DAVIS ISLANDS — New mothers of premature babies now have 20 brightly colored handmade feeding pillows that help hold tiny infants while they nurse.
The feeding pillows were delivered recently to the neonatal unit of Tampa General Hospital by 14-year-old Girl Scout Emma Platt, of South Tampa, as part of her project toward earning her Silver Award, the highest award a Cadette Girl Scout can earn.
Michele Platt, Emma’s mother — and leader of her daughter’s troop, Troop 487 — is a nurse in the unit and often came home complaining about the lack of nursing pillows, which sell for $30 to $45 each. The unit had 20 and they were always in use with up to 60 patients at a time in the unit.
“I wanted to do something to help,” Emma said. “I had heard her frustrations.”
Michele Platt said the nursing pillows “are a huge deal to hold the baby and start breast-feeding it. Then the mother can focus on the baby — not on the wires” from the monitors and other medical equipment.
Emma said she created the pillow pattern, cut the fabric, sewed the pillows and stuffed them, making each for less than $6 a piece. They are washable and will not go home with patients.
She approached local companies about donations of fabrics and stuffing. She received fabric from Keep Me in Stitches, a personal donation from the Hancock Fabrics manager, and discount coupons from Michaels.
“My friends would help me as they would go to Michaels, line up and each one of them use a coupon,” said the Plant High School freshman who started the project in March.
Former patient Samantha Gombos, of Lithia, was on hand with her husband, James, and their twins, Jack and Sophia, for the presentation ceremony this month. She had used the hospital pillows when the twins were in the unit in spring 2013 after their premature births.
“This is great for the unit. We were always looking for one and by the time they would find it, the baby would be back to sleep,” she recalled. “Pillows were always a hot commodity.”
Emma, the granddaughter of former Hillsborough County Commissioner Jan Platt and a former Girl Scout council president, said she wants to earn her Gold Award, the highest in Scouting.
She has been in Scouts for nine years and “although a lot of girls in our family have been in Scouts, it wasn’t pushed on me.”
She added, “Over the years, I have seen opportunities open up because of being involved in Scouting.”