The Neonatal Unit

The neonatal unit (NNU) of Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) is divided into different areas, based on the level of care provided. Your baby will be admitted to the level of care that is most appropriate to their requirements

There are three levels of care in the Neonatal Unit, depending on the needs of your baby. Each level is described below.

Level 3: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

The NICU is the area within the NNU that supports infants who require intensive care.  For example, these babies require specialist treatments, ventilation/breathing support, have extremely low birth weights, are seriously ill, or are at a high risk of developing medical complications.  In intensive care, a nurse will look after fewer babies than a nurse in level 2/special care.

Level 2: Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU)/High Dependency Unit (HDU)

The SCBU in the NNU supports babies that require a high level of care and close observation.  This area is for babies that have recently come through intensive care (level 1), but who still require a high level of care.  Some babies will be admitted to this area of the NNU as ‘new admissions’ because they do not require intensive care, e.g., infants coming from home, or transfers from other hospitals.  These infants may require initial close observation and further investigations.

Level 1: Nursery

This nursery area of the NNU is for babies who require routine management and is for growing premature babies who are preparing for going home.  Here, you will have the opportunity to do most tasks for your baby, such as nappy change, feeding, cuddling, and bathing.

Visiting Policy

The NNU staff encourages parents to frequently visit their baby.  The NUU in CUMH does not have set visiting hours but will request that parents leave the unit at dedicated times for a short period of time.

For example:

  • When daily ward rounds are taking place.  This is necessary to protect the privacy of other babies whose conditions will be discussed during rounds.
  • When there is a medical emergency, or complicated procedure, taking place.
  • During the admission of an ill patient.
  • During staff shift change. The nurses will be giving reports to incoming nurses on the condition of each baby, so it is necessary to protect the privacy of other babies during shift changeover.

CUMH Neonatal Unit Visitor Policy

In the NNU of CUMH, parents are welcome at any time, with a few exceptions:

  • Please refrain from visiting and phoning the unit between 07:30-08:30 am and 07:30-08:30 pm.  This is to facilitate staff change over and report time.
  • Ward rounds: You will be asked to leave the unit during ward rounds to protect the privacy of other patients.  There is a seated waiting area outside the door of the Special Care Baby Unit (see map at the bottom of the page).  The nurse will call you into the unit when the medical round comes to your baby so that you can meet and talk to your baby’s doctor.  In the NICU and SCBU, ward rounds take place daily at 9:00 am and 4:00 pm, approximately.
  • Entry/Exit to the unit is via a buzzer, outside by the door.  Please only press it once, and be patient; nurses are busy caring for babies on the unit.
  • Only parents are permitted into the unit.
  • Do not use your mobile phone when in the unit.  If you need to use your phone, please step outside the unit.  If you use your phone for photographs, please ensure that it is switched to silent.

Quiet Time

When infants are in-utero, they sleep approximately 80% of the time.  It is important to mimic this as much as possible if your baby was born very early to facilitate your baby’s development.  The unit has Quiet Time at specific periods throughout the day. The aim of Quiet Time is to allow infants to rest and sleep: Light intensity and noise levels will be reduced, and medical procedures will be kept to a minimum.  The lights will be dimmed, voices are kept low, and interruptions to babies will be kept to a minimum.


To respect the privacy of patients, parents are requested to stay at their own infant’s incubator or cot, and refrain from enquiring about other infants on the unit.  In addition, you will appreciate that nurses cannot share any information about other babies.  To protect the infants on the unit, siblings and relatives are not permitted to visit the unit.

Mobile phones and photographs

  • We ask that you do not use your mobile phone for calls in the unit.  If you need to take a call, please step outside the unit to do so.
  • Please ensure your phone is switched to ‘silent mode’ on entering the unit.
  • You may see some doctors use their phones when in the unit.  These doctors are ‘on-call’ and only use their phones for medical emergencies and when contacted by other medical professionals.
  • You may use your phones in the unit to take photographs of you own infant.  The medical team appreciates how important these memories of your infant are to you and your extended family.  Please ensure that only your partner and infant are included in the photo; this is to respect the privacy of other parents, infants, and members of staff.
  • Please clean your phone with a disposable disinfectant wipe before and after use.

Getting Started in the NICU

Things to know about the Neonatal Unit

Infection Control

Ways to avoid the spreading of infection

What To Bring to the NICU

Things you and your baby may need in the NICU