Halloween in the NICU normalizes holidays for parents during emotional time

Connecticut Families

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A pirate, a chick, a dragon and a hero.

“If the baby has to be on his belly, we have Superman or Supergirl and can lay that cape right onto them,” explains Michelle Gray, Family Support Specialist in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unite at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital which transforms on Halloween.

“It creates a lot of excitement,” says NICU nurse Michelle Correia. “All the parents are very excited to see their babies in the cute little costumes. It’s fun to walk around and look at all of them.”

It’s an effort to normalize the holidays during a tough time. “This is our third year of bringing Halloween to the NICU,” says Gray.

The costumes are handmade by grandmother and retired nurse Kim Kohrs who we met in 2017. “It’s like paper dolls,” she explained. “They just lay on top of the bay so we don’t get in trouble with tubes or wires.”

“It was unreal. When I saw him, he was like this little tiny bird. He looked like a bird but a human. He had lots of hair, adorable,” says Fairfield mom Andrea Boccanfuso, as she looks down at her little infant, Domenico, who came into this world at 32 weeks weighing 2 pounds, 3 ounces.

But, today, 6 weeks later, he’s a Baby Shark. Boccanfuso says he’s strong and feisty. “Now he’s doing really well,” she says with excitement. “He’s 5 pounds, taking bottles. He’s wearing clothes, in an open crib. This is all big steps!”

“We do try to become a family, we’re always looking for little ways to bond,” says Correia.

The costumes come with a hand-carved ornament so the family can remember their NICU journey, year after year. “He started off being a tiny little peanut and I hope he just keeps that mindset that he can do anything,” says Boccanfuso. “Look how far he’s come and all the obstacles he’s already overcome!”

It’s the small touches – at poignant moments – that mean so much. “We’re very lucky and blessed and we feel grateful to be so close to Yale,” says Boccanfuso with emotion.

Kohrs also makes elf hats for the NICU babies so they’ll be dressed in festive style during a visit with Santa at Christmastime.

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