Parents of premature babies are being encouraged to help make a difference in their child’s recovery by being involved more with their care.

A study involving 26 neonatal intensive care units found babies put on more weight when their parents took part in tasks usually reserved for nursing staff, reports 9 news.

The tasks included bathing, feeding, dressing, giving oral medication, taking the baby’s temperature and charting their growth and progress.

The program, called Family Integrated Care, was compared to standard practice.

At 21 days, infants in the trial program put on more weight, parents had lower levels of stress and, once discharged, mothers were more likely to breastfeed frequently.

The authors of the study found no differences in rates of mortality, duration of oxygen therapy or hospital stay.

They said weight gain in preterm infants is an important marker of positive brain development and can point to longer term benefits.

“Parents are too often perceived as visitors to the intensive care unit. Our findings challenge this approach,” said Dr Karel O’Brien, Department of Paediatrics at Sinai Health System in Canada.

“It has clearly shown benefits in outcomes in not only the babies, but also in the parents in terms of stress,” said neonatologist Dr Parag Mishra.

In the trial, parents had to commit to spending at least six hours a day, five days a week at their baby’s bedside.

The results of the trial were published this week in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal.

Some parents have shared how they had to battle hospital staff to be allowed to assist with the care of their infant.

Were you actively involved with the care of your baby whilst in hospital?

Share your experience below.

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  • I was only allowed to hold my baby once a day. I asked to learn the cares so I could be more involved. I learnt a lot and left the hospital a lot more confident as a new mum of a premature baby.


  • Was only allowed to watch over her – she wasn’t to be touched. After a couple of weeks of this, I couldn’t go every day anymore and stayed home with my other children. She was in hospital for over 3 months before I could bring her home.


  • This is a great idea. As I nurse who works at the nicu I do understand some parents have other children or commitments they can’t shake. However, there are parents who you never see and I always wonder where they are. Their children never receive those special first cuddles or feel the warmth of touch in their first few weeks of life. Yes we do cuddle when we can but we also have other babies to look after too.


  • I had to battle to be involved or even hold my daughter. I often left the hospital crying.


  • Some hospitals don’t allow it. As a parent of two prem babies I was very involved in the care but there was the odd day where they didn’t really want us too because it tires the babes out and they can then not put on the weight they need


  • If it was my child, I would love to be allowed to take more care of my child. I would kind of expect it too actually. And I would try to be with him as long as I can.


  • Sometimes Hospitals won’t allow inexperienced parents touch the premature baby for a few days. Sometimes it is a week or more before they are even allowed to hold them. Do staff manage to change a baby’s nappy without opening the top or side of the special crib? I know Mums are taught how to change nappies, bath and dress / undress their baby. Dads can too if they are able to be there. Mums who can, express milk to be fed to babies initially by special methods. Once they are able to suck strongly enough they can breastfeed if the baby is able to attach. In the meantime once Mums go home they can feed the baby in the hospital and express milk at home and take to the hospital the next day.


  • I agree that it would do a wonderful job on both the parents and babies heath mentally and physically. I would want to be more engaged in my own child and not letting the nurses take over.


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