All About Knitting for Premature Babies

As a knitter, you may have considered knitting to help those in need. One of the most rewarding projects you can take on is knitting items for premature babies, especially those that are spending time in hospital. Preterm babies need special care, so here are some important guidelines and tips when knitting for them. And you can even check out our free premature baby knitting patterns.

Knitting for Premature Babies

Whether you’re a beginner to knitting or it’s a daily hobby for you, you may have considered knitting teeny tiny items for premature babies in the U.K. Babies born prematurely often have difficulty regulating their own body temperature (that’s why you may see them in incubators – it helps keep them warm after they leave mum’s cosy womb). So, preemies need ways to stay warm and that’s where little knitted hats and booties may come in handy.

The most important items you can knit for preterm babies are hats, booties, cardigans and blankets. These items provide warmth and comfort to babies born too early.

What to Consider When Knitting for Preterm Babies

When knitting for premature babies, there are a few things to consider before starting, because these tiny humans are very delicate and have some special requirements:

  • Delicate skin. A preterm’s skin is delicate and extra sensitive, so it’s best to use super soft and lightweight yarn. They’re also at risk of infection, so try using 100% cotton or wool that’s hypoallergenic and easily washed.

  • A smoke-free environment. If you smoke or live in a house where someone smokes, you should do your knitting elsewhere. This is because even thirdhand smoke contains harmful chemicals that can settle on clothes, hair, skin, etc. And remember, a preemie is extra sensitive and vulnerable to chemicals, smells and other external factors.

  • Your NICU requirements. If you’re donating your premature baby knitting to your local neonatal unit, it’s best to check with them first to see if they have any specific requirements for the knitted items.

  • The correct sizes. Preterm babies need items that fit them perfectly and keep them warm and comfortable. So, use the below sizing chart to help you better estimate the sizes that preemies need.

Baby WeightHead CircumferenceChest CircumferenceFoot Length
680- 907g 
(1½ to 2lb)
21- 23cm 
(8½" to 9")
21- 23cm 
(8½" to 9")
2 ½ cm
907g- 1.4kg 
(2lb to 3lb)
24- 25 ½ cm
(9½" to 10")
23- 25 ½ cm
(9" to 10")
3 ½ - 5cm
(1½" to 2")
1.4- 1.8kg 
(3lb to 4lb)
26- 28cm
(10½" to 11")
25 ½- 28cm
(10" to 11")
5- 6 ½ cm
(2" to 2½")
2.3- 2.7 kg 
(5lb to 6lb)
30- 32cm
(12" to 12½")
30 ½ - 33cm
(12" to 13")
6 ½ - 7 ½ cm
(2 ½ " to 3")
2.7- 3.2kg
(6lb to 7lb)
33- 34 ½ cm
(13" to 13½")
7 ½ - 9cm
(3" to 3½")
3.2- 3.6kg
(7lb to 8lb)
36 – 38cm
(14" to 15")
3.6- 4.5kg
(8lb to 10lb)
35 ½ cm


Where to Send Your Knitting for Premature Babies

You may have a specific preterm baby in mind for your knitted items, such as a friend’s or family member’s new arrival. If so, I’m sure they would be happy and grateful for the thought and care you put into your gift.

If you don’t personally know anyone with a new preterm baby, you may like to do some knitting for premature babies in hospital and donate your items to your local neonatal care unit or charity in the U.K. Donating items to these organisations is a great way to support the families of premature babies and help make their stay in the hospital a little bit better.

Knitting for Neonatal Units

Neonatal care units are specialised units in hospitals that provide care for premature babies. If you want to donate knitting to your local neonatal unit, it’s best to reach out to them first. They can tell you what items they do or don’t need and any specific guidelines they have.

Knitting for Charity

In the U.K., there are plenty of charities that are willing to accept knitting for premature babies and many will distribute the items to hospitals. These charities often know the local neonatal units that are willing to accept knitted items or need donations.

You can contact charities such as Bliss or any local charities near you to find out if they have any programs in place and get more information.

Premature Baby Hat: Free Knitting Pattern

Here you can find an adorable and free knitting pattern to make your very own hat for premature babies to keep their little heads warm in and out of hospital.

Premature Baby Booties: Free Knitting Pattern

To keep those tiny toes nice and warm, try this easy knitting pattern for premature baby booties.

Premature Baby Cardigan: Free Knitting Pattern

This free knitting pattern for a little cardigan is perfect for a premature baby that is ready to go home or doesn’t have to wear too many wires in the hospital.

Premature Baby Blanket: Free Knitting Pattern

This cosy blanket is warm and lightweight – perfect for in NICU and at home. And a blanket is something a preemie won’t grow out of!

Knitting Abbreviations

To help you along with your knitting for premature babies, here’s a guide to some of the U.K abbreviations that may be used in our free patterns:

  • K: Knit

  • P: Purl

  • rep: repeat

  • RS: right side

  • st(s): stitch(es)

  • P TBL: to purl through the back loop

  • K TBL: to knit through back loop

  • Psso: pass the slipped stitch over

  • K2tog: Knit 2 together

  • P2tog: Purl 2 together

  • KFB: Knit into the front and back

  • C4F: Cable 4 Front – slip 2 stitches onto your cable needle to the front of your work, knit the next two stitches, then knit the two stitches off the cable needle

  • C4B: Cable 4 Back – slip 2 stitches onto your cable needle to the back of your work, knit the next two stitches, then knit the two stitches off the cable needle.


If you’re wondering what size knitting pattern to use for a premature baby, you can use our size chart provided in this article.

The Bottom Line

Knitting for premature babies is not only a rewarding project but also helps provide comfort and warmth to babies in need. With these guidelines and tips in mind, you can easily create items that will make a difference in a preemie’s life. So, enjoy getting creative with our cute and free knitting patterns for premature babies and remember to contact your local NICU or preemie charity before donating your tiny, knitted items.

Friends and families of babies born prematurely can now order their Pampers Preemie Protection Nappies online for free home delivery via Pampers also continue to donate Pampers Preemie Protection nappies direct to hospitals, and via ASDA pharmacies (in-store only and subject to availability).

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

Read more about Prematurity

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