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5 ways to Pay Tribute to the NICU

To look back and honor an experience that changed you forever.

5 ways to Pay Tribute to the NICU

My son was born 6 weeks early via C-section -- a perfect 4 pounds 11 ounces baby -- and spent the first seven days of his life in the NICU. His arrival was hectic and not at all what I had envisioned. But as emotional and stressful as it was, our time in the NICU was also beautiful, and it’s an experience that I want to honor.

September is NICU Awareness Month, and I wanted to share the ways in which I paid tribute to my crazy path to motherhood. So if, like me, you are all about preserving memories and giving back, here are ways NICU families can commemorate and celebrate their experiences.

1. Wear it. Wearing clothes with inspirational quotes that reflect your experience is a great way to pay tribute to your little one’s NICU stay. It’s also a great conversation starter to raise awareness. Mama B. Designs, the apparel company that I started in 2016, has an entire line that can help you stylishly spread prematurity awareness. Plus, for every purchase from our Miracle Line, 50 percent of the proceeds goes to March of Dimes, the foundation that funds lifesaving research and programs working to end premature birth. Check the line here, and use this coupon code NICU10 for 10 percent off. You can also get your little one a onesie like this one.

2. Snuggle it. If you’ve saved all of your preemie’s stuff, you can use them to create a keepsake. I recently came across Stitches by Natalie, a mom-owned shop that uses newborn swaddles and clothes to snuggly mementos like stuffed animals and pillows. I sent her one of my son’s NICU swaddle blankets and a preemie onesie, and she made an adorable stuffed bear (out of the blanket) wearing the onesie. She also stitched his name, birthday and birth stats on the teddy. For a 10 percent discount, you can use the coupon code NICU10.

3. Pay it forward. There are many ways to give back to the NICU community and to provide support to the families that are in the thick of it. Organizations like Hand to Hold, the Graham’s Foundation and Project Sweet Peas provides support to NICU families. You can also join the Twenty-Five and Four movement. Created by a mom of a micro preemie, this non-profit creates shirts that fit babies as small as one pound. You can sew and help make these sweetly sized shirts that comfortably wrap around wires for NICU babies. And the best part… the shirts are shipped for FREE to NICUs!

4. Remember it. Many moms like to wear their children’s names to commemorate their children’s births -- whether it’s with a charm or a bar necklace. But what about swapping their names for their unique footprints? Matanai Jewelry embeds handprints and footprints on 14K gold pendants. You can also add a short text on the back. It’s a lovely way to capture your child’s teeny tiny and super special prints, and wear them on your heart. If you don’t have clear photos of your baby’s footprints, they can send you a print kit. Coupon code NICU10 for 10% off. Etsy also has a lot of options for necklaces that either remember your NICU experience or to gift to some of the NICU staff.

5. Educate yourself and others. This is a great way to know what people and hospitals can do to ensure the best NICU experience for other parents. Maybe it’s about sharing knowledge on how to provide a breastfeeding friendly NICU environment or spreading the word on a specific product that you know help NICU babies, like the 4moms mamaRoo or the Woombie Med Pods, are the first and only 360-degree swaddle that works around medical devices and hospitalized infants.

Nadine Bubeck is a TV personality, fashion designer, author and blogger. She documented her first pregnancy in her candid book, Expecting Perfect: My Bumpy Journey to Mommyhood. Compelled to pay it forward, she also launched a clothing line that benefits March of Dimes. 50% of each item sold goes to the foundation. More here: www.mamabdesigns.com

After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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