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With the largest neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in the Northern Emirates and to enhance care for neonates in Dubai, Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA) dedicated maternity and paediatric facility, Latifa Hospital, offers services to aid preterm babies and their families.
 
Preterm babies are those born before 37 weeks, normally weigh less than 2.5kg, and therefore need essential care to be nursed back to health. This includes protection from infections, ensuring that they are kept warm, and that skin-to skin contact is provided with the mother and that they are receiving sufficient breast milk. 

Dr Mahmoud El Halik, Head of Paediatrics and Neonatology at Latifa Hospital, said the hospital ensures providing the essential care through its facility that includes the largest NICU in the Northern Emirates with 64 beds for neonates. Almost 25 per cent of babies admitted to NICU in 2017 were preterm.

“DHA hospitals encourage family involvement to promote a baby’s healthy development in the NICU from day one. Neonates are placed in an incubator and once the baby’s condition is stable, healthcare professionals teach the mother and father kangaroo care (which is skin-to-skin contact between the baby and their parents). Parents’ reassuring and loving touch is known to have many health benefits and one of the key benefits is that it helps in the lactation process. Babies’ vital signs are closely monitored, a feeding tube may be used to provide breast milk to preterm babies and when the baby can suckle, direct breastfeeding is introduced,” he said. 

Latifa Hospital has nursed babies as tiny as 420 grams back to health and has achieved more than 85 per cent exclusive breastfeeding rate for all the neonates admitted in the NICU. According to Dr Halik, the NICU is equipped with the latest equipment to provide state-of-the art services for preterm babies.
 
“We provide total body cooling — for babies who experienced Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) at birth — where the infant’s temperature is lowered slowly and safely to 33 degrees centigrade for three days. This technique has internationally proven to decrease the severity of potential brain injury from HIE.” 

Latifa Hospital is also a pioneer in Dubai with its provision for a family room in the NICU where the neonate and the mother stay for a few days prior to discharge from hospital.

“This is a one-of-a-kind of facility available at Latifa Hospital. The mother spends 24 hours with her baby (specially complicated cases) and practices the bathing, feeding and routine care for her newborn. We also educate her on signs and symptoms to look out for that require her to bring her baby back to the hospital. She is enhanced on the initially taught breastfeeding techniques, provided with details of the next follow-up visits and a vaccination schedule,” said Dr El Halik.

The hospital introduced Kangaroo Mother Care, which according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is one of the most effective ways to meet a premature baby’s needs for warmth, frequent breastfeeding, protection from infection, stimulation, safety and love. WHO estimates this technique could save an estimated 450,000 preterm newborns a year.

DHA hospitals with perinatal services have committed Infant Follow-up Clinics that keep tabs on graduates of NICU up to the age of 2 years to ensure adequate development and manage complicated cases according to the best international standards. Latifa Hospital has a dedicated breastfeeding/lactation clinic open to lactating mothers, and offers support to all discharged mothers for problems related to breastfeeding.