NICU baby wears a crochet football helmet.

Labor of love in the NICU

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Nurses make special memories for NICU babies

A lot of work goes into these precious pictures. I mean … a lot. These baby Dallas Cowboys (and Cowgirls) celebrating the team’s home opener are just the latest adorable addition to the NICU photo album.

Baby in the NICU wearing a crochet football helmet.

“People think the NICU must be a sad place — especially around the holidays,” says Dori Overman, NICU nurse. “But we don’t think it has to be. These babies are well-loved, well taken care of, and they are so stinking cute!”

It started five years ago when a group of Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurses at Methodist Dallas founded a crocheting group with the adorable name “Hooked on Preemies.” The plan back then was to dress the babies in hand-made hats for holidays and snap a picture to give to their parents.

“No one wants to spend Christmas or Easter in the NICU,” says nurse Jennifer Whitfield. “We thought this would make the holidays special and give the parents a sweet memory. We wanted every parent to know their babies were in very good hands.”

The “Hooked on Preemies” nurses start planning their hats two months in advance. The entire unit pitches in to donate yarn for the projects. Crocheting each one is time-consuming, but the nurses’ biggest challenge is the sizing.

“We have to measure each baby and that can be a process,” Jennifer says. “Also, it can be really tough to make a hat for a baby who doesn’t weigh a pound.”


Nurses take photos of NICU babies in crochet hats.Methodist Dallas NICU nurse Dori Overman takes pictures of a baby, before the pandemic forced everyone to mask up.

Picture perfect

While the “Hooked on Preemies” nurses turned out to be quite good at crocheting, their photography left something to be desired.

Enter Dori Overman, another NICU nurse who just happens to be a professional photographer. What are the odds, right?

Her photoshoots in such a sensitive environment take hours.

“Anything that touches one baby can’t touch another for fear of infection,” Dori says. “So every blanket, every hat, all of it is just for the individual baby. I even have to clean my camera between each baby’s shoot.”

Dori says these are the most challenging photoshoots she does, in part, because sometimes the babies are too young to smile or open their eyes. Capturing the perfect picture for their parents may be tough, but she says it’s also the most rewarding thing she does.

Check out some of the most popular pictures from Halloween, Easter, and Christmas.