Kind-hearted Kiwis sewing fabric hearts for NICU babies

Thu, Jun 1

Kind-hearted Kiwis handy with a sewing machine are making a big difference at neonatal intensive care units — and it starts with a small fabric heart.

The Cuddle Hearts help babies and their parents connect when they can't be physically close.

"I choose from my own stash and I look for the cutest, softest little fabrics and I get this real warm feeling inside," one volunteer told Seven Sharp.

"It gave me a reason to jump out of bed and sew some hearts, help these children," another said.

Once the helpers are done, organiser Lisa Paget brings the finished hearts to Christchurch's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

They give out 3000 hearts each year in Christchurch.

The hearts are first worn by the baby's mum, next to her skin, for a day. They're then placed just under the baby's head, allowing them to smell their mum's scent.

"Having the scent of their parents can keep babies really well-regulated and calm," neonatal physiotherapist Tiffany Hamilton explained.

The hearts can also be swapped out.

"So bubby has mummy's scent for the night and they take baby's scent home and it's lovely for dads too," Hamilton said.

"Parents say to us when they leave but they have their Cuddle Hearts, that they feel that they're leaving a piece of them with their baby and that they're taking a piece of baby away with them and that makes it easier for them."

Paget first saw the Cuddle Hearts in use in Australia, when her nieces were born 13 weeks premature.

However, just one of the girls — little Harlan — survived.

"To lose Kahana was just beyond devastating," she said, becoming emotional.

"The day before Kahana passed away, I stood by her side for a moment alone and told her that Aunty Lisa was going to come home to New Zealand and I was going to try and set up the programme here in her honour," she said.

Paget hopes to see Cuddle Hearts in NICUs nationwide.


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