Welcome to our seventh annual NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) Christmas challenge. It’s hard for me to believe it’s been seven years since I went through the NICU with my third child (and second NICU baby) and decided that I needed to do something for other moms with infants in isolettes. Three of my five children required NICU stays, and I went home from the hospital leaving my tiny infant in their care. It is a heartbreaking experience for a mama with blissful expectations of cuddles and pictures and nursing and baby clothes and all of the other things that are part of life with a newborn that are all shattered with a baby whisked away for intensive care.
Very few people with a child in the NICU expected to be there. They might be there because they went into labor prematurely. They might be there because of a medical emergency that required early delivery and an emergency c-section from which they are recovering. They might be there with a full-term baby that has trouble breathing or regulating blood sugars. They might be there with an infant who suffered an injury or oxygen deprivation during delivery and needs extra help.
Whatever the reason for the NICU stay, the NICU is a scary and traumatic place for the families of the patients in it. The family is hopeful but often uncertain as to whether their newest member will ever be coming home with them or whether they will have to say an untimely goodbye.
The babies often cannot wear anything except their diaper, and are covered with wires, tubes, and monitoring equipment. Some babies must be kept warm behind a wall of glass, which creates a further barrier for bonding. Often, the first article of clothing an infant in the NICU is allowed to wear is a hat, and, boy, is it a treasure! These are often donated by people like you and me who want to make a difference for these families. In years past, we’ve done this as a 12-day challenge for the 12 days of Christmas, but that always makes things a little bit hectic during the holidays. This year, we’re going to do a 12-week challenge for the 12 days of Christmas, just to make it a little bit easier to get your challenge done. Yay!
The challenge is to make 12 infant hats — both newborn and preemie sizes are desperately needed — one for each of the 12 days of Christmas, and donate them to your local NICU. As you make your hats, please share photos of your work on social media with the hashtag #NICUChallenge, and also on my Facebook page, where we’ll make a gallery of everyone’s finished projects. It’s exciting to be part of such a big project! We’ve had tens of thousands of hats made and donated each year of this challenge. I hope this year will be no exception!
I will post a new batch of patterns each week. Most of the patterns are from previous years, but there are several new patterns that will coming this year as well. Choose one pattern each week — or a favorite pattern of your own — and work it up. By Christmas, you’ll have your hats ready to be delivered. As always, if you want to make more, I’m sure the nurses at your local hospital will be thrilled to look through your basket and choose a darling hat for one of their patients. Please use cotton or acrylic yarn for your project; they are hypoallergenic and will not cause problems with the babies’ skin or equipment. To ensure that your donation is helpful, it’s best to call your hospital to see if they have any requirements before you begin stitching.
To ensure that you receive all of the weekly patterns, sign up for our email list. The patterns will be sent with the weekly email. Thanks for being a part of this years’ challenge!
Week 1 Patterns: