Today is World Prematurity Day, a day intended to raise awareness of the high rates of premature births worldwide. I’ve shared before about Keira (now 4) being born 11 weeks premature. I’ve shared a bit about our lengthy NICU stay, and I even (hesitantly) shared how hard my second pregnancy was because of the intense grief I felt over her premature birth.
Being a NICU parent is overwhelming and difficult whether you think you are prepared for it or not. Thankfully we lived close to the McMaster Children’s Hospital NICU at the time, where Keira was born and stayed for the first half of her hospital stay. This meant I was able to stay with her all day, every day without financial pressure or other obligations interfering as a first time mom.
Premature babies are particularly vulnerable, and are cared for around the clock. Their vitals are constantly monitored, they are treated and cared for by NICU staff as needed. We had to wait 5 days after her birth before we were able to hold Keira, and it was at that point we were encouraged to provide skin-to-skin hugs, otherwise known as Kangaroo-care.
Holding her tiny, not even 3 lb body, her skin against mine, was the first time I felt hope that we might get through this. It was the first time since my water broke that I felt happy.
We were told at the time that skin-to-skin hugs can help preemies regulate their breathing, heart-rate and maintain their body heat.
The truth is though, that skin-to-skin hugs can do so much more. Studies have shown skin-to-skin has numerous health benefits for all babies, including improved oxygen levels and pain tolerance, stabilized body temperatures, improved sleep, brain development and more. For premature babies, skin-to-skin also positively influences their short-term and long-term development. The human touch really is a critical element in the NICU, as well as generally in the development and care of newborns.
During our stay, we encountered many parents who weren’t quite so lucky. Parents who lived hours away and could only visit for a few hours in the evening or only on the weekend. Parents who were too ill themselves to be able to visit often. Parents with other children who needed their care at home.
Parents who often called in the middle of the night to make sure their baby was OK. Parents who worried that their baby might be crying in their incubators with nobody around to hold them.
This is why Huggies created No Baby Unhugged, an initiative designed to help hospitals ensure that all babies get the hugs they need, even when parents can’t be there.
Through the No Baby Unhugged program, Huggies has provided $50,000 in funding to two Canadian hospitals, with more in the works. To-date, Huggies has partnered with Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney, Nova Scotia and Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ontario, offering funding to cover hugging chairs and stations, along with dozens of Hugger Volunteers in the neonatal intensive care units to help ensure all babies get the hugs they need. Over 600 babies are admitted to these hospitals each year, where hundreds of hours of care are offered by trained volunteers. Take a look at the heart-warming videos below featuring true stories captured at the these No Baby Unhugged hospitals, which expose the reality of NICU care and how this initiative is helping families:
Show your support by becoming a No Baby Unhugged Mom at nobabyunhugged.com. When you do, Huggies will thank you for your support by sending you free Huggies Diapers!
Disclosure: This post has been brought to you by Huggies. All thoughts and opinions are honest and my own.