Over 4,500 babies are born prematurely in Ireland every year and many parents struggle to know what to do if their child ends up in a neonatal unit, the Irish Neonatal Health Alliance (INHA) has said.
It has recently launched a guide for parents which aims to help them take a more active role in the neonatal setting while their baby is in hospital.
"As a mum to a little girl who was born prematurely, I have firsthand experience of life in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). We want to assure families who unexpectedly find themselves in the NICU with a premature or ill infant, that parenting their infant is possible and additionally has benefits for the infant, the family and the healthcare system," explained the INHA's director of advocacy, Mandy Daly.
The guide, Better Together: A Family-Centred Care Guide for Your Premature Baby, looks at 10 family-centred care-giving activities that families can participate in if they have a baby in the NICU. These include:
-Comfort holding, which is a form of positive touch that helps babies to feel secured and relaxed
-Mouth care, which involves learning how to clean your baby's mouth when he/she is awake and comfortable
-Skin-to-skin care, which is when the baby is placed next to mum or dad's skin on the chest
-Nappy changes, which you can learn by observing the nursing team. Many parents find this nerve wracking as their child may be surrounded by tubes and lines.
According to the INHA, family-centred and developmentally-centred care is playing an increasingly bigger role in NICUs every year. This concept acknowledges that the family is central to the care of the child.
"Family-centered and developmentally supportive care is becoming more recognised as an essential attribute of high-quality neonatal and family care. Infants and families who must traverse the NICU deserve the quality of care that this caregiving philosophy demands by providing an environment for the family that is comfortable, safe and supportive of their individual needs," commented Dr John Murphy, clinical lead for neonatology at the National Maternity Hospital.
For more information on the INHA, or to access the guide, click here