Skip to main contentSkip to footer

Exclusive: Laura Tobin returns to neonatal ward six years after daughter was born prematurely for important cause

The TV weather presenter's baby girl spent almost three months in hospital


Laura Tobin visits neonatal ward© Aaron Parfitt
Sophie Hamilton
Parenting Editor
October 16, 2023
Share this:

Six years after Laura Tobin's daughter Charlotte spent 83 days in neonatal wards after her premature birth at 27 weeks, weighing just 2lb 8oz, the TV weather presenter has returned to a NICU unit for an important cause.

Laura, 41, paid a visit to Croydon University Hospital to raise awareness of a partnership between The Ickle Pickles Children’s Charity and Mama Bamboo, who are donating packs of size 0 sustainable bamboo nappies to four neonatal units across the country.

In the UK, over 90,000 babies are born sick or prematurely every year, and Laura, whose daughter is now thriving, is on a mission to support mothers and babies born preterm.

Laura Tobin visited Croydon hospital© Aaron Parfitt
Laura Tobin visited Croydon hospital

Laura told HELLO! of her visit: "I was really excited to be giving the nappies to the mums and dads. If you have a premature baby, you're not prepared, and you don't have any nappies that fit them.

"Neonatal units give you a couple of nappies but then you need to buy them yourself, and the last thing you want to be doing is going to shops or researching where to get premature baby nappies from. It's so important that that one stress is taken away.

"Going back to the NICU unit and giving out the nappies gave me such a positive feeling. I wish Mama Bamboo were around when Charlotte was born prematurely. Now I want to help spread the word about an amazing brand that is helping to give babies born prematurely the best possible start."

Laura shared her own pregnancy and birth story with us, revealing that she actually went into labour with Charlotte while in her dressing room at work.

Laura's pregnancy with Charlotte

"My pregnancy had been great," the TV star tells us. "I'm not really a worrier and I wanted to be one of those mums who could still do everything and work as long as possible. I didn't want people to think that because I was pregnant, I was an invalid.

"But actually, I think we put way too much pressure on ourselves. I think we need to be more relaxed and focus on ourselves more."

Two weeks prior to Charlotte's birth, Laura's waters broke at home, but she was totally unaware, believing it was a bladder control issue. Laura says: "My advice would be, if you feel like you're constantly weeing, there might be an issue. I wish I'd realised that now."

The day before Charlotte was born, Laura's maternity clothes arrived, but she did not feel like trying them on. She recalls: "That afternoon I felt really hot and a bit unwell. I said to my husband, 'I'm not trying these on now,' which is really unusual for me because I love trying on clothes, and I went to bed really early."

Laura Tobin meets a mum in the neonatal ward© Aaron Parfitt
Laura Tobin meets a mum in the neonatal ward

Going into labour and the birth

"The next day I went to work and in the car I had tummy cramps. It was the beginning of labour, which I didn't realise," reveals Laura.

"It's really weird that for me, none of it was very stressful, even though it should have been, as everyone around me was very calm."

Once in the wardrobe department, her stylist Debbie Harper could instantly tell that Laura was in labour. She phoned the show's doctor, Dr. Hilary, who called the nearby St Thomas' hospital and was advised to bring Laura straight in.

Laura remembers how her then-colleague Piers Morgan entered the dressing room and said, 'Oh my god, she looks like she's going to have this baby!' Debbie just looked at him as if to say, go away!"

At the hospital, it became apparent that the baby was about to arrive.

"They give you an injection to try and inflate the baby's lungs. I had a C-section, and they had this amazing anesthetist who asked if I wanted to put some music on. I had some Bon Jovi playing... then she was born!"

Despite arriving at just 27 weeks, Charlotte was a good weight at two and a half pounds, and she was a healthy baby - her lungs just weren't ready yet. Laura recalls how small she was: "My husband's wedding ring could fit on her wrist."

Charlotte stayed at St Thomas' for five days before the family were transferred to Reading Hospital.

Laura Tobin's baby girl Charlotte © Laura Tobin
Laura Tobin's baby girl Charlotte

Over two months in the neonatal ward

"When you first go into the NICU ward, you see loads of incubators, loads of beeping, lights on different babies and you're just thinking, 'What's going on here? What is that beeping?'" says Laura.

While many might feel overwhelmed and upset, the TV presenter's scientific background sent her into practical mode.

She explains: "I'm a really competitive person and I also love science. The big thing for me is I wanted to understand everything straight away. I wanted to know what every machine and cable did and what every number meant. I wanted to question everything. I made sure I knew everything and I had a little spreadsheet. I also expressed milk for Charlotte every three hours."

"You could help to clean your baby and have them out for skin-to-skin time, but I didn't want to because I felt she should have been in my dark tummy. I didn't want to disturb her very much. At four weeks on earth, she was actually 32 weeks in my tummy. They said we could take the cover off her to acclimatise her to the real world, but I said, 'No, just a bit longer'. "

Laura shares one fond memory: "I remember that some people knitted these little crocheted octopuses that they could hold like the umbilical cord. Charlotte really liked that."

The doting mum stayed at the hospital from 8am to 6pm most days, spending time with her daughter and listening to all the discussions about her health, celebrating each milestone Charlotte reached.

Laura met parents and staff at the NICU ward© Aaron Parfitt
Laura met parents and staff at the NICU ward

Taking Charlotte home

After 83 days in neonatal wards, Laura and her husband were finally able to bring their baby girl home, a momentous day for the whole family.

"Charlotte came home the week she should have been born," remembers Laura. "That's always what we were aiming for, just to grow her until 40 weeks then bring her home."

However, while going home was exciting, the moment was also filled with trepidation.

"Taking her home was bizarrely, the scariest bit," admits Laura. "In hospital you have machines attached to your baby to tell you they are alive, and when you go home you realise that you don't. I remember asking the nurse: 'How will I know she's alive?' She said: 'You look at her, breathing.' They told us to stop looking at the machines and look at her."

The transition from hospital to home was helped by the live-in bedrooms in the neonatal units, where you can stay for one or two days with your baby before going home.

"You have a couple of days on your own with your baby, I think to prove to the doctors that you can do it. So we had practice," says Laura.

Once at home, the family of three formed their own protective bubble around Charlotte to keep her away from germs. They stayed home for the first two weeks and all visitors had to be healthy.

"They had to wash and antibac their hands, and then they'd be able to hug her. We didn't take her to a supermarket until she was two. We didn't take her to town or busy places, and no baby classes. We just led a very simple life at home, the three of us, and I loved it."

Laura adds: "We did have a lovely antenatal class though. I remember everyone freaking out when I turned up with no bump!"

Laura Tobin with her daughter Charlotte
Laura Tobin with her daughter Charlotte

Returning to NICU

When Laura visited the neonatal ward at Croydon Hospital to donate nappies to premature babies, it was the first time she had been back in a NICU unit since she left with Charlotte.

She tells us: "I was really conscious that I didn't want to invade people's space, so we talked to parents in a side room. But then I got closer to the ward, and it was almost like the first time I went into that neonatal unit when Charlotte was born. Incubators and cables everywhere, the babies, families around them, lights and beeping of the machines.

"It took me straight back to the exact moment, and I was like, 'Woah.' I didn't expect to feel like that, like a song takes you back to a place. I felt glad we're not there anymore."

Laura shares a heartwarming story of speaking to a mum who was taking her baby, Enzo, home in two days.

"One of the team said, 'Aw, little Enzo has done so well,' and I went, 'No, not little Enzo, big Enzo.' To that mum, that's the biggest she's ever seen her baby and she's super proud of how big he is. She looked at me and said, 'Yes, thank you, big Enzo.'

"I knew exactly how she felt. How exciting it is to go home, and how scary it feels. The neonatal ward was my safe place. I always felt happy there; happy being by Charlotte's side and knowing if they needed me for something, I was there."

Now, Laura is determined to shine a light on the fantastic work Ickle Pickles and Mama Bamboo are doing to provide size zero nappies to the NICU wards.

Laura says: "Mama Bamboo nappies are great, easy to use and good quality. Newborn skin is so delicate and porous, and even more so when premature. Plastic and harsh chemicals are the last thing new parents want to put on their tiny babies.

"Mama Bamboo gives parents the softest, most breathable, bamboo-based products to put against their baby’s delicate skin and alleviates the pressure for parents to find high quality, well fitting, nappies during those very first few hours of life.

"I am such a fan of this brand, not only due to the quality but due to their eco-credentials, this really matters to me as climate change is so important.

"Bamboo is incredible as it creates the perfect fabric for nappies and babies' sensitive skin - it’s soft, breathable, helps airflow and has a special enzyme that reduces anti-bacterial growth, plus it's plastic-free so better for the environment.

"I want to support brands that care about climate change and who want to help save the planet for Charlotte and her generation."

 Laura Tobin teamed up with Mama Bamboo to support its partnership with Ickle Pickles Children’s Charity, donating size 0 tiny baby nappies to neonatal units across the country. For more information on Mama Bamboo’s "Give Another Mother Scheme" visit mamabamboo.com

Sign up to HELLO Daily! for the best royal, celebrity and lifestyle coverage

By entering your details, you are agreeing to HELLO! Magazine User Data Protection Policy. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, please click here.

More Parenting

See more