Twins who were born prematurely and underweight will soon experience their first Christmas with their parents after a rocky start to their lives. Little did the parents know, the healing power of cuddles and kangaroo care would be a big part of their babies’ recovery.
“Our twins, Aryan and Arianna, were delivered early at 33 weeks and were small babies; one was under two kilograms and the other just over,” says the babies’ mother, Nourah Wax, 10 months after their birth.
The newborn boy and girl were having difficulty breathing and had to be transferred to the specialised neonatal unit at Netcare Garden City Hospital.
“These are my first children, and it was very nerve wracking to be separated from them, as I had to remain in the hospital where I gave birth for another two days after they were transferred to Netcare Garden City Hospital. As soon as I was discharged, I went straight from one hospital to the other to be with my babies – I didn’t even stop off at home,” she adds.
“I was so happy to see them, and their father, Antonio, and I were so anxious about our precious babies at first. The doctors and nurses encouraged us to hold them, ensuring that our skin touched our babies’ skin as much as possible as part of their treatment. In my heart, it felt so instinctively good to be so close to my babies.”
|Pic: Nourah Wax and her husband Antonio Isaacs are pictured with their premature twins, Aryan and Arianna, in the kangaroo care unit at Netcare Garden City Hospital. Kangaroo care, so named because it mimics the close contact of a mother kangaroo carrying her baby in a pouch close to her body, has particular benefits for premature or low birthweight babies, although it is recognised as being valuable for all mothers and babies in appropriate circumstances.
|Pic: Aryan and Arianna are now healthy 10 month old twins and their parents, Nourah and Antonio, are looking forward to celebrating their first family Christmas together.
“Kangaroo care, so named because it mimics the close contact of a mother kangaroo carrying her baby in a pouch close to her body, has particular benefits for premature or low birthweight babies, although it is recognised as being valuable for all mothers and babies in appropriate circumstances,” adds Verena Bolton, a highly experienced neonatal nurse and national coordinator of Netcare Ncelisa human milk banks.
The World Health Organization [WHO] supports kangaroo care, which is close, continuous skin to skin contact between parents and babies in the first days, weeks and months after birth. This bonding practice is actively encouraged in Netcare maternity and neonatal facilities, and Netcare Garden City Hospital is the first in the Netcare Group to establish a dedicated kangaroo care unit in recognition of the scientifically supported clinical benefits it offers.
“Not only does kangaroo care enhance breastfeeding and bonding, it also has physiological benefits. Just as breastfeeding provides vital biological substances that help to ensure a healthy and normal digestive tract, skin to skin care ensures that a newborn baby’s skin matures and develops a healthy microbiome that contributes to the development of a strong immune system.”
Furthermore, kangaroo care has shown added benefits, including better temperature regulation for the baby and improved cardiac and respiratory function. When a baby is nursed in this way, they tend to have more stable heart rates, more regular breathing, stable blood pressure, and better oxygen saturation levels,” Bolton explains.
“Benefits for the mother include increased production of breast milk, and both parents feel the strength of that close early bonding experience, and the emotional wellbeing that comes with holding your child and giving them your protective loving warmth.”
The twins’ father Antonio was hands on from the beginning. “My husband loved the kangaroo care; he thinks it was the best thing ever. With two babies, we wanted them both to have the full benefit of every kangaroo care session, and so while I was cuddling one baby, daddy would ‘kangaroo’ with the other,” Nourah says.
“Sr Trudie Botha, manager of the kangaroo care unit, explained that it has to be skin to skin contact, so the baby is wearing just a nappy and they strap them onto the mother or father’s naked chest. You can feel every breath they take, you can feel each other’s hearts beating, and you get to know your baby’s unique scent. It’s like you can feel their every need. You can really connect more with your baby when you are that close, and in our experience, we felt it was excellent for bonding.”
At first the parents would have three kangaroo care sessions a day with their babies, and later Nourah was able to stay in the hospital for a week. “That week, I would kangaroo with my babies all day, it was wonderful, and I could see them getting stronger every day,” she recalls.
After three weeks at Netcare Garden City Hospital, including two weeks in the kangaroo care unit, Aryan and Arianna gained weight and their breathing improved, and they were able to go home for the very first time with their parents.
“Now it’s 10 months later, and I want to thank the hospital, the doctors and the nurses for looking after our babies so well. The nurses were so involved and handled them with such care that it was like they were our babies’ second family,” Nourah says.
“We are really looking forward to a big family Christmas, and it will be a very memorable one for us because we will be celebrating our first Christmas as parents with our twins.”
“The kangaroo care unit at Netcare Garden City Hospital is just one example of how families are encouraged to become co-carers, making them active members of the healthcare team, contributing to the wellbeing and development of their own baby to ensure better overall neurodevelopmental outcomes,” Bolton says.
“Emphasising the importance of bonding by facilitating kangaroo care is an inclusive practice that not only enhances the role of parents as co-carers. It also empowers parents and makes them less fearful of taking their baby home. It therefore helps facilitate a smooth transition from hospital to home, which we believe is a fundamental aspect of the family centred care we provide. "
For more information on neonatal intensive care services and outcomes measures within Netcare please visit www.netcare.co.za/netcare-hospitals/specialist-services/women-mother-baby/maternity/neonatal-intensive-care and www.netcare.co.za/Quality-Of-Care/Measures-and-results#/measures-results/general/Filters/topics/147,142,126,38,118,217,164,177/newborn-babies/.
Notes to editor
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