Tuesday, October 30, 2012
How To: NICU Care Packages
Since I have started talking about doing our second year of NICU Care Packages at Christmas, I have had several people ask me if they would mind if they "borrow/steal" the idea. I say, go right ahead!! I am definitely not the first person to deliver care packages and I'm not sure it's even my idea to steal. I've also had questions about how we go about getting everything set up, finding donations, and putting the packages together so I thought I would write a little post about it in case you are interested in doing something similar. The more the merrier, I think it is wonderful that so many people want to help out whether with our packages or with their own hospital. Here's our list of the things we are doing/have done to get everything ready:
1. Talk to the social worker/charge nurse at the NICU you are interested in donating to. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't breaking any hospital rules or that I wouldn't overwhelm staff by showing up with 40 care packages. I wanted to make sure if we were going to put the work into it that we went about it the right way to make sure they got to the families.
2. Decide what you want your packages to look like. To decide what we wanted in ours, I tried to think about the things I would have liked or wished I had while spending so much time in the NICU. Our list includes these things:
Small lotions (preferably unscented)
Small/Fun Size candy
Snacks (Instant Oatmeal, protein bars etc)
Preemie Baby hats (new, knit, crochet, or sewn in preemie sizes)
$5 Starbucks gift cards
Emergen-c/Halls Vitamin C drops
Sample size shampoo/conditioner
Small children's books
A list of resources for NICU parents (websites, blogs, books, etc)
I wanted to include things for mom, as well as things that would help the parents bond with baby (books, clothes/hats for baby), which can be difficult in a NICU setting. We also included practical things like snacks and hand sanitizer.
3. Rally the troops. This is just not possible without the support of family, friends, and even strangers. Get organized and then put the word out there. You may be surprised at how many people want to help out. Use facebook, your blog, or email to share what you are doing. You could also involve church groups, Bible studies, girl scout troops, school classrooms, etc. Make your "wish list" easily accessible to people and consider making an Amazon list that people can either use as a guide or use directly to purchase and ship items right to you. You could even set up a specific facebook page for your volunteers so that you can show off donations and update people on needs/progress.
4. Have a place to gather and organize supplies. Things add up quickly and can get a little overwhelming as they come in. We keep most items in a separate box so that when it comes time to package up the items we can just grab one of each and put it in the bag.
5. Host a get together to put the packages together! Even if people are unable to donate, many are willing to help put everything together. We only had a few people last year but it went quite quickly once we got into a little system.
6. Deliver the packages! Depending on how your NICU is set up and the staffing, you may or may not get to actually deliver the packages to families. Last year we just dropped them off and the staff handed them out. We would have had to get permission from every family to bring them a package and it just sounded time consuming and difficult for the staff. I was happy to drop them off and let them play Santa. This year, there is a better space where we could set up outside the NICU and we are hoping to have NICU graduate families there to visit with and support current NICU families and hand out care packages.
If you end up with extra things, make a few extra bags! The NICU kept the extra bags and just handed them out as new babies/parents came to the NICU. They also took some of the packages over the L&D for some of the moms on bedrest there, which I think is awesome.