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Updated: Aug 2, 2021

Debbie O’Donoghue is the Neonatal Nurse Manager at Christchurch Women’s Hospital. Neonatal Services have a big task: they are an acute service providing 24/7 nursing and medical care and support - for about 1,000 premature and sick new-born babies and their families each year. They support a wide geographic area – as far away as the West Coast, Kaikoura, and Timaru, and for new-borns requiring surgery, the Christchurch services supports the whole of the South Island.

Each baby might stay for anywhere between two days and several months. Some of the babies coming into the neonatal service stay for more than 100 days. So, for many families, their baby’s stay means the neonatal hospital environment is their second home for quite some time. Debbie says that research has confirmed what we might suspect: this stay can be stressful for both baby and family. The Neonatal Services places a focus on ensuring best practices for baby. They are now also implementing further approaches to care based on research on how best to support babies’ families, given research affirms the importance of family involvement in care for long term bonding and attachment and a child’s development.

This is where research and Good Bitches Baking meet. Debbie acknowledges that the neonatal unit will never actually be home for families, but they are doing everything within their resources to make it more welcoming, and to reduce the impact of the clinical environment on families. Unlike the “old days” when parents could only visit their baby once a day, parents can visit their babies any time for as long as they like. Charities and past parents have supplied food, and lazy boy chairs, and decorated the specially created family lounges. Debbie is so appreciative of “the very generous people and bakers” in Good Bitches Baking. When mums “get tired, have not had sleep and are breastfeeding or expressing milk, it’s the little things like baking with their cup of tea that can make all the difference to their day.”

And the baking is not just for mums; research shows the impact of unwell babies on the wider family, and the neonatal services make sure that fathers and siblings get the baking too. Debbie says it is sometimes enough for the families “just to know that people are thinking of them”.

Debbie is “blown away by how many people are so generous with their time and taken aback by how much people want to do for others”.

Good Bitches Baking delivers more than once a week now to the Neonatal Services. And, the Christchurch Good Bitches’ creations are being more widely delivered into hospital settings; they are now delivering to both paediatrics wards at Canterbury District Health Board and they will begin delivering their treats to the Intensive Care Unit in the next few months.

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