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Media Release for NUMB

Media Release for NUMB

As parliamentary support grows for keeping incarcerated women and their babies together, there is still one group of mothers denied the right to stay with their babies; mothers of premature babies. A group of mothers is lobbying the government for mothers and babies to have the same right: to be allowed to stay together.

The vast majority of mothers of premature and sick newborns find themselves discharged from hospital after what may have been a frightening and untimely end to their pregnancy, and relegated to the status of visitor.

This enforced separation may continue for weeks or even months.

This isn’t true for any other hospitalised child who can have Mum or Dad stay at their bedside. In fact if asked, most parents would say, “Of course I would be there! No one could keep me away.”

This option for parents to stay with their hospitalised children is only a recent development in New Zealand history. In the 1950’s parents were only allowed to visit for one hour on a Sunday.

By contrast, women with babies in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are often persuaded to leave their baby in the care of staff and go home.

Routinely staying overnight is rarely an option, until just before the baby is due to be discharged. This separation of a newborn from his or her mother would be unacceptable in the general community.

It is well known that space in NICUs is at a premium. A recent Ministry of Health review of neonatal intensive care services confirmed that New Zealand hospitals are almost 20 beds short of the minimum number of level-three cots needed. However mothers are not asking for much. A recliner chair beside the incubator or cot, and a breast pump, is all mothers need.

Even with the high level of technical intervention needed for these sick babies, the mother has an invaluable contribution to make to her baby’s well being. This contribution recognizes her unique and irreplaceable role as the mother, not merely a visitor. Research confirms that babies’ heart-beat and temperature remain much more stable when they receive mother care and they tend to gain weight faster and go home quicker.

NUMB (Neonatal Unity for Mothers and Babies) is campaigning for mothers to be able to choose to stay with their baby or babies in the NICU. NUMB distributed a petition asking the government to provide rooming-in facilities for mothers of babies in NICUs, in 2005 and got over 2500 signatures, which were presented to parliament in February this year. In April, NUMB presented a submission to the Health Select Committee and is currently awaiting a response.

NUMB has a website at which has information and articles about the effects of mother baby separation, the benefits of Kangaroo mother care, and tips and suggestions for surviving the NICU, for parents and supporters. A forum has been set up on the site for ongoing discussion about this issue. We welcome you to come and share your views.


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