In 1991, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) to promote hospitals to achieve an optimal level of care for newborns namely in terms of feeding and mother and child bonding.

Over the years, the initiative has continued to grow with hospitals all around the world working to improve their existing systems and create a more friendly and conducive environment for babies.

Here are three ways hospitals have been improving their infrastructure to become more baby-friendly.

Getting rid of nurseries

In the United States, many hospitals are making the move away from nurseries and moving towards having babies near the mothers in the same hospital room. This move comes amidst recommendations from doctors and healthcare administrators to keep babies within close proximities of their mothers shortly after birth to help promote mother-baby bonding and feeding.

Moreover, the removal of a viewing window provides an additional level or privacy which can help promote breastfeeding. All of these come in-line with the objectives of the BFHI, of which there are currently an estimated 530 of in the United States alone.

Among these hospitals is the Massachusetts General Hospital which has already started to adopt the new protocol.

According to Lori Pugsley, the Newborn Family Units Nursing Director of the hospital, "The research is abundant, and it shows the benefits of keeping a mom and baby together in a room really creates an environment that's the healthiest for the baby and the healthiest for the mothers,".

Nevertheless, not all parents are onboard this decision and understandably so. For starters, the American healthcare setting has a deep-rooted relationship with nurseries and viewing windows dating back to the early 20th century in New York’s famous Coney Island “Infant Incubators”.

On top of that, such a radical shift in newborn protocol also comes as an unexpected change for parents, especially mothers who expect a period of rest after just having given birth.

Ultimately, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have issued a statement respecting both sides of the coin stating their support for breastfeeding yet, respecting the decisions of mothers. Ultimately, change is certain to come but, like all good things, come in time.

The Infant Cuddle Programme

Meanwhile, several hospitals in the United States are beginning a cuddle programme which has since shown great benefit and is starting to spread all around the country. In Boston, the Boston Medical Center has form the CALM (Cuddling Assists in Lowering Maternal and infant stress) programme, a cuddling programme aimed at helping calm babies down from opioid withdrawal.

Babies suffering from opioid withdrawal experience symptoms such as difficulty sleeping and feeding together with twitching and tremors. Rather than relying on drugs, the team decided to approach the problem from a non-pharmacological standpoint by providing cuddling services to these babies. Thus far, the program which is run by volunteers, has shown great success with parents even encouraged to step-in.

“They’re calmed by the fact that someone is holding them,” said pediatrician Dr. Elisha Wachman, who runs the CALM program and has studied NAS at Boston University.

In Dayton, Ohio, the Miami Valley Hospital has formulated a similar cuddling programme, recruiting volunteer cuddlers to help infants suffering from opioid withdrawal.

Many of the volunteers for the programme are retirees who were parents themselves wanting to help out mothers who were too unable to tend to their baby’s needs. In the short period of time since the introduction of the programme, the hospital has already seen in notable improvement in the babies conditions with similarly positive feedback from the volunteers.

"The mom's arms are the best medicine for these babies, but if the mom cannot be there to provide the cuddling social interaction, the cuddlers can help fill that void and help soothe and comfort these babies," Amy Clayton, a clinical nurse educator at the Miami Valley Hospital mentioned.

Babypod Transportation

The “Babypod” is designed to be light, strong and easily accessible. Photo Credit: Williams Advanced Engineering/BBC
The “Babypod” is designed to be light, strong and easily accessible. Photo Credit: Williams Advanced Engineering/BBC

Over in the United Kingdom, Williams Advanced Engineering, a sister business of the famed Williams Formula 1 team has used the best of its engineering abilities to come up with a hi-tech carrier for critically ill newborns, the Babypod.

Made from Formula 1 derived technology and materials, the team were able to create Babypod 20, a sleek, lightweight box sporting a sliding transparent canopy and heavily padded interior.

Made from the ultra-strong yet incredibly lightweight carbon fiber – the same material used to make Formula 1 cars – the Williams team designed the Babypod to be a pod to transport critically ill babies whether by car, ambulance of helicopter. Furthermore, the Williams team has invested its year of knowhow from Formula 1 racing into the Babypod. The end result is a transport pod that weighs just 9.1 kg, is small in size yet able to withstand an impact of up to 20G.

Traditionally, incubators have also been relied on when it comes to travelling critically ill babies but they suffered from the downside of being heavy, cumbersome and requiring an external power supply or dedicated transport system.

But, Williams aims to change all of that with its new invention, the Babypod, which shares all of an incubators benefits without any of its quirks. The only hurdle to it all remains to be the cost at 5,000 Pounds per unit. MIMS

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