As a mother herself, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare registered nurse Yamanda Williams knows how important “baby’s firsts” are for parents. Along with providing medical services to infants in the Florida hospital’s neonatal intensive-care unit, Williams also strives to foster positive relationships with the families she meets. With all this in mind, Williams and other staff began crafting Halloween costumes for their littlest patients in 2019.
“Oftentimes [central] lines and tubes are all that a parent sees,” she said. “We try to create fun costumes to distract from that, so parents actually see their child just as a baby and not as being sick.”
This tradition, which now also takes place during the winter holiday season, brings a change to the long days and nights some parents spend with their babies in the NICU.
Tallahassee Memorial staff handcraft the costumes using felt fabric, which they drape over the babies, given parental consent.
“We kind of base the costumes on the baby’s personality,” Williams said. “When we have a little wiggler, they might be the Itsy Bitsy Spider. … Nothing is ever scary.”
Dr. Mike Cappello, a neonatologist and chair of pediatrics at Advocate Children’s Hospital-Park Ridge in suburban Chicago, said a baby’s stay can range from 24 hours to nearly a year, depending on their condition. Clinicians may treat babies for extreme prematurity, jaundice, pulmonary and respiratory issues, or heart defects.
At Advocate Children’s, the costume tradition started eight years ago, when NICU caregivers encouraged parents to dress up their babies for a friendly contest featured on social media.