Tag Archives: Neonatal Unit

TOP TEN! | Did you know….

untitled (4)That 1 in 9 babies require special neonatal care after birth?

images9J46MDT1Holding a premature baby close to your chest, skin-to-skin, can help them to regulate their breathing, temperature and heartbeat. This is referred to as Kangaroo Care and can also help with a mother’s milk production, facilitate breastfeeding, promote bonding and reduce stress.

imagesDIPRKXTBBabies born too soon are babies for longer, developing according to their corrected age (according to their due date) rather than their birth date.

imagesTB6KW868The suck reflex of a baby develops at approximately 34 weeks gestation, meaning that babies born too soon are tube fed until they are strong enough to develop and co-ordinate their suck, breath and swallow reflex. Sometimes premature babies will ‘practice’ and develop their suck with the aid of a micro, tiny dummy in their incubators!

imagesJV8WBVK2A mothers immunity is passed to her baby in the final months of pregnancy. Born too soon, a premature baby’s immune system will not be as strong as a full term baby’s as fewer antibodies will have passed between them.

imagesThe cause of premature birth is unknown in 40% of cases.

Premature baby listTo produce breast milk, mothers of babies born too soon will express on a 3-4 hourly cycle. This routine continues while baby is in hospital, including overnight, as mothers bring their expressed breast milk in from home.

untitled (4)Mothers who have spent time in neonatal intensive care are at increased risk of post natal depression, with a high number reporting symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder once they are at home.

images31X5N2ZQBabies born too soon may have lanugo, a soft, fine, downy hair, covering much of their body. This is usually shed between 33 to 36 weeks gestation.

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There is a financial cost to having a premature baby, with parents spending on average an extra £2,256 over the course of their hospital stay. These costs can continue with subsequent re-admissions and numerous follow-up appointments.



And one more – did you know, all premature babies and their parents are amazing!

Lost in a medical world I once knew

I used to work in neonatal care; I used to think I knew what NICU was like. – I had no idea what NICU was like. I thought I understood the importance of enabling mums to be mums in neonatal and intensive care. – I had no idea of what it was like to be a mum in neonatal intensive care. I used to think how amazing it must feel to take your baby home and that when mums walked out of the NICU doors they said goodbye. – I now know that NICU never leaves you and the emotions that you feel as you leave are often complex and conflicting. I used to work in NICU, but I had no idea what it was like. You see, as an Occupational Therapist* I have worked with premature babies in NICU, critically ill children in paediatric intensive care and children with life limiting conditions. In these settings a considerable part of my job is to enable parents to fulfil their occupations as mums and dads. Often teaching students of the importance of giving parents the opportunity to be parents I never imagined that I would be that mum, the one who stands by watching and waiting, feeling helpless. Pregnant for the first time my GP asked which hospital I would like to be booked into, I responded without hesitation. If anything was to go wrong I wanted to be at a hospital where I knew and trusted the neonatal services. Little did know that six months later I would be walking through their doors as a NICU mum and that I would hardly recognise the medical environment where I had once worked. Alarms, bells and buzzers – part of the background noise for staff; but as a mother beside an incubator the alarms and buzzers could cut straight to your very core. Hand washing – for staff part of the everyday routine; for parents not only a delay in being able to see their baby, but a time where anxieties around infection are felt or a time to worry about how your baby will be when you see them. The ups and downs of NICU – part of the course for NICU staff, all to be expected; for parents, even the smallest bump along the way can hit you hard.  Touching, handling, changing and holding – second nature to an experienced NICU nurse; scary, frightening, overwhelming and precious to parents. I used to think I knew what NICU was like; I had no idea. As an Occupational Therapist, tiny babies, poorly children, anxious parents, lines, machines and tubes were what I did. As a mother I did not recognise this medical world in which I had worked and had felt so at home. The machines and monitors seemed alien to me, the smallest bump hit me hard and the sound of alarms and buzzers still stop me in my tracks. Becoming a mother, but not able to be a mother, I felt lost. I thought I understood the importance of enabling mums to be mums in neonatal and intensive care. I did know the importance – it is vital; but I had no idea of the lasting trauma and the overwhelming sense of emptiness and loss mothers can experience in NICU. I reflect upon my journey often in my medical profession today, knowing that my practice and care for families is improved  through empathy and understanding. To know and understand a parent’s journey through NICU and beyond is key if we are to truly offer the right support and care. Only those who have been there though, those who have experienced NICU first hand can truly understand, which is why speaking openly and honestly about our experiences is so important, together raise awareness one step at a time. * Catriona has worked in healthcare since the late 1990’s. Qualifying as an Occupational Therapist in 2004 she has worked in a number of large teaching hospitals treating children and young people and their families. Catriona was chair of the College of Occupational Therapists Specialist Section for Children and Young People (2009 – 2011) and founded the Smallest Things in September 2014 following the premature birth of both her sons.

6 Months: Making the Smallest Things Matter

6 months: Time can be a strange concept to a parent of a premature baby.

Timescales sometimes don’t seem to apply to them.

Six months, the length of my pregnancy – that still sounds wrong.

It has been six months since the launch of the Smallest Things.

– Six months of raising awareness.

– Six months of sharing stories.

– Six months where we continue to say, more support for parents of premature babies please!

Setting up our campaign has been a humbling experience; not least through the overwhelming support we have received, but by the wonderful and often amazing people I am coming into contact with. Six months in I offer a huge heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported us so far, to each and every one of you who have helped to make The Smallest Things what it has become in such a short space of time.

The solar eclipse took place earlier today behind the clouds and for a while darkness fell. As rays of light appeared and the darkness lifted I was reminded of the similar sense of hope felt by parents in NICU. The light at the end of the tunnel, the light as you edge closer to the NICU door and the light as you hope soon the NICU experience will become a distant memory. Sadly though not all babies survive their 1st picvery early start; born too small or too poorly – but mothers like Hugo’s mum Leigh inspire us through #HugosLegacy, becoming a ray of light for others surviving baby loss and reminding us how amazing ALL premmie babies are.

Of course we know that for many, despite the hope, NICU does not become a distant memory. Indeed the sounds, feelings and emotions can stay with parents of premature babies for years to come. Sarra Hoy describes beautifully her own journey in neonatal care and her membership into the ‘premmie mum club’; a life long membership for her, yet a determination that her son will not be defined by his early start.

smallest thingsFinding yourself to be part of ‘the premmie club’ has been a welcome discovery for some, with mothers visiting our site and for the first time recognising their own story in our words – “it’s so reassuring to know that a lot of the thoughts & feelings I had whilst baby was in special are common amongst prem baby mums!”.

There have been lots of positives to our campaign so far, like the politician who supports our campaign to extend maternity leave for mothers of very premature babies “In such a crucial time for families, it makes sense to support extended maternity leave for parents of very premature babies” or the hospital chief executive who has agreed to review their car parking charges and policies for parents of babies in NICU … but it is the smallest things that matter and if just one mother has found that her feelings of loss and grief are common and indeed a ‘normal’ part of the NICU process, or if just one mother recognises the symptoms and feelings of PTSD or anxiety and seeks help, then 6 months as the Smallest Things has made the small things matter.

Time can be a strange concept to a parent of a premature baby.

Launching on the 20th September, picked as a special date, the date on which we brought our first son home from hospital. Six months later, how old would he be?

– Eight months, his chronological age?

– Five Months, his corrected age?

How old is your baby – the question every prem parent dreads!

Parents of premature babies may also recognise our sigh of relief that we’ve made it through the winter – through the beautifulcough and cold season! With spring on our doorstep we now look forward to the next six months in anticipation.

– Six months of raising awareness.

– Six months of sharing stories.

– Six months where we continue to say, more support for parents of premature babies please!


Fair parking charges for parents of premature babies!



untitled (4)I’ve taken action!

I’ve written to two hospital chief executives today, one from each of the hospitals where my boys have spent a total of 10 weeks in neonatal care.

My family have spent hundreds of pounds on hospital parking to be with our babies in NICU, other parents have gone through the same and this is backed up by evidence from Bliss and their “It’s not a game” report.


I do not believe that parents are visitors to the hospital; after all, visiting hours do not apply to them. They are mum and dad, offering vital care for their new born.

I do not believe that a mother should have to pay to park to feed her fragile baby in hospital or to deliver her expressed breast milk.

I do not believe a dad should have to worry about mounting parking fees, deciding whether he can spend another hour waiting for that precious skin-to-skin time.

Parents of premature babies are integral to their child’s care, and with the already very real and high cost of having a baby in hospital, reducing or scrapping parking fees for parents in NICU could make a real difference.

You can read my letters on the links below. You may even want to copy them to send to your local chief exec – take action today!


Croydon University Hospital – Parking Charges Letter

Kings College Hospital – Parking Charges Letter