Parents and Families

How the Northern Neonatal Networks works

Welcome to the parents and families section of the Northern Neonatal Network website. The information in this section is meant to help provide information and sources of additional information to support you and your family through a difficult time.

Although we try to work on the principal that babies will be cared for as close to home as possible, it is sometimes the case that we need to be arrange for the transfer of your baby between the 11 Units across the Network area, as well as the specialist Cardiac wards at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle. This is usually on the basis of clinical need, such as when babies require a different level of specialised care than can be provided “locally”, but can also arise when particular Units are full and do not have a cot available for that care. However, once your baby is well enough to be looked after at the Unit closest to home that provide the appropriate level of care, transfer will be arranged as soon as possible.

Baby transfers are now undertaken by our dedicated neonatal transport team “NNeTS” (Northern Neonatal Transport Service), based at the RVI, Newcastle. One of the team will explain the transfer process to you when they arrive if this is necessary. We do appreciate however that parents, families and friends may be visiting other hospitals for the first time and will be very unfamiliar with the facilities available there. To help inform them at such times, we have got some standard information that visitors will find invaluable on this website, listing things like full addresses, visiting details, information about the Baby Unit, parking facilities.

You can easily download these and print them out and keep as a reference and source of information. Details can change from time to time and we attempt to keep these as up to date as possible, but do check with the staff at each hospital and let them know if there seem to be any changes we need to know about so they can inform us. We would also encourage people with smartphones to download the free “Parent App”, which is an even more comprehensive resource, giving maps and directions to hospitals and detailed information that you may find invaluable. This is free to download from both the iTunes and Android/Googleplay App stores by searching for “NNN”. You can also download the “Parent App” by clicking on the below links:

GET IT ON Google Play   Download On the Apple App Store

To know about Unit Information click here

To know about Research in the Northern Neonatal Network click here


Being the parent of a sick or early baby can be a very emotional experience. You may feel like your baby is being cared for by doctors and nurses but remember you are a crucial part of your baby’s life. Being close to your baby and talking to them so they hear your already familiar voice, is reassuring for babies and releases a hormone that is important for brain development.

Providing your breastmilk at this time is an important and unique way you can help your baby. Your breastmilk is specifically made to help your baby grow and develop but also provides antibodies which protect your baby from infection.

The earlier you start to express your milk after delivery and the more frequently you express, the more milk you will produce. Every drop of your milk is precious and even if your baby is not being fed, your milk can be used for mouthcare and to soothe and comfort your baby during procedures.Your midwife and neonatal nurse can help you to start expressing and can provide support and advice about practical issues such as storing milk and obtaining a breastpump.

As soon as your baby is stable you and they will benefit from being held skin to skin (Kangaroo Care). This special, close contact between parents and babies helps babies to relax, again promoting the release of a hormone to help brain development. Babies held in skin to skin have more regular breathing and heart rates, maintain their temperatures and sleep deeply, which helps them to grow. Mums also find holding their baby in this way helps them to produce more milk.


  • Start as soon as possible after delivery (within a couple of hours)
  • It is normal to produce small amounts/drops initially
  • Massaging your breasts prior to expressing helps to release milk producing hormones.
  • Aim to express 8-10 times in 24 hours and don’t leave a gap of more than 5 hours
  • Ensure you are comfortable – ask the nurse/midwife to show you/ check technique
  • Express close to your baby or have a photo/miniboo to encourage the milk producing hormones
  • Try to relax- don’t panic if your supply drops. Speak to your nurse and try to have time as close to your baby as possible.


You may express for many days/weeks but when your baby is around 32-34 weeks or well enough you may notice them licking, sucking and rooting. If this occurs during skin to skin your baby can practice feeding from you and may nuzzle at the breast. Ask your nurse to help you to position your baby and support them so they can attach at the breast. This may be a gradual process. Look for your baby’s feeding cues and be guided by them. Your nurse will help you with this transition.

Ready to go Home? Support and Advice

For many, going home is something to look forward to but understandably it is also normal to feel anxious. During the time spent on the Neonatal Unit, you will have been surrounded by staff offering help and support. Ensuring you are prepared for home is the best way to enjoy your special day and this can be done by becoming fully involved in looking after your baby whilst they are in hospital, building up your own confidence until you are completely caring for your baby. Advice should be given about safe sleeping conditions and you will be offered training on basic resuscitation.

As the time becomes close for your baby to be discharged, some units in the region have facilities to allow you to “room in” with your baby so that you are caring for them day and night but with staff nearby to offer advice.

Before you are discharged it is important to feel confident in the following areas:


Make sure you know the medicines your baby is taking including the name, what they are for, how much and how often to give it and how long they will need it. It is important to know where you go for your repeat prescriptions.


Be comfortable with the feeding plan for your baby including when and how your baby will be weighed after discharge. You should know how to sterilise any feeding equipment.
Your Health Visitor may have made contact with you during your time on the Neonatal unit and will usually visit soon after discharge.


If your baby is discharged with oxygen, extra training will be given prior to discharge including using the oxygen equipment at home. The Community Neonatal Nurse or Community Paediatric Nurse will visit and support you at home. The oxygen company have a 24 hour helpline if you need help and advice with your equipment. You could always contact your local unit/hospital of advice.

Car Seats

Your baby must always travel in a car seat; therefore, ensure your car seat is suitable for a small baby.

Home Temperature

The temperature of your home should be between 18 to 20 degrees Celsius and does not need to be as warm as the Neonatal Unit.
Dress your baby in layers, which can be added to or taken away. Never use your baby’s hands or feet as a guide to warmth, as they are generally cooler than their body.

Clinic Appointments

After discharge, many babies require follow up at the hospital clinic and you should be told about this before you leave. This is to check progress and development, particularly if your baby was born very early. You may also have appointments for eye checks and scans. Details about hospital appointments will be explained to you before discharge.

Who is around to help at home?

After discharge, if your baby was born extremely prematurely or needs oxygen or tube feeds, you may have the support of community nursing staff. They will either visit you at home or arrange to see you in a local clinic. They will offer support and advice and monitor your baby’s growth, weight, oxygen requirement, feeding and development.
All parents will have help and support from your Health Visitor and GP practice. Prior to discharge it is best to register your baby with the GP particularly if your baby needs repeat prescriptions. Your Health Visitor will initially visit you at home and then make arrangements to see you at a local clinic.

Contact Numbers

It is useful to have a list of contact numbers before you go home so you know where to get help if you have any problems, e.g. GP, Health Visitor, Community Nurse, Neonatal Unit, and NHS 111 out of hours service.

Please contact us if you would like to contribute to this section.