The need for newborn babies to be near their mothers as much as possible is well documented. For babies who are born prematurely or with other complications that require them to be cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), this unfortunately means that they are often separated from their mothers.
But now the BC Children’s Hospital and BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver, Canada, are solving that problem. On Oct. 29, the hospitals opening an innovative NICU located in their new Teck Acute Care Centre. What sets this NICU apart is that moms and their babies will be cared for in the same space, and parents will be allowed to stay with their infants around the clock.
Making The NICU More Parent-Friendly
The revolutionary NICU has 70 private rooms, six of which can accommodate twins. Babies can remain in these rooms for the duration of their stays in the NICU. The rooms have all the necessary equipment to care for sick or premature babies, and they are designed to be as comfortable as possible.
“The extensive use of gardens and natural light add to the sense of well-being for staff and families,” Julie de Salaberry, director of Neonatal Intensive Care at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre, told Babble.
Each has room also has a chair for “kangaroo care” (skin-to-skin holding) as well as a breast pump, which is essential for moms who would like to feed their babies breastmilk but aren’t able to nurse them.
The idea for the new NICU came from a NICU mom, de Salaberry said. At a hospital design workshop, a mom whose baby had been cared for in the NICU asked, “Why can’t I have my postpartum care in the room with my baby?”
Science And Parents Agree: A Better NICU Makes Sense
Any parent who has had a newborn in the NICU knows how heartbreaking it is to have to leave their sides—and they also know how uncomfortable the chairs available to parents staying overnight can be, even if they recline!
The concept of keeping moms and babies close is also backed by science.
“In conventional models, mother and babies needing NICU care are separated soon after birth,” de Salaberry said. “There is substantive literature that reports the single most stressful event for mothers with babies in the NICU is separation, regardless of the severity of illness.”
The Rise Of “Baby-Friendly” Hospitals
While just one NICU is implementing this new approach, it certainly is following a trend of keeping parents close to newborns. Last year, Simplemost wrote about the fact that hospital nurseries may become a thing of the past, as “baby-friendly” hospitals eliminate communal nurseries in favor of keeping newborns in the room with mom.
Here’s hoping that other NICUs across the country follow this Canadian hospital’s suit!
Speaking of clever NICU ideas, this hospital in Atlanta has a volunteer ICU Grandpa who has been cuddling NICU babies for years. He steps in to cuddle babies when their parents aren’t around, and his story could not be any sweeter.