Project Sees Prem Babies Home Earlier

A pioneering new programme that lets premature babies go home from hospital earlier is being extended in Oxford.

Babies born early have problems with co-ordinating sucking and swallowing so are fed through a nasogastric tube until they can manage on their own.

If babies at the John Radcliffe in Oxford are clinically well, their parents are being taught to use a feeding tube to allow them to go home earlier.

The scheme, for babies born between 28 and 34 weeks who are otherwise well, is the only one of its kind in the South Central region.

The project's now being rolled out to the Horton General Hospital in Banbury after starting at the John Radcliffe in July.

Consultant Neonatologist Dr Eleri Adams Director of the hospital’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit says they don't send the babies home until the parents are able to manage the feeding overnight;

"The problem with these babies is that they don’t co-ordinate their sucking and swallowing until they get a bit older, so sometimes we alternate tube feeding with sucking feeds.

"The parents are able to take the babies home on a regime of tube feeding, so that they are able to carry on family life without multiple trips to the hospital. Our neonatal outreach nurses see them at home on a regular basis, and check that they are doing well.”

The babies are tube-fed for just a few days tip to 2 weeks or more with doctors finding in general, babies are able to come off tube feeding far more quickly than if they had remained in hospital. 

Dr Adams says: “It is excellent for maternal bonding, supporting breast-feeding and improving quality of care for the whole family. This is an initiative to try and keep babies with their families as much as possible.”

Kate Flynch-Bloss from Denchworth near Wantage was the fist mum to learn to tube feed after he daughter Poppy arrived early.

She said; "It was a good three hour commute daily (to the hospital) and you're only there for 6 hours a day so if they're only feeding every three to four hours you're only seeing one proper feed a day, so there's no bonding as such."

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