The simple act of holding your baby is something parents in Gold Coast University Hospital’s (GCUH) Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can’t always do. To help them stay connected, soft fabric cuddle hearts are given to mum and baby, linking them when the two can’t be together.
One fabric heart is given to the mother and placed on her chest to pick up her scent, with the other heart placed close to the baby for the same reason. The hearts are then swapped so mother and baby are left with each other’s scented heart.
The NICU gives out more than 50 cuddle hearts a month, and urgently needs donations to continue to give its tiniest patients the best start to life.
Linda Paget knows firsthand the benefits of using cuddle hearts after her identical twin daughters were born prematurely last month, at 27 weeks gestation. Harlyn and Kohana have been in GCUH’s NICU for the first 31 days of their life.
Linda was given a cuddle heart when her girls were born and said it had played an important role in helping her family stay connected.
“We can’t always be here on the ward with them, and we can’t hold them. But you can take the heart with you wherever you go, so it’s nice to be able to have a connection to them,” she said.
“We take plenty of photos of the girls, but just to have the smell of them on the cuddle heart really helps.
“When I give them the one I have been wearing, they now know my smell. When I put the cuddle heart near them, they know that smell instantly.”
Newborn Care Unit Clinical Nurse Consultant, Julie Dunsmuir, said the cuddle hearts were used to improve feeding success and to help establish a connection between mother and baby through smell.
“It’s wonderful for a baby to learn its mother’s scent and vice versa when they are separated for any period of time,” she said.
“Smell is one of the first senses a baby develops, and it is one of the first senses to recognise the mother. So, having the mum’s familiar scent can really ease an infant’s stress and discomfort.
“Cuddle hearts have also been proven to help a mother’s milk come in when she is apart from her baby.”
Ms Dunsmuir urges anyone who has some spare time and a sewing machine to help out.
“It’s something so simple but can make such a difference. Definitely get behind it and donate as many as you can,” she said.
“Every heart helps.”
Donations can be dropped off at Gold Coast University Hospital’s Gold Coast Hospital Foundation kiosk.
• The Cuddle Heart is simply two heart-shaped pieces of material sewn together back-to-back, without stuffing.
• The hearts need to be sewn inside out and then turned out, with no raw edges, no overlocking (please ensure hearts are still between 10 and 15 cm in height and width after being turned inside out).
• Please use soft cotton or flannelette material and nothing fluffy or synthetic.
• Please make three cuddle hearts per pack (one for mum, one for baby and one spare).