Having a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) impacts the whole family and can be stressful for everyone involved.  The new “Sibling Saturday program at Children’s Hospital of New Jersey (CHoNJ), located at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, helps older brothers and sisters adjust to the new addition through medical role play, art, stories and discussions.

“Our class also provides guidance to parents and extended family about their older child’s reactions, questions and concerns following the birth of a critically ill or premature infant,” says Jennifer Amend, Director of Patient Care Services at the NICU.

At the conclusion of the class, children bring art they have created to their new baby, and then family photos are taken.  Special gifts are given to the siblings, including photo albums, stickers, and coloring books.

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 “Sibling Saturday” is currently running once a month with plans to expand the program to include additional weekends and weekday evening “Sibnights” in the fall. The Children’s Hospital of New Jersey Foundation provided the funds to purchase supplies such as special coloring books, crayons and scrap booking materials. 

Family support specialist, Suzanne Milkiewicz, hosted the first class on July 21st and the response was very positive.  One parent comment read, “It is a great program for siblings.  It taught my oldest daughter to work with my twins before they even came home!” 

The next scheduled class is Saturday, August 25.