Cuddle pockets rolled out across EEAST

Jenni McClagish with a cuddle pocket

Bespoke, handmade cuddle pockets are now being used across EEAST to transport pre-term stillborn babies to hospital with compassion and sensitivity.

The knitted pockets are designed for babies who are less than 24 weeks, who are placed inside and the ribbons tied together. The baby’s parents are then encouraged to hold their baby during the journey. You can find out more by downloading a special podcast explaining the cuddle pocket story, or by watching this short video:

EEAST was one of the first ambulance services in the country to begin using the pockets when they were launched by the patient safety team in December.

Since then, they’ve attracted positive feedback from crews, with one staff member saying: “The cuddle pockets will go a long way in helping make this experience less traumatising for patients as well as crews.”

A second added: “It made a huge difference, especially for the mum who had something unique for her baby to rest in on the way to hospital. Cuddle pockets give us a dignified way to transport babies who are born too early.”

The pockets have been donated by non-profit organisation Cuddles UK. Each is unique and has been handmade by volunteer knitters who are coordinated by Cuddles UK using Facebook.

The initiative has been introduced following feedback from patients and crews, and aims to make sure bereaved parents and their babies are treated with the highest levels of dignity.

Daimon Wheddon, clinical lead, worked closely with Denise Kendall, safety advisor, on the project. He said: “We know just how difficult the loss of a baby can be for both the parents and for the crews who attend, and wanted to do what we could to make the journey to hospital less distressing for everyone.

“Thankfully, cuddle pockets will not be needed very often. But when they are, they can make such a difference for the patient and our crews.

“We are very grateful to Cuddles UK for supporting us, and to the members of our staff who given up their time to knit these unique pockets.”

Wendy Matthews OBE, regional chief midwife, said: “Treating any pregnancy loss in a dignified and compassionate way is so vital to improving the experience of families when they suffer a tragedy.

“The cuddle pockets also allow the ambulance crew dealing with these situations to give care in a sensitive way. For parents, knowing that their babies are being treated with the upmost respect is so important.”

The pockets are available on all 700 of EEAST’s DSAs and LOM vehicles. They are stored within a sealed plastic wallet, along with an information leaflet with tips on managing bereavement, and can be found in the same place on a DSA as the maternity pack and the maternity action card.

Once used, crews should request a replacement from their LOM and note the CAD number. LOMs can reorder from the supply catalogue (U999 cuddle pocket). Please check that you have a cuddle pocket on your DSA and contact your LOM if it is missing.

To download a leaflet giving advice on sensitive and effective communication from the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity (SANDS), please click here.

Anyone who has any questions about the cuddle pockets and the leaflet should email quoting the CAD number.