New Zealand-grown Merino wool is proving a lifesaver for premature babies and their families through a partnership between specialist wool business Devold NZ and the Little Miracles Trust.
The trust is a not-for-profit that provides support for whānau who are going through a neonatal intensive care experience with their babies.
“The properties of wool are magical for premature babies,” Little Miracles Trust chief executive Rachel Friend said.
“Natural fibres and in particular Merino wool are best to keep them warm when they have so little fat.”
Friend approached premium Merino outdoor brand Devold for assistance in securing woollen blankets after a chance meeting at a recent Merino wool conference.
Devold NZ has since donated 500 Merino blankets to the trust.
Friend said Devold’s donation has the potential to be a game-changer for babies and their whānau, both to give the little ones access to the best materials early on in life, as well as to promote Merino over fabrics such as polar fleece, which can be harmful.
“For these tiny babies, part of their journey in hospital is putting on fat and gaining the ability to regulate their body temperatures.
“Merino is a natural fibre, so it lets their skin breathe unlike polar fleece, and they won’t overheat and risk a chill.
“That’s why it works year-round as well, and the purer the merino the better, so Devold’s blankets, which are 100%, are perfect,” Friend said.
The support was an obvious fit, Devold NZ general manager Craig Smith said.
“Premature babies need to be looked after and wool is the product to do that.
“It’s nature helping nature. It really is the best material for the job,” Smith said.
Friend said 10% of NZ families will go through an experience with intensive neonatal care at some point.
Having discovered Devold at the Merino wool conference and with winter coming, Friend reached out to Smith.
“We’re pretty desperate for it. Actually trying to get the Merino cloth itself is really difficult and can also be quite cost prohibitive.
“They [Devold] have been able to deliver the goods, which I’m so excited about.”
The Little Miracles Trust – known as the Neonatal Trust until 2022 – has been around for 30 years.
“We’re staffed by veteran parents, so we’ve all had a similar experience,” Friend said.
The trust has a neonatal intensive care unit frontline team, which is made up of part-time workers.
“They are there to walk alongside these families as they go through a really traumatic time with their little ones.”
There are 23 units in total and the trust works closely with each unit to get hold of the items that the families need.
Friend said the kind of peer support Little Miracles offers has been shown to reduce anxiety in those going through tough times like these.
“It’s something nobody ever prepares for or thinks is going to happen to them.
“We supply care packs and we have a hardship fund because there are ever-increasing families who struggle financially or logistically.
“What we offer ranges from emotional right through to practical support and extends into the time after families have taken their babies home.”
And that includes keeping their babies warm.
“I just want to say a huge thanks to Devold for stepping up and being there, for them to be doing this makes a massive difference,” Friend said.
Smith said the partnership was a natural fit for Devold.
“It’s something pretty special that we can do, providing blankets from our own mill in Lithuania and made with fine Merino from NZ.
“We’re proud to clothe athletes at the top end and little premature babies when they come into the world.”