The Trevor Mann Baby Unit (TMBU) is a specialist NHS department for the care of premature and sick newborn babies
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RockinghorseThe earlybirth associationBrighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH)
  • How can I help look after my baby?

    Woody and DadWe will always encourage you to become as involved as you want to be in your baby’s care. We plan your baby’s care with you so that you can be involved as much as possible.

    We want to protect and enhance your baby’s development by giving them care that fits their particular needs. This involves ensuring the reduction of noise levels, avoiding extreme changes in lighting, finding comfortable positioning, feeding and encouraging touch, massage and family support.

  • How can I get to know my baby?

    KateIt is important that you and your baby get to know each other. You may feel frightened to touch your baby at first, but we will support you in learning how to do this until you feel confident. ‘Positive touch’ is a gentle way of helping you connect and communicate with your baby.

    The type of touch must be adapted to your baby’s response, their medical condition and their degree of prematurity. The art of positive touch is being able to tune into your baby’s needs and to recognise their signals given in the form of reactions and cues.

    Often the natural instinct is to lightly stroke your baby with your fingertips. However this is often not tolerated by fragile infants. Therefore, still or containment holds are a way of providing stability for your baby and will help you to gain confidence, especially in the early days when your baby may be medically unstable.

    Even small babies can benefit from close contact and the nurse may suggest you hold your baby in the ‘kangaroo-type’ position by tucking your baby inside your top away from too much light and noise stimulation. This helps very young babies to relax and can also assist in breastfeeding. Kangaroo care also helps to form a bond between parent and baby. The nurses will support you whilst you are holding your baby.

    Please ask the nurses for more detailed information regarding developmental care.

  • How will my baby be fed?

    Breast milk

    Mother’s breast milk is the best food a baby can have – it contains important ingredients that encourage growth and help fight infection. The mother of a premature baby produces appropriate milk for her baby. Even if your baby needs to be fed by a drip or by tube at first, he or she should still be able to breastfeed eventually. We encourage all mothers to express breast milk for their baby, as it clearly reduces the risk of serious infections and bowel problems.

    You may find it difficult to express milk at first, especially if you are worried about your baby, but it’s important to do this as soon as you can. Your milk can be stored in the unit’s freezer until your baby needs it.

    Expressed breast milk

    Your baby may not be able to suck very well at first, so we would encourage you to express your breast milk until he or she is able to do so. We provide breast pumps for use whilst you are visiting your baby on the unit. Each mother will be given their own pumping set, which you may keep after your baby has been discharged. Breast pumps may be hired from outside companies for home use or you may choose to purchase your own – please speak to the nurse looking after your baby for details.

    Pasteurised donor expressed breast milk

    You might struggle to produce a certain amount of breast milk at the beginning. Should your child be considered to be at high risk for developing feeding related gut problems, we may consider using donor expressed breast milk. We will ask for your consent before doing so.

    Donor expressed breast milk comes from a donor breast milk bank. The milk bank receives expressed breast milk from donors who are recruited on neonatal units. Donors are screened for infection and the breast milk is pasteurised. The benefit of the milk bank is to make donor breast milk available for preterm and sick babies on the Trevor Mann Baby Unit and Special Care Baby Unit when maternal breast milk is not available.


    Your baby may not be able to suck very well at first, so breast or bottle feeding may be difficult, but as he or she becomes stronger and with practice, this will become easier for both of you. The unit also has a speech and language therapist to support your baby with feeding.

    Tube feeding

    Until your baby is able to feed orally he or she can be fed through a small tube, which passes through the mouth or nose and down into the stomach.


    If you are unable to breast feed or express breast milk, manufactured milks are available on the unit. If your baby is preterm and/or weighs less than 2kg we may use specially formulated milk.

    Intravenous feeding

    If your baby cannot tolerate milk feeds, it may be necessary for your baby to be fed via a drip. We call this parenteral nutrition (PN).

  • Sucking practice for your baby

    Non-nutritive sucking (NNS)

    The sucking a baby does by reflex, for example on a finger or dummy, is called non-nutritive as the baby is not getting any milk.

    If, by 32 weeks corrected gestational age, your baby is tube fed, he or she may need some sucking practice. The best time for your baby to practice non-nutritive sucking is during tube feeds.

    If your baby has a good non-nutritive suck, he or she will make the move to oral feeding much easier. Non-nutritive sucking is also important as it will help your baby associate sucking with a full stomach.

    Research has shown that other benefits to non-nutritive sucking include increased weight gain, improved digestion of milk and quicker discharge from hospital. It will also provide your baby with a pleasant experience to their face and mouth.

    What can parents do to help?

    It is ideal if you can make non-nutritive sucking as similar to breast or bottle feeding (nutritive sucking) as possible. You can do this by:

    • Holding your baby in the position you would normally use for feeding.
    • Encouraging your baby to show a sucking reflex before putting a finger or dummy into the mouth. Your speech and language therapist or nurse can show you how to do this.
    • Encouraging your baby to suck for 5–10 minutes at each tube feed during the day when awake. If your baby is asleep and very young however, there is no need to wake him or her for each feed. You don’t need to do this for night-time feeds unless your baby is unsettled. It is good to get your baby used to sleeping through the night if at all possible!
    • Your baby might need some special exercises to get him or her sucking as well as possible. If this is the case, your speech and language therapist will guide you on the best exercises to do.
  • How long will my baby be on the unit?

    Premature babies usually go home at, or slightly before, the date they were due to be born. This means that if your baby is born six weeks early, it could be six weeks until he or she goes home. By the time they go home, babies will be feeding well, gaining weight and sleeping in a cot.

    The Neonatal Community Nursing Team

    The community nursing team provides care to babies and support to their families whilst on our units and then at home after discharge. The team works with nurses and parents shortly after admission to begin to prepare parents and their babies for discharge. This may include teaching parents additional skills including naso-gastric tube feeding and resuscitation.

    The team will then visit babies in their homes after discharge to support parents and families in looking after them. They are also able to provide telephone advice. They work alongside health visitors, to whom they will handover care after approximately 4 weeks.

    Transferring babies between neonatal units

    The Trevor Mann Baby Unit in Brighton is the only Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Sussex. We are part of the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Neonatal Network. This means that we work together with all Special Care Baby Units in Kent, Surrey and Sussex. Together, we look after as many babies as possible who need intensive care and try to avoid having to transfer them (or their mothers) longer distances to other neonatal intensive care units in London or further afield.

    Babies who no longer need intensive care benefit from the less medical, more relaxed environment of a Special Care Baby Unit. This is also true for their parents. Once babies reach this stage of their recovery, it is therefore important for us to transfer them promptly to their local unit.

    If you were originally booked to deliver your baby at the Royal Sussex County Hospital (RSCH), then we will usually continue to care for your baby on the Trevor Mann Baby Unit.

    If the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) is your local hospital, then your baby will be transferred to the Special Care Baby Unit there. The same team of consultants will supervise the care of your baby at PRH.

    If you were originally booked to deliver your baby at another hospital, then your baby will be transferred to the Special Care Baby Unit there. The medical care of your baby will be handed over to the consultant and nursing team at that hospital.

    If your baby has long term medical or surgical needs, then your baby may be transferred to the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital when he/she no longer needs intensive care. The care of your baby will be handed over to the Consultant Paediatricians and/or Consultant Paediatric Surgeons as appropriate.

    Occasionally, even if you delivered your baby at RSCH, you may be asked to agree to transfer your baby to PRH or another Special Care Baby Unit locally. We will only do this:

    • if your baby can be safely looked after in another unit, and
    • we would otherwise have to transfer a baby who needs intensive care to London or further afield unnecessarily.

    We appreciate that transferring your baby can be stressful but hope you can understand why it is necessary. We undertake to:

    • always give you as much warning as possible
    • never transfer your baby without discussing it with you
    • transfer your baby safely using an appropriate neonatal transport team
    • hand over the care of your baby fully and safely