Local fashion students are helping hospitalized infants in a heartwarming way.
 
Students from three Elk Island Public Schools (EIPS) junior highs have made and donated cloth-made hearts to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and Stollery Children's Hospital.
 
Two hearts are given to a family and the infant upon arrival. One is wrapped around the infant and the parent or caregiver uses the other. After a couple days they exchange the cloth hearts so the baby is able to be comforted by the scent left by the parent or caregiver. The scent of the infant can actually help stimulate lactation for a mother.
 
The cloth heart method is used when parents cannot physically touch the baby.
 
“Development of any baby is dependent on the sensory experiences provided by the environment and the loving, nurturing relationship with the parents,” said neonatologist Dr. Juzer Tyebkhan with the Royal Alexandra Hospital. “The heart cloths improve infant development, and increases parental familiarity as the baby comes to recognize the scents.”
 
The cloth hearts are made from scraps of soft fabric like flannel and cotton.
 
Fashion teacher Tanus Davidge described this as a meaningful way to give back to the community.
 
"Our students are embracing the opportunity to make a difference and by contributing to programs such as Tender Loving Care Cloths, they learn first-hand how empathy and compassion can touch the lives of other people," she said.
 
Stollery patient and family centred care co-ordinator, Sarah Topilko summed up having local students involved in this program as, special.
 
“Without these students and other volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to provide this important support. We’re so grateful to everyone who has donated their time and material, and thank them so much," said Topilko.
 
The three schools taking part are F.R. Haythorne Junior High, Lakeland Ridge and Sherwood Heights Junior High.

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