Knitting for charity is a popular choice for many knitters, and preemies are an ideal recipient for your talents. These little babies need all the warmth they can get in their first weeks and you can donate hats, booties, and blankets to your local NICU.
Knitting for preemies is not as simple as sizing down any baby pattern. These precious little ones have special needs that you should consider before starting a project and a few tips from the pros will help.
To learn what preemies really need from knitters, we asked for advice from Cheryl Bird, a NICU nurse and writer. She was kind enough to share a few tips for knitting projects that are most needed by premature babies.
- The yarn should be soft, warm, washable, and hypoallergenic. Superwash wool is not a great idea because some babies may be sensitive. Instead, cotton, acrylic, and similar soft yarns are better choices.
- Hats and blankets are the most needed items in the NICU, but booties are also useful.
- Sweaters are not really practical while babies are in the hospital because of all the wires they are often connected to. However, babies can use sweaters after they go home. Newborn-sized patterns are the best choices for these projects.
- Diaper covers are another good choice, particularly for micro-preemies who can't wear anything but a hat and a diaper.
Bird, who works in a 20-bed NICU, says that many knitters often make the mistake of creating preemie hats that are too small for many of the babies. She recommends using the size charts at Bev's Country Cottage as these are good estimations of the sizes that preemies require. She also does not recommend knitting hats that are much smaller than the circumference of the babies' already small heads.
Now that you know the concerns of a NICU RN, it's time to choose a few preemie-worthy patterns. From socks and hats to a quick, perfectly-sized blanket, explore these free patterns and remember how critical your yarn choices are for these little ones.
- Use a simple preemie socks pattern designed to fit preemies as small as 28 weeks, with other sizes for larger babies included. The socks are tiny, adorable, and very easy to make.
- A quick ribbed hat pattern is helpful to keep in your stash because it can be sized for children as small as preemies to toddlers up to four years old. The simple ribbing stitch has a great stretch and is very warm.
- An adorable seed stitch hat is easy to knit up. The pattern we use includes sizing for preemies as small as 2 pounds.
- Holidays can be a difficult time in the NICU; a fun little preemie santa hat pattern will help spread some cheer to the families and staff caring for the precious babies.
- Easy baby blankets are great for new knitters or those who just need a quick project for a new little one.