SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — According to the National Institutes of Health, 10 to 15% of babies born in the U.S. spend time in the NICU.

We just closed out NICU Awareness Month, honoring the tiniest fighters and the people giving them the strength to head home.

Two local moms are now sharing their stories with NewsChannel, grateful for the team at St. Joseph’s Hospital who they say kept their families whole while giving them hope.

Rachael Jones spent 52 days going in and out of the hospital to see her son Will. He spent a little longer than seven weeks in the NICU.

“It was really quite draining, mentally, physically, emotionally.”

Rachael Jones

Rachael and her husband split hospital duties while also caring for two kids at home.

“I felt like my heart was in two places,” she said.

Now, on the other side of it, she’s thankful for the team that got them through it.

“The nurses are incredible,” she said. “They really made a very scary experience easy to deal with.”

Elise White and her husband are going through their own NICU experience now with their daughter Chloe.

“She was about six weeks early. So, took us all by surprise,” said White.

What also surprised the new mom was that she could stay in her own room overnight, right in the NICU.

“It’s great to kind of have a home away from home,” White said.

It’s part of St. Joe’s family-centered approach.

NICU Director Dr. Jonathan Chai explained they have a focus on breastfeeding support and allow the parents to be part of rounds.

Their goal is to make it easy for parents to bond with their babies because it helps with their development.

“As much as the baby’s clinical condition allows, we let them hold the baby, even babies on ventilators,” he said. “Ultimately, if the parents are very involved it can potentially shorten the length of stay in the hospital.”

While Chloe is there, White is grateful for the team helping them celebrate the highs and lift them through the lows.

“The nurses here have just been so amazing and so supportive of us and have been cheering her along just as we have,” White said.

Pretty soon, they’ll be cheering them out of the hospital, so they can start making new memories at home like Rachael and Will.

If you have or have had a baby in the NICU and are looking for support, Project NICU has virtual support groups.