NICU babies at Brigham and Women’s, Mass. General got all dressed up for Halloween

Local News

Premature babies in the NICU got all dressed up in costumes donated by Tiny Treats to celebrate their first ever Halloweekend.

Twin babies dressed as Harry Potter
Twin babies in the NCU at Mass General got dressed up to celebrate their first Halloween. Brigham and Women’s Hospital & Mass General for Children

The tiniest tots in the NICUs at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital are experiencing their first Halloween in a big way.

The premature babies got dressed up to celebrate their first ever Halloween over the weekend, wearing Build-A-Bear costumes donated by Tiny Treats, an organization run by parents whose baby spent time in the Brigham and Women’s NICU eight years ago.

Brigham and Women’s long-running tradition dressing premature babies up for photoshoots on holidays like Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day, is called Project Milestone.

Donations from Tiny Treats and other organizations like Project Sweet Peas have allowed Project Milestone to get bigger and better over the years.

Bethany and Brett Walton own Tiny Treats, Bethany Walton said. Their son, Sebastian, was in Brigham and Women’s NICU from September 2015 to January 2016, Bethany said. 

Bethany said letting the nurses dress up Sebastian when he was in the NICU showed the Walton’s a bright side of parenthood that preemie parents don’t immediately get to experience. 

“When you’re first in the NICU, you’re in this whole different zone of living and so it really pulled us out of that trauma place, a place of survival and into this place of fun and excitement,” Bethany said. 

Hershey baby
This baby chose trick over treat, dressing up as a Hershey’s Kiss. – Brigham and Woman’s Hospital

In 2015, the Waltons personally took a suggestion from a nurse to buy a Build-a-Bear costume for Sebastian. The joy it gave the family was enough that it only felt natural to pay it forward, leading the Waltons to start Tiny Treats, an organization which donates costumes to hospital NICUs, primarily Brigham and Women’s, Bethany said. 

baby superhero
This baby is a superhero in training this Halloween. – Mass General NICU

“Halloween was the first chance we really had to see our son as a child, and not just a sick patient,” Bethany said. “It really kind of put things into perspective that our son was healthy and doing so much better.”

Every year for their birthdays, Sebastian and the Walton’s youngest son, Gabriel, ask for Build-a-Bear costumes to donate to the hospital. This year the family donated nearly 60 costumes, enough for the 50 to 60 babies in the NICU. 

The tiniest pea in the pod.
The tiniest pea in the pod. – Mass General NICU

Though Project Milestones only recently got its name, Elisa Abdulhayoglu, the NICU medical director, said she has seen it grow over the years. Abdulhayoglu started by swaddling babies in glittery heart wrapping paper and buying props out of pocket, she said. 

“The goal for some of these photo shoots is to actually bring a sense of normalcy to the NICU situation, or the NICU state, for these families,” Abdulhayoglu said. 

While many hospitals dress babies up for the holidays, Brigham and Women’s brings a special twist with their homemade photoshoots. The props, blankets, and background create an image to transport the babies out of the NICU for just a few moments in their parents’ minds.

Nurses at the hospital will typically dress the babies while the parents are away and have photos ready as a surprise for when they return. 

Baby dressed like a pumpkin.
A baby dressed as a pumpkin at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. – Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Mallory Decas, a registered nurse who has been with Brigham and Women’s for five years, said parents love it. 

“It’s a fun, feel good event all around in a situation that’s otherwise pretty stressful for families,” Decas said. “They can put that in the back of their mind for the moment and just enjoy this milestone with their baby.”

The patients that Project Milestones and the Walton family serve might be small, but the gesture is huge. 

“It’s just amazing,” Abdulhayoglu said. “It is so much fun. It is honestly the best part of my job. It is honestly the best part of my job.”

Baby in a skeleton costume.
A baby dressed like a skeleton. – Brigham and Women’s Hospital