A NICU nurse handmade more than 50 Halloween costumes each year so her little patients and their families can enjoy a sense of normalcy during an otherwise difficult time.
Lilly Fox, a NICU nurse at New York’s Alexandra Cohen Presbyterian Hospital for Women and Newborns, chooses a theme for the costumes, then gets to work building them by hand before Halloween.
When the theme was animals in 2022, Fox made 54 different costumes.
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This Halloween 2023 will see the NICU filled with an array of small “food” offerings – including a box of popcorn, a strawberry and a burrito.
Fox hopes to make more costumes than last year.
“We call it ‘no tricks, only treats,'” she told Fox News Digital.
“There’s nothing cuter than a baby in a costume, especially a baby dressed as a piece of food,” Fox told Fox News Digital.
On Halloween, Fox and the other NICU nurses will hand out baby costumes to every family that wants one.
“We have a cart that we set up and we go around to families,” she said. “We show them the different outfits and ask them, ‘What would you like to be?'”
When making the costumes, Fox keeps in mind the different needs of her patients. Some of his patients can’t wear jumpsuits, for example, so their costume just sits on top of them. Most babies can wear hats or headdresses, she said.
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Halloween costumes are “a really great way for families to experience the holiday and act like any other family with a newborn, even if they have to be in the hospital,” Fox said .
“We’re just trying to create some normalcy for them while they’re here,” she added.
There’s also an emotional benefit for her patients’ parents, the nurse told Fox News Digital.
“Being in the NICU can be very isolating for parents,” she said. “They’re not having some of the expected first experiences with a baby that they would have had if they weren’t in the NICU.”
“That’s our goal: to create as much happiness as possible for just one day in the NICU.”
With the costumes, Fox said she “really likes that we can give parents this opportunity. We can put aside all the tubes and wires and look beyond that and just appreciate all the cuteness of babies and say : ‘It’s Halloween.'”
“It will definitely put a smile on their face, even if it’s just for a few minutes,” she said. “That’s our goal: to create as much happiness as possible for just one day in the NICU.”
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Mom Jennifer Tsitsopoulos knows this feeling all too well.
Last year, her daughter Artemis spent about 4 1/2 months in the NICU after she was born at just 26 weeks gestation.
“We spent 136 long days and longer nights in the NICU,” Tsitsopoulos told Fox News Digital in an email. “The first few weeks were the hardest: no one is ever ready to leave their newborn behind.”
About two months into Artemis’ stay, Tsitsopoulos met with Fox.
“I had heard rumors about a nurse who went out of her way to hand-make dozens of Halloween costumes for the babies in the NICU,” she said.
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With a child as premature as Artemis, that “means you miss the traditional stages of pregnancy, like having a baby shower or holding your child after birth,” Tsitsopoulos told Fox News Digital.
“Nurse Lilly [gave] a moment of normalcy by allowing us to celebrate our first Halloween together, like any family would,” she said.
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“We will always be grateful to him for giving us a chance to create truly special memories and forget all the tubes, alarms and incubators around us,” the mother also wrote.
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