Neonatal Unit Care Package Program Expansion

The Neonatal Unit Care Package program is expanding!

The Neonatal Unit Care Package program has been a flagship support program for Tiny Sparks WA, providing over 110 separate families with a Care Package at a difficult time in their lives. Funded entirely from public donations through Tiny Sparks WA fundraising or individual donations of whole Care Packages, these Care Packages have been well received by recipients and hospital staff, with wonderful feedback offered by recipients, a sample of which is below:

"Loved it at a time when nobody knows what to say or give as a gift"

"It made me feel very supported"

"It was an awesome gesture and really made my day"

"They are an amazing thing to receive, I will be donating"

We are now thrilled to announce a significant expansion of the Neonatal Unit Care Package program!

As of 1 July 2015 the distribution will increase to parents of babies born up to and including 1500g which will capture a significant number more families!

The expanded program has the potential to reach over twice the number of families in the next 12 months than the program has since its commencement in May 2014!

New Outfit Sizes

The original Neonatal Unit outfits that our industrious volunteers have been creating have been sized to approximately 1.2kg, therefore, the expanded Neonatal Unit Care Package program, which will reach babies born up to 1500g, requires a new size of outfit!

Newly posted on our Knitting and Sewing page are additional girls and boys patterns in 'up to 1.6kg' sizing. These have been listed under the 'low stock' heading as they are brand new - if you are able to assist in creating outfits in this new size and building our supplies we would be very grateful! 

Links to full instructions, pattern downloads and FAQs are all available from our Knitting and Sewing page.

We would like to thank all donors past, present and future for allowing the Neonatal Unit Care Package program to be a success and allowing its expansion! We would also like to extend a massive thank you to the key staff at KEMH who distribute all of the Care Packages and who are the crucial link between Tiny Sparks WA and the recipients.

Future Expansion

Yes, we want to keep expanding! Tiny Sparks WA acknowledges that it is not only premature babies that experience the Neonatal Unit, and as such, we are looking towards future expansions to other hospitals that will cater to the families of newly born babies requiring long term Neonatal Unit care due to illness or other reasons. Watch this space!

Full details of all Care Package programs are available on our Care Package page.

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Mother's Day 2015

Sunday 10th May 2015 is Mother's Day in Australia. A day we recognise all our wonderful Mums and acknowledge all things that make them special.

We give special thoughts to those Mums who may be experiencing their first Mother's Day sitting by their babies crib in a neonatal unit, those Mums who are torn between their children at home and their sick baby in a neonatal intensive care unit or special care unit, those Mums who will never get to hold their babies in their arms.

This year, Tiny Sparks WA has provided gifts to mothers with babies in all the major neonatal units across Western Australia including King Edward Memorial Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital Unit, Fiona Stanley Hospital, St John of God Subiaco and Joondalup Hospital.

This gift includes a special card so that the neonatal nurses can create a footprint for the Mums, and a cute cookie cutter shaped into babies feet.

We hope Mums currently visiting their babies in neonatal units know that we are thinking them on this special day.

A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take
— Cardinal Mermillod


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Online Support for Parents of Neonatal Unit (NICU/SCN) Babies in WA

Today we launched an online Facebook Group 'Tiny Sparks WA Neonatal Unit (NICU/SCN) Support Group'. The aim of the group is to provide a network of parents who have a baby in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Nursery (SCN) in Western Australia. Families can share information, ask questions, be a listening post, and provide general peer support in what is a very lonely, scary time.

We hope you will join our community if you currently have or had a baby(s) in a Neonatal Unit (NICU/SCN). Note that membership of this group is subject to approval by one of the Administrators, a Tiny Sparks WA volunteer. If you are not added by an existing member, you will receive a private message requesting you to provide background as to why you wish to join. Please check your 'Other Messages' folder and respond as soon as is practicable.



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Parent Tips - Breastfeeding in the Neonatal Unit

We asked parents on our Facebook community to share tips to help mums currently in the neonatal unit breastfeeding their baby:

"Dont be hard on yourself. A wonderful midwife said "Be kind to yourself" I am still in the unit as my baby is 26 week preemie not 35 weeks. I couldn't breastfeed and I was devasted but wonderful guidence from the team made it easier.Nakia S

"For my bub and I breastfeeding was the best experience. My son was born at 23+3 weeks so I pumped away for a long time (he was tube fed obviously, no bottles except either the Medela Calma teat) and around 37 weeks gestation we started skin to skin and having him near the nipple. He would be so tired trying to suck so we ended up trying a nipple shield and that helped immensely. (I phased out the nipple shield a few months after we were sent home) I was there for 4 breastfeeds a day (other 4 were bottle feeds) in the last 2 weeks but the day we got out of the hospital after a 4 month stay I just put bub to breast. No bottles. Fed on demand which was every 40 minutes but that built my supply and comforted him. I had great support in the NICU and SCN from nurses and the LC's and read many books to educate myself. We breastfed for over 3 years." Lisa R

"Be kind to yourself and seek support from the lactation consultants. I found pumping beside my 28week daughter in the NICU good. When we first tried breastfeeding she would get tired very quickly and would require being tube fed at the end of the feed but she eventually got stronger and by the time she came home after 3 months she was fully breastfed. I did find that I would need to feed her quite regularly at first as she would still tire quicker but she eventually got stronger and I was able to feed her until she was 18months." Michelle C

"My daughter was born so soon after I went into preterm labour, I did not realise how important it was to breastfeed. She was born on a Monday evening, the next morning a midwife showed me how to pump, a few drops came out but that was all. I was too upset to even think about pumping after that, until my husband read somewhere that breast milk was one of the few things we could do for her. So I started trying to pump every 3 hours round the clock 2 days after she was born. I started with 6-7mls, then 20-30mls. After 3 weeks, I was getting 350mls a day, I eventually built up to 500-550mls a day after 4-5 weeks. So don't despair, if you start out slow, just keep going and trying. I started breastfeeding around the 33-34 week mark, while my daughter was still on CPAP. She latched on quite well but tired out easily. I would try to breastfeed her at least 3-4 times a day while still in hospital. She came home fully breastfed and I fed her until she was 16mths actual, 13mths corrected. I even had a scare 8 weeks after she came home, she was sick and not feeding much, so my supply dropped dramatically, but again I kept at it, topped her up with the frozen milk I had and my supply returned after 2 weeks." Sharon L

"I had a my son at 27 weeks. Had a very difficult time expressing. Was doing everything I could to boost milk supply. Motillium, made my own lactation cookies. I managed to do this for 6 months and kept in mind I can only do what I can and any bit of my milk helps him. Unfortunately he lost his battle in Oct but I know I gave it everything I could under very difficult circumstances. I am proud of how long I lasted." Simone BK

"I had my twin boys at 27 +1, i was extremely stressed & worried about their health & my milk supply was so low, i tried everything to increase my supply, expressing next to them, expressing with my baby on my chest, lactation cookies, medication from the doctor, it was so depressing seeing mums walk in with their full milk containers. i expressed all day & night for 8 weeks but would only get less than 100ml a day, i felt a lot of pressure from the nurses to keep expressing & i would be asked twice a day by each of the boys nurses how my milk is going & have i tried this & that. My advice is give it a go but don't beat yourself up if you can't, i really wanted to breastfeed my babies but it just wasn't happening for me." Katie O

"My twin boys were born at 27w 3d gestation and due to capacity issues transferred to another hospital's NICU and along with them went my colostrum. I arrived there two days later, breast pump equipment in hand. I too pumped every three hours around the clock by their incubators, and when the alarms became too much, moved to the expressing room. The lactation consultant on board was informative but maybe I think this as I was one of the fortunate ones whose milk supply was 'good'. I'm not sure if I'd have felt the same if it wasn't. The pressure I found to supply breast milk not only coming from my inner voice but all around was huge. I know mums that were trying so hard and producing very little despite their efforts. I don't know if I would have been as motivated especially with all the stress associated with being in NICU. In terms of tips and things that I think could have been communicated better, it's a transition process made up of a number of phases. Expect to experience an adjustment period perhaps difficulty as you move from one to the other. 
Phase 1; the first 20 expressions; colostrum
Phase 2; build milk supply
Phase 3, breast contact
Phase 4; suck feeds
Phase 5; build suck feeds 
Phase 6; full breast or express or both?  
Phase 7: transition to alternatives (note phase 7 may precede any of the previous phases at any time)
My boys are almost ten months old (almost 7 months corrected). Somehow we navigated all the bumps so that they were both fully breastfeed until one became ill and was readmitted into hospital, we then went to my frozen supply and expressed breast milk. When demand became greater than supply, we held our breaths and moved to mixed feeds at three months corrected. Still pumping and now facing the next challenge, move to solids. 
And the quick sum, ask for support, forgive and be kind to yourself. You did great already." Sonya G



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Parent Tips - Bonding in NICU/SCN

We asked parents on our Facebook community to share their experience on the best ways to bond with your baby whilst in NICU/SCN:

"I used to sing to my baby everyday and once we were in special care I started reading her books, it made us feel like 'real' parents." Samantha

"Kangaroo care. Push for it. Make sure from the doctors your baby is stable enough for more than one session a day. Push for it with the nurses once the doctors clear it. We cuddled for hours on end once stable. I told her what we had done the night before and morning. What was going on with friends and family. And because we did kangaroo care for so many hours every day now at 8 months (5 1/2 corrected) anytime she is upset or cranky I put her on my chest (not skin to skin) and she calms down. It's her safe spot and there is nowhere better in her eyes when she needs me. And I love that." April

"Kangaroo care definitely u need to keep asking as more often then not ur only allowed once a day" Charmaine

"If you don't get kangaroo care straight away (I didn't get to hold Stella for the first 5 and a half weeks of her life), talk to them about everything.... all the time. I also had an ipod in her humidicrib playing music. She actually disliked one song played on the ipod and would always react to it! If you are able to, take on as many of their cares as you can, it helps you with feeling involved in their care and a great way to bond." Theresa

"I too was unable to hold Evan for over 7 weeks. So I sung to him read to him and held his tiny hand everyday x " Tarsha

"I was separated from OSKAR so I had a bunny rug with his smell I could take home with me n a little stuffed toy (giraffe) with my smell on it - so he would always know I was his mummy as everyone else was holding n doing stuff to him except me:( . A picture of him on my phone stopped my heart from breaking every time I walked in the house. I also sang my lullaby to him:) which I still do to this day. " Tara

"I think kangaroo care is wonderful if you can get it, but don't underestimate the power of singing, talking, touching, reading and just sitting with bubs. Your voice is the most important thing. Also, try to celebrate having them as best you can even if the circumstances are not optimum, after all it's the start of their life and it's a miracle!" Cat

"I loved kangaroo care and breastfeeding when able but just doing cares was a huge bonding thing at the very beginning. Sometimes just feeling like u r part of the care they r given rather than a bystander watching others care for your child can b a really bonding moment." Kelly-Maree

"Kangaroo care for sure. Still remember the first time they placed Emily on my chest. But also just doing the cares, really helps to feel involved. I also found it helpful to be there for rounds as much as possible, to know what was going on, and learning what the chart and all the numbers etc meant. Helped me feel involved in her care and more like a normal parent. Also just hold their hand. Emily loved to wrap her hand around my finger and would grip so tight. Another one when unable to do kangaroo care was just placing hand on lower back/bottom and gentle bum pats, seemed to often soothe her. And yeah just talking to her so she would know the voice." Wayne



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