The March of Dimes NICU Family Support Program® at Saint Luke’s Hospital is giving parents with critically ill newborns a moment to make special Valentine’s Day memories with their little sweethearts. These staff and volunteers have prepared tiny knit hats decorated with hearts for each baby’s photo shoot. Professional photographers whose own babies were once in the NICU are volunteering their services to capture images of today’s NICU babies as keepsakes. For this special celebration of love, babies and their families are also exchanging valentines. March of Dimes and Saint Luke’s are making “baby footprint valentines” for the parents, while the parents are putting their feelings in writing in love letters to their babies.
“Every day a child is in the NICU can be frightening and uncertain, but holidays are especially tough, as families miss the normal joys of celebrations at home,” says Rebecca Keunen, March of Dimes NICU Family Support Coordinator.
Babies in the NICU may have been born too small, too soon, or with a medical condition that requires intensive care. The March of Dimes developed the NICU Family Support program to help support families during their baby’s time in the NICU. The program also educates NICU staff about the best ways to support babies, families, and each other.
Babies born premature (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), even born just a few weeks too soon, can face serious health challenges and are at risk for lifelong disabilities including breathing problems, vision loss, cerebral palsy, and intellectual delays. In the United States, about 380,000 babies are born too soon each year – that’s 1 in 10. The premature birth rate in our country is higher than that in most other high-resource nations.
The March of Dimes is supporting cutting-edge research at a nationwide network of five Prematurity Research Centers, where about 200 of the brightest minds are collaborating to create major breakthroughs in prematurity. By working together, March of Dimes-funded scientists and researchers are finding answers to the unknown causes of premature birth.