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The March of Dimes and the NICU: A Very Special Relationship

By Peyton Lewis, RN – UAB Medicine Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

March of Dimes 2019Parents with a child in UAB Medicine’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) face a difficult situation. With physicians and nurses coming in and out and the many wires, machines, and tubes connected to your child, parents can feel like they don’t have much of a role. It can be scary to look at your child in that state and hard to convince yourself to touch or hold them.

Some babies don’t leave the NICU for weeks or even months, so parents spend a lot of time in the hospital. This is where March of Dimes comes in.

While UAB is known for its research and being a world-renowned hospital, it is not as commonly known that the March of Dimes has a hand in the research projects that happen in our NICU. For over 20 years, the March of Dimes has helped fund various research projects and provided education for both staff and parents. Its awesome NICU Family Support Program helps provide food, respite, and social activities for the parents who spend extended periods of time with their child in the NICU.

March for Babies

The group’s annual March for Babies is its biggest fundraiser and a major part of its outreach efforts. It provides an opportunity for the community and hospital staff to come together to raise awareness about premature and sick babies, as well as infant loss, but it also helps raise money for the March of Dimes and celebrates the successes that we do have. The money raised during the walk is used for more research projects, outreach programs, and supporting our families that are with us in the NICU.

This event is a great family-friendly affair, with activities for all ages, and because it’s held at Railroad Park, our furry babies are welcome to come, too! This also means that parents with babies still in the NICU can come, since it is so close to our hospital. This can be a nice outing for our parents and offers some encouragement when they see all the babies who once were similar to theirs but now are healthy and happy (our little “graduates”).

While this is a great event and a small glimpse of what the March of Dimes does for the UAB NICU, it is important to recognize that it has a very active role on our unit. The group conducts weekly educational classes and supplies reading materials, and it provides mirrors for moms who are breastfeeding or doing skin-to-skin contact, so they can get a better look at their babies while holding them.

A Wonderful New App

The March of Dimes recently launched the My NICU Baby smartphone app, which gives parents easy access to quality education and information, and it also connects to the NICU and Continuing Care Nursery events calendar, which has classes and events happening almost every day. These classes include different fun activities such as scrapbooking, crocheting, breastfeeding support lunches/groups, discharge classes, and informational “lunch and learns.” (It is important to note that at these breastfeeding support lunches, a certified lactation consultant is there to help answer any questions and troubleshoot any problems that parents may be having).

All of these fun activities are geared toward making things for baby while giving parents a chance to talk to other adults and unwind from being in the hospital for such long, stressful periods of time. The app also has various logs that allow parents to keep track of their baby’s weight, breastfeeding/pumping times and amounts, and various other numbers that quickly become important milestones for our NICU parents.

Needless to say, the March of Dimes plays a huge role in all of our baby units at UAB Medicine, and we are so thankful for their help and resources. Without them, parents would feel very alone, and they would be less-equipped to face long periods in the NICU and have extremely few chances to get out of the room and meet other people going through the same struggles. This is why we love the March of Dimes, and we hope to see you at the 2019 March for Babies on Saturday, April 27!