Halloween is one of our favourite holidays (as we made pretty clear last year). This year we got off to an early start with two costume-making days, where families came together and made tutus, superhero capes and ladybug shells.
We get many requests from other hospitals about Halloween and how we dress babies up, so we thought we would share some tips we’ve learned over the years from parents, grandparents, trial and error, and from other hospitals.
First, you want to start a week or so ahead. This gives you time to wash whatever costume you make so that it’s safe for babies to wear. To be honest, most babies wear their outfits for about 7 seconds (just long enough for a photo), but safety is always your most important consideration. We got lots of support from our nurses and infection-control team who made sure that the materials we used and the costumes we created would be fine for all our babies.
Felt and fleece are great fabrics to use because they’re washable, they don’t fray, and you don’t need to hem them. Today one of our moms made the most amazing superhero cape by layering felt pieces over a regular baby’s bib.
We also had great luck this year at the local dollar store, where you can find costumes for terriers that also fit preemies really well. We are very open with parents about this, and so far most parents find it pretty amusing. (“A dog costume?? Really!??”) We even found a tiny pirate hat that we are really hoping finds a wearer on Halloween; you’ll have to check back then to see if we succeeded.
Another wonderful way to get costumes is to have knitters or crocheters make some for you. We were so lucky this year to have adorable cat, bear and pumpkin hats donated by a very talented knitter. A handy grandma made the unbelievably sweet ladybug and turtle costumes that were such a hit last year.
Our other stand-by which is popular every year is the tutu, which is incredibly easy to make and adorable as well. You can buy 10,000 km of tulle for about a dollar. You prewash and then cut into short strips of about 8cm by 3cm, which you then knot around a piece of ribbon or elastic, and then connect the ends of ribbon or elastic with stick-on velcro dots. And there you have it … an elegant tutu for an elegant small baby!
If a baby is having a rough day and it’s not a good time for dress-up, we can always work around it. One year, a clever mom and nurse duo put some fish shapes on the outside of the incubator, figuring that if baby couldn’t wear a costume, at least his temporary home could! A dad had some fun with his baby under the jaundice lights by making the protective eyeshade look like a pair of sunglasses. There are dozens of other stories we could share, but they all prove one thing – when there’s a will, there’s a way.
People may ask (and do) why we go to such lengths for Halloween. The answer is simple. These are babies, and these are their families. Their status as NICU babies and families is temporary, and we don’t want the NICU and what we do here to get in the way of families having fun together the way families should. Memories are being made, and we would like these memories to be good and happy ones. Of course, we can’t always control that; we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. So if we have an opportunity to have fun together, to create a fun moment for a family, let’s take it!
If you have other ideas for costumes or NICU Halloween fun, we would love to hear them. Please leave comments or feel free to email our Parent Coordinator at kate.robson (at) sunnybrook.ca.