Sometimes a photo with Santa is more than just a picture with jolly St. Nick. When an infant is hospitalized during the holidays, having a photo with your child and Santa can bring a bit of normalcy to an otherwise stressful experience.

Published Dec 23rd, 2019

By Casandra Andrews
candrews@health.southalabama.edu

Sometimes a photo with Santa is more than just a picture with jolly St. Nick. When an infant is hospitalized during the holidays, having a photo with your child and Santa can bring a bit of normalcy to an otherwise stressful experience.

Specially trained nurses in the Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital create a variety of opportunities throughout the year to support parents of severely premature infants.

“It eases anxiety during a difficult time,” said Courtney Thomson, RNC-NIC, BSN, a parent educator in the NICU. “It helps to make the holidays a little easier and it allows them to do something normal with their babies.”

When Santa visited the NICU on Dec. 20 to take photos with tiny patients, a holiday party was held during a parent support group where moms and dads created Christmas “sweaters” for their children.

Parents sat at tables in the classroom, talking and smiling as they glued colorful decorations on petite white onesies. “I made a happy memory today,” said mom Hailey Baker of Mobile. “She’ll have this forever.”

Having a strong family support system is vital to the survival of newborns, especially those born too soon. At Children’s & Women’s, care teams encourage and nurture family bonding time through research-based programs and activities designed to provide infants optimal growth and resilience for parents, siblings and infants.

Thomson, and two other nurses who serve as parent and staff educators in the NICU, presented information about USA Health’s family-bonding programs to delegates from 21 countries earlier this year at the Council of International Neonatal Nurses conference in New Zealand.

Research suggests teaching parents how to best support their infant’s development is vital to ensuring the most successful outcomes.

For new mom Yulissa Martinez, creating a holiday outfit for her son was a happy ending to a journey that began four months earlier. “All I asked for Christmas was for him to come home,” she said. “We are leaving today.”

To see more photos, click here

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