AS Katy Hencher left her baby son in hospital each night, she would take his blanket home so their dog Holly could get used to his scent.
And when little Lewis was finally allowed home, the Labrador cross instantly took to the tot and the pair became best friends.
Katy with son Lewis, eight, who was born prematurely Credit: Matthew Pover Limited
That is why today, Katy, 31, is backing The Sun on Sunday’s Knit A Lot, Save A Tot Christmas appeal where YOU — our kind-hearted readers — can help hundreds of parents and premature and full-term but sick babies around the UK.
“Going home from the hospital without Lewis was so hard.
“I would take his baby blanket back for Holly to smell so that when she finally met Lewis she already knew him. It kept him warm, it helped Holly love him, it was so important.
“It was knitted for us by a friend. It meant so much and we still have it. The idea that a stranger would make a blanket for you would have given us such a boost.”
Lewis as a newborn in a knitted blanket
Please knit a blanket for babies who will spend their first Christmas in hospital
A baby’s first Christmas should be a magical time. But every year thousands of the smallest and most vulnerable children will spend their first December 25 in hospital.
For their families, it can be an overwhelming and worrying time.
We are asking you to knit a blanket for these babies throughout the UK. We are partnering with Bliss, the leading UK charity dedicated to babies born premature or sick, to sprinkle some Christmas cheer.
We have teamed up with East London Textiles Ltd and The Big Yellow Self Storage Company to help store your blankets.
One in seven babies is born here needing neonatal care and the figure is rising. Up to 8,000 will spend their first Christmas in neonatal units this year.
The blankets keep them warm, carry the important bonding scent between parent and child and are a treasured memento.
Lewis, now eight, was born full term but starved of oxygen, his brain was bleeding and he was put in a coma.
How to make your blanket
Pattern for 24in x 30in baby blanket
YOU NEED: 250grams double knit yarn and 4mm needles (size 8). Cast on 128 stitches and knit 17 rows.
At the beginning and end of next and each following pattern rows you will knit 9 stitches for border to prevent curling up.
1st row: knit 9 (knit 10, purl 10) repeat to last 9 sts, knit.
2nd row: knit 9 (purl 10, knit 10) repeat to last 19 sts, purl 10, knit 9.
Repeat these rows 6 times.
15th row as 2nd row.
16th row as 1st row.
Repeat 15th and 16th rows 6 times to form the pattern (28 rows).
Repeat the above 28 rows of the pattern a further 6 times, the blanket should now measure approximately 28in.
Knit 17 rows then cast off.
Doctors warned Katy and her husband Michael, 30, to prepare for the worst.
Miraculously, Lewis pulled through but Katy and Michael were told he would be disabled. Katy, from Leyland, Lancs, said: “We would cradle him in his blanket.”
Aged two he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. When Michael, a former soldier, was away Katy taught her son to balance.
Now he is in a mainstream school and last Christmas he amazed doctors by standing at his nativity play and speaking lines he had memorised before a large audience.
Katy, also mum to Joshua, three, added: “We were so proud of him up there on the stage walking and talking.”
Where to send your finished blankets
PLEASE post blankets to: The Sun on Sunday’s Christmas Blankets for Babies Appeal, East London Textiles Ltd (E.L.T.), Unit G4, Gallmans End Farm, Manor Road, Abridge, Essex RM4 1NA.
Bliss is unable to accept blankets sent directly to its office.
All blankets will be quality controlled. We will only be sending out blankets to units in line with their infection control policies and at such time as access to units is possible.
You can also make a donation at bliss.org.uk/donate.
Tell us how you are helping the campaign with this hashtag: #SoSBlankets4Babies
GOT a story? RING The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL [email protected]