Mums share experiences of special care babies

Manraj Sanghera  (left)  with her children  Simran 4 , Priya 2  and Raj Singh 8 and Emma Burns  with  her son Jacob Burns
Manraj Sanghera (left) with her children Simran 4 , Priya 2 and Raj Singh 8 and Emma Burns with her son Jacob Burns
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Two mums with premature babies have set up a support group to help other parents. Catherine Scott reports

Returning home after having a baby can be daunting for any new mum, but when that baby is premature the feelings are magnified.

For Emma Burns and Manraj Sanghera the lack of support for mums with premature babies in Harrogate has led them to set up their own branch of Bliss, the special care baby charity.

Emma, who works at Harrogate Hospital as a team leader for adult speech therapy, first came in to contact with Manraj when her son Jacob was admitted to Harrogate hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit when he was born 11 weeks early in March this year.

“Coming face to face with someone who really understands, and who has come out of the other side, was really important to me and my husband. Having attended other mother and baby groups, I felt like the odd one out. The Bliss support group is a welcome relief, where I feel I can talk openly to others who understand.

“You get so much support when you are in hospital, but then when you get home you feel very isolated. You have this tiny baby who needs extra care and support and it can be very daunting.”

Manraj has had her fair share of experiences, as all her children were born premature and sick.

Her first child Arjun was born at 37 weeks, he is now severely disabled. At nearly nine he is blind and has not developed since he was seven months old, needing constant care.

Her second child, Simran, was born at 28 weeks, weighing a mere 1Ib 11oz.

“After what happened with Arjun I was carefully monitored while I was pregnant with Simran, but when I had a scan at 27 weeks they found that she hadn’t grown. They checked me out and realised I had pre-eclampsia.”

Manraj was admitted to hospital immediately and Simran was delivered a week later. “She was very vocal but so tiny. She was immediately taken away and treated in the same unit as my son. We just couldn’t believe what was happening. We had no idea what was going to happen.” After a lot of ups and downs and three months in hospital Simran was allowed home. She is now doing very well, although is small for her four years. “She is just the perfect little girl and really bright. You would never know she was a premature baby.”

Knowing that Arjun was unlikely to survive to adulthood, the Sangheras decided to try for another baby. And for a third time there were problems with the pregnancy which could have led to both Manraj and her baby’s death. In the end Priya was born at 34 weeks.

Having seen the shortfalls in community provision for parents of premature babies, Manraj decided to use her experience and help other families in the Harrogate area.

“Many mums with premature and sick babies have felt that there is little support in the community to help them,” she explains.

“They have felt like the odd ones out at other mother and baby groups, so our aim is to create a network of like-minded individuals to share their experiences and support each other through what can be a lonely and isolating time.”

Emma explained that they also want to raise funds for a parent room at Harrogate Hospitals.

“We are working jointly with Harrogate’s Special Care Baby Unit, to offer a safe, friendly and approachable environment for parents to come along and share their experiences or just meet other parents and carers who have had a similar experience.”

The group meets every second Tuesday of every month from 9.30am-11.30am at Knaresborough Sure Start Centre, Manor Road, Knaresborough. There is no charge to attend the support group. Assistance with travel cost may be possible if you live too far from the centre. The official launch is on Tuesday, December 13, for details email

Bliss’s campaigning work

Bliss, the special care baby charity was founded in 1979 and is dedicated to ensuring that babies survive and go on to have the best quality of life. It does this by:

Providing practical and emotional support for families during an extremely difficult time, so they can give the best care to their babies.

Providing training and support for doctors and nurses and funds research to improve the care of all sick and premature babies

Raising awareness of the issues affecting special care babies and fight for essential change within government and the NHS.