THE mum of a premature baby is thanking hospital staff for an innovative new tool that has helped her tiny girl flourish.

When Lauren Fredericks's waters broke on Christmas Day she knew her daughter risked coming into the world far too early.

Lauren was just 29 weeks pregnant and wanted her baby to have the best possible chance.

The 29-year-old was kept in hospital as medics attempted to prevent her labour progressing.

Two weeks later, on January 10, baby Niamh was born weighing just 3lbs 2oz.

Lauren had the chance to hold her briefly, as the cord was cut, before Niamh was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit.

But hospital staff in Glasgow now have a new way to make sure the physical bond between mother and child continues, even when the baby is in an incubator.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde hospitals have started using miniboos - a type of comforter.

Mum is given one, which she wears next to her skin, while the baby is given one before they are swapped to transfer each others' scents.

In the baby, it is thought to lower blood pressure and for mums it helps to bring in their milk.

Lauren, from Kirkintilloch, said: "The hospital really promotes skin-to-skin contact for bonding.

"The miniboo is supposed to promote your milk coming in and having that with me seems to have really helped.

"If I was expressing milk then they tell you to smell it so that her scent helps.

"One of things I found helpful was that it feels like you are doing something. You would do anything you can but you are so limited in what you can do to help her.

"It was just such a nice touch and kind thing to do. It will also serve as a lovely memory for Niamh of what's happened for when she is older."

Lauren had a healthy, full term pregnancy with her older daughter, Nina, who is eighteen months - and was double the weight of her sister at 8lbs 2oz.

But things with Niamh were not quite so straight forward.

Lauren, who is married to Umar, said: "At 26 weeks I had some bleeding and was worried I was going to end up in labour but then things seemed to have settled.

"Then, on Christmas Day, my waters broke and I had to come in to hospital.

"I didn't go into labour until Christmas night so I had managed to enjoy the day with Christmas dinner and Nina opening her presents.

"It was just after we had put Nina down to bed and had finally sat down that my waters broke.

"It sounds funny but I wasn't particularly stressed or shocked, I think because I had had the bleeding earlier on."

Lauren said it helped that the Princess Royal Maternity Hospital staff had taken she and Umar, 29, for a tour of the neonatal unit and explained the risks of a premature birth.

Armed with that knowledge, the couple felt more confident about what might happen next.

Following the birth, Lauren's priority has been to get Niamh home and says it has been really hard to be caught between her two daughters.

After a week or so in hospital, Lauren went home for a few days and then returned to stay in the Princess Royal with her baby.

She said: "There is constant guilt from leaving Niamh and guilt from leaving Nina.

"Niamh's feeding is holding her back so she is still getting fed through a tube down her nose.

"We are going to try and get her attached and see if she can start feeding for herself. She's coming on so well. She's incredible."

"Even now I can't believe how small she is because I'm so used to Nina.

"Nina keeps trying to hug her and I have to keep reminding her to be gentle but you're trying not to give her into trouble. I think she thinks Niamh is a doll and doesn't realise quite yet she is her sister."

Lauren has the highest praise for the medical staff who have helped her daughter.

"The staff have been absolutely amazing. You feel like part of a family, even though they must see hundreds of people, they are so kind and make you feel you are the only family there.

"The nurses are like her aunties.

"Just to know that they were taking such good care of Niamh was a huge help and let me go home at night to get some sleep."

Fortunately, Niamh is thriving. Her weight has increased to 4lbs and Lauren says she has a strong personality already.

She added: "She's so chilled out compared to Nina, even when they come and check her bloods she's so, so chilled out.

"Nina never slept, she wanted lifted up all the time. I hope this continues when we get home but we'll have to see.

"They were worried about bleeds on her brain but everything seems normal, which is incredible considering all she's had done."

"She's so perfect and fully formed and can do so much but she shouldn't be here yet.

"I keep looking at her and thinking, 'You should still be inside me.'"

Jennifer Rodgers, Chief Nurse in Paediatrics and Neonates, said: "We are delighted Lauren and Niamh are doing well and that Lauren feels the miniboo is working well for them both.

"We introduced the miniboos to our maternity hospitals early last month and have already shared 100 of them with patients."