Cornton Vale Gets Knitting for New Babies at Forth Valley Royal Hospital

Prisoners and staff at Cornton Vale have been busy with wool and needles, helping to keep new-born babies warm.

Instead of the usual Tubigriptype hat, babies born at Forth Valley Royal Hospital now receive a beautiful handmade woollen hat, thanks to the prison’s Knit and Natter group and a number of other local knitting groups and individual knitters across Forth Valley.

The idea came about after Lyn Donnelly, an NHS Forth Valley Healthcare Assistant based at Cornton Vale, had a chance conversation at a wedding with Judith Rooney, a manager in the Women & Children’s unit at Forth Valley Royal Hospital. Lyn then linked with the prison’s education department and hundreds of hats are now being produced.

Lyn said she was delighted with the creativity shown by the staff and prisoners. She said: “Getting the girls involved has been great. The Knit and Natter group was already running with a small group of prisoners during recreation and it was a relaxing and calm environment. I printed off some quick and easy patterns for the girls to follow and even got staff and their families involved. Now knit one purl one for babies is the order of the day!”

Around 3,500 babies a year are born in Forth Valley Royal Hospital, which equates to approximately 290 births per month. Research shows that keeping newborns warm is paramount to the baby’s wellbeing, and wool is a far better insulator than any cotton product.

Babies are born wet and need to be dried quickly to keep warm. Because the baby’s head is considered a large surface and hair is damp, putting on a hat can help prevent heat loss and guard against conditions such as hypothermia and the risk of breathing problems. Warmth also helps the baby grow and develop.

Lyn Donnelly says the prison is always looking for donations of wool and anyone with spare yarn can get in touch by emailing