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A Hull mum's premature baby clothes business inspired by her own experiences in hospital with her newborn daughter has been nominated for two awards.
Jessica Louise, 27, had a tough pregnancy and her little girl Bella weighed less than 3lbs when she was born nine weeks premature at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Hull Women & Children's Hospital in November 2022. No clothes would fit and Jessica also realised it was awkward to find clothes that were convenient for babies in incubators, which contain lots of tubes and monitoring equipment.
She and her partner Rhys Briggs launched The Tiny Company, a baby clothing business for premature sizes, in January last year. It's now been nominated for two categories in the Yorkshire Choice Awards: Charitable Business of the Year 2024 and New Starter Business of the Year 2024.
Jessica told Hull Live: "I feel like it's a massive achievement even to be nominated with all the businesses there are. Fingers crossed if it goes the right way it will create exposure for premature clothing."
The Tiny Company also sells adorable cotton octopus toys for premature babies, handmade in Yorkshire. The octopus tentacles can remind babies of the umbilical cord and they may instinctively want to reach out and hold them, according to The Tiny Company website.
Jessica said: "Each octopus has its own individual name and story, the octopuses are named after babies that have spent time in NICU, mainly from when our little girl was in there, but we have added to the collection to allow other NICU parents to share their stories through us, to give hope to other NICU parents and baby’s and also to help do our part to raise awareness of premature babies."
Sometimes, parents of a premature baby will buy a little octopus to be donated to the Hull NICU to provide comfort and kind words to another family in a similar situation. They can also choose to add a message of support.
Jessica said: "All of our premature collection is available for people to purchase online and they can leave a comment to say it can be donated to Hull NICU. If they've been at NICU, they may not want to go back because it can be quite triggering.
"We don't find out who it goes to because it is anonymous but sometimes people reach out and say they got one of the octopuses and the message was so nice. We've got a good bond with NICU and it's nice to make a difference."
Explaining where the toys are made, Jessica said: "We actually have a lady based in York who does them for us; there are guidelines we have to follow with material and she creates them. Our person who does it supports what we do and it's wonderful."
Jessica has previously spoken out in support of the staff at Hull NICU after they delivered Bella by emergency C-Section. She previously said: "Because of the bad press you read about hospitals, I was so scared to be going in, but the nurses and the doctors were just absolutely incredible. They couldn't have done enough for both me and my partner.
"It was a really traumatic experience which I don't think I've fully processed yet. The evening before I gave birth, I had to have magnesium sulphate in a drip, if they didn't give it to me I could have pretty much died, and Bella wouldn't be here either.
"They really reassured me throughout and wanted to try and keep her in as long as I possibly could so that they could give her some steroids for her lungs just to make you know she'd be okay. And then on Sunday morning, I was taken to an emergency C-section.
"I was so anxious and so panicky but the doctors and nurses and midwives were so reassuring, I couldn't ask for more from them. They took the time to explain everything to me, even though I was unconscious for some parts of it."
Fortunately, Bella is now a happy toddler. Jessica said: "She's doing really well. She's still struggling with her breathing but you wouldn't think she was a premature baby looking at her now."