Townsville Hospital’s ‘baby cam’ helping parents keep a watchful eye on premature babies
Samantha Hayden said being able to look at her babies helped her to express at home. (Supplied: CSIRO)
Parents are now able to keep an eye on their premature children thanks to a new “baby cam”.
- Zachary and Sebastian Hayden were born about three months premature
- Mother Samantha says being able to see them 24/7 helps practically and emotionally
- A third of the 900 babies in The Townsville Hospital’s NICU come from remote areas
Telemedicine researchers at the CSIRO have developed an app that is currently being used by families who have had to leave their children in hospital long after their births.
Samantha Hayden was “almost living” in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at The Townsville Hospital, where the trial is taking place.
After the birth of her twin sons, Zachary and Sebastian, she moved back in with her parents in Gumlow, a 15- to 20-minute drive away.
Having the baby cam installed on her phone meant she could connect with her sons, who were born at 27 weeks and five days, without having to make multiple trips to and from the hospital every day.
“I could be down at the shops if I miss them or wake up at 3am and just jump on quickly and check that they’re OK for peace of mind and know everything was OK,” she said.
“It was just incredible.”
Having not carried her babies to term, expressing milk can be particularly difficult for Ms Hayden, but being able to look at her kids while sitting at home makes it that much easier.
“It’s so hard when you don’t have a baby there. All mums would know how tough it is to express, especially because they weren’t full term. It was a miracle that I got anything out,” she said.
“[I could] jump on the phone, easily log on straight away and see my babies safe and sound, moving and wriggling around.”
The first seed of the idea came about four years ago when researchers saw a parent live-streaming shots of their baby while they were at work, but considering the limitations of that technology, particularly in rural and regional areas, CSIRO developers saw a part of the parenting experience that could be improved.
Once the CSIRO’s app is installed on parents’ phones, they are given a secure log-in that gives them access to around-the-clock streaming of their child in the NICU.
A huge number of babies at The Townsville Hospital come from hundreds of kilometres away. (Supplied: CSIRO)
The choice of The Townsville Hospital for the trial was not random, as its neonatal specialist Yoga Kandasamy explained, about a third of the 900 babies admitted to Townsville’s NICU are from remote parts of north and north-west Queensland.
“These babies are often with us for many months,” Dr Kandasamy said.
“Parents have only two choices: uproot and move to Townsville, or become temporarily separated from their babies.”
But not anymore.
Dozens of parents have signed up since the trial started in early 2018 and The Townsville Hospital will be analysing the data to find out if the technology helped with parent-infant attachment.
If the findings are positive, the CSIRO plans to make the technology available to the wider public.