When my younger daughter was born six weeks early, she had to spend three weeks in the NICU, and one of the many terrible aspects of that terrible time was my inability to treat her as a baby. When my older daughter was a newborn, I’d held her constantly, but my younger daughter was at first too fragile to be touched. I breastfed my older daughter, but could only pump colostrum for a nurse to drip into my younger daughter’s feeding tube. I dressed my older daughter in the newborn clothing that she’d been given at my baby showers, but I spent the day that my younger daughter’s baby shower was scheduled instead sitting on a stool next to her incubator. I hadn’t even unpacked her sister’s newborn clothing yet, and anyway, it wouldn’t have fit my preemie.
When she was stable enough to wear clothing, a nurse dressed my daughter in a tiny hospital smock with a pattern too faded by industrial washings for me to decipher it. I was welcome to dress her in open-front outfits of my own, and I even spent one precious afternoon away from the NICU to shop, but do you want to know which stores stock open-front preemie outfits?
Yeah, no stores.
I would have LOVED to have had one of these open-front preemie NICU smocks to dress my Syd in, and I hope that you’ll be sewing along with me and lots of others in this Craftsy charity drive, so that other parents have the chance to dress their babies in clothes of their own, no matter where or when they’re born.
Remember to follow the pattern’s instructions very carefully, as NICUs are understandably strict about what they permit their patients to wear. You’re also free to donate the smocks that you make to a hospital of your choice, but if you have your heart set on this option, do call them first: hospitals often have different requirements for different reasons, and some hospitals may require a modification of this smock before it’s acceptable, or may not accept smocks at all, but can direct you to a different project. For instance, on the day of Syd’s discharge from the NICU, I was invited to choose from a selection of donated knitted and crocheted caps for Syd, and her not-quite-two-year-old sister got to pick one, too. It felt pretty great.
Now that my sick little preemie is a healthy, big nine-year-old, we can work together on projects like these that touch us. If you, too, are working with a kid, consider letting the kid choose the fabric, pre-wash it for you, and help you cut out the pattern pieces. And if this project inspires you and you’d like to spend even more time crafting for charity, check out this list of even more options!
Photo credit: NICU smocks image via Craftsy