Premature babies arrive early and are typically smaller than full-term babies, making it harder for parents to find suitable clothing and supplies for their child. In addition, many preemies must spend time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) until they are strong enough to go home. These infants have additional needs. Friends and family members who know how to crochet can show their support for the family by providing handmade items for the new child.
A large crocheted blanket is useful for parents to curl up in while caring for their premature baby and can also be a keepsake for the child when he grows up. In addition, the BabyCenter website notes that blankets and afghans are often used to cover the baby and parent during kangaroo care, where the child is laid on the caregiver's chest, skin to skin, with a blanket draped over, allowing the baby to maintain his heat, regulate his breathing and sleep deeper.
Due to their small size, many premature infants do not fit into traditional newborn clothing. Preemies often need a whole wardrobe, including shirts, sweaters, boots and mittens. Most clothing items for preemies can be crocheted and donating these items helps prevent the baby from being wrapped in non-clothing items such as cling film or cotton balls to help keep her warm and dry. It is important to remember when selecting a pattern and making these items that some preemies are very tiny and most traditional sized patterns must be adapted.
Coverlets are small blankets, typically one foot square, that are used in the NICU to keep babies warm in their bassinets. Some parents sleep with a coverlet for a night or two before giving it to their infant, allowing their scent to get on the blanket for the child to smell and recognise them. Coverlets also allow parents a chance to complete a bedtime ritual with their preemies, giving them the opportunity to tuck their child in with a blanket that is not overwhelmingly large.
Hats help regulate a preemie's body temperature, preventing heat from escaping from the head. Premature babies need specially sized hats to fit on their small heads and many infants go through many hats throughout their time in a NICU, as some hospitals do not allow hats that have fallen on the floor to be placed back on the baby, even after they have been washed, in an attempt to curb infection.