As every parent of a preemie knows, having your baby in the NICU is tough. I think almost everyone who leaves the NICU ends up feeling grateful for the care that the staff gave their preemie. I have talked to a lot of parents who want to find ways to give back to the their local NICUs and help other families who face the same situation. Here are some ways that you can give back to your NICU:
Call your local hospital/NICU and find out what they need. Some organizations have specific rules about what they can and can not accept so it's easiest to call ahead and get the details. This is a great opportunity to find out what they might really need. It may spark a new idea that you hadn't thought of.
Here are some option for things that you (and your family and friends) can do for your NICU:
Blankets and/or hats - many people make blankets or hats for NICU babies. Whether or you sew, knit, crochet or cut out some lovely fleece - making something yourself is a beautiful way to show someone you care. One of my daughter's favorite blankets today is one of the first ones she got in the NICU. We gave a lot of them back when she went home so that others could use them but that one we kept.
- Project Linus is a non-profit, national organization that donates blankets to hospitals. Check out their site for local chapters, donation information, patterns, etc.
- Need a pattern to get started? Check out this Preemie Knitting/Crochet Patterns directory for a ton of great ideas.
- Local groups - many local churches, auxiliary or other organizations make blankets or other items for hospitals so check your local area
- Not a crafter? Consider donating supplies or gift cards to craft stores so that others can purchase what they need to make items.
Memory Boxes - It is a sad fact that many preemies don't survive. No matter how short a life is, there are mementos to take home and cherish. Many hospitals provide memory boxes for parents. Memory Box Artist Program is a national program that provides boxes to hospitals around the country. If you don't want to go through them, find out if your NICU needs these boxes and get decorating. It will mean a lot to parents who are grieving.
Volunteering - Most if not all hospitals have some sort of volunteer program. Many of them include a program for people to come into the NICU and hold the babies that are there. Find out if your local hospital has this program and sign-up. Since this is often a popular program - some hospitals require you to do other volunteering within the hospital first.
NICU Support Group - Most NICUs offer some sort of support group for families. Find out if your NICU would like you to come in and share your family's story. Many parents find comfort in hearing other parents talk about what they went through. It's a great opportunity for you to share stories, advice, answer questions, etc. If your NICU doesn't have that type of program, let some of the nurses know that you are willing to talk to parents who are facing similar issues.
Donations - There are many things that NICUs could use - here are some ideas to get you started.
- Disposable cameras - some parents may not have a camera or may forget to bring one. Provide parents with disposable cameras that can be left at the bedside.
- Notebooks/Journals - Provide a small notebook for parents to keep track of how thier preemie is doing.
- Parking Passes - for hospitals that have paid parking, purchase passes for parents to use
- Magazines - bring in some of your magazines for the hospital/NICU waiting room. It can make the waiting time go by much faster if you have something to look at.
- Preemie books - buy a couple copies of your favorite/most useful preemie books and leave them in the NICU for other parents to read.
- Food/Drinks - some hospitals have a family room for parents and family members to wait. Purchase some snacks to leave in there.
- Transportation - some babies are transferred to hospitals far away from home. With gas prices getting higher every day, some parents have to choose between visiting their baby or paying rent. If you have the ability, volunteer to drive parents to and from the hospital so they can visit with their baby.
- Children's Books - Purchase some favorite children's book for siblings to read or for parents to read to their babies while they are visiting.
Do you have an idea for how to give back to your NICU? Please leave a comment.