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While an estimated eight million viewers gather round the telly to watch Call the Midwife this Christmas the real-life midwives at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW) have been answering their own rather special call – from China.

Midwives from the Trust have been sharing best practice with teams of staff from eight specially selected hospitals from across China – and making their own national headlines along the way.

Their visit was covered on Chinese national Television. The MTW team were privileged to share some emotional scenes with parents as they touched their premature babies for the first time thanks to Kangaroo care.

Midwives from the Trust led by Consultant Midwife Sarah Gregson worked closely with Save the Children in China. The global charity arranged the trip as part of its work to promote Kangaroo care worldwide for premature babies.

Kangaroo care involves caring for a premature baby against the mother’s (or father’s) chest skin to skin. It has been proven to have significant benefits for both term and premature babies by the MTW team**.

Sarah said: “Kangaroo care is globally recognised as reducing mortality and improving health outcomes* for premature babies in high income as well as low income countries, however, this had not previously been recognised in China.

”For this reason, Save the Children facilitated a delegation of senior policy makers from China to come to the UK earlier this year, to witness the practice of Kangaroo Care and to provide the delegates with the opportunity to ask questions about implementation.

“The clinical team from China were so impressed with the Kangaroo Care we provide at Tunbridge Wells Hospital and Maidstone Birth Centre that they asked Save the Children to help facilitate its introduction in China.”

Subsequently the midwifery team from MTW were invited to train teams from eight selected hospitals in China and they recently returned from their visit. The training took
place in two of the country’s biggest hospitals in Beijing and Nanjing and will be rolled out across the whole country within the next four years.

No specialist equipment is required for Kangroo care. Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust uses KangaWraps (for skin to skin contact whilst mum walks around) and specially designed KangaWrap Kardis (used by mums who are confined to bed).

In China, it is not unusual for parents with babies in neonatal intensive care not to see their babies until they are ready to go home. There is also a culture where the mother often rests during the first month leaving other members of the family to care for their baby, even when there have been no problems with the birth. During their visit the team met several women who had not held their babies at all for several days following birth.

The team had nothing but praise for Save the Children and their Chinese counterparts who helped them deliver the training programme.

Sarah said: “The staff we met seemed dedicated and hardworking and extremely proud of their hospitals and standards of care.

“They seemed really excited to be taking this forward and there were several emotional moments when parents touched their babies for the first time, despite being born several days earlier. We all felt that it has been an incredible privilege to be part of this project and to have worked with such amazing people.”

The team that went to China from MTW consisted of Sarah Gregson, Consultant Midwife and Senior Midwives Jean Meadows and Marian Adams who played a significant role with in the Kangaroo care research at the Trust.

Ends – Notes to editors

*Research studies show Kangaroo care for premature babies is associated with:

Better weight gain – Shorter hospital stay – Fewer breathing problems – Improved neuro development – Less crying and quieter sleeps – Better temperature control – More successful breastfeeding

**The Trust’s midwives carried out the UK’s first study to investigate the effects of Kangaroo care for small and premature babies cared for in a postnatal ward environment and more recent research for term babies, following caesarean section (this latest research is due to be published in the British Journal of Midwifery in January 2016).