The big touch of little heroes

Lenka and Miona are identical twins. They were born two months early. The girls are lively and it’s already obvious to their parents that they have different personalities.

Jelena Obucina
Miona and Lenka enjoy skin-to-skin contact with their mom.
UNICEF Serbia/2019/Djordjevic

13 September 2019

Lenka and Miona are identical twins. They were born two months early. The girls are lively and it’s already obvious to their parents that they have different personalities.

However, they are the same in one aspect: they love skin-to-skin contact.

Their mother, Milana Pasic, is staying in the unit for mothers accompanying children in the Vojvodina Institute for Children and Youth Health Care.

The babies’ attitude to touch has changed dramatically - in April, when they were born, the twins were often agitated, today they calm down with every touch.

“I come down every 3 hours so we can have skin-to-skin contact. At first, while they were still in the incubator, we could only touch through the openings, but we still had some kind of contact from the first day. With each passing day, as their conditions improved, we had more and more contact. In the end, I was able to hold them,” their mom Milena recounts their progress.

Knowing that contact is crucial for emotional bonding and development, the twins’ father never misses the opportunity to hold his babies.

Knowing that contact is crucial for emotional bonding and development, the twins’ father, Dragan Kupresanin, never misses the opportunity to hold his babies.

He has been visiting them every day during the four months that they have been in hospital. The Institute allows visits twice a day for up to two hours and Dragan usually visits them both times.

“I try to come and see them in the morning and in the afternoon, to make sure they’re fine. I use every opportunity to touch the babies. This means a lot to me, and I think it means a lot to them. They are often upset, but when my wife or I hold them, they calm down.”

Lenka with her parents on a skin to skin contact chair.
UNICEF Serbia/2019/Djordjevic
Lenka with her parents on a skin to skin contact chair.

It’s a shame that this practice hasn’t become widespread in Serbia much earlier, believes Dr Slobodan Spasojevic, Head of the Intensive Care Unit.

“Only in the past couple of years have fathers started to become involved in skin-to-skin contact, to be present at childbirth and come to intensive care unit therapies, which is a widespread practice in the world.”

The twins’ parents are happy because the Institute implements developmental and family centred care.

It focuses on the physical environment of the newborn – reducing exposure to light, noise and invasive and painful procedures.

“At the Intensive Care and Therapy Unit, you can see things that are not typical for health care institutions. Patient rooms are dark, patients are covered with thick covers over the incubators, and are placed in positions that, as much as possible, simulate the baby’s position in the womb. This is all done to stimulate their smooth psychomotor development,” says Dr Spasojevic.

Staff at the Institute believe that medical treatment should be accompanied by scientifically proven strategies that bring benefits in the treatment, development and recovery of the child. UNICEF believes the same.

That is why in the past two years UNICEF, with financial support from PhiAcademy, has helped the work of the Vojvodina Institute and the Clinical Centre with US$ 15,000.

The funds are being used for the purchase of developmental care equipment, a refrigerator for the milk bank, and the strengthening of staff capacities.