Newborns intensive care units celebrate daily miracles this preemie day
Staff members at Groote Schuur and Mowbray Maternity Hospitals’ Neonatal Units have geared up for a day of fun and festivities as the hospitals joined the global celebrations for World Prematurity Day. 17 November is recognised around the world to highlight the plight of premature and critically ill babies and their families in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). One in every seven babies is born premature in South Africa according to statistics from the national Department of Health.
The doctors and nurses at Groote Schuur’s NICU see around 600 of these “preemies” each year. “We spend a lot of time and energy growing these babies and getting them to a discharge weight. They take a lot of effort and they get a lot of special care and they are so special to all of us. We watch these tiny babies grow and they stay here for two or three months and they just climb into your heart and take over,” says Dr Liesl Le Roux, a doctor in the Neonatal Unit.
This entire week, the iconic Old Main Building at the Hospital will be lit up in purple to mark the occasion. Due to COVID-19, visitors are not allowed into the neonatal unit as they have been in previous years, but staff are not allowing that to dampen their spirits. “We have a lot planned, we have care packages and breastfeeding support for the moms in the unit, we are decorating the whole place – and even the babies - in purple, and we are spoiling our nurses with cakes and treats and the doctors are having a bake-off. We’re all dressing up in purple scrubs and then we have a few other surprises in store as well,” says Dr Le Roux.
Newborns Groote Schuur Trust Manager Amy Mac Iver says, “Despite the tough economic circumstances this year, we continue to be so blessed by our community with gifts and donations pouring in for our babies”. One such example is bakery owner Desire Dasopatis, who has rallied her community into assisting with beautiful gift hampers for NICU moms consisting of baby journals and pens, a crocheted octopus for baby, sweet treats and breastfeeding biscuits, nappies and toiletries. She’s also donating cupcakes and sachets of hot chocolate to each nurse in the unit. Dasopatis says she chose to perform the gesture in memory of her own twins whom she lost at 19 weeks.
Mowbray Maternity Hospital hosted a fun walk on 17 November to celebrate World Preemie day, as well as the start of Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) week. The hospital also hosted a high tea for all mothers practising Kangaroo Mother Care at the hospital.
Western Cape Minister of Health, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo explains: “Raising awareness about World Preemie Day and KMC are critical. We are continuously striving to create awareness and improve the standard of Kangaroo Mother Care for newborn care at all the levels of healthcare, in all settings, within the Western Cape because KMC improves growth and reduces morbidities in low-birth-weight infants.”
KMC is beneficial for parents because it improves growth and reduces morbidities in low birth infants, it promotes attachment and bonding, helps to promote increased milk production and breastfeeding success. Psychological benefits of KMC for parents of preterm infants are fairly extensive, it is simple, acceptable to mothers and can be continued at home.
More than 75% of babies born prematurely can be saved with cost effective care before, during and after birth. Cost effective care include breastfeeding, kangaroo mother care (KMC) and hand washing (infection control).
MMH is a strong advocate of Kangaroo Mother Care. Dr Waseema Peters from Mowbray Maternity says: “KMC, which entails skin to skin contact between mother and baby, has so many benefits for mothers and their premature babies, including bonding, increase breastmilk supply, excellent temperature regulation of premature babies as well as stimulating their breathing and growth and so much more.”
World Prematurity Day highlights the vulnerability but also the resilience of premature babies.
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