New help for parents of premature babies

Released on: 19 July 2011

From today, mums and dads of premature babies will receive extra support to help them cope during the first few weeks with their baby.

The POPPY, Parents of Premature Babies project, is encouraging all neonatal units in the UK to provide parents with family-centred care so parents can be:-

• kept up to date on their baby’s progress and be asked to give informed consent for any treatment
• shown how to care for their baby and encouraged as they gradually become the main carers
• supported to: give skin-to-skin care, express breastmilk and prepare for all changes and transitions, such as going home with their baby.

In addition, all neonatal units will be able to provide mums and dads with an easy-to-read information sheet on promoting skin-to-skin care and a detailed booklet on parents’ experiences of having a premature baby, devised by POPPY. The booklet looks at three key areas which are:-

• Parents’ feelings on their time spent at a neonatal unit and what may happen at different stages - from the early hours and feeling involved in their baby’s care through to sharing experiences with other parents and the discharge home.

• Parents’ needs for support and information – this is vital for helping parents to feel confident in their baby’s care including how the information about their baby will be given to them, in what form and when.

• What parents can do to increase their involvement with their baby when in hospital - it may be shocking to see their baby in an incubator for the first time and so parents will want support on touching and holding their babies, talking, feeding, changing nappies and skin-to-skin cuddles.

Mary Newburn, Chair of the POPPY steering committee said:
“The POPPY project recommends that all neonatal units provide family-centred care and has developed a range of materials for parents in which to make this easier. A premature birth is a time of anxiety for all concerned - the first time you want to feed your baby, or the first time you want to cuddle them or change their nappy are all big steps and parents want to be supported so they can feel part of the whole experience of becoming a parent.”
Claire Fisher from Bromsgrove, Birmingham, said: “My daughter was born ten weeks early weighing 1lb 14oz and her first few weeks in neonatal were very touch and go. Happily she did pull through and three months later we were lucky enough to take her home, which will always be the happiest day of our life. The majority of support we received in the neonatal unit was very good, they kept us informed of everything and really encouraged us to get involved as much as we could. Over the next few days we were living in a relatives room at the end of the corridor but we never felt like we were in the way. We could sit with Emma at any time of the day or night. I really believe that our involvement not only helped Emma’s recovery but also it helped us to bond with her.”
The three year POPPY project was set up to look at how parents feel about having a baby in neonatal care, the types of services on offer and ways to make it easier for parents to get involved in their baby's care. The results found that providing information and support for parents, and increasing their involvement in their babies’ care, can have a significant impact on parents’ confidence and their parenting behaviour.

POPPY was funded by the Big Lottery Fund, in conjunction with the University of Warwick, Royal College of Nursing Research Institute, NCT - National Childbirth Trust, Bliss and the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit.

For more details visit -  www.poppy-project.org.uk