The lowdown on special care & premature babies

If your baby is born premature or needs special care, here’s our guide on what you need to know

Special care & premature babies: What you need to know

Understanding the care your baby gets when they are in special care or born prematurely

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If your baby was premature (born before 37 weeks) or needs special care you may need a little more reassurance and support.

We take you through the best advice for coping well and staying strong.

Remember you’re not alone

One in every 10-15 babies start their lives in special care – and while it isn’t the experience you dreamed of, take comfort from the fact that they are in exactly the right place to meet their needs.

Those machines and wires

It can come as a shock to parents to see their tiny newborn baby in an incubator hooked up to monitors and tubes, looking so tiny and vulnerable. Try not to be alarmed – they’re there to protect your baby from infection until they get strong enough to cope on their own.


You might not be able to breastfeed yet, but staff will show you how to express milk to get your milk supply going. It can then be given to your little one from a syringe, cup or tube.

Learning to express can take some practise and only small amounts may be obtained at first but it’s worth every drop and the staff will want to help you.

You’re still mum

Lots of mums with special care babies say they feel a bit lost and awkward while medical staff bustle about. But you can do lots to help: looking after yourself is important – eating healthily and drinking lots of fluids (SCBUs are hot, sweaty places) and getting lots of rest, ready for when you can do more for your baby.

Touch and chat

Talk to staff about what you can do – you should be able to stroke your baby through the incubator portholes. Your baby can already recognise your voice, so talk lots to them too.

Get involved

It’s easy to feel as if the nurses are the experts, not you. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can change your baby’s nappy or help with washing; they’ll be happy to show you how and it will give you confidence for the happy day when you can go home.

What’s kangaroo care?

It’s basically just holding your baby (dressed only in a nappy) on your chest beneath your clothes, just like a baby kangaroo.
This skin-to-skin contact has been proved to regulate their breathing and body temperature, improve feeding and help with bonding and of course partners can do it too!

Going home

You’ve waited for this day for so long, so how come you feel nervous? Most parents in this position naturally experience the same feeling, but the doctors wouldn’t let you go unless they were certain your baby was doing well. Normally, a premature baby is allowed home on or slightly before their due date.

The lowdown on special care & premature babies