Wooly hats Dec 17
Knitting prisoners help hospital infants beat hypothermia in London’s first experiment of this kind
21 December 2017

Colourful woolly hats have been shown to protect infants from hypothermia in a hospital setting, in London’s first study of this kind.

Croydon University Hospital (CUH) has been testing these hats since April, after finding help from eager knitting volunteers - including many inmates from two women’s prisons.

This ‘Croydon Hypothermic Baby Project’ looks encouraging following our initial test in May, which found that the hats seem to reduce the proportion of infants developing hypothermia at CUH from 22 to 17 per cent.

Our standards are very high but the challenge is that hypothermia can affect any unwell or weakened infants, no matter how warm they are kept—although warmth can sometimes prevent it. CUH’s maternity wards are always kept at 25 Celsius and the new woolly hats could provide extra protection from draughts and heat loss.

Each unique hat also has a specific colour (green, yellow or red), which CUH midwives have been trained to use for indicating the wellness of each baby and to help manage their care.

Lead Midwife at CUH, Laura Steed, created the project and sought-out the volunteers after learning that 21 per cent of babies delivered at CUH became hypothermic between January and March 2017. She recognised that this is a nationwide challenge because hypothermia affects about one quarter of babies who are moved from standard wards to Special Care Baby Units across the UK. For that reason, CUH hopes more hospitals will consider using woolly hats.

Laura said: “If the hats continue to show good results I believe hospitals up and down the country could start doing this. The support from the community has been incredible and we shouldn’t be surprised, as people quickly understand how a nice, warm knitted hat could save a young life. I think this also reminds us that we can address some health challenges when we come together as a community.”

As soon as a baby is born at CUH it gets a hat which it will wear until it goes home (and which can be kept if the parents want it). So far, around 600 different hats have been made and worn by babies Croydon.

There are many causes of hypothermia in babies, including hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels), poor feeding, respiratory distress from lung problems, premature birth and infections before or after birth.

The knitting materials are paid through charitable donations and the fantastic volunteers are based at HMP Downview and HMP Bronzefield, Surrey Women’s Institute and the Department of Work and Pensions (Dover).

This is a printable version of https://www.croydonhealthservices.nhs.uk/?locid=01xnew0i1&Lang=EN&htm=&pr=