A baby is admitted to York SCBU because extra special care is needed. It may be for a few days, sometimes for much longer. Whatever the length of time, whilst the doctors and nurses can provide the care your baby needs for his/ her physical well-being your baby needs that special love and attention that only you can give.


Reasons for admission

The majority of babies admitted to SCBU are premature (born early), at less than 36 weeks gestation.

There are other reasons which may also require your baby to be admitted, for example:

  • Babies whose birth weight is less than 2.4kg (5lbs 4ozs)
  • Babies who have breathing problems or appear unwell at birth and who may require oxygen therapy and/or assistance with breathing from a ventilator or CPAP machine.
  • Babies whose jaundice requires further investigation and/or specific treatment.
  • Babies with feeding problems, including a low blood sugar.
  • Any baby on the delivery or post-natal wards whose condition is a cause for concern and who may require further investigation and treatment.

Occasionally babies who are at risk of infection attend the Unit to be assessed, investigated and given medication (e.g. antibiotics) before returning to be with you if their condition allows.

  • As a Unit we value parents as partners in the care of their baby.

We aim to create an environment that nurtures and helps you to build a close and loving relationship with your baby. We will give support and education so you can carry out a significant amount of your baby’s care on the Unit, thus building your confidence in looking after your baby in hospital and also at home.

We understand that it may be extremely tough for parents especially if your baby is very little or unwell. Our team is committed to family-centred care and is experienced in supporting families in your situation and will always find time to explain things to you.


The Unit

The Unit has been purpose built and provides care for up to 15 babies. Two of our cots are dedicated for intensive care provision; the remainder are used for special care needs of the babies in our care.

The care is provided by a Consultant directed team of expert medical and nursing specialists trained in this field of medicine. Other supporting members of the team include pharmacists, specialists from the x-ray, hearing and eye departments, physiotherapists, medical social workers, multi faith hospital chaplains who will visit any time regardless of faith. They can be contacted any time for support, blessing or baptism. Please ask the nurses if you wish to use this service. There is also a chapel in the hospital. We also have Special Care Support Group members who are parents who have had babies on the unit who are willing to share their experiences and try to alleviate your concerns.

Surgery is not performed in this hospital on babies. If this is required it will be undertaken at one of the local regional units by paediatric surgeons.



One of the more overwhelming and frightening aspects of having you baby on the SCBU is the amount of equipment that could be surrounding your baby. The nurses are more than happy to explain the purpose and reason the equipment is being used. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions your fears may be greatly reduced with an understanding of why the machines are being used and what the alarms and beeps mean when they sound.



As parents you are of vital importance to the well-being of your baby and you are always welcome on the Unit day or night. Open visiting is also available for brothers & sisters (siblings).

Small sick babies are very susceptible to infection and therefore we ask you to please wash your hands before you touch your baby and also ensure other visitors do likewise before touching your baby. Hand gel should then be put on.

Please be aware that babies can be over stimulated if they are handled excessively

We also request, please, that you do not look closely or touch any other baby.

For your comfort it is advisable for you and your family to wear loose comfortable clothing as the Unit is a very warm environment. All outdoor clothing should be hung up in the area provided before entering the Unit.

On the Unit there is a selection of toys but we do request, please, that your children are supervised at all times.

Our visiting is constantly under review so please discuss any questions you may have with the nurse in charge of the Unit.


Feeding your special care baby

The nutritional needs of a premature baby are different to those of the full term infant. During the last few weeks of pregnancy, the growth rate of an unborn baby is twice that of the full term baby in the first few weeks of life. Sucking and swallowing reflexes are absent or poorly coordinated in babies less than 33 weeks gestation, and so specialist feeding may be required.

Some babies may be strong enough to suck; if not then your baby may require a nasogastric feeding tube. This tube passes through the nose and into the stomach and allows us to feed your baby.

Very small or sick babies may not be able to tolerate nasogastric feeding. In this instance, nourishment may be given through a vein. This is known as intravenous feeding. If this method is necessary, then breast milk can be frozen until your baby is strong enough to tolerate milk.

You will be given help and support with whatever method of feeding you choose for your baby.

Breast feeding is the healthiest way to feed and has many benefits for both baby and yourself which include;

  • Protecting against bacteria and viruses
  • Providing nutrients which are important for growth and development particularly in the gut and the brain
  • Easily digested and absorbed by baby’s gut and helps prevent life-threatening gut infections
  • Babies are at a lower risk of gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome, obesity, type 1 & 2 diabetes and allergies (e.g. asthma, lactose intolerance)
  • Encourages bond between mother and baby.
  • Lowers the risk for you of breast and ovarian cancer

It is important to start expressing your milk as soon as possible after your baby is born. Ask the nursing staff about how to do this. If you need to go home before your baby is ready to be discharged we can loan you a humilactor (breast pump) and everything you need to keep expressing your milk until your baby is ready to feed.

Sometimes it can be difficult to express enough breast milk to provide for all you baby’s feeding requirements. Formula milk can be used however if your baby is unsuitable for formula, for example, extremely premature then it may be more beneficial to use additional donor expressed breast milk (DEBM) instead, which is pasteurised, tested and heat treated before use. If you have any queries regarding DEBM then do not hesitate to ask the nursing staff.

If you decide to formula feed your baby the nursing staff will help you with tips on how to bottle feed responsively, so as to build up a close and loving relationship with your baby.


Accommodation and refreshments

During your baby’s stay on SCBU you are welcome to use the facilities provided and funded by the SCBU Support Group. These facilities include a kitchen with a fridge, microwave and tea or coffee making facilities. There is also a sitting room with a TV and DVD player you may use to take a break from the unit. Your baby can also join you in the sitting room when their condition is stable and they are near to going home.

Hot food is not permitted in the clinical areas but you are more than welcome to eat and drink in the sitting room. There are shops in the main reception area which sell sandwiches and snacks. Hot and cold meals can be purchased from Ellerby’s restaurant.


Mobile phones

Although we would prefer that these are not used on the unit we appreciate that many parents do use them. Please do not use them in the ICU and wherever possible please use them away from other nurseries and keep them on a silent mode at all times (this avoids confusion with monitor alarms as well as reduces noise).



The Unit has secured access (intercom/camera system). For reasons of security please be let anyone else through the doors with you when you gain access.

We have a security tag system working, although if your baby is small the tag may not be put on initially.

Parking permits are available to parents of babies in the Intensive Care nursery allowing them to park free in the designated area opposite the Maternity Unit entrance.

Other parents are asked to park in the multi storey car park which is also free but you should bring your car park ticket with you to the unit for it to be validated. Once validated, you have 30 minutes to leave the car park so please only validate when you are ready to leave. Please note the free parking is only available for the parents of the baby although there are some exemptions i.e. if you are reliant on a grandparent bringing you to the hospital (please discuss this with a member of staff).

If you drive a large vehicle please ask the nursing staff for details of where you can park. Parking in other areas of the car park may incur a fine and/or wheel clamping.

Please note the hospital building and surroundings are designated ‘No Smoking’ areas.

The ward phone number is 01904 726005


Getting ready to go home

The most important thing you will want to know while on SCBU is when you are able to take your baby home. As your baby may be quite small, they may have to stay in hospital a while before being discharged home. The timing will vary for each individual baby but the main criteria to meet in order to go home are; being able to maintain their temperature in a cot, taking all feeds by bottle/breast and are putting weight on.

Before discharge home there are also a few things the nursing staff may have to discuss with you. These include bathing your baby, resuscitation training, audiology (hearing) tests, follow up appointments, and administering medications.

Some babies may be able to be discharged home on oxygen therapy. You will receive guidance and support from the nursing staff and neonatal outreach nurse if this is the case.

As your baby nears the end of their stay on SCBU you may be invited to stay in one on the purpose built bedsits on the unit. There is a single and a double bedroom where you can stay with your baby to get used to looking after them independently. Babies and children on no account are to be left unattended in these areas.


Continuing support

Once you take your baby home, please do not feel that we have abandoned you. If you are at all worried do not hesitate to phone us, your midwife or health visitor with any questions or support you may require.

If your baby needs specialist follow up care when they are discharged from SCBU, this will be provided by our Neonatal Outreach Nurses, who covers Selby, York and surrounding areas. They are both experienced Neonatal Nurses that work in the Community but are based out of SCBU and provide a close link with hospital and home.

Their philosophy is to ensure the babies, parents and families are given the most appropriate care and support, and that it is delivered effectively and efficiently.


Friday get togethers

These are on the first Friday of every month from

1 – 2.30pm in the Children’s Centre. It involves a coffee/tea and a chat for ex SCBU mums and babies, with other family members welcome. There are also plenty of toys for older siblings too. Our Neonatal Outreach Nurses are available for advice but it mainly involves mums having a chat and catch up about their babies and swapping stories and tips about progress so far.