Every November, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is home to some of the cutest little turkeys in the world.
Most families in the Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (RNICU) at UAB Hospital will be spending the holidays away from home and other family members. But UAB’s littlest patients will always be ready to celebrate Thanksgiving in handmade turkey costumes thanks to Loving the Preemies, a group that makes holiday-themed outfits for RNICU babies every year.
Debbie Morrow, founder of Loving the Preemies, started crocheting the costumes for RNICU babies in 2016 after her nephew and his wife had premature quintuplets at UAB Hospital. Unfortunately, only two of the five babies survived. The family stayed at UAB Hospital for five months before they were able to return home. During this time, Morrow formed a bond with nurse Sandra Milstead. They started discussing a need for clothes that were small enough for RNICU babies.
Preemie clothing is generally designed for babies who weigh 5 pounds or more, and many babies in UAB’s RNICU are smaller. Morrow saw this as an opportunity to use his skills to give back. Morrow worked closely with Milstead to meet this need. While Milstead measured the babies to make sure the clothes fit, Morrow created patterns to crochet the outfits.
“In the five months we were here, the nurses at the RNICU were so good at taking care of the babies,” Morrow said. “During the holidays, they would take pictures of the RNICU babies and give them to their parents to document their first vacation. One day, Sandra and I were talking about the difficulty of finding suitable outfits for small babies. I love to crochet, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to use that skill.
Morrow started crocheting outfits for babies; but as the need grew, she was unable to do it all on her own. In 2019, she decided to bring in other local crocheters, and so began Loving the Preemies.
“My favorite thing about this group is knowing that the families of these preemies will have an outfit to put their baby in, no matter how small,” Morrow said. “I knew what our family and our babies went through when they were here, and I just hope these outfits are a blessing to each of these mothers, so they can be at peace knowing they have something. that will suit their babies.”
The group creates 100 to 120 themed outfits for each of the 10 major holidays, including Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Each outfit is intended for babies weighing between 1 and 8 pounds. Each outfit is adjustable to ensure the best possible fit. Throughout the year, Morrow travels over 100 miles to deliver costumes. To date, Morrow has manufactured and delivered approximately 5,000 outfits.
“One of the best things about crochet costumes is that they help make a baby’s first vacation a celebration,” Milstead said. “Even at RNICU, these babies are having their first Thanksgiving, and we want to help our families celebrate that.”
Milstead said each parent was grateful when presented with an outfit, with tears of joy.
“When parents see their baby dressed in holiday attire, it may be the first time they’ve seen their baby in anything resembling clothing,” Milstead said. “These little hats and diaper covers bring such a sense of normalcy and happiness to parents, even if it’s just for a few moments. It gives me great joy to see a parent’s face when they see their baby dressed.
Each outfit takes about an hour and a half to make, and all costs are covered by band members and donations. To learn more about how to support or get involved with Loving the Preemies, join the group’s Facebook group.
This story originally appeared on the UAB News website.
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