Helping NICU Families Mark Milestones on Baby’s Journey Home


Babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital and their families don’t need pictures or videos to remember their first days. Now they can simply pull out a string of beads to quickly recount every step on their journey home.

Just this past December, the Babies Excelling and Developing (BEAD) program kicked off at Memorial Hermann Southeast. The BEAD program is the brainchild of  Dobie High School senior, Sydney Sweet.  Sydney was a NICU graduate herself and completed the program as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award for Girl Scout Troop 8015.

“There were no programs like this when I was a baby,” says Sydney. “This gives families a quick reference diary of their baby’s experiences and accomplishments through their first journey in life.”

Sydney worked with the Child Life program at Memorial Hermann Southeast to get BEAD launched.

“So far about 90 percent of the families with babies in our NICU have participated in the BEAD program,” says Julie McCarthy, Child Life specialist, Memorial Hermann Southeast. “In just the first few months we’ve already handed out more than 200 beads to the families of our NICU babies.”

MHSE BEAD Program2

How the BEAD Program Works.

Upon arrival to the NICU,  each family is given a string with letters to spell their child’s name plus a purple pony bead to welcome them to the NICU.

As each newborn celebrates a milestone, the family is  given a bead to mark the specific occasion. There are 22 different beads marking accomplishments,  ranging from baby’s first bath to the final bead — a red heart. This bead is handed out when the baby is discharged from the NICU and gets to go home.

Gabe Solis  from Lake Jackson is the father of a NICU baby at Memorial Hermann Southeast. “I like it because sometimes you’re not able to be at the hospital when your baby achieves a milestone. The beads show you what they accomplished that day and will be a great keepsake when we get home.”

MHSE Bead Program3

By documenting milestones and memories, the BEAD program helps keep families encouraged throughout the baby’s stay in the NICU, which can range from weeks to months. “A baby’s journey through the NICU can often be a rollercoaster,” says McCarthy. “The beads serve as a reminder to parents of the challenges their baby has faced and the obstacles they have overcome and also as a way to reflect back on their child’s earliest days.”

Learn more about our neonatal intensive care services throughout our System.


  1. Hi!
    This is a really cool idea! I am wondering if I could be in contact with someone to talk about maybe using this idea for families at a local NICU.
    Thank you!

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Tashika Varma