What is NICU Awareness Month 2021? Date, History + Activities

Updated

In the medical and healthcare community, miracles and inevitable hardships occur constantly. 

Founded in 2014 by Project Sweet Peas, Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month raises awareness about the challenges faced by patients in the NICU and their families. It also lends support and lifesaving resources.  

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In this article, we’ll discuss more about NICU Awareness Month and Project Sweet Peas and how you can participate as an individual or get your workplace or community involved. 

What’s NICU Awareness Month?

NICU Awareness Month honors NICU patients, families, and health professionals. Some people call NICU Awareness Month NICA Month. 

More about Project Sweet Peas

Volunteers coordinate Project Sweet Peas, a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania. These volunteers have become passionate about providing support to families of premature or sick infants and to those who have been affected by pregnancy and infant loss.

By joining this community of organizations either as a group or individual, you can provide hope to families affected by the perils of critically ill infants. One of the greatest gifts you give these families is hope. Hope in the darkest hours helps them endure.

More about the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Each year, hospitals admit more than half a million babies to the NICU for a variety of conditions and concerns. The care they receive there can alter the trajectory of their health for the rest of their lives.

According to the National Perinatal Association, babies go to the NICU for conditions including but not limited to:

  • Respiratory distress
  • Complications of prematurity
  • Birth anomalies
  • Brain injuries 
  • Cardiac conditions
  • Infections 
  • Jaundice
  • Genetic conditions
  • Mitochondrial disorders
  • Rh incompatibility
  • Neonatal opioid withdrawal

As you can see, babies can go to the NICU for many reasons beyond prematurity. Though expectant mothers should strive to take proper care of themselves and their developing babies, they can encounter health disparities, genetic conditions, and so on.

Families in the NICU can also experience triumph, strength, and unending hope and miracles. Care established early on in life will benefit affected individuals and the generations thereafter in unfathomable ways. 

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When is NICU Awareness Month?

The United States observes NICU Awareness Month annually in September and Prematurity Awareness Month in November. You may know the organization tied to Prematurity Awareness Month — the March of Dimes. However, more than premature children get admitted to the NICU, including those with significant health concerns or defects.

What is NICU Awareness Month’s Ribbon Color?

The color purple symbolizes NICU Awareness Month. Why purple? Purple, sometimes called preemie purple, makes an impactful statement and calls direct attention to premature birth.

How to Participate in NICU Awareness Month

Even if you or someone you love has never spent time in the NICU, you can still lend crucial support during NICU Awareness Month. The more people who become aware and involved, the more hope and care affected children and families can receive. 

Participate in random acts of kindness

One particular initiative from NICU Awareness Month and Project Sweet Peas involves random acts of kindness. Of course, this concept isn’t exclusive to honoring NICU babies. You may practice random acts of kindness in your daily life or just periodically. 

However, you can call attention to this cause by using a random act of kindness to honor a specific NICU baby. In fact, you can print or email cards from Project Sweet Peas that features a link for a recipient to learn more about this cause and the families it supports. Visit the link provided to learn about other initiatives you join to raise awareness. 

Send gifts to nurses

For a way to lend support to NICU nurses through inevitably dark days, consider these NICU nurse gifts. While gifts, money, and material items rarely solve all problems, they can breathe life into these hard workers who tirelessly commit themselves to the health and prosperity of some of the most vulnerable individuals on earth. 

Share stories about NICU patients

The main goal of NICA Month involves spreading awareness. Some of the reasons behind this worthy cause get lost without sharing stories about the patients. You can read extensive accounts here

If you or a loved one has been affected by a child in the NICU, you can also share your story via the link provided. You may feel scared to share your thoughts about a hardship as significant as an ill child. However, sharing these experiences with those who understand and with those who want to understand can only serve the cause better. 

Make a donation

Every little bit counts. Don’t buy into a narrative that anything you want to share to better a cause isn’t enough or won’t make a difference. 

If you want to give directly to NICU Awareness Month for its Food and Fuel Initiative, do so. This particular initiative has lent critical support to affected families throughout the pandemic via the provision of lifesaving grants. 

On the other hand, you can also consider donating toys or other supplies to a clinic, hospital, or cause near you. If you don’t have a need for your child’s vast collection of toys, learn where to donate used toys.

Plan a fundraiser

Planning a fundraiser ties in with making a donation to support NICU causes. However, planning a fundraiser can allow you to compound your efforts with other interested individuals. 

You can also personalize your efforts to donate to a specific family or families, a specific clinic or hospital, sister organizations, and so on. You can also check out this guide on what to bring someone in the hospital. Guides like this can help if you plan a fundraiser or donation pool that accepts more than just monetary gifts. 

Write thank you notes to nurses

Words can mean just as much, if not more. You can write thank you notes for nurses in traditional notes, create posters, send emails, and more. 

You can extend your messages to other hospital staff as well, including janitorial staff, those in the office, doctors, specialists, and so on. In fact, you can tap into an extensive list of individuals who have ties to the NICU, including nutritionists, psychologists, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, and more.

Even if the individuals aren’t directly related to the NICU, they may have some part to play in ICU operations to some extent. 

Bring notes or gifts to families

Bringing notes or gifts to families affected by the NICU directly will likely take a good bit of coordination, even if you know the family directly. Because of how susceptible NICU babies are, it may be more difficult to access even their family members.

However, this doesn’t mean that NICU Awareness Month won’t present special opportunities for you to provide notes or gifts. You can check out this guide to hospital care package ideas for ideas on what families would appreciate most.

Share resources and wear purple

If nothing else during NICU Month, you can share resources from organizations linked throughout this post. Sharing them on social media takes just a few seconds and costs nothing. 

Simply put, you never know who in your circle may want to donate or make a difference thereafter. You can also print resources and bring them to your workplace or other groups you’re a part of. Encourage individuals in these spaces to join you in wearing purple. 

Hope Springs Eternal

You can spread hope through National Intensive Care Unit Awareness Month.

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Sources:
  1. History. NICUawareness.org. 2018. nicuawareness.org/history.html.
  2. Project Sweet Peas. projectsweetpeas.com. projectsweetpeas.com.
  3. NICU Awareness. National Perinatal Association. 2020. nationalperinatal.org/NICU_Awareness.
  4. March of Dimes. Marchofdimes.org. marchofdimes.org.
  5. Random Acts of Kindness. NICUawareness.org. nicuawareness.org/kindness.html.
  6. Honoring all NICU babies this September. NICUawareness.org. nicuawareness.org/nicubabies.html.
  7. Give. NICUawareness.org. nicuawareness.org/give.html.

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