Managing with a premature baby

Neonatal midwife Alison MacLean providing vital care in the Special Care Nursery.

Neonatal midwife Alison MacLean providing
vital care in the Special Care Nursery.

Neonatal Midwife Alison MacLean at St John of God Murdoch Hospital’s Maternity ward works closely with parents to prepare them to take their new baby home.

“Having a new baby can be difficult enough without the added stress of your baby arriving earlier than expected or with health issues,” says Ms MacLean.

“It’s a different and unexpected type of journey that lies ahead.

“It’s our privilege to be able to help parents at this critical time.”

Although medical intervention can be necessary for premature infants, midwives focus on maintaining parental involvement and acknowledging their important relationship with their baby. Sharing the early care of their baby can be challenging
for new parents of premature babies.

“This can make them feel sad, frustrated and useless,” says Ms MacLean.

“It is important for us to include parents and keep them informed on the care and health of their baby so that they feel their role is still vital.”

Alison MacLean sheds some light on the care of premature babies in the Special Care Nursery:

Why can’t parents cuddle their baby whenever they want?
Neonates, and especially premature or unwell ones, are easily overstimulated, and the smaller and sicker the baby, the less able he or she is able to handle excessive stimuli. A baby in a Special Care Nursery is already subjected to sensory overload in terms of noise and light, and then we add monitoring, nasal prongs, feeding tubes, blood tests, cannulas, nappy changes and reposititioning.

It is important we reduce stimuli as much as possible to conserve the baby’s energy and enhance their development. We can do this by minimising the handling of the baby; by touching and moving the baby only when it’s really necessary and reducing noise where possible.

How should parents touch their babies?
Mindful touching is gentle, but firm handling of the baby. It soothes and quietens babies because they feel more secure; light uncertain touch (by a nervous parent or hurried nurse) often results in agitation and withdrawal. Placing the baby on the mother’s chest in direct contact with the skin and leaving them to sleep is an ideal way to encourage bonding and help stabilise their breathing and heart rate.

Is that much sleep normal?
Yes! The importance of undisturbed sleep in premature and unwell babies cannot be over-emphasised. Undisturbed rest is imperative to promote growth and development and optimal immune function. In utero, babies are in deep sleep
approximately 80 per cent of the time, but in the Special Care Nursery, handling and high levels of noise can leave babies sleep deprived, which can disrupt normal growth and development. And there are very simple ways noise levels
can be reduced – speaking more quietly or having conversations away from the babies and lowering mobile phone ring tones.

How can I tell if my baby is ok?
Signs of a stable baby include stable heart and respiratory rate, regular pattern of respirations, good colour, feeding tolerance, relaxed tone or posture, sucking, clear sleep states and an ability to interact.

You can ask your paediatrician, health nurse or GP for help if you need it. Additional services include:

The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) Ph: 1800 686 268 | http://www.breastfeeding.asn.au
Australian Multiple Birth Association (AMBA) Ph: 1300 886 449 | http://www.amba.org.au
Beyond Blue www.beyondblue.org.au
International Association of Infant Massage Ph: 02 6262 3246 | http://www.iaim.org.au
Mental Health Emergency Response Line Ph: 1300 555 788
Ngala Family Resource Centre Ph: 9368 9368
Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline Ph: 1800 882 436 | http://www.healthdirect.org.au
Relationships Australia Ph: 1300 364 277 | http://www.relationships.org.au
Life’s Little Treasures Foundation Ph: 1300 697 736 | http://www.lifeslittletreasures.org.au
Australian Multiple Birth Association Ph: 1300 88 64 99 | http://www.amba.org.au

Raphael Centre Murdoch Ph: 6226 9455 | http://www.sjog.org.au/raphaelmurdoch
The Raphael Centre provides Care and Connect, a support program for families at the St John of God Murdoch
Hospital Special Care Nursery.

Parents learn about their premature baby, his or her communication and how best to respond to their baby.

Sessions also assist parents in recognising and managing their own stress, as well as their baby’s stress and provide support for the transition home. The intervention focuses on the importance of the early attachment relationships between parents and their babies. When babies are born prematurely, parents may sometimes not be as equipped to deal with the unexpected nature of the birth or the amount of medical intervention that is necessary, making it difficult for parents to make a connection with their baby.

Care and Connect supports parents in caring for their baby in order to establish these early vital and healthy bonds.

 

 

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