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Media release - Keep preterm babies with their mothers, says Paediatric Society

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Some preterm babies should be kept with their mothers rather than taken to neonatal or special care units, says the Paediatric Society of New Zealand (PSNZ).

Paediatric Society Executive Committee member Associate Professor Nicola Austin says, “Keeping mothers and babies together gives the best opportunity to establish breastfeeding and the support given promotes the well-being of mother and baby.

Today is World Prematurity Day, which aims to raise awareness of the challenges and burden of preterm birth globally. The global theme for World Prematurity Day 2021 is Zero Separation Act now! Keep parents and babies together, even if born too soon.

Professor Austin says, “In New Zealand 7.4 percent of births are born premature or before the 37th week of pregnancy. That’s around 4,500 births a year.

“Prematurity is more common if the babies are multiples (twins or triplets). Māori babies are overrepresented and the impact on whānau is significant and needs to be addressed.

“This year’s theme particularly resonates with the Newborn Network of the PSNZ. The 2020 review of transitional care in New Zealand by the PSNZ and the Ministry of Health was released this year. This focussed on the care and resources babies born near term need so they can stay with their mother on the postnatal ward. The alternative is admission to a neonatal or special care babies unit and separation from the mother, until ready for discharge home.”

Professor Austin says, “Work is continuing with a group of nurses, midwives and paediatricians writing protocols and the resources needed to care for these preterm babies. Staffing and the physical environment are two significant areas to be addressed nationally.”


For further information or interviews please contact Ally Clelland, Communications Manager, Paediatric Society NZ, 022 044 2161.

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