Bundles of love: Premature babies celebrate their first Valentine's Day in the NICU
The March of Dimes NICU Family Support Program at Saint Luke's Hospital is helping parents send Valentine's greetings to premature babies in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
In the spirit of Valentine's Day, staff and volunteers inside the hospital made tiny knitted hats decorated with hearts. Professional photographers, whose own babies were once in the NICU, captured images of the babies to give as keepsakes to the parents.
The parents of the children wrote messages of love and admiration to their newborns.
One message written by the parents of newborn James Wilkinson, read: "Happy Valentine's Day James! You are the best Valentine we have ever received. We love you more than we could ever explain and can't wait for all the fun memories our little family is sure to create. Your 4-legged sisters can't wait to get you home! Love, Mom and Dad."
March of Dimes and Saint Luke's also made "baby footprint Valentines" for the parents.
March of Dimes NICU Family Support Coordinator Rebecca Keunen said in a statement: "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."
"Babies in the NICU may have been born too small, too soon, or with a medical condition that requires intensive care," according to the March of Dimes.
Babies born premature, generally before 37 weeks of pregnancy, can face serious health challenges and are at risk for lifelong disabilities including breathing problems, vision loss, cerebral palsy, and intellectual delays.
According to the March of Dimes, in the United States about 380,000 premature babies are born each year. The premature birth rate is about one in 10 and is higher than that in most other high-resource nations.