The study, part of the ‘Avoiding Term Admissions Into Neonatal Units’ [Atain] programme, looked at whether too many newborns in the UK are being admitted to neonatal units for common health problems and missing the chance for “vital” early skin-to-skin contact.
The health trust is currently trying to reduce the number of parents and children who are taken away from each other to be treated for things like hypocalcemia (low blood sugar), jaundice and respiratory problems, in the early stages of life.
Over the last six years, admission figures have been rising – between 2011 and 2014 the number of babies admitted went up by 24% and then a further 6% in 2015, despite an actual fall in live term births.
Although some of these separations were found to be entirely appropriate (such as congenital abnormalities). In almost two thirds of cases, the report concluded that care could have been managed without separating the child from parent, either in the hospital or community.
The NHS has made it a priority to reduce the admission of full term babies to neonatal units, but the reason why medical practitioners so concerned about this over prescription of babies to neonatal wards isn’t just about budgets.
Instead they are looking at links between taking this action and “disturbing a mother’s ability to bond with her baby” as experts say that this is playing a role in diminishing the mother’s opportunities for skin-to-skin contact.
An NHS statement said: “In the first few minutes and hours of a baby’s birth, skin-to-skin contact plays a vital role in regulating the babies’ heartbeat, temperature and breathing. It helps the baby to feel safe and secure, reducing stress through the release of calming hormones.”
Not only that, but mothers who do not have this initial window of opportunity are delayed in initiating and maintaining breastfeeding.
Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, told The Huffington Post UK: “We must reduce unnecessary admissions to neonatal intensive care unit and readmissions to hospital. Mothers and babies should never be separated unless this is absolutely necessary.
“However, like other safety initiatives it needs time, education and resources to ensure the changes it indicates are embedded fully and have the impact we hope for.”