A loving program that provides support to families of premature and sick babies staying in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Families of premature and sick babies can spend days, months and sometimes a year caring for their baby/s in hospital. They are often so focused on baby’s care they forget to take care of themselves. Caring for a baby in the NICU is stressful and exhausting, and going without proper nourishing meals exacerbates this. NICU Food From the Heart aims to provide loving and practical care and support to the families who are working so hard to care for their babies.
NICU Food From the Heart provides three programs to families in the NICU to help ensure they stay well and healthy so that they can care for their baby/s. These are the Brekkie Bar and Dad’s Night and you can read more about them below.
“When the Brekkie Bar was initially created, the intention was to provide physical nourishment for NICU families during what is most likely their most challenging life experience. To the surprise of this loving community, we found that in addition to this, we were creating a social environment, one that encouraged conversation, where parents would share their experiences, congratulate and celebrate each others baby/s milestones, lend an ear during the low moments and at times sit in silence…together…and just ‘be'”
Michelle Barry, Co-Founder NICU Food From the Heart
The Benefits for Families in the NICU
Keeping Parents Well-Nourished
It’s exhausting and stressful looking after a baby in the NICU, our programs help to ensure parents stay well and healthy during this time.
Support Network for Parents
Families of premature or sick babies can often feel isolated during their time in the NICU. In many cases, for the safety of baby, extended families are unable to visit during their stay in the NICU. This leaves families without their usual support network during an incredibly difficult and stressful time. Their usual support network are also often unable to relate to the challenge and pressures that having a baby long term in hospital can bring.
Recent research indicates that parents in the NICU benefit from support from other parents within the unit going through a similar experience. NICU Food From the Heart helps to nurture those all-important bonds between parents in the NICU. We provide an opportunity for parents to meet and support each other in a relaxed informal setting.
Improving Baby’s Outcomes
Parent participation in baby’s care while in hospital is now recognised as essential in supporting positive long-term outcomes of premature and sick babies and the whole family unit. We encourage parents to spend more time with baby to support their bonding. We also support Mothers establishing breastfeeding as the quality of breastmilk can be dependent on the health of mum.
Reducing the Financial Burden
The extended time in hospital can place considerable financial burden on families as many have to rely on expensive hospital canteen meals or food delivery services. Many resort to living off vending machines and can sometimes go days without a proper meal. NICU Food From the Heart provides parents with healthy, nourishing meals and much desired snacks in a convenient and supportive space.
This program provides food to fill the breakfast table and fridge in the parent’s lounge of the NICU with predominantly healthy breakfast snack foods. Caring for a baby in the NICU is incredibly stressful and exhausting, and going without proper, nourishing meals only compounds this exhaustion. Our healthy breakfasts provide parents the nutrition they need to continue to support their baby/s during this difficult time.
Many NICU Dads continue to work whilst their wife or partner spends the day in the Unit. They often go without dinner as they race from work to support their partners and spend time with baby. Once a week a fresh meal is delivered to the parents lounge. This provides Dad with a nourishing meal and an opportunity to bond with and provide support to other Dads in the NICU.
Having a baby in the NICU can be an isolating experience. And it can help to talk to other parents who have had a baby in the NICU. NICU Connections is a relaxed and welcoming opportunity for you to have a cuppa and a snack. And if you feel like talking, you can chat with volunteers from the Life’s Little Treasures Foundation who have all been through the NICU journey themselves.
“Food brings people together, and in the NICU it’s more important than ever – it brings families together in their toughest times to share stories, chat and connect with those in a similar position”
Ways You Can Support NICU Food From the Heart
Our programs rely on the support and generosity of local families and businesses. There is no donation too small, even $1 could be the difference between a Mum or Dad in the NICU having a nourishing muesli bar for breakfast instead of chips from a vending machine.
On behalf of the NICU Food From the Heart volunteers and the families we are supporting in the NICU, we’d like to thank you for your support. We couldn’t do this without you!
We’re looking for sponsors to help us take take the NICU Food From the Heart program to more hospitals across the country. A charity partnership with NICU Food From the Heart can offer your brand a powerful way to connect with customers and staff and make a huge positive impact on families in the NICU.
Find out more about becoming a sponsor:
Volunteers make up the heart of the NICU Food From the Heart program. It is through the dedication of our volunteer network that Life’s Little Treasures Foundation can consistently remain able to provide these vital services to families in the NICU. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer, please download and submit our General Volunteer form.
Spread the Word
Help us spread the word in your community about the NICU Food From the Heart program.
You can find us here:
Hear From Parents in the NICU
Nara Yeghiazaryan, Mum
We’ve been spending days and nights at NICU for the past 3 months and it was the hardest time of our life as it had lots of ups and downs. The Brekkie Bar was one of the best things in the NICU where we were having a break and sharing our stories with other parents. One of the positive things that will stay in my memory will be seeing a mother (Michelle) come in with her 2 young children (still wearing their school uniforms) bringing lots of goodies for the brekkie Bar and a hot meal every Thursday. It is so convenient to have, especially when you are in a hurry. Perfect for the NICU environment.
Kate Farthing, Mum
NICU Food for the Heart was something that kept me going for the 3.5 months I spent in the NICU with my 25 weeker. We were there from December through to March and as I wasn’t local I was staying in the Hospital’s Parent and Carer accommodation. This meant I didn’t have many options for food storage or the ability to cook for myself. Having NICU Food for the Heart there meant that I knew I would always have something to eat and I always looked forward to Dad’s Night Dinners as sometimes this was the only hot meal/freshly cooked I would eat that week. Also being in the NICU over Christmas/New Years was tough being away from family and having the food on Christmas Day made it feel a little bit like home.
“Food brings people together, and in the NICU it’s more important than ever – it brings families together in their toughest times to share stories, chat and connect with those in a similar position. That’s what the brekky bar and dinners did for us, it allowed us a tiny bit of normal during our long stay. We are so grateful for Michelle and NICU food from the heart for providing us with that”.
I can say the Brekkie Bar gave us something wholesome to eat which helped our wellbeing with better energy and sustenance.
A big part of the Brekkie bar for me was having the opportunity of getting this food and drink so close to my baby. There was no need to go out of the ward to another part of the hospital to get some of the healthy food and always feeling the need to rush back in case the Doctor came to do their rounds. Having the Brekkie bar on the floor and within the ward made me more relaxed and I felt there was no need to rush. It was a comfortable and quiet environment which was so important to my own well-being and made me more emotionally available to my baby.
Louise Hurley, Mum
Our premie baby was in the NICU at RNSH for 104 days. We lived on the central coast and had a 2yr old daughter in day care who needed stability and for her normal routine to continue. So it was 104 days of commuting to and from the hospital most days. We wanted to spend as much time as possible with our baby every day so to have food and drinks available in the parents lounge was a god-send! Food from the heart offered comfort, kindness and support through food during our NICU journey.
Rebecca, William’s Mum
The Brekkie Bar and dads Thursday night dinners made our time in NICU so much easier. As any NICU mum would know you spend hours upon hours by your baby’s bedside and having the opportunity to swing by the parents lounge and pick up a snack, make a cup of tea makes a difficult time just a little bit easier. We loved Thursday night dinners as it brought all the parents together and we made some great friends. Thank you NICU Food from the Heart – the work you do is truly wonderful.
Rebecca, Max’s Mum
My son Max has just left the RNS NICU to go back to the Mater after a 5.5week stay, and we were blown away by everything that your community do for the parents in the NICU. He was born at 28w 5d completely unexpected and one of our first evenings in the NICU was a burger night hosted by you, which was just wonderful – we probably wouldn’t have eaten that evening and many lunchtimes between kangaroo cuddles, if it wasn’t for you guys! Thank you.
Want to share your story?
Sharing your story can bring such hope to other families currently experiencing the journey through NICU or Special Care. We thank all the families who have so generously shared their inspirational stories to help support others and give hope.
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