Human Interest

Premature babies get into the Christmas spirit with the help of NICU staff

Having a premature child in the NICU can be a harrowing experience any time of year, but it’s especially difficult during the holidays. Instead of celebrating Christmas at home as a family, many parents find themselves separated from their little ones at home while they watch their preemies fight for their life in the hospital. That hardship is why so many staff members in NICUs everywhere do what they can to help spread Christmas cheer for the families of their small-but-mighty patients.

Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky made sure that all was calm and bright in their NICU, where staff hosted a Christmas party. The babies sported adorable holiday outfits, and the party was complete with Christmas cookies, snowballs, and even Rudolph to help families get into the Christmas spirit.

Children’s Health in North Texas helped their NICU babies get comfy for Christmas in adorable stockings, provided by the hospital’s child life specialists. “We are so thankful for team members who go above and beyond to make these precious moments possible,” the hospital wrote on their Facebook page.

Meanwhile, in Austin, Santa Claus stopped by the NICU at Ascension Seton Medical Center. Babies were able to wear cute holiday outfits for their first visits with Santa, which was done carefully to ensure their tiny patients didn’t get sick. “While Christmas in the NICU at Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin looked a little different again this year due to safety protocols resulting from COVID-19, we are excited to safely bring holiday cheer to families in our care,” the hospital said in a statement to KVUE.

The NICU at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare celebrated with ugly Christmas sweaters, handmade by NICU staff. “There’s snow way we would miss our favorite holiday tradition!” the hospital wrote on Facebook. “This year, our NICU babies are sleigh-ing it in their ugly Christmas sweaters.”

Heather Dahmer, a registered nurse and director of children’s services at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, told TODAY Parents that these traditions help make a difficult time a little easier for their NICU families. “Having a baby in the NICU can be unexpected and challenging for families, making the holidays feel less merry,” she said. “Bringing the festive fun to these little ones and their parents through this annual tradition is just one of the many ways our team works to normalize the NICU environment and make an uncertain time special for families. Our crafty NICU night team created the sweaters and our day team helped bring their visions to life.”

In New Zealand, a team of volunteers from the Wellington Hospitals Foundation works hard to give a Christmas surprise to their NICU families. “Every year on Christmas Day parents arrive to visit their special little ones in NICU to find them dressed in Christmas clothing and wrapped in Christmas sheets and blankets,” a statement on Facebook read. “The Foundation has also delivered 45 beautiful Santa stockings for each incubator with a gift of a quilt, cardigan, toy, singlet, booties and beanies for every baby.”

And they’re already getting ready for that Christmas surprise to take place again this year.

Santa made a special visit to St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. There, each baby in the NICU was wrapped up like a Christmas gift, and families got a special keepsake photo with Santa to remember their first Christmas together.

Summerville Medical Center in South Carolina got into the Christmas spirit by paying homage to some of pop culture’s most cherished holiday movies. “As Buddy the Elf would say, ‘Oh my gosh! BABIES! I love them!'” the hospital wrote on Facebook. “Check out the newest Christmas bundles of joy in the Level II Special Care Nursery showcasing some of our favorite holiday classic movie scenes from ‘Elf’ to ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ and so many more. Thank you to the amazing nurses in our Special Care Nursery for this annual holiday tradition that makes Baby’s First Christmas so special.”

The NICU babies at Bryan Health in Lincoln, Nebraska, also got a special visit from Santa, where the hospital wrote a sweet letter for parents. “Dear Santa,” it began. “For Christmas this year our wish it to go home strong and healthy. If you could, please assure our parents that we are doing our best. Love, The Babies of the Bryan Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).”

“We have been here since November 4th,” Brin Martin, whose daughter is in the NICU, said. “I had some medical complications while she was still in my stomach. She was born November 7, 10 weeks early, and we’ve been here ever since. It’s definitely tough, but it’s great because it’s a memory that she’ll be able to have.”

Santa also made a trip to San Antonio to visit the babies at Baptist Health System’s NICU. Families got to take photos with Santa and their little ones, a precious keepsake of their holiday in the NICU.

NICU nurses made the holidays a little extra special for their tiny patients at Ascension All Saints Hospital in Racine, Wisconsin. Babies got into the spirit with adorable costumes of elves and snowmen sure to brighten any heart.

These are just a sampling of the hospitals going above and beyond to help NICU families find a little more joy in a stressful time. It can be hard to find cheer when you’re scared your child might not make it, but these small efforts can make a world of difference.

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