Teen’s ‘Tiny Hugs’ project helps preemies thrive

Bryn Hammock works on her "Tiny Hugs" project. These fabric gloves filled with weighted beads are used to comfort newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit when their parents cannot be with them. Courtesy of Bryn Hammock

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Bryn Hammock works on her "Tiny Hugs" project. These fabric gloves filled with weighted beads are used to comfort newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit when their parents cannot be with them. Courtesy of Bryn Hammock

Preemies in the neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) need a touch from mom or dad, but when parents can’t be there, “Tiny Hugs” are a good substitute.

These soft, snuggly mittens, weighted inside with a pound of poly bead stuffing, are used to help these early arrivals feel like they’re still in the womb. Mothers are asked to wear the glove close to their own bodies so the fabric will retain her unique smell, which is calming to an infant. And the weighted hands are also helpful for holding tubes and assorted wires in the hospital.

Bryn Hammock, 18, of Buford, spent a year learning to sew and gathering a team to make weighted mittens for a project she named “Tiny Hugs.” She made 140 of the weighted gloves and distributed them to six hospitals around the state.

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Stacks of 'Tiny Hugs' before they were sent to hospitals to use in the neonatal intensive care units. Courtesy of Bryn Hammock

Credit: spe

Stacks of 'Tiny Hugs' before they were sent to hospitals to use in the neonatal intensive care units. Courtesy of Bryn Hammock

Credit: spe

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Stacks of 'Tiny Hugs' before they were sent to hospitals to use in the neonatal intensive care units. Courtesy of Bryn Hammock

Credit: spe

Credit: spe

At the Emory Midtown NICU, nurse practitioner Dee Blowbliss said Bryn’s “Tiny Hugs” help position fragile babies as they are developing.

“Developmental positioning is so important for our tiny babies; it helps give them borders and contains them, as well as making them feel like they are being held,” Bowbliss said.

Premature babies cannot control their arm and leg movements well or soothe themselves like more mature babies can, explained Blowbliss. “‘Tiny Hugs’ is perfect to help position and comfort our tiny patients.”

Bryn is a fourth-generation Girl Scout and with “Tiny Hugs” she earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting, and was a Council Young Women of Distinction award-winner, given for exceptional leadership skills and a project that goes above and beyond in community impact.

“I love Bryn’s project. Through simple sewing supplies and the will to make a difference, she brought comfort to infants (and their parents) at a critical time,” said Leslie Gilliam, communications advisor for Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta.

Bryn researched the need for weighted hands and worked with nurse Sherry Domah of Northside Gwinnett Hospital, who advised her and shared patterns and instructions.

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Bryn with nurse Sherry Domah who helped her with the project and will continue to make 'Tiny Hugs' for hospitals that need them. Courtesy of Bryn Hammock.

Credit: spe

Bryn with nurse Sherry Domah who helped her with the project and will continue to make 'Tiny Hugs' for hospitals that need them. Courtesy of Bryn Hammock.

Credit: spe

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Bryn with nurse Sherry Domah who helped her with the project and will continue to make 'Tiny Hugs' for hospitals that need them. Courtesy of Bryn Hammock.

Credit: spe

Credit: spe

Before gathering a team to assist in cutting fabric and sewing, Bryn first had to learn how to operate a sewing machine. Bryn’s troop leader, who is also her grandmother, was called on to help.

“Bryn had no idea how to sew,” says Deanna Simmons, 73, a retired pediatric nurse from Lilburn, “and trying to teach her over FaceTime was very interesting. First, we sewed part of it, and then she would put in the beads and sew the bottom part. They turned out really good.”

The initial goal was to make 30 “Tiny Hugs,” “but we kept finding there was a need for more and more of them,” Bryn said. The plump and soft mittens are made of fleece, and are durable and washable, with double seams so they don’t burst open in the washing machine.

“The main thing is, it makes them feel like they’re being held by their parents,” Bryn said.

Bryn is the third generation in her family to earn Girl scouting’s highest award. Grandmother Simmons earned the equivalent during her scouting days, then helped both of her daughters complete their top awards. Simmons was troop leader for her daughters and has been Bryn’s troop leader for the past five years.

Bryn gave several “Tiny Hugs” to family friends Chris and Deepika Brittingham of Cumming, whose first baby, a girl, came 24 weeks early, on Christmas Day 2020. Navika weighed just over a pound and was so tiny and fragile they couldn’t hold her for weeks.

For Navika, Bryn made a mitten that weighed half a pound. Then, the baby graduated into using a full one-pound mitten as she grew. It helped put pressure on Navika as if she were still in the womb.

“The best part of this, besides what “Tiny Hugs” can do, is to know that someone was thinking about you and cared what you were going through,” said Brittingham.

Navika came home almost five months later with about four “Tiny Hugs,” which were perfect for tummy time. Now, at a year old, she often plays with them like toys. Brittingham said he would keep the mittens to one day show his daughter just how small she was as a newborn.

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One-year-old Navika Brittingham, baby daughter of Chris and Deepika Brittingham of Cumming, loves tummy time on her 'Tiny Hugs.' Courtesy of Bryn Hammock

Credit: spe

One-year-old Navika Brittingham, baby daughter of Chris and Deepika Brittingham of Cumming, loves tummy time on her 'Tiny Hugs.' Courtesy of Bryn Hammock

Credit: spe

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One-year-old Navika Brittingham, baby daughter of Chris and Deepika Brittingham of Cumming, loves tummy time on her 'Tiny Hugs.' Courtesy of Bryn Hammock

Credit: spe

Credit: spe

Bryn, a senior at Mill Creek High School is considering a career in nursing or some other medical field, and said “Tiny Hugs” was a good fit for her future goals.

“I’m really glad I did it,” she said of her project. “I was happy that I was able to make a difference for all those babies.”


WHAT’S INSPIRING ABOUT ‘TINY HUGS’

“I work at Northside Gwinnett hospital in the NICU and we were so thrilled to get the gloves for our tiny patients. Our babies are able to thrive and have increased development with these weighted hands. Due to COVID-19, parents can only see their babies for two hours a day. These gloves help nurture the babies when their parents can’t be there.”

Sherry Domah, RN