Evidence shows us that bonding between mother and baby is hugely important. As part of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme’s improvement work for maternity, neonatal and children, we’ve been working with NHS boards across Scotland to safeguard the natural bonding of baby and mother by addressing issues that evidence tells us we can directly influence: breathing problems, body temperature, infection, low blood sugar levels and feeding challenges.
For parents-to-be, pregnancy is an exciting time planning for the new arrival. The last thing parents imagine is their baby requiring admission to the neonatal unit. When it happens it can be a difficult emotional journey for all members of the family. The resulting separation decreases the opportunity for temperature regulation and stabilisation of vital signs including breathing rates, and has a negative effect on maternal mental health, breastfeeding success rates and long-term morbidity for mother and child.
The result of the work thus far is that the number of babies separated from their mothers and placed in neo-natal units shortly after birth has been reduced by 20% in eight major neonatal units in Scotland that we’ve been working with.
Speaking to the neonatal community, they identified that decreasing the number of mothers separated from their babies was an area of need where a positive impact could be made.
Data submitted to us from NHS boards across Scotland suggest that for every 1,000 babies born at term, around 60 are admitted to the neonatal unit. According to research, over 20% of term admissions to neonatal units could have been prevented.
The result of the work thus far is that the number of babies separated from their mothers and placed in neo-natal units shortly after birth has been reduced by 20% in eight major neonatal units in Scotland that we’ve been working with. This means around 30 more babies each month in Scotland receive care at the bedside, beside mum, resulting in less disruption to breastfeeding and better long-term outcomes for both mum and baby.
The figure underlines the dedicated work of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme’s Maternity and Children Quality Improvement Collaborative (MCQIC). It’s a good news story. So good in fact that we were delighted that The Times recently picked up the story and published it.
NHS Tayside’s ‘Unite: keeping families together’ project is a good example of the type of work NHS boards have been undertaking. Through analysing their data, the team identified that almost half of neonatal admissions were attributed to babies born over 37 weeks of pregnancy.
The result of their interventions is that the unit has seen a 21% reduction in the number of babies admitted to neonatal unit and thus separated from their mum.
To find out why, the team at Tayside further analysed the data and found that breathing complications, weight loss from breastfeeding challenges and cold body temperature were the main reasons for these admissions. The result of their interventions is that the unit has seen a 21% reduction in the number of babies admitted to neonatal unit and thus separated from their mum.
We will continue to work with NHS boards across the country to implement this work, and see more mums and babies forging an unbroken bond that allows them both to thrive.
Dr Colin Peters is Consultant Neonatologist at Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow and SPSP Clinical Lead for Neonatal Care