Premature babies

Children's growth and development literally depend on the physical contact with parents, while the mother's milk is both food and medicine for premature babies



In Croatia, around 2,000 girls and boys are born prematurely, while around 400 require intensive medical care. In the first few days, and often even for months of their early lives, these babies struggle to stay alive. There is also a high rate of neurodevelopmental difficulties. Premature births disrupt the subtle process of preparation for parenting. For moms and dads, this means that instead of a sense of satisfaction, happiness and peace, they enter a eriod of fear for the health and life of their child.

“Every year around 400 premature girls and boys in Croatia need intensive medical care.”

Premature births interrupt the delicate processes of preparation for parenting, so instead of a sense of satisfaction, happiness and peace, parents enter a period of fear for the health and life of their child.



Skin-to-skin contact helps regulate the baby’s heartbeat and breathing, maintains optimal body temperature, induces longer and more peaceful sleep, acts as strong motivation for breastfeeding, and may help with the baby’s weight gain. All this helps speed up recovery and facilitates the shorter stay of premature babies in hospital. Breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact may literally save the life of premature girls and boys.

In order to make sure that premature and seriously ill children in intensive neonatology units receive an opportunity to experience skin-to-skin contact with their parents and that they are fed human milk, UNICEF had to procure equipment for all 13 units of intensive neonatology care and organise training for health workers. In cooperation with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF launched an initiative to establish the first human milk bank in Croatia. The goal of the programme is to make sure that every premature baby receives the best possible care to overcome his or her health difficulties.