They were batchmates in college as Pharmacy students at the University of Santo Tomas. But Joana Caoleng, Karen Sia, and Jadie Tan never thought their friendship would be cemented years later by this shared experience: they became moms to preemie babies.
Joana’s daughter, Isabella, now two years old, was born at 27 weeks and weighed 900 grams.
Karen’s two sons were both born prematurely. Her firstborn, Keith, now 3 years old, was born at 30 weeks and had a twin who did not make it. Her second boy, Dustin, was born at 33 weeks, but he is now a healthy toddler at 19 months.
Jadie’s twins, Madeleine and Matilda, were born at 31 weeks and are now 4 years old.
As their preemies fought to survive, one of the things the moms found difficult was finding clothes that fit their tiny humans perfectly. “For example, we had to put micropore tape (a hypoallergenic paper tape) on their beanie hats just to make sure that it won’t fall down on their faces,” Joana shares in an email interview with SmartParenting.com.ph.
While there are preemie clothes available from foreign brands, Joana notes that they are expensive and are too big for Filipino preemies. “We did not want our tiny warriors to have clothes that would cause them discomfort when they were already struggling for survival,” she adds.
That's when the three friends decided to create Bairns Clothing, a clothing line made to fit the tiny bodies of premature babies.
Part of the reasons why Bairns Clothing was established was because the three women wanted to break the stigma that NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) families had about choosing clothes for their preemies. “For them, it’s okay to wear newborn clothes because 'kalalakihan din,' but for us, preemie clothing is a need and not a want. It’s for the safety of their babies,” Joana emphasizes.
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(From left) Joana, Jadie, and Karen, founders of Bairns Clothing
To make sure that Bairns Clothing will fit Filipino preemies, the three women researched sizes of "very preterm" (28 to 32 weeks) and "extremely preterm" (less than 28 weeks) babies using their preemies as guides, as well as other Filipino preemies and low birth weight babies in government hospitals. In fact, they had to redo items many times to produce the correct sizes.
Bairns Clothing offers the following items:
Preemie Starter Set Php835
Includes tie sides (sleeveless, short sleeve and long sleeve options), pajamas, beanies, mittens, and booties, and can fit up to 2.5kg babies.
Tie Sides and Pajamas Starts at Php315
They also sell each item of clothing in packs of three or as a set.
Basic onesies, Php500 (for 3 pieces); statement onesies, Php225 to Php250; and printed onesies Php550 to Php600 (comes with two pairs of printed onesies, mittens, and booties). All come in small, medium, and large sizes.
Since comfort is a must, Bairns Clothing is made of polycotton (70% cotton and 30% polyester) and cotton fabrics. “Up to now, we are still in the process of learning the ins and outs of the clothing business, especially choosing the different textile variants that we need to produce finer and better-quality clothes,” Joana says, who adds they also offer a receiving blanket and preemie diapers and newborn to toddler sunglasses.
(From left) Preemie babies like Miley Obispo, a 30-weeker, fits comfortably in tie sides and pajamas by Bairns Clothing. Now at 5 months, look how healthy and big she's grown!
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It’s always an emotional moment when parents send the trio baby photos wearing Bairns Clothing. Recently, the brand had received a publicity boost when celebrity mom, Saab Magalona, posted a photo of her son, Pancho, wearing a onesie and a pair of boots from Bairns last April 2018.
“It’s a little harder to find clothes small enough for a preemie, so we’re grateful that @bairnsclothing sent us a box of super cute onesie + booties combos! They’re a small company run by three moms of preemies. Part of their proceeds goes to helping other premature babies,” Saab wrote in her caption.
Joana and her two mom-partners are grateful for the publicity because “our main goal in putting up Bairns is to utilize the brand and spread awareness about premature births."
"The numbers of premature births in the Philippines is rapidly increasing, and we need to voice it out so that hospitals and the government can make more programs that will give extra benefits for NICU families.
“Through Bairns, we create not only a buyer-seller relationship, but we build trust and a community of families that support each other. We share our journey of motherhood with one another, give advice, and uplift each other in times of difficulties. We also get to meet experts like doctors and professionals who happen to be preemie parents and build connections,” she adds.
Though the brand has only been here for a year, Joana, Karen, and Jadie have big plans for it. “We want to make Bairns clothing readily available in malls and baby concept stores. Hopefully, if all goes well, we also plan to create clothing intended for hospital use,” Joana says. “We really want Bairns to be ‘clothing with a cause.’”