A NORTH-EAST neonatal unit is launching a new initiative which aims to help parents play a much bigger part in the care of their tiny or sick baby.

The neonatal unit at the University Hospital of North Tees has teamed up with charity Best Beginnings whose aims are to give every child in the UK the healthiest start in life.

Small Wonders aims to support parents to get involved in their baby’s care in ways that are shown to improve health outcomes for babies and the wellbeing of parents.

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Evidence suggests that increasing parental involvement reduces infection rates ,improves bonding and aids healthy development.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s specialist midwife in infant feeding, Diane Hudson, said: “When a baby arrives earlier than expected or is sick, parents often feel helpless and coming into a neonatal unit with all its technology can be frightening.

“Best Beginnings have produced a Small Wonders information pack with a DVD and guidebook to tell mothers what to expect and we’ll be giving a copy of the pack to all mothers whose babies are admitted to the neonatal unit.

"Pregnant women whose baby we anticipate may be admitted to the unit, will also be receiving a copy of the pack so they are well prepared if this should happen.

“There is now a strong body of evidence showing that skin to skin contact is very beneficial for tiny or sick babies. It can regulate their temperature and calm them.

"Mums who are providing breastmilk to feed their babies will find their milk supply improve and begin to produce the antibodies the baby needs.”

“We now encourage mothers of tiny and sick babies to begin expressing within six hours of the delivery. The first milk is called colostrum, which like breast milk contains antibodies, protection from infection and is designed to meet all the baby’s individual needs. When your baby has arrived early or is sick, providing your own milk is the most important thing a mother can do.

“We want babies to get the very best start in life and for parents to play a much bigger part in the care of their little ones at this crucial time because it makes a difference to the health and wellbeing of the whole family.”