The Early Bird Baby Club is a parent support group that was formed to provide continual support and education for parents of premature babies admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Nursery (SCN). It consists of nurses, doctors, medical social workers, dieticians and staff from the rehabilitation department.
The First Neonatal Support group at KK Hospital was initially called the “Tiny Tots Club” and began in 1990 in the "old" KKH. The Early Bird Baby Club was formed in May 1997 upon the amalgamation of the two departments into the Department of Neonatology in the new KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
In 2002, parents / families of high-risk babies with complex conditions requiring prolonged hospitalization were included. Through the years, support for parents / families under the Early Bird Baby Club has steadily expanded to include home care and bereavement The aim of the parent support group is to identify ways that effectively meet the support needs of parents experiencing having babies in intensive care as well as enabling them to take care of their babies.
The way to support families is by building on their strengths, recognizing individuality and different methods of coping. The parent support group uses a family-centered approach to help parents’ / family members’ involvements with their babies’ care needs, and to provide pertinent information needed in decision making and other aspects of their babies’ care.
Parent-to-parent support sessions are conducted regularly during coffee afternoons to provide opportunities for parents to share with each other. New NICU parents can learn and understand better from other parents who have lived through the experiences. Educational talks are conducted regularly to enable parents / family members / caregivers to be involved in the care of their babies. Volunteer nurses provide homecare services for discharged babies with special needs. Bereavement support helps parents / families cope with the experience of death of their babies.
The Early Bird Baby Club parent support programmes have established collaborative partnership between healthcare professionals and parents. This will continue to grow in the Neonatal Unit as a multi-disciplinary healthcare team work together to address the needs of parents / families of babies receiving intensive care.
Coffee Afternoons are conducted every 1st Thursday of the month for parents whose babies are in NICU. Parents gather together to provide support to each other. A guest parent whose baby has previously graduated from NICU is also invited for the session to share their experiences. The parent-to parent support sessions are conducted regularly to provide parents opportunities to share with each other and to learn from other parents who previously experienced having a baby in NICU. The Coffee Afternoons provide means for parents to share their painful experiences of having a premature baby with other parents who are experiencing similar journeys and in the process have a therapeutic experience. Parents get to interact with parents of other NICU graduates and this gives them motivation to move on.
The sessions are coordinated by the Doctors, Nurses and MSW.
Premature babies often need to spend many months in hospital where the nurses, doctors and other allied workers care for them all day. Parents therefore tend to get worried when the time approaches for them to take their babies home as they realise that they do not have the same support network of help at home.
The aim of the Parent Education Programme is to prepare our parents for the next step in their journey with their child. The programme has been established with the help of volunteers from our staff at KKH. It is run over 4 sessions and held monthly. Parents of babies with birth weights less than 1500grams or who have required long term stay in hospital and are now stable and whom we anticipate to be discharged home in the following few weeks, are invited to attend.
The Premmie Awareness event started out as the Annual Premmie Party that was organised for ex-premmies and their families. These children and their families may have been through some harrowing times in the start of their lives but these are all banished in favour of fun games, dance, arts and crafts.
It is also a time where parents come together to build on existing friendships that have been formed in the NICU and to re- establish a firm belief that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
November is Premmie Awareness month.
The Early Bird Baby Club volunteers run a stall during the Consumer Sales in KKH, where hand-made handicraft and jewellery items as well as 2nd hand toys and books , that have all been donated, are sold. The money received goes to fund Premmie Awareness Events as well as to supply books for our Resource library and for the Breast pumps on the unit that we loan out to parents in need.
NHCS member provide homecare support to parents of babies with special needs. Parents are encouraged to get involved in baby’s care whilst still in hospital prior to discharge and parents are educated and the team will perform home visits and supervise compliancy at home.
NBSG members journey with bereaved parents by providing emotional support and establishing a helping relationship with them to tide them over the difficult moments.
A book of stories by parents of premature babies sharing their wealth of experience in their journey with their premature baby.
Neonatology is the medical specialty of taking care of newborn babies, sick babies, and premature babies. A neonatologist is a doctor that specializes in the field of neonatology. So a neonatologist is a paediatrician who specialises in newborn babies. So if your newborn is premature, or has a serious illness, injury, or birth defect, a neonatologist may assist at the time of delivery and in the subsequent care of your newborn.
Neonatologists work mainly in the special care nurseries or newborn intensive care units of hospitals. In some cases, after a newborn has been discharged from the unit, a neonatologist may provide follow-up care on an outpatient basis.
A neonatal nurse is one of the primary caregivers of a baby in the intensive care unit. The nurse will change the baby's diaper, take his temperature, and ensure that he is fed either intravenously or through the small tube that goes from the nose or the mouth into the stomach. They also give the medications that maybe required. If the parents of an infant are able to visit regularly, a neonatal nurse will teach them how to perform these basic cares. With time, nurses will help parents to feel equipped in all aspects of meeting their little one's needs. A neonatal nurse often gets to know the families of infants very well. In building relationships with these families, they can often provide emotional support and comfort during scary times.
The dietitian provides nutritional intervention to low-birth weight premature babies through screening and identifying babies at nutritional risk to ensure that their unique nutritional needs are met to promote optimal growth and development.
This nutritional intervention, which starts in the NICU, continues till and beyond discharge through:
Parents of premature infants are often caught by surprise at the early arrival of their newborn. Some of them may not be prepared to handle the needs of their premature infants. The occupational therapist is able to provide support to parents in the care of their child.
Premature babies have not had the opportunity to fully develop their sensory systems while in their mother’s womb. Thus, they may be more sensitive to sensory stimulus. The occupational therapist is able to suggest activities to help premature infants who may have sensory regulation issues at the early stages of life.
Some premature babies may have poor postural control. They may require specific handling techniques and special positioning. The occupational therapist will give advice on handling skills for these delicate babies and guide parents in selecting a suitable seating system for them.
The occupational therapist also conducts fine motor assessments to monitor the child’s fine motor skills development at regular intervals. These regular follow ups allow us to identify children who have delayed fine motor skills and provide intervention as soon as possible.
The Physiotherapists manages the premature infants from the acute phase up till the time they go home. Initially, the focus is preventing secretion retention in the lungs through chest physiotherapy and ensuring optimal positioning of the infant to enhance neuro development. Good positioning of the infant prevents tightness of muscles and enhances the infant's awareness of midline. As the infants becomes bigger and more stable, formal assessments of the infant's movements and motor abilities are assessed and the appropriate intervention is administered. The intervention for premature infants includes visual tracking, auditory tracking, head control exercises, tactile stimulation, infant massage, positioning and parent education. The physiotherapists also manage muscle problems such as postural club foot and torticollis through exercise prescription and occasionally splinting.
Speech and Language Therapists maybe involved with premature babies in the special care nursery or in NICU should they have difficulties with feeding. Because premature babies are born before their muscles and nerves are fully developed, some have difficulties with feeding. These difficulties might include not having good oral skills to express milk from the teat or not being able to co-ordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing well. Premature babies need a lot of energy to suck and some can become tired before they have completed their feed. The SLT assesses the baby’s bottling skills and works closely with the parents to ensure that the baby has optimal sucking, swallowing and endurance.
Premature infants are also at greater risk of developing language delays or having difficulties communicating. As the premature infant develops, the Speech and Language Therapist monitors their communication and language development. Intervention may be provided through direct therapy as well as through parent training programmes to provide language stimulation to these children.
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