‘Blankets of Love’ is a wonderful initiative started in Australia in 1992, to offer beautiful small quilts to parents of babies who have died at or around the time of birth, as a lasting memento.
Quilts were first made for babies who had died in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, but before requests came from midwives on the antenatal and delivery wards so families whose baby died before birth could also receive a quilt. The programme is now widespread across Australia and beyond.
Jan Polverino, the midwife who started this initiative with her sister Shirley, writes:
“The aim is simple: to provide beautifully made small quilts to families who suffer the loss of a baby before or after birth as a memento, a celebration of the baby’s birth and a symbol that the baby is precious and significant.
A powerful and unexpected outcome of the programme is that it has given the community an extraordinary opportunity to speak about pregnancy losses, stillbirth and neonatal death and allow them to be connected in a special way.
Quilters who have lost a baby themselves, in providing quilts for someone else, have told us that the physicality of sewing in some way gives them a sense of healing, knowing that they are helping someone else who has a unique understanding of what they went through.”
A project such as this requires considerable planning. If you are an individual or a group wishing to provide quilts for a particular hospital, you’ll need to:
- Establish a link with the hospital, for example with a specific person in the Neonatal Unit or Delivery Suite (eg Nurse or Unit Manager)
- Make an ongoing commitment
- Keep a consistent standard
- Have your project co-ordinated well between the hospital and person or group providing the quilts.
How to Make a Quilt
It is important that the quilts are made to the highest standard possible, as they will become an important memento for the receiving family.
The quilts are made approximately nappy size (24 inches or 60cm square) with some larger for bigger full term babies. They can be as simple as a pre-printed panel, a block with borders or an all-over pieced design. Machine or hand sew, and use thin wadding. If using flannel fabric on both sides, wadding may not be necessary. The quilts are finished with binding.
Fabrics should be 100% pre-washed cotton and may be pastel or bright, pattern or plain. Use your imagination, but bear in mind that the colours used need to be appropriate for a boy or a girl. Patterns or designs which suggest a particular season can be one idea.
A label should be sewn across the corner of the quilt with the words “Blanket of Love”. Labels can be purchased from various commercial labels suppliers.
These quilts become treasured mementos and therefore need to look attractive and be neatly finished.