Special Care Baby Unit

The Maternity Unit at Watford General Hospital operates the special care baby unit for babies born at 34 weeks or over. Babies who are born before 34 weeks are transferred to a specialist unit with facilities to care for them.

Our Special Care Baby Unit is run by neonatal nurses and neonatologists who together provide highly specialised care to treat newborn babies in need.

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 e.g., 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. At times, it may be necessary to monitor their blood glucose levels. These are measured using a single drop of blood collected from the heel.

Where there are concerns, your baby's intake and output may need to closely be monitored. In addition to a record of your baby's weight, this information shows how your baby's development is progressing.

We try to maintain a quiet, calm environment on the Special Care Baby Unit; 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.

Visiting the special care baby unit

We operate an open visiting policy for parents visiting the special care baby unit. All other visitors doctors, neonatal nurses and other members of the team discuss your baby's care. We encourage parents and carers to be part of the conversation as it gives you an opportunity to speak to the consultant about any concerns you may have.

If you cannot attend the ward rounds, you will be able to make another appointment with your baby's consultant to discuss their progress at the Special Care Baby Unit. Please ask the neonatal nurse in charge to arrange this for you.

Fighting hospital infections

Hand washing by all parents and visitors is vital, even if you are just popping in quickly, so always wash your hands every time you enter and leave the ward using the cleaning products provided.

Hospital infections can pose a great risk to sick or premature babies because their ability to fight infection is not as strong as an adult's. If you feel at all unwell, or believe you have come into contact with someone with a disease, you should discuss with staff on the unit whether it is safe for you to visit.


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