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Treasuring babies and supporting bereaved parents

The Treasured Babies Program acknowledges and honours the lives of babies who have died by providing lovingly made miniature clothing items, blankets and coffins to families who are grieving.

Each year in Australia, 3,000 babies and young children die suddenly and unexpectedly. Four out of five of these are newborn deaths or babies that are still born. When a baby dies there is often little warning, leaving parents in shock. The Treasured Babies program can reduce some of the stress at an incredibly traumatic time, and the lovingly made items acknowledge both the birth and death of these little babies. It’s run by Red Nose, a national charity working to save little lives through research and education and support families whose baby or young child has died.

Run by a special group of dedicated volunteers, many of whom are elderly, Treasured Babies has been meeting twice-weekly for 20 years. In an vacant shop in Mooroolbark, gift sets are and packed, and include keepsake boxes, naming certificates, and information about support services to comfort and support bereaved parents, special miniature clothing and items, and lovingly prepared coffins for parents of premature and stillborn babies in preparation for their baby's funeral. The Croydon Men's Shed make the Angel Boxes (baby coffins) and paint them white ready for the ladies to add embellishments, satin and lace lining. The Men's Shed volunteers save the program thousands of dollars each year. Supporting them from a distance are 70 more volunteers who also knit, sew and crochet tiny outfits and blankets and send them to the Melbourne team for distribution. Families are provided with two sets of clothing made by the volunteers - one to bury their baby in, and one to keep as a memory of their child. The garments are appropriately-sized and developed with input from midwives, social workers and bereaved parents, designed in a way that allow the tiny babies to be dressed with delicate care. The group are united in the knowledge that they are helping to make a real difference for parents who are grieving the devastating loss of their baby.

The Treasured Babies team distribute gift packs to over 80 hospitals. In the 2019 – 2020 year they helped over 2,300 Australian families. This program survives on a very tight budget, and the quality materials are not cheap, yet the need continues to grow. Supplies such as timber, paint, lining, silk, wool, ribbon, cotton, polar fleece, wadding and packaging items are donated and purchased and postage fees also need to be covered.

Freemasons Foundation Victoria awarded a grant of $10,000 to the Treasured Babies program to buy much needed materials for the program.

“This beautiful program provides miniature burial clothing, mementos and coffins for parents who have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death. In the last 12 months alone, our dedicated volunteers have distributed over 3,678 items.” said Red Nose CEO Keren Ludski.

Red Nose receive overwhelming feedback from families about the impact of the program. Parents often express what a relief it is to have been given such beautiful items, and how the items helped to reduce their burden at a time when they are completely overwhelmed with their loss.

“As a mother who has needed to dress my tiny stillborn daughter, I am eternally grateful to whomever made her little outfit. It felt like giving her something beautiful and made with love was ensuring her dignity and showing her respect even in death. So while it must be difficult to make these, please know we are so incredibly grateful.”

“Our daughter was born still in 2020 and we received a beanie and gown to dress her in, and a blanket to wrap around her. I cannot put into words how important it was for us to have these clothes for her. Being able to clothe her provided a level of dignity and felt like a recognition of her personhood. She was wrapped in her blanket for cremation and, while I know her soul had long since left, as a mother it brought me comfort knowing her little body was cocooned in the love of a knitted blanket. This is important and meaningful and you all do an incredible thing. Thank you.”


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