Article by Teddy & Me
Expecting a baby can be a very exciting time, however if your precious bundle puts in an appearance earlier than planned, the emotional rollercoaster ride can be extremely stressful for the whole family.
A baby is classed as premature if it arrives before 37 weeks gestation. In the UK, one in every eight babies is born too soon, either as a result of labour starting early or the delivery being induced. The cause of many premature births is often unknown, but contributing factors can include infection, smoking or use of recreational drugs during pregnancy, being underweight or being under 18 years of age or over 35 years of age. A birth may be induced early if there is a health risk to baby or mum, such as pre-eclampsia.
Survival statistics improve the further progressed the pregnancy is, but from 24 weeks gestation, the baby is considered viable. The smaller the baby, the more care it will need immediately after birth. There are 228 neonatal units in the UK offering three levels of care for preemies:
Special Care (Level 1)
For babies who require continuous monitoring of respiration or heart rate; for babies receiving added oxygen, being tube fed, receiving phototherapy or recovering from more specialist care.
- Special Care nurse to baby ratio – 1:4
High Dependency Care (Level 2)
For babies receiving oxygen from nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) but not fulfilling any of the categories for intensive care; any baby below 1,000gms who does not fulfil any of the categories for intensive care; babies receiving parental nutrition, with apnoea requiring stimulation.
- High Dependency Care nurse to baby ratio – 1:2
Intensive Care (Level 3)
For babies needing respiratory support (ventilation); for babies weighing less than 1,000g and/or born at less than 28 weeks’ gestation and receiving nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP); for babies with severe respiratory disease or who require major surgery.
- Intensive Care nurse to baby ratio – 1:1
Having a baby in neonatal care can be distressing and frightening for parents. Seeing your baby connected to lots of tubes and wires and not being able to hold them close, coupled with the worry of whether they will survive can be exhausting, both mentally and physically but it is important for the hospital to monitor body temperature, organ function and oxygen levels and ensure baby is nourished to maximise survival chances.
One of the most important issues when caring for a premature baby is maintaining an appropriate body temperature and most baby clothes; even newborn size, will be too big. As the skin is so fragile, handling of baby must be kept to a minimum and clothing that is too large is simply going to irritate and cause difficulties in the incubator. Thankfully, a Kenilworth-based company has come to the rescue by developing an amazing range of baby clothing designed to fit premature, poorly and low birth weight babies, taking into consideration any leads, drips or monitors. The garments are designed and manufactured in Britain and focus on comfort, fit and practicality. Special attention has been paid to soft flat seams and soft care labels to ensure that the skin is protected. The clothes are available to fit babies as small as 1lb and up to six months.
Founder of Teddy & Me, Sharon Ward said: “Every six minutes in the UK a baby is born needing neonatal special care. Imagine that baby is so small you could hold it in the palm of your hand. Keeping these babies warm is key to their survival so we set about working with neonatal professionals to design a range of clothes that meet this vital need. The first collection was so successful that we had to expand our range quickly and now supply a number of baby boutiques and several John Lewis stores around the country. We also sell direct via our website with a next day delivery service, so we can respond to an early arrival instantly. ”
“The number of premature births in the UK is on the increase, largely affected by IVF treatment which can result in multiple births. Typically twins are delivered around 37 weeks and triplets at 33 weeks and the birth weights tend to be lower. Teddy & Me clothing has proved to be the perfect solution to a real need.
“The development of Teddy & Me has been a true labour of love. As parents of a premature baby, my husband and I know how emotionally draining and frightening the experience is,” explained Sharon. “Our son Daniel arrived unexpectedly at 34 weeks, after I developed pre-eclampsia and the lesser known complication, HELLP syndrome.”
More About Sharon Ward, www.teddyandme.co.uk
Sharon Ward is a UK Mum who set up her own business in 2008 called Teddy & Me and almost 5 years on is celebrating its success. The company designs, manufactures and sells clothing for premature and tiny babies up to six months of age. A baby is classed as premature if it is born before 37 weeks gestation. In the UK, 1 in every 8 babies is born too soon.
After the birth of her son Louis, Sharon became involved with a charity called ADAPT based at Leicester Royal Infirmary. The charity supports parents who have a premature baby. In conversations, these parents were all talking about how they wanted to be able to dress their tiny baby but couldn’t find clothes that were suitable, a frustration felt by staff too – clothes were either too big, uncomfortable or the openings and fasteners were simply not practical.
Sharon took this information on board and set about working with neonatal professionals and parents to come up with a concept for a range of clothing that was not only gestationally proportionate to ensure a good fit, but were also comfortable and practical, taking into account the need for drips, leads and monitors often used in neonatal care. The first garments were produced and received amazing reviews.
Sharon has built on her knowledge and experience and now has a large range of clothes catering for babies weighing as little as 400g up to 16lbs (6 months of age). The clothes are used and recommended by neonatal units and are now on sale in department stores, baby boutiques and directly from the website, www.teddyandme.co.uk There is an increasing number of international customers now stocking the Teddy & Me range too.
“Our clothing is very different from products you might come across in some high street stores. We take into consideration the need for totally flat seams so that baby’s skin is not irritated, ease of access so that baby can be dressed with minimal handling to avoid distress, and areas for leads and wires to be fed through if required. We also consider where to put the fasteners which can create pressure sores in early babies. These elements coupled with the fact our clothes are British made have helped make Teddy & Me so successful.”
Ironically, in 2010 Sharon became a mother of a premature baby, Daniel. At just 34 weeks pregnant, Sharon developed a serious health condition called HELLP Syndrome which put her and her baby at risk. Daniel was delivered early and had to spend time in neonatal care.
“Being a Mum in business is not always easy,” said Sharon. “Juggling the school run, taking Daniel to nursery and getting to the office for a full day of meetings can be tricky, but the feedback we get from parents, who are just so delighted to be able to dress their baby in proper clothes for the very first time, makes everything worthwhile. I get great satisfaction from helping other parents through the stressful time of having an early baby and I really do understand their needs and worries.”
“I have met lots of mumpreneurs over the last few years,” said Sharon. “It is a big step to set up your own business, but being your own boss, managing your own diary and watching your ideas become reality is incredibly rewarding. There is also a sense of camaraderie amongst many mums in business, we are all happy to help each other and where possible, promote each other’s companies. I keep in touch with lots of mummy bloggers and mums in business and we often share ideas and celebrate successes together.”
Teddy & Me recently moved to business premises and is now run by a team of four who look after the design, manufacture, marketing and processing of orders. The company may be all about tiny clothes, but it certainly has big plans with lots of new stockists in the pipeline and a brand new range to be launched this month.
Teddy & Me will be attending Bubble London in January which is a trade exhibition for childrenswear.
For more information about Teddy & Me and to find local stockists, call +44 1926 856069 or visit www.teddyandme.co.uk The company also provides help and advice via its Facebook page which provides an opportunity for parents to network and support each other.
On Saturday 17th November, World Prematurity Day will be marked around the globe. For details visit: http://www.efcni.org/index.php?id=991
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