Friday the 17th of November is annual World Prematurity Day. Premature birth is the leading cause of death worldwide in children under the age of five. Babies born too early are more susceptible to long-term health problems that affect the brain, the lungs, hearing or vision.

In South Africa, 15% of all births, which equates to one in seven babies, are born preterm¹. Globally around 15 million babies (12% of all births) are born preterm and one million die due to complications² and a lack of proper healthcare.

World Prematurity Day aims to educate global citizens on prematurity and to rally in support of the fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) which is to halve the under-five mortality rate between the years 2010 and 2025.

Huggies®, a global player in the baby care industry, continues to support World Prematurity Day. This year Huggies® is driving awareness and support around the Wear Purple for Preemies Initiative which has been established by the Newborns Groote Schuur Trust. Huggies® encourages all South Africans to wear purple and to purchase the official R10.00 World Prematurity Day sticker at Toys R Us. Funds raised through this initiative aim to improve healthcare to premature babies around the country.

In South Africa, neonatal facilities at hospitals are overcrowded. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Groote Schuur Hospital reports a frequent occupancy rate of 120% as opposed to the desired 80% occupation rate. This type of overcrowding may lead to an increased risk of infection and further complications for these babies. By donating funds to neonatal facilities and programmes, babies born as early as 26 weeks will have a fighting chance of survival. These donations will be put towards improving the facilities so that there is more space for patients, providing up to date medical treatment and the opportunity to facilitate kangaroo care.

Huggies® expert Lynne Bluff, Registered Nurse and Midwife, says moms should be aware of information related to medical conditions which could result in preterm labour and educate themselves on the signs of early labour. It is crucial to consult with a midwife or obstetrician as in many instances pre-term labour can be halted.

Bluff mentions “it is important to realise that in the majority of premature births, there is nothing a mom could have done to prevent it from occurring however expectant moms should take care of themselves during pregnancy by:
Having regular, sound antenatal care at the recommended stages of gestation
Manage weight gain. The average weight gain over the course of a pregnancy is approximately 12kg
Infected gums produce prostaglandins, the same hormones that initiate labour. Expectant mums should visit a dentist at least once during pregnancy, and brush teeth at least twice a day and floss”.

To further show their support to parents and premature babies in South Africa, Huggies® will be donating 100 cases of Huggies® Preemie nappies to South African Neonatal Care Units at some hospitals, that is 58 000 Huggies® Preemie nappies in total. “Huggies® Preemie nappies are tailored to fit preemie babies. Oversized nappies can cause the baby to lie with their legs in a ‘frog like’ position, which hampers muscle tone development. This is one of the challenging factors related to the development of premature babies’ motor skills. We are proud to be able to make these donations and to play our part in helping preemie babies,” says Nthabiseng Leso, Senior Brand Manager: Point of Market Entry.

Members of the public are urged to support Wear Purple for Preemies by buying a sticker for R10 and wearing purple on World Prematurity Day. In addition, why not paint your social media page purple and share with friends and family to spread the word using #HuggiesWorldPreemieDay.

Call the Newborns Trust office on (021) 404 6023/5 or 0828846233 or email enquiries@newborns.org.za to place an order for the stickers or to find out where you can buy stickers yourself.

Stickers are also available at Toys R Us nationwide.

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