Karlie Burgess says the program allows both parents to connect with River. (ABC News: Rhiana Whitson)
Hobart mother Karlie Burgess spends hours each day at the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH) enjoying skin-to-skin contact with her baby River.
River was born nine weeks premature and is being cared for at the hospital’s Neonatal and Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.
The hospital has been nationally recognised for promoting a technique called kangaroo care; giving premature babies skin-to-skin contact with their parents.
River is one of 400 premature babies treated each year at the neonatal unit which is averaging of 172.28 minutes of skin-to-skin contact a day.
“It is amazing to be able to give River this opportunity to connect with myself and even my partner, who loves coming and giving River a kanga-cuddle after work,” Ms Burgess said.
“It is our time to be connected and show him that we love him.”
The first-time mum said having a premature baby was not something she and partner Kyle Lighten had planned on.
“It was overwhelming. They said River stopped growing for the last two week and my placenta had died,” she said.
River is one of 400 premature babies treated at the Royal Hobart Hospital each year. (ABC News: Rhiana Whitson)
“I started having emergency contractions before the emergency caesarean.”
The new family was able to have a family photo after River was born before he had to go into a crib to grow stronger.
Ms Burgess said she was not able to hold him again for a day or two.
“I felt a rush come over me, I can’t explain it I felt really connected. It was the most amazing feeling to be able to connect with my baby,” she said.
Ms Burgess credits the program with helping River start to breastfeed.
“I think it is that connecting and that cuddling with River that is strengthening his want to attach to the breast.”
Clinical nurse consultant Julie Doran said kangaroo care provided a bonding opportunity for parents and babies.
“It also helps the baby regulate their breathing, regulate their temperature control, it makes them calm and less stressed,” she said.
“It is a more natural position to be in than being in a crib without any contact.”
Early ‘kangaroo care’ encouraged
Ms Doran said the hospital encouraged kangaroo care as the earliest possible opportunity so parents could start to bond with their babies and “not just watch them through the perspex”.
“Babies that kangaroo care find that comfort in their mums, and then they gain weight and feed better.”
Ms Burgess and her partner hope to take their son home by his due date on August 5.
“I wish I could take him home now but each night we walk out and we know River is in the best hands and that he is loved and cared for really well,” she said.
“We feel very thankful for the staff and what they have done for River.”