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Feeding Motherhood: Meals that Matter

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Posted at 6:20 AM, Jan 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 04:00:04-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mi. — Right now, more than 10 percent of babies born in Michigan are premature, which means added time and care in the hospital. That can be incredibly taxing on families - and the healthcare workers who help these babies thrive. The March of Dimes has created a program to make life a little easier for everyone in the neonatal intensive care unit at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Feeding Motherhood: Meals that Matter is the first of its kind in the state.

Holland mom Alycia Weems has been making daily trips to the NICU for nearly 120 days. Her 4th child, Lydia, was born at 22 weeks old. She says, "We just really focus on taking one day at a time not losing hope but keeping our eye focused on the light at the end of the tunnel." And there’s a lot to be thankful for, Alycia says, "she's really good, she's six pounds finally as of last night so that's a huge milestone. We're so happy about that.”

This is a situation the Weems family has been in before, their oldest, Bentley was also a preemie. "Just being there and experiencing this before it’s made it a little bit easier, but also a little bit harder because you're not as naive. I feel like I’ve been there done that, so I know what it's like and know the day-to-day, the trials, and challenges. It's unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.” And this time around, she's dealing with COVID restrictions and a family at home in Holland. "I travel 40 minutes to get here and you know the mornings just fly by especially having three kids at home it's so crazy.”

But because of the March of Dimes Meals that matter program, one thing Alycia doesn't have to worry about, is what she will eat while she's at the hospital. Amy Nyberg is the March of Dimes NICU Family Support coordinator. She says, "Meals that Matter will nourish and really support families and healthcare workers in the neonatal intensive care unit with moments of reprieve and rest centered around comforting meals, a gift card or experience and will partner with local shops and restaurants businesses to deliver moments of hope, stress relief, self-care to families and staff."

It's a mission that's so important, to keep families together during this critical time. Nyberg says, "They need to be with their newborns as much as possible to learn how to care for them in a fragile medical state before they take them home to care for them and meals that matter will allow them to focus more time on their baby and less time worrying about where their next meal will come from.”

Lydia is nearing her due date, which is an important milestone in the NICU. Alycia is hopeful that she may be able to meet her siblings soon. She's forever thankful for the teams who got her miracle baby so far. "I can't say enough about them up there the programs like March of Dimes and Child Life and the nurses and doctors and providers. I just can't say one bad thing - it's amazing they're all truly a blessing in our life we are grateful for all of them and the hospital."

Meals that Matter is a smaller part of the NICU Family Support Program through the March of Dimes. It educates staff and families, while providing them with empowerment and support. It all improves the NICU experience and makes that transition home easier for everyone. If you would like to donate or learn more about the program, head to