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Welcome to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

NICU SignThe Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Saint Mary's Hospital is located on the second floor next door to the Delivery Unit.

Whilst for some babies admission is planned, sometimes babies are born who unexpectedly need some extra care, or arrive much earlier than usual. Although this can be a difficult and emotional time the Neonatal staff will be there to support you and keep you up to date on your baby's progress.


What to expect if my baby is admitted to the neonatal unit.

Some babies need some extra care after birth. Whilst sometimes this is planned, it can occasionally occur unexpectedly. The Neonatal Unit at Saint Mary's provides intensive care to babies from around the region and high dependency and special care to babies from the Central Manchester area.


Depending on your baby's needs, they will be in one of these rooms:

  • Intensive care (rooms 4 and 5).
  • High dependency care (rooms 3, 7 and 8) - for babies who do not need intensive care but still require some higher level care.
  • Special care (rooms 1, 2 and 3) - for babies who are catching up on growth and development after a premature birth. These babies have less serious health problems or are getting better after more intensive treatment.


When can I visit?

We encourage you to visit your baby as frequently as possible and to stay as long as you are able to.

Other relatives and friends that come to see your baby must be with you or they will not be allowed onto the Unit. Only two people at a time are allowed to visit your baby at the cot side (one parent and one visitor) as the rooms can get very busy.

The only time we ask you not to visit is during the doctors' ward round.


Contact by telephone

Each room has a dedicated telephone number. The room telephone numbers are available in the unit booklet which you will be given on admission and you can check with the nurse caring for your baby for that you have the appropriate number.

For general enquiries: (0161) 701 2700 between 7.30 am-8.00 pm.


Doctors ward rounds

Visiting is not permitted during the doctors ward rounds.

The ward round times are:

Intensive care rooms 4 and 5:    9.00 am-11.30 am

All other rooms:                       9.00 am-11.00 am

On the Ward round each baby is discussed in turn and we do not allow visiting during this time in order to maintain strict confidentiality.  Please be aware that sometimes the ward round may overrun and we kindly ask you to be patient.


Who will care for my baby?

A skilled team from different professions will care for your baby during their stay on the unit.  Your baby will be under the care of a Consultant Neonatologist. In addition there are Surgical and Medical specialists available if your baby requires their expertise.

Junior doctors in training work under the guidance and support of the senior medical and surgical teams. These are qualified doctors who are undergoing sub specialty training in paediatrics and neonates.

There is an extensive team of Neonatal Nurses.  Some have specialist areas of work and will introduce themselves to you. There are also nursing and midwifery students who are gaining experience within the team.

Your baby may also have input from other health professionals according to their specific needs.


How will I feed my baby?

We will support you to feed your baby the way you have chosen to do so whilst s/he is on the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. Wherever possible we strive to keep you and your baby together but when separation is unavoidable you will be encouraged to spend as much time as possible with your baby on the unit so that you can get used to their individual ways and learn to recognise their feeding cues. If baby's condition allows, we will support you to continue feeding according to those cues.

Depending on the reason for your baby's admission and the number of weeks at which they were born, oral feeding may not be possible initially. It may be that your baby has been born so early that they have not yet reached the developmental stage at which they are able to suck, swallow and breathe in a coordinated way. They will learn to do this in time as they develop but until then, we may have to give fluids by drip or feed them milk by tube. We will then gradually wean your baby off the tube feeds and onto oral feeds depending on their condition and their stage of development.

If you choose to breastfeed and your baby cannot go to the breast initially, we will help you to start expressing your breast milk as soon as possible and preferably within 6 hours of birth. This is to ensure that you are able to establish the best milk supply possible and to stand you in good stead for when your baby is able to feed as this will help you to establish a plentiful supply.

We will show you how to hand express your milk at first and when the volume of milk increases after day 3 or 4, we will show you how to express using an electric breast pump. Your milk will then be stored in the fridge or freezer until it can be given to your baby.

You may have chosen to formula feed your baby but told us that you are happy to express your breast milk for your baby because s/he has been born prematurely or is unwell. Breast milk is particularly beneficial to babies who have been born early as it provides protection against infections and a serious inflammatory condition of the bowel.  It is much easier for babies to tolerate too and contains properties to help your baby's immature gut to develop. Again, we will support you to establish your milk supply and maintain it for as long as you wish to provide milk for your baby, as only you can do.

If you have chosen to formula feed we will support you to do so in a way which meets their needs by responding to their feeding cues or requests for food and by gradually increasing the number of bottle feeds they take according to their stage of development.


Where can I stay when my baby is on the neonatal unit?

If your baby has needed care on the Neonatal Unit and is not ready to be discharged home when you are, there are a number of options for accommodation. Unfortunately the Postnatal Ward is not able to provide a hospital bed once you are well enough to be discharged from hospital.

Many women find that they prefer to be at home in a familiar environment. If you live too far from the hospital, or if transport is difficult, accommodation may be possible in the Ronald Macdonald House or within NICU where there are a limited number of parent rooms. You should discuss these options with the midwife on the ward and the NICU nurse caring for your baby.


Saint Mary's Hospital is not my local hospital but I have booked and had my maternity care here

Greater Manchester has a Network of Neonatal Units. The Neonatal units are designed to care for babies with different needs.  In Greater Manchester there are three hospitals that provide Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) and five hospitals with Local Neonatal Units (LNU).  Your baby will be cared for in the most appropriate unit closest to your home.

Saint Mary's is a Newborn Intensive Unit and babies are transferred from other hospitals around the North West and so it is important that we make sure that cots are available to treat babies that require intensive care.

If you booked to have your baby at Saint Mary's Hospital, and do not live in Central Manchester, your baby will be transferred to a LNU nearer to your home when they no longer require intensive care. The nurses on NICU will provide you with additional information.


There are lots of questions I need to ask

We welcome your questions and will do what we can to ensure you have all the information you require about your baby.

This gives a brief overview of the Neonatal Unit. On admission you will be given a unit booklet that has more detailed information you can also find information and additional supportive links on the website below: