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An introduction to the NICU

As a parent in the NICU, you are not a visitor. You are your baby's voice, you are a vital part of your baby's team, and you are welcome here 24 hours a day. You are the most important person for your baby.

When your baby is in the NICU, he/she needs you. We can provide excellent, state of the art medical and technical care, and we can provide comfort, warmth and affection for your baby, but we cannot parent your baby.

As a parent, you provide love and devotion to your baby that only a parent can. We in the NICU want you to be with your baby as often as you can.

At Sunnybrook we provide family centred care, which puts your baby and family and the centre of the circle of care. Learn about the principles of family centred care.

Have a look at our FAQ for answers to some common questions.

Activities you can do include (but are not limited to) hand-hugging or holding your baby, taking temperatures, changing diapers or holding feeding tubes.

We congratulate you on the birth of your baby or babies, and we wish the best for you and your family.

Location and contact details

Our unit is located in M-wing, 4th floor at 2075 Bayview Ave.
Phone: 416.480.6055

How the NICU works

It is okay to...

  • Ask questions. There are no stupid questions in the NICU. It's also okay if you need to ask a question again; there's a lot for you to learn.
  • Read your baby's medical and clipboard chart. We want you to ask questions if you do not understand words or meanings. 
  • Ask for the name of any of the health care providers who are caring for your baby. 
  • Ask to speak with the doctor. 
  • Be at your baby's bedside whenever you can. We encourage you to take part in medical rounds. Ask your nurse when they will take place. Also, you do not need to leave during shift change. 
  • Write your question(s) down so you can be reminded to ask them during rounds, when you call in, or when speaking to the doctor.
  • Ask people if they have cleaned their hands or remind them to do so before they handle your baby. Hand washing, with alcohol hand scrub or with soap and water if they are visibly soiled, can saves lives in the NICU. 
  • Find out who your social worker is. Social workers are here to help all families. 
  • Be present during procedures performed on your baby; you may be able to hold your baby's soother or hand. However, when the procedure requires a sterile field, this may not be possible. It may be difficult for you to watch your baby having a procedure done. It is okay for you to wait outside the room or leave part way through and come back to comfort your baby when the procedure has been completed. If you stay with your baby, you may not interfere with the procedure. If you feel faint, ask for help to sit down or to move out of the room. 
  • Ask your baby's nurse if your baby is ready to do kangaroo care. Many babies on ventilators, though not all, are able to come out for kangaroo care. 
  • Ask for help. If you are feeling sad, anxious or isolated, let us know. If a friend, partner, spouse or family member is hurting you, please ask us to help. You may ask your nurse to arrange for a social worker to meet with you. You do not need to explain why. You may also contact the social worker on your own. Abuse often starts during pregnancy or becomes worse during this time. Abuse incidents are higher in families with premature babies. Please let us help you, so you can be healthy to help your baby.

What is not okay in the NICU, for anyone...

  • Not respecting the NICU infection control policies. If you are not well, you must stay home. Babies need healthy parents and are also very vulnerable to infections. Also, everyone in the NICU must follow strict hand hygiene guidelines which will help keep everyone safe.
  • Not respecting other NICU families or staff. If you encounter a personality problem with an individual, take it to the charge nurse for immediate response. You can contact the program director, patient care manager, parent Coordinator, chief neonatologist or the Sunnybrook patient relations office. 
  • Violence by anyone in our workspace is not tolerated; security personnel and/or Toronto Police will be called if these situations occur.
Everyone needs to feel safe in the NICU environment.