By Dr. Maria Simbra

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Having a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit can put a lot of stress on parents, but some generous donations have helped bring some much-needed relief for families.

Julia Hubert and 10-day-old Easton are in the neonatal intensive care unit, where monitors track his breathing and heart rate, and they wait to go home.

Suddenly, a welcome surprise comes wheeling in.

“I was sitting in here, holding him, and somebody knocked on our room door, and asked if we wanted a free book, that they were all donated,” said Julia Hubert, of Sewickley. “I was very surprised. So, it was really exciting. We got to pick whatever book we wanted.”

So, does Easton have a favorite?

“Anything with animals. We really like animals,” she said of her new son.

nicu baby reading Children’s Book Cart Bringing Comfort To NICU Babies, Parents

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

When parents read to their babies, it’s comforting. The babies get used to their parents’ voices. And it’s good for a baby’s brain development.

“The time that parents spend reading with their babies gives them that family time, gives them some normalcy, in the midst of the technology that’s in the NICU, the alarms and everything that’s going on around them,” said Suzy Gess, a NICU nurse at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

“It’s a nice little break, because your mind is constantly worrying about what’s going on with my baby, when are we going to be out of here,” said Julia. “And just reading to them actually takes your mind off them. It gives you something else to focus on.”

The donated books are free to new parents, but they can be priceless.

“I notice he will sometimes wake up, he’ll open his eyes, and he turns towards me,” said Julia.

nicu books3 Children’s Book Cart Bringing Comfort To NICU Babies, Parents

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Making its rounds through the NICU twice a week has taken a toll on the supply.

“We probably have about 60 books left on the cart,” said Gess.

The donated children’s books must be clean, but can be at any reading level.

The cart has books right now, but could be empty by the end of the month if no new books come in to replace the supply.

If you have a book you’d like to donate, the hospital will take it at the front door. Sometimes kids take up a collection for their birthday and donate that, or you can mail a book to Magee with attention to the NICU. For more information on the program, visit the hospital’s website here.