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Volunteers knit baby baskets to help those grieving pregnancy and infant loss in Alta., Sask.

Click to play video 'Health Matters: Knit baby baskets help those grieving pregnancy and infant loss' Health Matters: Knit baby baskets help those grieving pregnancy and infant loss
Health Matters October 29: Volunteer knitters are needed for a heartwarming project that's bringing comfort to families who have lost a baby. Su-Ling Goh reports. – Oct 29, 2020

A unique organization based in Regina, Sask., is expanding its efforts into Alberta to continue supporting those who have lost a a child during or shortly after pregnancy.

The idea for the Twinkle Star Project is to provide a soft yarn basket to individuals or families to use to hold the baby they’ve lost.

Originated by Jennifer Lea after her baby Sebastian was stillborn, the organization was formed in 2017, with around 4,000 baskets donated to individuals and hospitals around Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta since 2017.

“As soon as the baby has passed, their skin becomes very frail, and it can tear easily,” said board member Vanessa Braun. “We just wanted to provide that soft barrier, but still be able to hold and feel all the creases of your baby.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Lethbridge non-profit making hundreds of garment bags, headbands for health-care workers

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Braun, who suffered a first-trimester miscarriage, says her hope is to provide some kind of comfort and understanding that she lacked during her loss.

Many women and families use the baskets during funerals and burials, while others keep them as mementos.

“I didn’t get to hold my baby because they were too small,” Braun said.

“I didn’t have anything, and I really suffered because of that.”

The baskets are knitted or crocheted by volunteers, many of whom are experienced in yarn creations.

Currently, between 100-150 Saskatchewan volunteers help with the baskets, while about 60 volunteers are in Alberta.

Read more: 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Why do women still feel guilty?

The Twinkle Star Project just launched an Alberta hub, located in Medicine Hat. According to Braun, demand has increased by a large margin due to a higher population in Alberta.

“Our baskets have been in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, and Edmonton for about a year-and-a-half, but now that we have this hub here in Alberta, we can really attack all of Alberta at once.”

The baskets come in six different sizes and all colours, and are free for anyone who requests one. They also reach out to various hospitals, which put in orders as fits their needs.

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The group also makes customized teddy bears, called Izzy Bears, which can be engraved with a name and weighted to the proper size the lost baby.

With a large order of 1,000 baskets looming for a Calgary hospital, Braun hopes more people will consider volunteering.