This week we would like to tell you about another of our small babies who was looked after at Kivunge Hospital. This was the mother’s sixth pregnancy, but all her previous babies had also been born prematurely and very sadly all had died when then were small. Being born early is a huge risk for a baby and without the right care unfortunately many do die. Up to 80% of neonatal deaths in places like Zanzibar are associated with being born too early or too small.
So this small baby was very precious - as of course are all the babies we look after - She was born at 1.5kg (about 3 ½ pounds). She was supported for the first few minutes of her life as she learnt to breathe and then once she was stable she was weighed in the maternity unit and the midwives referred her to our kangaroo mother care room (KMC).
The KMC is a ward for mother’s and babies under 2 kg. It was set up by HIPZ volunteers and local staff last October and has since looked after more than 60 small babies.
The most important things for small babies are warmth, getting enough milk and watching out for any problems (danger signs). In order to keep the baby warm we encourage and teach mothers about keeping baby skin to skin.
This young girl stayed warm with mama but unfortunately wasn’t ready to breastfeed yet. First we try to feed from a tiny cup or a spoon but she couldn’t do this either. So for the first 4 days she was fed via a small tube from her nose to her stomach (an NG tube). The current HIPZ volunteers have supported the local nurses and doctors in how to feed babies safely via an NG tube and also how to carefully increase the feeds each day and to watch out for any problems. After 4 days she was strong enough to feed from a cup and to start to practice breastfeeding.
Without this kind of support and monitoring babies can easily get very sick as they will not get the right nutrition. At first she needed a little formula milk (kindly supported by ZIDO) and then later mama had enough breastmilk. Each day in the KMC room we talked with mama, weighed the baby and monitored her vital signs. She spent about 3 weeks in the unit slowly growing big enough to safely go home. Once she had reached 1.75kg and was growing well with no problems mama was able to take home a healthy baby for the first time. Of course she was still small so we continue to monitor her via the paediatric outpatient clinic at Kivunge.
She is doing very well and mama is so grateful to all the staff, volunteers and supporters who have made it possible for this small baby to have such a good start in life.