish to make an appointment with a child psychotherapist please ask one a neonatal nurse at Royal Free Hospital. You can also call direct on 020 7830 2931 - say that you are calling in relation to the special care baby unit.