Leaving the NICU

Although we do everything we can to make the NICU feel like home to you and your family, we realize you are all hoping to get to your real home as soon as possible. Here is some information about transfer (when babies are sent to other hospitals) and discharge (when babies are sent home).


Many babies will spend some time at our NICU and then be transferred to another Level II hospital. Level II hospitals care for babies who do not need full neonatal intensive care but still need support as they grow. Transfer can be a stressful time for families, but it can also be seen as an important step on the road to home. We can provide you with some information about Level II hospitals close to your home, and your nurse or other staff members will speak to you about transfers as well.

When and why are babies transferred to other hospitals?

  • To be closer to the family home.
  • A baby is stable and more mature and no longer requires the intensive level of care that we provide.
  • A baby is no longer on a ventilator but may still have an IV, low flow oxygen, tube feeds and be on medications. Some babies still on CPAP may be eligible for transfer to appropriate NICUs.
  • A baby has no medical issues requiring specific follow up at this hospital.
  • A bed is available at a receiving hospital.
  • A bed is required at Sunnybrook for a baby who needs intensive care.


All parents want to know when their babies can go home. Some babies go home a few weeks after their due date, some go home around their due date, and some go home a bit before. Generally speaking the earlier the baby, the longer the hospital stay. Babies are ready to go home when their breathing is stable (no spells for a week), they are feeding by breast or bottle well, they are gaining weight reliably, they have passed a car seat test, and they have no pressing clinical issues that need monitoring at this hospital.

The discharge co-ordinator will meet with you before your baby is ready to go home to discuss with you the steps that are involved. We can help you find an appropriate pediatrician, will give you copies of discharge letters, and will arrange for any necessary follow up appointments before you go.