Par­ents can look af­ter their pre­ma­ture baby

Daily Mirror - - STARS &TOONS -

When a pre­ma­ture baby is put in an in­cu­ba­tor it is trau­matic for both the par­ents and child. Mum and dad feel they can­not get close enough to bond, and the baby misses out on skin-to-skin con­tact that is im­por­tant in the first few weeks of life.

But change is un­der­way. Un­der a pi­o­neer­ing ini­tia­tive tri­alled in Lon­don, par­ents of pre­ma­ture ba­bies are be­ing en­cour­aged to take a lead role in their child’s hos­pi­tal care.

They are taught how to wash and feed their pre­ma­ture baby, and give med­i­ca­tion while be­ing guided by medics. Dur­ing daily ward rounds they also take re­spon­si­bil­ity for up­dat­ing the con­sul­tant on the child’s progress.

The pi­o­neer­ing project at Queen Char­lotte’s and Chelsea Hos­pi­tal and St Mary’s Hos­pi­tal orig­i­nated in Canada. It was found to im­prove the child’s brain func­tion and weight gain, and al­lows them to go home ear­lier.

Par­ents get in­volved once their baby is judged “med­i­cally sta­ble” and, af­ter train­ing, look af­ter them for six to eight hours a day.

The first five fam­i­lies were re­cruited at Queen Char­lotte’s in West Lon­don.

Jenny and Alex Vaidya’s first child, Jack, was born there re­cently at 29 weeks and five days.

Mrs Vaidya, 33, a char­ity fundrais­ing man­ager, said: “Do­ing every­thing from the very be­gin­ning means you have got that bond from very early on, and you just feel more con­fi­dent. You get to know the baby so much bet­ter.”

Mr Vaidya, 34, an IT en­tre­pre­neur, said: “Be­ing able to get in­volved has helped enor­mously.”

A free iPhone and iPad app pro­vides vi­tal in­for­ma­tion and en­cour­ages par­ents to record their child’s de­vel­op­ment. The In­te­grated Fam­ily De­liv­ered Care app has been down­loaded hun­dreds of times as other hos­pi­tals adopt the scheme, funded by Im­pe­rial Health Char­ity.

Dr Jay Ban­er­jee, a con­sul­tant neona­tol­o­gist at Im­pe­rial Col­lege, which runs both hos­pi­tals, said: “It en­cour­ages the baby’s rate of weight gain, it re­duces the du­ra­tion of their stay in hos­pi­tal and it may re­duce in­fec­tion rates. It re­duces the stress and anx­i­ety of par­ents.”

In the UK about one in 11 ba­bies, about 60,000 a year, are pre­ma­ture, or born be­fore 37 weeks’ ges­ta­tion.

Im­pe­rial’s two spe­cial­ist units treat about 1,000 pre­ma­ture ba­bies a year.

They will give med­i­ca­tion when guided

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