Anastasia's first year (2005)
Eating & Reflux (year 2, 2006)
Back to Sleep! (2007)
And Zane, Too (2008)
Allergies & Getting Big (2009)
Starting School (2010)
It's All Good (2011)Search the Miracle Baby bebsite
When Anastasia was still in the hospital, I was surprised to find much of the clothing sold for preemies simply wasn't wearable. With that in mind, here are some tips for those who love a preemie and want to give him or her some very special, tiny clothes.
What a Preemie Really Needs
At first, most preemies don't need clothes. When a premature baby is laying on a warming bed in the hospital, she can't wear anything at all - except perhaps a hat and diaper. If the baby is in an incubator (or "isolette"), she still can't wear clothes, or she'll become too hot. (At this stage, hats are still a okay, and blankets or quilts that can be thrown over the incubator to shield the baby from light make nice gifts.) It isn't until a preemie graduates to a crib that clothes become necessary - or even acceptable to the hospital staff.
At that time, some preemies can wear newborn-sized clothing (for infants weighing 6 to 10 lbs.) with the sleeves rolled up. In fact, if newborn clothes are close to fitting, it's most practical not to bother with preemie clothes at all.
If the preemie is 4 to 7 lbs., he can wear regular preemie clothes. And in the rare instances that a smaller baby will be allowed to wear anything other than a hat, he'll need micro preemie (or "extreme preemie") clothes, which are made to fit babies weighing 1 to 3 lbs.
If you're unsure whether or not the baby is allowed to wear clothes, the nursing staff will be happy to tell you. (Although, in my experience, the moment the baby is allowed to wear clothes, the nurses will run to the parents and announce the fact proudly!)
A Lot of Preemie Clothing Can't Be Worn
Even once a baby is allowed to wear clothes, not all clothes made for preemies are practical for the hospital setting. Most preemies are hooked up to heart and breathing monitors, and many preemies also have other wires attached to their bodies. Nurses and doctors must be able to easily gain easy access to these wires. This means anything that doesn't have snaps, buttons, or a zipper down the front isn't appropriate.
Bear in mind, too, that many preemies are allowed - sometimes even encouraged - to sleep on their tummies. Since their breathing is being monitored, there's little risk of dying from SIDS, and tummy sleeping may ease reflux symptoms. In such cases, buttons and zippers down the front may be uncomfortable for the baby, and garments with snaps are preferred.
If the baby is on any form of oxygen, clothes that slip over the head cannot be put on without removing the oxygen-giving device. And that might upset the preemie's parents!
Once a preemie comes home, she may still need practical, snap down the front clothing if she's on oxygen, has a G-tube, or wears an apnea monitor. But bear in mind that many preemies outgrow preemie clothes before they come home from the NICU.
Here's an example of clothes (from Amazon.com) that are appropriate for preemies:
All preemies need hats, as they tend to loose body heat very easily, and hats help prevent this. Sleepers with snaps running down the entire front, as well as in the diaper area, are the most practical clothing for preemies.
If you're wondering whether you should buy 100% cotton organic clothes, you might consider this. Extremely tiny, thin-skinned micro preemies spend their days and nights laying on hospital linens that are certainly not organic and are regularly washed in very harsh detergent. Often, they also wear hospital-issue, part polyester hats. Older preemies who are ready for clothes but may not have any yet are often issued ordinary polyester/cotton clothes by the hospital. So paying extra for organic because you feel it's best for the baby's skin is probably a waste of money. (And buying special infant detergent definitely is, unless the baby has shown signs of extremely sensitive skin.)
Where to Shop
You needn't visit a fancy boutique to buy clothes for a preemie. For inexpensive, simple, and practical preemie clothes, your local Wal-Mart may be a good choice. In my experience, they usually carry many infant clothes in preemie-size; in fact, in my area, Wal-Mart is far more likely to have preemie clothing than any of the other places that sell infant clothes.
If you want to shop online, here are some sites to check out:
Make it Yourself
If you'd like to make your precious preemie her first clothes, there are a few resources available.
For knitters, see Bev's Country Cottage offers free knitting patterns for premature infants. Bev's also has free crochet patterns for preemie clothes. Also see the free knitting and crochet preemie patterns at Knitting Help, Angels 4 Preemies, and Preemie Project.
For sewers, Bev's also has some patterns, and Touching Little Lives has a free sleeper pattern you can download. Also check out Threads of Love and Newborns in Need, Patterns for preemies made by the big sewing pattern companies are more difficult to find. Try checking the newborn layettes; sometimes they come in preemie sizes, as these McCall's patterns do.
Make it for Charity
When Anastasia was in the NICU, she received several handmade things from volunteers, including two tiny hats, a crocheted afghan, and a quilt. Each made coping with a baby attached to wires a little easier on us, and all are special heirlooms now.
If you'd like to donate handmade clothes for preemies, please check out the charity organizations listed at Bev's Cottage. Most local March of Dimes branches also accept handmade clothes for preemies. (Find your local chapter here.)