“Parents are really valued as partners in their babies’ care – they’re taught how to carry out cares right from the start. Parents used to fit in with staff schedules, but now staff time the cares for when parents are available to be involved. We have a nurse-led ward round on a Tuesday, where parents feedback on their own baby’s progress, rather than the other way round – after all, they know their baby best.
We support parents to have lots of kangaroo care and skin-to-skin contact with their baby, which is so important for their baby’s development and wellbeing. Mothers are supported with expressing their milk, and there’s a fridge in each room to store their own milk – they have lots of autonomy. When babies are sent home tube feeding, we make sure parents are confident with this, and there are outreach support workers to help them continue tube feeding and transition to breastfeeding when they’re ready. This confidence helps parents to take their time with transitioning to breastfeeding rather than rushing into it and losing heart if it doesn’t work quickly.
We work to empower parents to make the unit their own and start their own projects to make life on the unit easier. At Christmas one mum used babies’ hand prints to make reindeer cards for all the parents on the unit. We’ve also got little memory books for parents to use to record memories of their baby, and staff take photos of any “firsts” to include in the books or for parents’ birthday cards. One parent who sadly lost her baby set up a charitable trust to support parents – it’s funded a parent-run initiative of providing a drawstring bag with overnight essentials – toothbrush, toothpaste, slippers, etc. for parents who hadn’t expected to be on the unit, and it’s also funded a project to make patchwork blankets to cover incubators to keep the lights out and calm babies. Parents and staff are working together to make the whole experience better – it’s stunning that parents feel confident enough to be able to do develop their own ideas. To get that welcoming atmosphere in an intensive care situation is wonderful and rare.”