Sleepsuits for Sleeping Babies

I wrote before about starting to make clothes for tiny babies, but I thought I’d update as it has been a while and my idea has changed and evolved.

It started when I was pregnant with Jackson, my Rainbow Baby, and my local NICU asked people to knit little hats for their patients. I found the rest of the balls of wool I had used to knit Effy-Mae a blanket and used that to knit them (This was where the idea to do this in her memory came from). I found that in a few short days I had knitted up quite a few and I had the bug!

Soon after that I had Jackson and my life became quite hectic, but I knew I wanted to continue making things for babies born too soon and too small, but I decided to change which ones. Before, I had been knitting for those babies who had a chance, those in the NICU, born early, but alive, but then I remembered the blankets that Effy-Mae was presented to me in. Someone had made those and donated them to the hospital for babies born far too small, for babies born asleep. Babies like Effy-Mae, and what more fitting thing to do in her memory?

I had read other stories about similar babies born in different hospitals who were presented to their parents in clothes, what a difference that would have made. Effy-Mae was red, she was bloated, her abdomen was translucent and dark and she was presented to me naked, and it was a shock to see her like that, she looked a little alien. A hat and an outfit would have allowed me to see her instantly as the gorgeous little baby she was.

I never managed to cuddle my little girl, she was presented to me in a basket and blankets and her fragile body was so exposed in the blanket that just holding her made me feel like she was going to break. I think an outfit would have changed that, made her feel more solid, more robust and allowed me to cradle her like a newborn baby, like the first cuddle I should have been getting 4 1/2 months later.

So that was it. If I could make another mums experience a little bit more bearable I had to do it! But how, and what to make.

Effy-Mae was never dressed by me, she spent the whole time I saw her wrapped in blankets, I was never offered clothes for her, and it wasn’t something I considered sourcing and bringing I wasn’t in the headspace to even consider it. They’d have to have been offered to my by the hospital or funeral director, so this is where I will aim to provide my clothes.

I say she was never dressed by me, but she did wear clothes, once. The nurses offered to take photos of her for me after I’d left her, but I didn’t realise that they’d be dressing her for these. When I got the photos back I cried. I sat in the chapel at the hospital and cried to my dad asking what they’d done to her! They had forced her into a knitted dress with sleeves that they’d had to push her arms through, ripping her paper thin, delicate skin. I couldn’t look at those photos for a long time, they upset me too much.
This is key to the clothes I am going to make, I don’t want anyone else going through what I did, so any clothes I make will be totally open with poppers to do them up meaning no limbs will be forced through and no babies damaged. If I can’t make this work as I imagine then I will not make clothes and I shall stick to blankets and hats.

I have recently found some preemie baby sleepsuits on sale that open completely allowing them to be carefully dressed and for their treatment to continue around the clothing, this was exactly what I was planning on designing so I bought a set and shall now unpick these to get myself a pattern. These only go down to 3lb babies so I will need to shrink the pattern to make it suitable for tiny babies from around 15 weeks gestation. I will see what I can make and then contact my local hospital and funeral director to see if this is something they can and will use, but I am quite passionate about this because with a sleepsuit and a hat on I reckon the tiniest baby will look more like the tiny newborn that to their mother they are.

So watch this space – I’ll be tweeting updates with the #SleepsuitsForSleepingBabies. I’m so excited about this project, but I will need to learn to use a sewing machine first (and teach Jackson to sleep!), I just wish I’d had the foresight to make one of these for Effy-Mae.

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  • An 'Angel Baby' is a baby lost during pregnancy or early childhood, who sleeps in the clouds instead of our arms.

    A 'Rainbow Baby' is a baby born following the loss of an 'Angel Baby', a beacon of hope after a storm, while not denying the storm happened.

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