Simple change keeps mums and babies together

We often hear about the importance of the ‘golden hour’ after birth where bonding between mum, dad and baby is crucial.

Unfortunately not all mums and babies are able to enjoy this special time as the newborn needs to taken away to the neonatal department to be given treatment.

Now, for the first time in Scotland, simple changes have been introduced at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow which mean more and more mums are able to keep baby at their side.

Thanks to some innovative thinking, babies who would once have been separated from their mums for medical treatment are now being treated at the maternal bedside, avoiding the need for separation in those vital first few hours.

Dr Lesley Jackson, consultant neonatal medicine, explained that the effects of separation on mother and baby are well documented so any changes to minimise such separation should be explored.  She said: “It is important for so many reasons and skin to skin contact between the baby and both mum and dad is really encouraged after birth. Skin-to-skin contact supports both the establishment and maintenance of breastfeeding; it also supports bonding and is such a special time for the new family to get to know each other.”

“Here, until recently, babies who were at risk of infection were taken from mum within the first hour to receive IV antibiotics, something which was done in the neonatal unit. It’s just the way it’s been done for years.

“This probably affects about 20-22 babies a month, so almost one a day. It affects women who are suspected of developing Sepsis. National guidelines recommend in such situations that antibiotics are given to the baby within an hour of the decision to treat.”

In late 2016, the team at the QUEH Maternity looked at how they could improve this and set about looking at alternatives which meant babies could stay with mum while this treatment was carried out.

Dr Jackson continued: “Now the neonatal team comes to the Labour ward room or recovery and baby gets to stay with mum the entire time. By challenging how we do things, this has benefitted families and also reduced the numbers coming into the neonatal unit.

“We have had great feedback from families, with dads feeling more included as they are able to get involved in the treatment of their baby. It has empowered the whole family.”

News of the ‘Keeping Mothers and Babies Together’ programme has spread and two of the midwives who were central to its development have been shortlisted for a UK-wide RCM award.

Mary Hannaway and her colleague Rhona Wilson are thrilled.

Mary said: “It’s really great that the programme has been nominated for a national award. This is all about getting the best outcomes for mums and babies, so it’s a great way of spreading the word about what we are doing here at the QEUH.

“Since news of the nomination broke, we have had interest for colleagues all over the country and units in England are really keen to learn more about what we are doing.

“What made this all possible was great communication between ourselves in labour ward and colleagues in the neonatal unit and this strong team approach is now helping families get the best start, every day.

“I am really proud to have been part of this and hope we will be able to roll out to other areas within Greater Glasgow and Clyde, potentially helping about 600 babies every year.”