This week we were honoured to attend 'Taking Neonatal Care to the Next Level', the Unicef Baby Friendly Neonatal Conference, co-hosted by Bliss. We were overwhelmed by the passion shown by the first class speakers. Leaders at the cutting edge of Neonatology practise spoke alongside parents and hospital workers giving and receiving care in the UK.. This is a parent-friendly summary of some of the wonderful ideas and developments planned and how they relate to Kangaroo Care. We will be blogging in more detail about all of the below concepts and talks over the next few days for those of you who want to know more.
Innovation and development in how babies who need hospital care are looked after was the key focus. Those attending represent all levels of the health care teams who, on a daily basis work to ensure the very best of care for all newborn babies in the UK. The conference focus looked at improving care and outcomes for all babies and the conclusion was, resoundingly, that what they need the most is their parents. Looking at how much families are directly involved in neonatal care and making their own decisions was a central part of the aims for all the speakers in taking neonatal care to the next level.
UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative - New Neonatal Standards
UNICEF The United Nations Children's Fund working with the World Health Organisation, lead programmes to improve newborn outcomes in all countries. They are coordinating 'Baby Friendly' accreditation with regard to Neonatal care in the UK. Inspiringly, the expectations to meet the standard are not a list of clinical procedures but instead focus on enabling parents to form close and loving relationships with their babies. These 'Baby Friendly' accreditations follow on from similar standards promoted by UNICEF in recent years for improving breastfeeding outcomes, those standards have helped to improve breastfeeding rates in the UK dramatically and made it easier for new mums to get the support they need to breast feed. Kangaroo Care and Skin to Skin Contact features heavily in both initiatives with the aim of ensuring it is routine and widespread in all settings.
Bliss - Family Centred Care
Family Centred Care is just that, Care that centres around the Parents and the child and puts the parents in the driving seat of their maternity experience. BLISS began as a parent support charity which raised funds to buy equipment for Neonatal Units (NICUs) but it has grown to become a multifaceted support system for parents of premature newborns. They are there for parents every step of the way providing advice, information and emotional support. Their work has always been informed by the parental experience and they have pioneered the concepts of 'Family Centred Care' in Neonatal Intensive Care and Special Care. 50+ hospitals have their own Family Centred Care Co-ordinators, Nurses who work for Bliss in the NHS and provide best practise care for the families passing through their doors. These are the people who know and see the power of Kangaroo Care on a daily basis and they advocate passionately for its ongoing use.
Dr Shoo Lee - Scientific Director, Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health, Canadian Institutes of Health Research - Family Integrated Care Model
Dr Lee is from Canada, the home of Vija Design Kangaroo Care Clothing. His hugely successful programme of 'Parents as Carers' in the NICU began in Canada and is now being trialled in Australia, New Zealand, China and the USA. Much as the pioneers of Kangaroo Care were inspired by rural communities in South America who had no other means of supporting their premature babies, Dr Lee was inspired by the work carried out to bring parents into NICUs in Estonia, a very small, financially vulnerable country. If you cannot afford nurses to care for premature babies what do you do? Estonia began bringing the parents in, admitting them alongside their new babies and giving them the role of caring for the babies non-medical needs. The results were incredible and continue to show huge benefits for all involved. Dr Nils Bergman - The Neuroscience of Neonatal Care
Probably the most exciting speaker for all those with an interest in Kangaroo Care was Dr Nils Bergman, a world renowned Neuroscientist who is challenging how premature babies are cared for in fundamental ways. His work has been a game changer in his native South Africa but also around the world. We were taken through the latest neuroscience of newborn development and left in doubt what so ever that Kangaroo Care is critical for all babies' development, down to the expression of their DNA. Look out for a full blog on his talk coming very soon! Nils threw some incredibly challenging ideas out to the room and the sense of profound reflection could be felt for some time after each big reveal occurred! Something we were excited to see tweeted about again and again and discussed afterwards by attendees was the concept that 'for normal newborn development the perfect environment is skin to skin contact with mother'.
Luckiest Babies in the World
We were left with much food for thought, and as always the utmost respect for those involved in Neonatal Care. The passion shown by both speakers and audience represents the highly dedicated professionals our NHS has in its Neonatal service providers. With these wonderful people caring for them, the UK has some of the luckiest babies in the whole world.