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The information below is provided to help parents with a baby who needs care in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). For most parents having their baby admitted to a NICU is an unexpected event, so it is likely you will have many questions.

We hope that the general and medical information provided will answer your questions and help you cope with this unfamiliar and sometimes stressful situation.

Below are fact sheets to help guide you through our NICU and provide information about newborn babies admitted to NICU. We also provide links to recommended websites to help you learn more about prematurity and other health issues for newborn babies.

Remember that nothing replaces the conversations you have with the doctors, nurses and support staff to learn all about your baby’s individual needs, so do not hesitate to ask questions.

You can find general information on the Westmead Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) page.

Visiting the NICU - essential information

Entry to the NICU is through a secured front entrance. Please ring the bell and wait for a staff member to open the door. Please be patient if you are not attended to immediately, especially in the afternoons or at night, as the staff may be busy caring for a baby. They will answer as soon as they can. These security measures are in place to protect you, your baby and staff's safety and privacy.

  • Visiting the NICU
  • NICU overnight rooms
  • Hand washing and preventing infection to your baby or others:

    We ask parents and visitors to follow the actions below to prevent babies getting infections:

    • We ask all parents and visitors to wash their hands immediately before entering the Unit using the alcohol hand pump at the front door of the NICU. Hand washing helps to protect your baby and helps to prevent the spread of infections that are carried on the skin.
    • Put jackets, jumpers and coats on hooks provided outside your baby’s room.
    • Please remove all jewellery (watches, rings, etc. [wedding rings excepted]).
    • Please roll-up long sleeves to your elbow.
    • Please re-wash hands with soap and water after each nappy change and when you leave the NICU.

    Babies are very vulnerable to infections such as colds, flu, fever, rash, diarrhoea, etc. If you or your visitors have been unwell, please do not visit the NICU.

    If you are unsure whether it is safe for you to visit the NICU, please speak to your doctor to assess your risk of spreading infection to premature or unwell newborn babies.

    How to contact the Westmead Hospital NICU

    You can telephone the NICU directly on (02) 8890-7375 for general enquiries between 7am & 9pm, 7 days a week.

    Once your baby has been admitted to the NICU, you will be provided with the telephone number of the room your baby is in. If you would like to speak with the staff caring for your baby, you can call anytime, day or night. For privacy reasons, information will ONLY be provided to the parents.

    Premature babies - what do I need to know?

    Prematurity is when a baby is born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. When your baby arrives early, it can be a stressful and overwhelming time for you and your family. It can be common for parents to have a range of emotions and each person will handle them in their own way. You can find more information on the NSW Pregnancy and Newborn Services Network (PSN) here.

    Our NICU team of Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals will help you through this journey and prepare you for what to expect of your baby.

  • Birth of your baby before 32 weeks (booklet by the Pregnancy and Newborn Services Network)
  • Parent information for babies born at 23+0 to 25+6 weeks
  • How does being born prematurely affect babies?

    There are some conditions or health problems that are common in babies admitted to NICU. Our staff are experienced and knowledgeable in managing these conditions and will explain what is happening as well as how best to look after your baby.

    Below are fact sheets on some of the common conditions for premature or sick newborns as well as useful medical terms (words) for you to know about.

  • ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity)
  • G6PD Deficiency (Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency)
  • How can I help with my baby's care?

    We will do our best to include you in all of the care provided for your baby because we want to support your parenting and we understand how important your involvement is to your baby’s well-being.

    Every morning there is a 'ward round' where the team of doctors, nurses and other health professionals meet and plan the care for your baby. You are welcome to join us for your baby’s plan of care. Please note that, for privacy reasons, you will be asked to leave the room during the ward round while they talk about other babies. When the team have finished, you may re-enter the room.

    Staff will help you learn to change your baby’s nappy, feed, bathe and cuddle your baby; as well as teach you about other care your baby might need.

    Babies expecting surgery

    Your baby may need surgery after birth and hopefully you will have had time to prepare for this. We work with the Westmead Campus' Sydney Children’s Hospital (SCHN) to provide you and your baby with a smooth transition from birth to surgery. Our PEARLS team will provide support and information that is about your needs and your situation. We also recommend you visit the SCHN Westmead website to learn more about babies and surgery.

    How long will my baby stay in the NICU?

    The length of stay is different for each baby and depends on their gestation (weeks of pregnancy) at time of birth and if they have any health complications. Your doctors will discuss with you the expected length of stay and what developmental stage your baby will need to have reached before discharge home.

    When your baby is ready to leave intensive care, but still needs specialist nursery care, we will arrange a transfer to a special care nursery at a hospital that is closer to your home.

  • Transferring babies to another Special Care Unit
  • Parent support group

    Having your baby is born early, or with health problems, is stressful. Without help and support this experience may feel overwhelming or traumatic and can have long term effects on the emotional well being of your whole family

    We work with the Miracle Babies Foundation, a support group run by parents of babies who have been in a NICU. Every two weeks the Miracle Babies Foundation support group meet in the NICU parents’ sitting room. We encourage you to come to these support sessions and meet other parents who are going through similar experiences as yourself.

    You can seek more information on the Miracle Babies Foundation page.

    Growth and development after your baby leaves the NICU (Neonatal Follow-Up Service)

    The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) provides follow-up care for babies born extremely preterm who may be vulnerable to developmental challenges as they progress through early childhood.

    Who is eligible?

    Babies from Westmead Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit who were born <29 weeks gestation or weighing <1000 grams are routinely seen by the Growth & Development Clinic.

    Corrected age for preterm babies

    When we look at development of your preterm baby, it is important to take into account their prematurity by working out their ‘corrected age’. This is their age if they had been born on their due date. We use your baby’s corrected age until they are around 2 -3 years of age.

    Follow-up schedule

    Your baby needs follow-up at regular intervals:

    • At 3 months corrected age
    • At 8 months corrected age (as needed)
    • At 12 months corrected age
    • At 2 years corrected age
    • At 5 years of age

    Services

    The Growth & Development Clinic offers a range of services:

    • Assessment focussing on your child’s developmental progress, growth & medical concerns relating to being born extremely early
    • Early referral to therapies and service providers who will help your child’s development
    • Ideas and suggestions to assist and encourage your child’s development and learning
    • An opportunity to ask questions about your child’s progress
    • To provide support and resources to your family

    What does the assessment involve?

    We aim to work closely with you as parents, to enable you to meet your child’s needs. This information will also help inform us to assist other families whose babies are born prematurely.

    At each assessment, your child will be seen by a specialist multidisciplinary team who will provide expert advice. You will be with your child during each visit. Your child's progress will be discussed with you and a full report will be sent to you, your treating doctors and relevant professionals involved in your child's care.

    Do you need to make an appointment?

    No, your baby will be automatically enrolled in our clinic after discharge from the NICU. We will contact you when your baby is around 3 months corrected age for the first appointment. It is important that you notify us of any change in your contact details (phone or address).

    Prematurity is when a baby is born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy

    Please note

    • A free and confidential interpreter service, including Auslan, is available 24 hours, 7 days a week.
      Ask staff to arrange an interpreter for you.
    • Carers provide care and unpaid assistance to others. They may be family members, friends or neighbours.
      Please tell staff if you have a carer.
    • Parking is available on the hospital campus for a fee.