Posted on November 19, 2016

Additional space in the recently expanded Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Hamad Medical Corporation’s Women’s Hospital is providing parents with the opportunity to become even more involved in the care of their critically ill newborn to ensure their best possible chance of recovery.

“In our Tiny Baby Unit (TBU), we now have the capacity to allocate individual space for our babies that are born before the 28th week of pregnancy,” said Dr. Hilal Al Rifai, Women’s Hospital Medical Director and Director of its Neonatal/Perinatal Services. “This means our nurses have optimal access to each baby and parents have more privacy which gives them a better chance at bonding with their child.”

In the TBU, each baby is assigned a nurse who administers one to one care for the duration of the baby’s stay in the unit. This allows them to build relationships with parents spending more time practicing bonding techniques such as Kangaroo Care. This is an important practice that encourages parents to have skin-to-skin contact with their baby by placing them on their chest which can play an integral role in a baby’s recovery process.

“Having my baby girl born at 24 weeks was the worst thing imaginable. I was shocked, terrified and unprepared for the journey ahead,” said Sally Dandachli whose baby Masa was born at 24 weeks gestation. “Thankfully, the Women’s Hospital NICU staffs caring for Masa were incredible. The doctors listened attentively to our questions, always considered our feedback and the nurses never left my baby’s bedside, helping me bond with her each day. I felt at home in my surroundings amongst caregivers that felt like family and this was an enormous source of comfort during the most difficult time of my life.”

Sally also recalls having the ability to express breastmilk for baby Masa in one of the two new dedicated breastfeeding rooms. Since offering this designated space, the unit has been able to increase the number of babies receiving breastmilk. Specially designed, each room is equipped with special lighting that is meant to enhance relaxation and increase the production of expressed milk. “Our nursing team works with each mother to teach them how to express milk so it can be delivered by a small tube into the baby's stomach,” said Matheus Van Rens, Acting Director of Nursing in the Women’s Hospital NICU. “Breast milk for high risk premature infants is highly desirable and not only as the optimal nutritional dietary source, but also to minimize the risk of infection, and maximize neurodevelopmental maturation and ultimate cognitive function,” he added.

The NICU expansion inaugurated in late 2015 and backed by The Social and Sports Activities Support Fund (Daam) has led to the Women’s Hospital using even better approaches to help improve neuro developmental care outcomes. In the TBU, this means lights are kept dim, loud noises are avoided and disruption is minimized as little as possible to minimize the stress experienced by a preterm infants and ultimately help sick babies get better faster. “Our aim is to provide the safest, most effective and most compassionate care to every neonate in our unit. To do this, we regularly offer development sessions for our 400 staff members who work tirelessly together to keep the unit running effectively and partner with our parents wherever possible to gain valuable feedback,”  said Dr. Hilal.

The unit offers daily support sessions for parents during their HUG (Helping you grasp) days. HUG is a multidisciplinary parent education program which organizes an event every year for both staff and parents in recognition of World Prematurity Day. Held on 17 November, this occasion raises awareness of the specialized care required for preterm infants.