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WORLD PREMATURITY DAY: Sir Chris Hoy and Lady Sarra Hoy visit Leeds hospital to raise awareness of the importance of human touch to premature babies


As we return to a world where we can enjoy physical connections with family and friends, we can all appreciate the significance touch has, in helping us feel loved and cared for.

Touch is the first sense a baby develops and is the most active sense connecting them to the outside world. But when a baby is born too soon, so is their skin. For the 1 in 13 babies born prematurely in the UK, their skin is up to 2x thinner than that of a full-term baby's, making it sensitive and delicate. From comfort holding to a nappy change, every touch can feel huge to a preemie baby, and it plays a vital role in their early development and parental bonding.

This World Prematurity Day, Pampers, in partnership with Bliss, the UK's leading charity for babies born premature or sick, is shining a light on the importance of touch for preemie babies. During their babies' critical first days and weeks of life on a neonatal unit, parents may not be able to touch or hold their baby as much as they want to. A small number of parents may have to wait a week or more to hold their baby for the first time, if their baby is very unwell.

A study by Pampers amongst parents of premature babies in the UK, found that 30% of parents felt too nervous to hold their delicate preemie baby and 34% felt they missed out on the opportunity to care for their baby, with experiences such as first nappy change or feed. The recent pandemic continues to impact parents on the neonatal unit, further impeding touch, with 21% saying they had to wear PPE while caring for their baby and 15% said they were not able to hold their baby due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The study also highlights that the pressures of having a baby on the neonatal unit can have an adverse effect on parents' wellbeing. 41% of parents said their neonatal experience impacted their mental health, whilst 63% felt that not being able to touch or hold their baby as much as they wanted to, impacted their ability to bond.

These feelings continued when parents returned home with their baby, with over a third of parents saying they were too nervous to hold their baby because they were still so small and 27% were worried, they would damage their preemie baby's sensitive skin. 32% of parents also struggled to find the right size of nappy for their baby as they were still very small. That's why Pampers created Preemie Protection nappies - to ensure that all babies can have the best possible start in life, including babies born early. These nappies are Pampers's smallest, up to three times smaller than a regular new-born nappy, and have been specially designed to be extra gentle on preemie babies' delicate skin as they continue to develop. Pampers Preemie Protection nappies continue to be donated to neonatal units in hospitals across the UK as this is where the need is greatest but they are now also available to parents and families of preemie babies, free of charge, through ASDA pharmacies.

Returning campaign ambassadors, Sir Chris and Lady Sarra Hoy are parents to seven-year-old Callum, who was born 11 weeks premature. They continue to raise awareness of prematurity, with Lady Sarra serving as a Bliss Ambassador. The Hoys said: "When our son was born prematurely, whilst it was a very distressing time for our family, we were encouraged to feel involved in Callum's care. Simply placing a hand on him while he was in the incubator was the start of our close relationship with him and important for his early development. At the time, we struggled to find the right sized nappies to care for his gentle skin, but it's great that Pampers is helping preemie babies by making their preemie nappies available to neonatal wards."

Ian Morley, President of Sales, P&G UK, Ireland and Nordics said: "Nothing can prepare you for having a premature baby. It can be an enormous shock, entering an unknown world full of bleeping machinery and unanswered questions. As a father to two girls born prematurely, I know how important it is to have items that are designed with your baby's needs in mind. Touch and comfort play such a vital role in their early development, but extra care is needed since their skin is much more delicate and delicate compared to a full-term baby. At the time, my girls didn't have access to specially designed nappies but it's great to know that now, our nappies are helping so many babies have the best possible start in life. They have been developed with the help of neonatal experts, to provide gentle protection for the delicate skin of a preemie baby and to alleviate discomfort. At Pampers, we're committed to making the world better for preemie babies and since 2017, we have donated hundreds of thousands of our Pampers Preemie Protection nappies to hospitals. And this year, we want to make them even more accessible. With the help of our retail partner ASDA, parents and families of preemie babies can now collect our preemie nappies from ASDA pharmacies across the UK, free of charge."

This year, in addition to their continued preemie nappy donations, Pampers and long-standing charity partner Bliss, will develop detailed tailored resources on the Bliss website for all parents at different stages of their premature journey. Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive of Bliss, said: "When their baby is first admitted to neonatal care, parents can feel like they're unable to do much for their baby. But touching, holding and nappy changing is so important for development and bonding. Premature babies have incredibly delicate skin, so extra care is needed when it comes to touch, as well as an extra gentle nappy. Our mission together with Pampers is to ensure all parents and families of premature and sick babies feel supported and confident in their role as a partner in their baby's care. The tailored content that we are developing, thanks to Pampers' donation, will be a key tool in facilitating family-centered care, keeping parents involved and connected during those critical, early days."

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