Angel Gowns for Infant Bereavement

Every year, thousands of infants are born with severe medical conditions. Tragically, many of those little ones don’t survive long enough to go home with their parents. For families in these situations, there is a simple way to honor their baby and remember them: by dressing them in special gowns called angel gowns. These special dresses are made from donated wedding dresses and then given to grieving parents for their infants who pass away at birth or after miscarriage.

Every wedding dress can yield up to 12 to 20 angel gowns, which are donated to hospitals, funeral homes and directly to families. “It’s very heart-warming to see parents choose a gown for their infant and have it become a beautiful keepsake,” says NICU Helping Hands founder Karen Grubbs. “We’re so grateful for the amazing support and donations from people like you that make this possible.”

The idea started with a newspaper column written by Sarah Clark, a local mother who lost her baby through miscarriage. The column resonated with readers, including one man in Puyallup who read it and felt compelled to donate his wife’s unworn bridal gown to the project. Since then, Grubbs has collected more than 2,500 donated wedding dresses and more than 300 volunteer seamstresses from all over the world to transform them into gowns and wraps for families of babies who died during or after miscarriage or who were stillborn.

Her efforts have inspired other communities across the United States and the world, including a group in North Dakota that is named ND Angel Gowns. Several volunteer seamstresses from Lincoln and Bismarck make infant bereavement gowns out of donated wedding dresses and deliver them to area hospitals.

For the tiniest patients, a custom-made gown is especially important to provide comfort and security. During the time spent in the NICU, a gown can help keep an infant’s head elevated and breathing properly, which helps improve blood flow to the brain and prevent clots. In addition, a special blanket can be used to keep the baby warm, which also helps with circulation and reduces swelling.

Providing these tiny garments has a significant impact on the lives of families at Dignity Health – St. Mary’s Medical Center Long Beach and throughout the region. “The NICU staff is so appreciative of the beautiful gowns that are provided for our tiniest patients and their families,” says Dr. John J. O’Donnell, NICU Medical Director at St. Mary’s. “These beautiful gowns offer a sense of peace and dignity to the babies and their families in their final moments together.”

In addition to making the special gowns, NICU Helping Hands raises funds to donate cooling devices such as the Cuddle Cot(tm) or Caring Cradle to hospitals for use by bereaved parents. You can help us equip more hospitals with these life-saving tools by making a donation here.