baby clothes

Saint Peter’s Children’s Hospital Opens Baby Boutique for NICU Parents

The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s University Hospital has opened the Bless U Baby Boutique, a shop stocked with donated items and gifts for parents of babies who have been admitted to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). In partnership with Saint Peter’s Foundation, the shop, located across from the NICU, is filled with new toys, books, outfits, hats, blankets and personal care items. All the items are given to parents free of charge.

The idea for the boutique came from by Dolly Allen, DNP, MSN, RN, CCRN, C-ELBW, NEA-BC, director of Adult Emergency Services at Saint Peter’s University Hospital, while she was in her previous role as nurse manager of the hospital’s NICU.

“I have seen that the parents of unwell or premature babies often get cheated out of the best part of being new parents. They sometimes don’t have the opportunity to have baby showers, and holding their babies is sometimes delayed because of illness,” said Allen. “The Bless U Baby Boutique offers a first in-class experience for NICU parents and siblings, providing a sense of normalcy during a very challenging time.”

“Families with a baby in the NICU are often caught off guard by their baby’s early arrival. This has left them little to no time to shop for those essential items needed to care for their baby at home,” Allen said. “Our NICU families experience varying emotions and challenges while we are caring for their baby in the NICU, which sometimes can be for a few days or several months. In our Bless U Baby Boutique, families can feel a sense of normalcy as they select items for their baby while thinking about the day they get to take them home.”

In addition to the donated item parents can select, they can also choose a pair of booties or mittens. Every family is also given a set of rosary beads. Through the boutique, parents who have other children at home can shop for a toy to bring home to the baby’s sibling, helping them realize their importance in their growing family.

All items are packaged with luxury wrapping, adding even more to the experience for new parents.

“Some families have support while others have none. Saint Peter’s Bless U Baby Boutique provides an equitable experience for all NICU parents,” Allen said. “You may not have the means or resources to go shopping, but you can come here and enjoy a similar experience in this boutique. You can make some choices for yourself and have fun doing it. This is so important for these parents who have so little control over what’s happening to them.”

Jamie Gunderman from Flemington knows firsthand how important family-centered care in the NICU is. Her twin boys, Jacob and Joshua, were born 12 weeks early at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in 2011. One of her sons was in the NICU for 84 days while the other was there for 96 days. Due to a collapsed lung, one of the twins was on a ventilator during his stay in the NICU.

“It was scary. There were complications with the pregnancy, so we knew the boys were going to come early, but we didn’t expect them to come quite so early,” said Gunderman. “No matter how much you prepare yourself ahead of time, hearing that your babies have to be admitted to the NICU is scary and not truly what you imagine your experience to be with your newborn.”

Gunderman, now a volunteer at the Bless U Baby Boutique, hopes the shop will give parents a sense of calm between visiting their babies in the NICU, caring for other children, and juggling day-to-day responsibilities.

“When my babies were admitted to the NICU, I was a nervous wreck, but I knew that the doctors, nurses, and other staff here were taking incredible care of my boys. I’m still so thankful for that to this day. I want other parents to know that their babies are in good hands at Saint Peter’s,” said Gunderman. “I like to volunteer at the boutique and share my story with other NICU parents so they know they’re not alone and there’s hope.”

Her twin boys are thriving today. Now at the age of 11, Joshua enjoys playing violin with his school orchestra and Jacob’s favorite sport is flag football.

“Family-centered care is the gold standard of care at Saint Peter’s. By offering this shop to the families of babies in the NICU, we hope to bring them a sense of celebration and joy during a stressful time,” said Mark Hiatt, MD, director of Saint Peter’s NICU and chief of the Division of Neonatal Medicine at The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s University Hospital.

To make a monetary donation in support of the NICU or the Bless U Baby Boutique, please visit

To access more business news, visit NJB News Now.

Related Articles: