The moving story behind this council’s decision to offer extra leave to parents of premature babies

Waltham Forest Council has announced that they’re adding an extra week of leave to parents of premature of babies.

The London-based administrative body has recognised the difficulties that parents face after welcoming a premature child, and will start offering extra maternity and paternity leave to staff to account for the period of time their little one spends under the care of medical professionals.

‘We’re supporting the Smallest Things Campaign because we recognise the premature birth of a baby is one of the most stressful events a new parent can face’, explains Deputy Leader Councillor Clyde Loakes.

‘This is why we’re introducing an extra week’s maternity and paternity leave for every week parents of premature children have to spend waiting in hospital for their child to be allowed home.’

The Smallest Things Campaign’s aim is to encourage the Government to officially extend leave for both mums and dads of babies born prematurely. So far, the petition has amassed over 140,000 signatures.

Founder Catriona Ogilvy has first-hand experience of life as a mum to a premature baby – her little boy was born 10 weeks early.

Catriona has revealed that she was unaware that her maternity leave would begin the day after her son arrived, months before he would be allowed to leave hospital for the family home.

‘It broke my heart leaving my tiny baby every day and he spent the first months of my maternity leave in hospital’, she says.

‘As a mother I needed time to bond with my tiny baby, time to recover from our traumatic journey and time at home for my baby to grow and develop before I could return to work.’

Catriona believes that increasing the time new parents are allowed to take off work would be hugely beneficial to others in her situation.

She continues: ‘Extending statutory maternity leave and pay would give mothers the emotional and financial support needed at a time of great stress and trauma – in turn leading to better postnatal health, a more positive return to work and better outcomes for babies’ development.’

According to premature baby charity Bliss, 60,000 little ones are born before their due date in the UK each year.