As we approach the end of World Prematurity Awareness Month, our Community Outreach teams across our Women’s Hospital Neonatal services share how they have been helping babies to return home to parents.
Pre-term and term babies that visit our Neonatal Unit are often unable to go home with parents straight after they are born because of their dependency on hospital care and equipment like oxygen therapy and feeding tubes (nasogastric tubes).
Our clinicians have been working hard to wean sick babies off feeding ‘nasogastric’ tubes and oxygen therapy safely, through consistent monitoring, parent training, support and transitional care.
Babies that visit our neonatal services, both term and pre-term often cannot drink milk as they are too tired to do so and need the extra support of tube feeding to aid their growth and support nutrition. Oxygen therapy is also important to help babies regain the strength needed to stay awake when being fed. Being able to wean babies off tube feeding will help parents to care for them outside of the hospital, so that they can build those important bonds and establish their own family routines and experiences with less dependency on hospital support.
Our Neonatal Outreach team continues to help support quicker discharge rates for babies that visit us by training parents on how to use nasogastric feeding tubes so that they can look after their babies from home. Parents are also being trained by the community outreach team on how to deliver home oxygen therapy to their babies at home. Every four weeks, our Community Outreach team will visit families to safely wean babies off oxygen and use of 'nasogastric’ tubes, by evaluating their progress and limiting use gradually.
Charley Forde, Neonatal Outreach Sister from our Women’s Hospital said “Babies have been shown to feed better and thrive when returning home, outside of the hospital environment which is why it is really important to share information and training with parents on how to care for their children after being in the hospital.
“Being a new parent is already a challenge and having a baby that has been unwell in hospital can be extremely stressful, once home this can seem incredibly hard to create your own routine outside of a hospital environment and adjust to having your baby at home. Being able to make those experiences less daunting is something that our Neonatal Community Outreach team prides itself on - reaching out to parents who can use a helping hand.”
Once the baby’s dependency on feeding tubes lessens, they transition to full oral feeds and the tube is removed by our Neonatal Outreach Team. Baby weight and growth is monitored closely, to ensure they are getting enough nutrition. Oxygen weaning follows a similar process. Oximetry studies help to evaluate oxygen levels so that clinicians can effectively surveil the progress of a baby's health. Outside of the monthly visits for oximetry studies, our team also visits regularly with new parents and families, every week to two weeks to offer support and guidance on their transition to life at home. We adjust our input to meet the needs of our families and babies.
Charley added, “We support the process of family-integrated care by supporting parents to continue caring for their baby in their own environment with the ongoing advice and support of our Neonatal Community Outreach Team. We want to help so many more parents have this privilege of early discharge and to reduce the amount of time that their baby spends on the Neonatal Unit at our Women’s Hospital.”
We want to promote bonding and for parents to feel confident at home by having the advice and support of a Neonatal Community Outreach Team.
We’d like to say thank you to our fantastic Neonatal Community Outreach team for speaking with us across the World Prematurity Awareness Month. Our lights shone ‘proudly purple’ last week at our Women’s Hospital to commemorate all of the truly inspiring and ambitious things that you do to reunite families outside of our services.