MUMBAI: A new survey conducted by Abbott in mothers of pre-term babies, calls for the heightened focus on nutrition and the need for counseling of mothers with pre-term babies, equipping them to bring up healthier babies. A new mother benefits from counseling on specialized nutrition for the baby and adequate guidance on physical and cognitive growth milestones to fully understand the growth patterns of a pre-term baby.
The Quality of Survival survey arrived at key interventions that help pre-term babies catch up with term babies** on all health parameters. Abbott’s research partner IPSOS surveyed more than 1,000 mothers across Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Chennai to understand their concerns and aspirations for their babies.
- NICU, the knowledge hub – The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is the starting point for mothers to seek and gather information.Mothers who received adequate and relevant counseling at the NICU were four times more prepared to bring up a premature baby. They also actively sought information on feeding, nutrition and physical and mental development.
- Information gaps exist – A small but a critical 10 percent of mothers surveyed did not get any information on managing their pre-term baby. Nearly 40 percent of mothers have either received partial or no counseling on the impact of pre-term birth and management of nutrition, health and mental development of their pre-term babies and for themselves.
- Catching up with term-babies – While almost all mothers surveyed were aware of physical and mental challenges which differentiate pre-term babies from full-term babies, they were not sure what would help in matching the growth velocity. Of the mothers surveyed, 93 percent had experienced challenges in physical markers of growth such as weight gain and therefore sought information on the same proactively, while less than half of mothers considered brain development, cognition, and motor skills as key development factors.
- Immunity till the age of two – Low level of immunity and a longer time is taken to recover from illness were the main challenges seen for pre-term babies in the first two years. The incidence of fever, cold, low appetite and breathing issues are some of the key problems faced in first 12 months of their birth. While immunity was a key concern in the first three -nine months, it reduced as the child aged.
- Nutrition – Pre-term babies were easily distracted while breastfeeding and had issues in latching on to mothers. Survey data showed babies depended mostly on alternative feeds, and mothers were uncertain on the quantum and frequency of feed for preemies till the age of two years.
- Last but not the least, what about mom – Another prevalent concern in mothers surveyed was that they had difficulty in dealing with her own emotions while looking after a premature baby. Only 24 percent of mothers are counseled on issues like dealing with stress and trauma. The survey found that post-birth, a concern for all mothers is their own mental and physical needs as well, followed by child health and nutrition-related issues of the baby.
Dr. Bhupendra S. Awasthi, Pediatrician, Founder and Managing Director, Surya Mother Childcare states, “Premature births in India are on the rise, but for mothers bringing up these children, it continues to be a solo struggle. I strongly believe doctors, caregivers, and the family can collectively help to improve health outcomes for babies. As the survey highlights – awareness and timely counseling are two areas where mothers are constantly seeking help and advice. It’s important that doctors in the NICU impart the right knowledge on breastfeeding, care and tracking developmental goals in premature babies. With proper care and the right kind of nutrition it is possible to improve the quality of life, overall growth and cognitive development of premature babies.”
Speaking on eve of World Prematurity Day, Amal Kelshikar, Country Head, and General Manager, Abbott’s nutrition business in India, said, “The Quality of Survival Survey gave us an insight to premature births from a mother’s perspective. We laud the efforts of healthcare providers and NICU nurses who have taken the lead in providing the first level of counseling support to mothers. To strengthen awareness on pre-term care, Abbott has been conducting training for NICU staff by pediatric dieticians and breastfeeding simulation workshops for paramedics in collaboration with global medical training major, Laerdal. We are optimistic our collective efforts will bridge the information gap and empower mothers to bring up healthier babies.”
Commenting on the findings of the survey, Dr. Umesh Vaidya, Regional Medical Director – Neonatology of Cloudnine said, “Bringing up premature babies is different from term babies – they have a different journey, they need extra attention on nutrition, nurture, and care. Nutrition is key to developing the brain and cognitive abilities in babies. While mothers notice physical milestones, tracking brain development is critical for premature babies. Throughout the first year of life, a baby’s brain continues to develop and build hundreds of neural connections faster than at any other time in their lives. Therefore, it’s important that brain nutrients including DHA and natural vitamin E are part of the baby’s diet.”