Making things easier during stressful time

About one in 10 of the 2,400 babies born at the Huntingdon hospital goes into special care. (SCBU) The babies treated there are either born prematurely, born underweight or are ill. The lightest baby ever treated at Hinchingbrooke weighed just 435 grams

About one in 10 of the 2,400 babies born at the Huntingdon hospital goes into special care. (SCBU)

The babies treated there are either born prematurely, born underweight or are ill. The lightest baby ever treated at Hinchingbrooke weighed just 435 grams - about one pound.

That baby survived and is now aged 10. It just goes to show how far specialist care for babies has advanced over the decades.

At Hinchingbrooke, some babies stay in the unit for as little as two hours. In other words, they just go in for a check, but others can stay for weeks and months and it can be a very worrying time for parents.


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Pinned on the wall at the entrance to the unit is feedback from a parent questionnaire every parent is invited to complete.

Sister Jeanette Kennerley, ward manager, says: "It is a very stressful time for the whole family and our job is to make it the best that we can. Parents are always welcome here."

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The unit can take 12 babies at any one time. There are two intensive care cots, where babies will be on full ventilation and two high dependency cots as well as two beds where mothers can stay to be close to their babies.

SCBU has seven consultant paediatricians caring for the babies and each young patient is assigned to the consultant on duty at the time of admission. Doctors are available 24 hours a day, but the unit tries to ensure that mothers are involved as much as possible.

The unit encourages "kangaroo care" where the baby is held close to the mother, kept warm by her body and reassured by her heartbeat.

However, monitors and machines are essential to the daily care of the most of infants who spend time in the unit and high-tech equipment allows the babies to be monitored with the minimum of intrusion. Though these are replaced during an ongoing programme as technology is always advancing. Voluntary donations help them to provide the latest equipment.

Melanie Lawson's son James was born weighing nearly nine pounds, 12 ounces in July but needed special care for eight days after mother and child developed an infection during labour. He was treated with antibiotics feed through a tube in his nose and he had a lumber puncture.

It was her first baby and a worrying time but she felt that the unit staff went out of their way to help.

Mrs Lawson told The Hunts Post her only "criticism" was that there are no lavatories in the special care unit.

"I had a problem with my leg and I was in a wheelchair so it was a bit of an ordeal. The unit is incredibly hot so you end up drinking a huge amount of water (breast-feeding mothers also find they drink more as part of the process of making milk).

"They couldn't do enough for you. It is a stressful time. It is hard having somebody else tell you when you can hold your baby. It is not pleasant but they try very hard to make things as pleasant as they can be.

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