PREMATURE babies' heartbeats are being recorded for their families to help ease the separation between parents and children.

A bear hug is now all parents need to hear their baby's heartbeat when they have to leave them on the neonatal unit.

Heartbeat bears are the latest initiative from Leo's, a charity which supports families of sick and premature babies across the region.

In a bid to help reduce the separation anxiety faced by parents having to leave their baby on a neonatal ward, Leo’s, with the help of Kalma Baby and Window To The Womb, are now able to provide bears for every family on the neonatal units at The University Hospital of North Durham Hospital, Darlington Memorial Hospital and Sunderland Royal Hospital.

These special bears contain an internal device which allows neonatal professionals to record baby’s heartbeat, so parents can then take these bears home to cuddle when they can’t be with their baby on the ward.

Not only will these bears be used to reduce separation anxiety, they will also be used to comfort parents whose baby requires end of life care on the neonatal unit at the James Cook University Hospital as part of the charity’s bereavement support.

The project, which has been funded through fundraising events by one of the charity’s corporate partners, Kalma Baby, is the first of its kind for the region.

Rebecca Riley, Owner of Kalma Baby, said: “Having had two premature babies myself, I know first-hand how scary it can be to leave your baby every day to go home, especially when they’re needing life-saving treatment.

“We had to be involved in fundraising for this project, we fell in love with this idea and the work Leo’s does. Knowing we can help families even more with these bears is incredibly special.”

Leo’s founder, Lottie King, said: “Being able to support families through the heartbreak of baby loss with this project is something very close to all of us at Leo’s.”

Julie Sanderson, neonatal senior nurse, said: “Parents are welcome to stay with their babies and we have facilities for them to do so, but when they do need to leave them, perhaps to care for other children at home, it can be distressing. Heartbeat bears offer comfort to parents and are an excellent way for them to feel close to their baby."