Two years ago, a big sister came up with an idea to give back to a place that is close to her family’s hearts.
When Claudine’s baby brother was born, he spent the first six weeks of his life in the NICU at Winchester Medical Center. This experience inspired her to start the “Heart to Heart” program.
“I wanted to create a service project that would create happiness and feel like the mothers could have more of a connection their baby. I heard about developmental hearts and I thought I could bring it to Winchester,” said 13-year-old Claudine Bechamps.
Claudine and her mother sew fabric hearts which are given to parents of NICU babies. The parents wear the hearts to get their scent on them and leave them with their baby in the NICU when they cannot be there.
About 15 families have participated in the program so far. Crystal Ashby said she was introduced to the idea when her son was first brought to the NICU 46 weeks ago.
“We take them with us and we personally sleep with them. Then we’ll bring them in and put them in with him. As he starts to have a rough night or something like that, the nurses will put them close to him so he can get the scent and it seems to help him calm down,” said Ashby.
Nurses say there is scientific research that proves that when a newborn smells their parent’s scent, it helps bond them together.
“They can feel more involved with their baby’s care and it’s something that only they can do because it is scent recognition and it is specific for the parents,” said NICU nurse Cindy Nicholson-Yancey.
The first hearts were handed out this past October to honor the second birthday of Claudine’s baby brother.