For premature and medically fragile babies, every milestone represents an emotionally packed triumph. The AAMC NICU–Teddy’s Place celebrates these victories with its Journey Bead necklace program. When a baby is first admitted, the mother receives a necklace with one bead—blue for a boy, pink for a girl. A bead is added for each milestone the baby achieves while at the hospital. A few of these significant events include the first diaper change, snuggling into kangaroo care, coming off oxygen, successfully breast-feeding, and the grandest bead of all, going home.
“It’s a way to help parents recognize each accomplishment. But it’s also a way to keep them thinking positive thoughts,” says NICU Nurse Navigator Polly White, RN. “When I bring in a bead for baby’s first breast-feeding or coming off oxygen, it’s easy to open a conversation about what’s next—what we can look forward to. So I think in some ways this necklace that represents success softens negative emotions that can crop up during any parent’s journey.”
They’re inexpensive beads on a black leather string, Polly adds, but mothers wear their necklace as if it holds precious jewels. “It’s physical proof that this tiny person, who may seem so fragile, is actually quite strong and courageous—moving forward in the best possible way.”