It is a cacophony of soft beeps, buzzes, lullabies and cries. Many tiny cords are attached to machines attached to the tiniest of patients. It’s one of the most protected units inside Methodist Dallas Medical Center. The Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has capacity for 50 premature and low birth weight babies and all of them have a special “lovie” cuddling next to them.
The lovies are the brainchild of NICU nurse Jennifer McDougal who had seen other hospitals provide similar blankets to patients and their mothers. The lovies are simple pieces of flannel cut into squares and folded over a ball of cotton, then sewn and tied. These gifts aren’t just cute, they serve a medical purpose. The baby sleeps and cuddles with the lovie while his mother wears it in her shirt. They are switched out every two days so the baby can smell his mother’s unique scent and bond to it, and the baby’s scent on the mother’s skin helps her milk come in.
It was the greatest gift to Francesca Neely when she delivered her first child Christopher at 23 weeks. He weighed less than a pound and was whisked away to the NICU. She couldn’t hold him for seven weeks, so her lovie was the only physical connection between her and her son. Neely also credits it with helping her pump breast milk to feed him hours after delivery. He is now four and a half pounds and doing well after three months in the NICU.
Lactation consultant Jennifer Light says many mothers of preemies are discouraged they can’t produce milk after the pre-term delivery, but she reassures them the colostrum they do provide is “the best medicine for their growing baby” and wearing the lovies helps that colostrum and milk flow.
While many hospital NICUs offer support and other bonding gifts to mothers, the lovies are special to the Methodist Dallas NICU and they are made by hands that will never get to touch that soft baby skin. A dozen members of Cliff Temple Baptist Church in Oak Cliff spend hours cutting and sewing the lovies together every few weeks. Jennifer McDougal’s husband is the senior pastor, so when she suggested the idea to a group of retired ladies last December, they couldn’t wait to begin. Linda Bell says she does it because it’s what God would want her to do. She prays for the lovies and for the babies they touch to heal their bodies quickly so they can go home. Like the other ladies, Bell says she will cut and sew as long as her hands are able and her heart is willing.
Watch the FOX 4 News story about the lovies at Methodist Dallas:
Calvert Collins-Bratton spent ten years on TV as a broadcast journalist in Columbia, Missouri, Omaha, Las Vegas, and Dallas-Fort Worth. She recently joined Methodist Health System as the Public Relations Manager. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri and enjoys traveling, walking, watching football (especially her Mizzou Tigers) and spending time with her husband and toddler daughter, Vivienne.