Charity Bliss said that for these babies, it is vital that parents take a “lead role” in the care of their children.
Skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding and comfort holding are just some of the ways parents can help their babies, the charity said.
But many are being prevented from doing so because of a lack of facilities at the hospitals where their youngsters are being treated, according to the charity, which supports parents whose babies are sick or premature.
A new report from the organisation found that there is “huge variation” and gaps in the provision of services across England, such as a lack of overnight accommodation, kitchen space, and financial support.
The report states that fewer than one in five neonatal intentive care units have enough overnight rooms for parents of critically ill babies.
Meanwhile, a third of hospitals charge parents for parking and many do not help parents with food or drink costs.
And 40% of neonatal units have no or very limited kitchen facilities, meaning that parents are having to leave the ward to eat.
“To give premature and sick babies the best possible chance of good long-term health, parents must be able to provide daily hands-on care. But many families simply cannot afford to do that,” said Bliss chief executive Caroline Davey. “In many cases, the lack of the right facilities and financial support is keeping parents from being with their children when they need them the most. Government and the NHS must urgently address these deficits, and Bliss’ report lists concrete proposals that should be implemented immediately.”
The charity has made a series of recommendations which they say will help parents be with their babies during their time of need, including plans to combat the shortage of accommodation, better facilities for parents and a call for a review into parking charges for parents.
More than 84,000 babies are admitted to neonatal care in England every year because they have been born premature or sick, the charity said.