Craft group’s ‘bonding hearts’ helping to support mums and babies at Sheffield care unit

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Hundreds of fabric hearts which help build bonds between new mums and their premature babies have been generously donated to Sheffield Hospitals Charity by a kind-hearted city craft group.

Members of Flower Estate Family Action (FEFA), based at Firth Park, pooled their craft skills together to make ‘bonding hearts’, pieces of fabric which are given to both parents and babies receiving specialist care at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Jessop Wing Hospital.

Swapping the fabric regularly can help to get mums, dads and babies used to each other’s scent during the difficult days and weeks when they are unable to hold or cuddle each other. The idea can also help to produce the hormones needed to aid breastfeeding.

Gwen Smithies, a member of FEFA, who organised the making of the hearts, said: “We are a small craft group of 10 members who make a variety of crafty items and gifts for ourselves, family members, friends as well as supporting local projects.

“After seeing the advertisement for the bonding hearts we as a group wanted to support our local hospitals neonatal unit. We are all mums and understand the value for mothers to be able to bond with new born babies who need to be placed in an incubator from birth. We unanimously thought this would be worthwhile project for us to undertake.”

When admitted to NICU, two bonding hearts are put in each infant feeding pack given to families. Mum wears one heart next to her skin and the other one is placed next to the baby to transfer their smell on them, then they are swapped over regularly.

The baby gets to know mother’s smell and the parents get to know their babies smell. The hearts also help mum when she expresses milk, as the smell of their baby stimulates the hormones that are partly responsible for producing breastmilk.

The bonding hearts are simple to make. They need to be made with soft 100% cotton fabric, double sided and no larger than around 20cm in length.

If you are interested in making hearts, please send them with your contact details or drop them off at Sheffield Hospitals Charity, Wycliffe House, Northern General Hospital, Sheffield, S5 7AT.