Baby Alfie Barnetson from Westcliff recently celebrated his landmark first birthday with NHS South East Essex Community Healthcare’s Earlybirds Support Group, having been born prematurely a year ago.
Alfie was born three months early, weighing in at just 1lb 8oz, and he was cared for in the Special Care Baby unit at Southend Hospital for several months before being discharged home. His mum Joanne Barnetson found the expert help and peer support from the Earlybirds Support Group invaluable when Alfie was starting life at home with his family after such a long time in hospital.
Joanne said: “It was a great boost to be able to meet with other parents who have been through the same experience. It feels so supportive when everyone’s in the same boat. It’s invaluable to have the expert help on hand too – you just wouldn’t be able to get the same support from a standard baby group“.
Earlybirds was set up 2005 by Gill O’Connor (Clinical Lead, Children’s Service) at NHS South East Essex Community Healthcare. Gill said: “I am delighted to be celebrating Alfie’s first birthday with him. Having a premature or sick baby can be a traumatic experience. The group gives parents the opportunity to meet on a regular basis in a relaxed atmosphere, share experiences and support each other.”
The Earlybirds Support Group meets on Monday afternoons at the Blenheim Children’s Centre from 1.30 pm to 3.00 pm. All parents of babies who have been in the Special Care Baby Unit at Southend Hospital are very welcome to attend. The aim of Earlybirds is for parents to relax, have a chat and enjoy their babies in a child friendly environment with people who understand the impact on the family of having a baby who is sick or premature.
Caroline Reynolds, Extended Services Manager at Blenheim Children’s Centre in Leigh said: “We are delighted to have this lovely and important group at our centre. Partnership working for the benefit of local families is the true purpose of Children’s Centres. We hope that the Earlybirds parents and children will keep coming to the centre for different activities as the babies grow up“.
For more information about Earlybirds or Blenheim Children’s Centre, please ring the centre on 01702 474684. You can also visit www.blenheimprimary.co.uk for more information about the children’s centre.