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'Sundaes for Siblings' helping kids understand about babies in NICU

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Sacred Heart Hospital starts 'Sundaes for Siblings'

Mothers who have premature babies often spend most of their days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with their new baby, and it can be tough for the whole family; especially if you have little ones at home who don't really understand what's going on.

That's why 'Sundaes for Siblings' at Sacred Heart Hospital is hoping to make a difference.

It's been a rough 6 weeks for the McGowan family. Their son Coy was born nearly 3 months early.

"He weighed 1 pound 2 ounces, and was 11.2 inches long. He's slowly making good progress up to 2 lbs now."

His mom now spends her days watching and waiting, feeling helpless as machines beep and her baby can only be held once a day.

"He's got a few complications, but nothing the good Lord can't help us with."

She still has to put on a brave face for her two little girls, 6-year-old Molly, and 3-year-old Matty, who don't understand what's going on.

They aren't allowed to see him. They have to stay in the lobby with family members while mom goes back to be with Coy.

"'Why can't we see him, why can't we hold him?' We had to explain to them, 'brother is sick.' Through Facetime and pictures on our phone, they are able to see that their brother is very sick."

That is why Sacred Heart started Sundaes for Sibling. One Sunday a month, kids who have a sibling in the NICU get to eat an ice-cream Sundae, while they learn more about what's happening with their little new brother or sister.

"They don't understand that mommy's tummy was big and round, but not it's not. There's a baby but they can't place where that baby is. This helps bridge the gap between home and hospital."

NICU nurse, Julie Adams, runs the class. She said, "The kids want to know how things work, how the beds work, where their sibling is, where they have to wash their hands."

She said the big thing the kids learn is how fragile the baby and their immune system is, so hand washing is very important.