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A new program at Mater Mothers’ Hospital is giving parents the skills they need to take their premature babies home sooner and with additional support.
The HOPE program (Home for Our Patients Earlier) is an early discharge program for Special Care Nursery (SCN) patients, aimed at teaching parents how to look after feeding tubes for their premature babies who are transitioning to go home – helping them to establish an even closer bond with their child.
The HOPE Program helps parents support their baby learning to take all feeds via breast or bottle before leaving the hospital.
Shining the spotlight on the program for World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August), Mater Mothers’ Neonatal Transfers and Discharges Clinical Services Coordinator Beth Thomas said the program helps babies establish oral feeding, and helps sustain and improve breastfeeding practices for patients in the SCN.
Ms Thomas said the program enabled parents to bond with their baby at home and integrate them into family life while safely shortening their hospital stay.
“Parents are taught how to manage and feed their baby via a gastric tube while they are working towards taking all of their feeds from the breast or bottle,” Ms Thomas said.
She said families who meet criteria undergo special training to manage tube feeds for their baby at home.
“A designated HOPE Nurse will work with the family to ensure they are prepared for discharge and support their ongoing journey through daily telehealth consults and home visits,” Ms Thomas said.
Ms Thomas said the HOPE Program aims to decrease time in hospital, lessening the risk of acquiring hospital associated infections and reducing the financial burden on families visiting the SCN daily.
Fortitude Valley mum and midwife Kristen Meadows said participating in the HOPE program was a “blessing” after her twins Ivy and Ella were born via an emergency caesarean, when she went into labour 13 weeks early at Mater Mothers’ Hospital.
Ms Meadows, who gave birth in April, said HOPE Program nurses taught her everything she needed to know about caring for Ella and Ivy – allowing her to bring them home at 37 weeks instead of the more common 40-week mark.
“Both the girls came home with feeding tubes, which was so liberating because my partner and I knew we could care for them in the comfort of our own home with no monitors beeping away,” Ms Meadows said.
“For us to be home and together as a family was very beneficial and made things easier.”
Ms Meadows said her “happy and healthy” three-month-old’s were exclusively breastfed thanks to the support she received through Mater’s HOPE Program.
“The lactation consultants really helped by teaching me techniques to assist the girls with breastfeeds once their tubes came out – we always had reassurance and guidance,” she said.
“We were supported the whole time, even when it took the girls a while to get the hang of latching and even bottle-feeding.”
Mater Mothers’ Acting Director of Neonatology Dr Luke Jardine said: “Having a premature baby in hospital for a long time can place an enormous strain on families and relationships, so anything we can do to see those families together at home sooner, is a real bonus”.
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