Six years ago last week be brought Tristan home from the hospital neonatal ward. It was still 5.5 weeks before his due date but he had been in hospital for 6 weeks already. It was an unexpected premature labour at 28 weeks and I’d not even packed my hospital bag with clothes for me and new baby. In fact, we’d just bought our baby’s first outfit that day after being sent home from the hospital. We’d gone in with concerns and told that everything was normal and there was ‘nothing sinister’ to worry about. By the time that evening came we knew better. We should have purchased premature baby clothing.
In a short space of time Tristan became one of the 60,000 premature babies born each year in the UK. 1 in 8 babies are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, and there are only 1 in 100 babies born as early as Tristan. He was very early, but he was a good weight, only 3oz off the estimate from our scan 3 days earlier.
When you have a premature baby it finds you short of expected savings along with a great increase in expenses on top of the constant and never-ending worry about your tiny baby. Life is not normal when you spend as much of your time as possible across the county in a 24C room looking at your precious bundle of joy through an incubator window and not able to hold him, or even touch him without permission.
I remember the first time we saw Tristan in his incubator “dressed” in a bodysuit. It made him look less vulnerable and less like a preemie. He was looking more like our strong little son. It didn’t feel so scary to touch him now.
It was at that moment I knew I had a mission – to buy Tristan his “own” clothes. It was wonderful that the hospital had clothes there for the babies to wear and we weren’t required to buy anything, but I felt it was something I NEEDED to do. I couldn’t do much for my son in the special care baby unit, but I could buy him his first outfit. Hopefully one that would fit, as he was a little monkey and tried to find ways out of the hospital’s clothing.
It can seem strange to buy preemie clothes because they are an extra expense and they will be outgrown so quickly and not show any wear. But it helped make me feel more like a Mommy to dress my son in his own clothes. As you can see, I had to be careful his wires didn’t get tangled in the clothing during a change. We took his clothes home with us each evening to wash and bring back in a couple of days. Though I left my child each night I was providing milk for him and doing his laundry.
It still saddens me that this first outfit disappeared, likely it ended up in the hospital laundry by accident when a nurse changed him – but I do have every other outfit. I keep meaning to go through them and donate them to the hospital…but I just can’t part with them. I may bring a piece or two out for the children to use for the dolls and to demonstrate how small Tristan really was. He’s very interested in his birth story at the moment.
It added some interest to the monotonous day to choose a new outfit for our son, even if no one could see it after he left the warmth of the incubator and was wrapped in up to 14 layers of clothes and blankets! But I knew what he was wearing.
When I heard this month that Asda’s George clothing UK had teamed up with Tommy’s to develop a small range of clothes for the very small 1 – 5lb size babies, I contacted them to see if I could help get the word out as I know how important it is to have affordable, good quality clothing easily available for premature babies.
The George line of premature baby clothing are are hospital friendly as babies can be changed without disturbing any tubes or monitors. Fortunately with Tristan we didn’t have to worry about anything other than his SATS monitor but there are many babies who have feeding tubes, heart monitor, drainage tubes, etc. that can’t be disturbed. These new outfits will be ideal.
The clothing comes in pink, blue, and white versions so there’s something to suit everyone. There are bodysuits, sleepsuits, and jackets in the range. The suits have poppers at the shoulders as well as up the side of the suit in addition to the usual locations. This means that they will fold out flat so that and wires and tubes will not get tangled up. Below you can see one of their premature baby bodysuits next to a regular-sized one. Shocking!
The sleepsuits don’t have feet attached to them which will allow the light monitor to be securely attached to little feet and be rotated from limb to limb without disturbing the sleep of your baby by having to completely undress them. The jackets add a little extra warmth and personality to complete the ensemble.
The George premature clothing are made from 100% cotton, which is important for the sensitive, thin skin of premature babies. The outfits can be washed at 95C so this means they won’t be ruined in the hospital laundry.
I was sent a sample of the bodysuits shown below, and I can assure you that the premature baby clothing from Asda George is well-designed for comfort and function in SCBU. I’m thankful they sent a pink sample, as seeing clothing this small again literally stopped me in my tracks with a flood of memories hitting me. Looking back, it’s hard to think of our strong boy being so tiny and fragile.
The prices can’t be beat for only £3 for a jacket, £5 for a set of 3 bodysuits, or £7 for a set of 3 sleepsuits you won’t feel like you’re breaking the bank. The new range is the most affordable on the high street and 10% from the sale of each garment will be donated to Tommy’s to fund research and support families with premature babies.
In January I took part in a workshop that will help guide the future direction of premature research. It’s scary how little is actually known about it; either before birth or for treatments after. I know that it’s important to help the funding of projects that will shed light on improving the lives of premature babies and their families.
The George premature baby clothing is carried in 70 stores near neonatal units in the UK. Check their website for the location nearest to you. The range will also be available for next day delivery and click and collect on George.com so parents can spend minimum time worrying about clothing and maximum time with their new baby.
You may not have a reason to purchase these clothes, and I hope you never will. But keep them in mind if you find yourself, or someone you know in need of them.
The opinions expressed in this blog post are purely my own. I received a sample of the clothing but no other compensation has been received.