Tiny Tales Of Hope: Ulster Hospital’s Neonatal Unit Celebrates World Prematurity Day

20th November 2023

There was much to celebrate on Friday November 17th as mums, dads, grandparents and neonatal staff marked a very important calendar date, World Prematurity Day. The Ulster Hospital’s Neonatal unit received a visit from the charity TinyLife who presented parents and their premature babies with a little bath packed with surprises as well as their Tiny Tales of Hope book.

On average six children are born prematurely every day in Northern Ireland, almost one every four hours. November is a significant month in the calendar for premature babies and their families, as throughout the month, TinyLife organises events and helps families tell their stories through their annual ‘Premvember’ campaign. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness for the challenges of preterm birth and shine a light on the risks and consequences faced by preterm infants and their families.

Jill Trimble give birth to twins, a boy and a girl at 30 weeks. The support of TinyLife proved so invaluable that she became a Family Support Officer with the charity.

“During Prevember we celebrate all the babies born too soon, too small and too sick. Our support to parents begins on the Unit, where we offer one-to-one support and a breast pump loan service so that our mums can provide milk for their babies when they go home. Expressing milk helps to create the feeling that they are doing something for their baby while their baby is in the neonatal unit. Parents do experience very different journeys and no parent expects to be here, but to have support and empathy is very important,” she said.

“We go out into the community to deliver baby massage and our Tiny Time parent and baby group offers essential peer support.

“Premvember is a chance for us to reflect on the year gone past, the work, the partnerships, especially with the staff here at the Ulster. The entire team is amazing. We are delighted to be able to present parents with a bath and one of our TinyLife families has donated nappies and sanitary items to mark World Prematurity Day.”

Neonatal Clinical Sister Joanne Megrath added, “It is so important to mark World Prematurity Day with our families. Our theme for today is ‘Tiny Tales’ and we are working with our local library on the importance of reading to your baby in the Unit. Classes are available and applications to join the library once discharged. All the babies have print of their foot made into a picture today and our midwifery students from Queen’s University have been so helpful in putting those together. Our parents have really enjoyed receiving the baths and gifts which further reinforced our close link with TinyLife.”

Lesley Kearney’s son Jaxson was born four weeks early on Tuesday weighing 6lbs 2ozs, she described the neonatal staff as “unreal”. “Joanne cares about you and the baby, she has been checking up on me when I’m on my ward and letting me know how my baby is doing. It was really kind to have been given the bath. I’ve been ready for a baby since I was no age, just didn’t expect his arrival to be so dramatic. My sister was premature as well. This is not a 9-5 job – when the staff are at home they are still thinking about the babies they are looking after.”

Natasha Murphy and Kyle Sneddon’s son Tommy was born weighing 4lb 10ozs on Sunday. “The support we have received has been unbelievable,” explained Natasha. “We are here for at least 12 hours a day and the staff are here to help if you need anything, it’s just fantastic. Tommy has overcome so much and I feel that has happened through the support of everyone here.”

For further information on TinyLife visit www.tinylife.org.uk