WATCH: Premature babies boost

The simulation of the warmth, safety and comfort of a mother’s womb is the focus of a Frere Hospital unit looking after babies born prematurely.


The hospital last year received a R1.3-million donation from the Danish government, which was used to buy “nesting blankets”, which can be shaped around babies to mimic the womb, and kangaroo wraps.

The room where the babies are kept also has the right light, sound and temperature to further simulate the womb.

Coupled with this is a programme involving occupational therapists, dieticians, physiotherapists and other health practitioners, to educate mothers who have premature births in how to care for their newborns.

Frere CEO Dr Rolene Wagner said the developments took place after they noticed that up to 20% of babies delivered had low birth weights or arrived prematurely.

“We then found that the new moms find it daunting to care for their small babies,” Wagner said.

In incubators the babies have blankets around them that are meant to make them feel like they are in the womb, and so they kick against them, which helps develop muscle tone.

Since it started running last year, about 150 premature babies have been cared for in the new system.

Wagner said the hospital focused on controlling the light and sound that entered the nursery.

They are also teaching new moms in other hospitals, including Cecilia Makiwane, Frontier, Victoria, Fort Beaufort and Bhisho hospitals.

Occupational therapists Anastacia Scholtz-Adams and Jessica Durrheim said they worked in a way to address several aspects of children’s health.

“We were trained in the development and care of premature babies. We educate the moms about how to care for their small and fragile babies.

“We teach them kangaroo mother care, which is essential for the growth and development of the babies to continue outside the womb.

“This form of care involves skin-to-skin contact between mother and child,” Scholtz-Adams said.

A few facts about premature babies:

  • Babies born before 37 weeks are considered premature;
  • Their skin is transparent and sensitive to touch;
  • Premature babies hear sounds twice as loud as adults;
  • The eyes’ protective mechanism only develops at 36 weeks; and
  • The babies’ overall sensory system is fragile and easily stressed.

First-time mom Sinovuyo Flepisi, 26, gave birth on March 14 at 29 weeks. Her baby girl, Hlombe, weighed 980g at birth. She now weighs 1.6kg. Flepisi said she was not surprised when she gave birth prematurely.

“My doctor told me that because of high blood pressure I would give birth before time. I was not scared of the baby’s size because I googled ‘premature babies’ before I gave birth so that I could have an idea of what to expect. Her father was very scared. He is warming up to her now that she is getting bigger,” she said.

Azisiwe Ngcingi gave birth to her baby, Olumiyo, at 28 weeks on April 6. She said she was scared of the size of the child.

“I had never seen a premature baby before; she was born at 1kg and she was very small,” she said.

Flepisi said they were all learning a lot from the workshops at Frere. -

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