September is NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) awareness month. Families who haven't experienced a stay in this nursery may assume the month is to honor just its patients, but it's not. NICU Awareness Month is actually about the babies, yes, but also the families and healthcare workers in the unit who are fighting right alongside the tiny patients.
The NICU is made up of babies born with a variety of health concerns, from premature birth, to organ defects, to swallowing meconium during labor. In a 2018 research study published in Pediatrics, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 486,741 babies were admitted to the NICU from 2014 to 2016 of the 11,907,682 born. That means, around 13.6% of parents had to leave the hospital without their baby in their arms, putting their trust in the NICU staff to take care of them between visits.
NICU Awareness Month aims to draw attention to these families and workers, and the struggles they go through in the NICU. Organizations like Project Sweet Peas use the month of September to raise funds for the care packages they send to families in the NICU and the National Perinatal Association honors NICU Remembrance Day (Sept 26), NICU Giving Day (Sept 27), NICU Staff Recognition Day (Sept 28), Sibling Support Day (Sept 29), and Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Day (Sept 30).
You can help honor families and workers in the NICU in the month of September in a variety of ways, like donating money to your local NICU, looking up volunteer opportunities, sending care packages to staff and families, or giving your baby's swaddles or newborn size hand-me-downs to a unit so the tiny patients have something soft to wear.
The biggest fighters in the NICU are the patients themselves, but they are surrounded by warriors who show up every day to support and love them. September is a time to celebrate all of those people, no matter where they are in their NICU journey.