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Published on September 29, 2016

Butterflies for Babies Brings Comfort to Babies in Intensive Care at Women's Hospital

Seventeen years ago, Katie Gillespie was a 30-week-old premature infant who spent 10-weeks in the Women’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Today, she is a vibrant, healthy young woman and a senior Girl Scout. For her Gold Award project, she is partnering with Family Support Network of Central Carolina (FSN) on Butterflies for Babies.

Butterflies for Babies will provide 300 premature newborns at Women’s Hospital with handmade fabric butterflies with their mothers’ scents to hold. Research has shown that soon after birth, newborns begin to identify their mothers by their voice, touch and smell. In particular, newborns’ sense of smell is well-developed, and being able to smell their mothers reduces stress.

For a variety of reasons, NICU infants aren’t always able to be with their mothers, so Gillespie’s Butterflies for Babies project brings these newborns comfort, rest and calm. Each infant’s butterfly will be held by mom to capture her scent before being placed in her baby’s isolette.

“With Katie’s heartfelt Butterflies for Babies project, great things do come in small packages,” said Nancy Micca, FSN’s executive director. “It’s challenging enough to have a premature newborn and impossible for new parents to always be in the NICU, so this is an especially wonderful way for moms to feel like they are always there for their babies.”

With the assistance of FSN and other volunteers, Gillespie has created 100 Butterflies for Babies. However, additional volunteers are needed to sew fabric butterflies and contribute cotton fabric, scissors, storage bags, card stock, scent-free detergent and monetary donations to support her goal of 300 butterflies. Gillespie works with church, quilter and other volunteer groups to provide patterns, materials and instructions for the creation of the fabric butterflies. To learn more about Butterflies for Babies, email Katie Gillespie at To learn more about FSN, visit

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