Caring for Moms & Babies

While neonatal intensive care units (NICU) are an important part of many families’ lives when they welcome a baby with medical needs into this world, the NICU environment can also be an incredibly difficult place to navigate. From the overwhelming amount of equipment to the strict rules, the NICU feels like a world all of its own. And in many ways, it is — babies are cared for separately from their mothers, who often have to recover in a different floor of the hospital or even a completely different hospital. That separation, especially for breastfeeding moms, can be incredibly difficult.

To help overcome that obstacle, a hospital in Vancouver, Canada, just launched a new NICU specifically designed to care for both postpartum moms and new babies in the same space. The Teck Acute Care Centre, located within the BC Women’s Hospital, opened on October 29 and could possibly change the future of NICU and postpartum care.

The centre’s director, Julie de Salaberry, told Babble that the center was designed to honor the health and wellness of both women and their families. To accomplish that, the centre features an impressive 70 private rooms, which can each accommodate both a baby and all of his or her medical equipment, and the baby’s parent or parents, including the mother after she gives birth. Six of the rooms are also built for multiples, so siblings can stay together, and all of the rooms use natural light to create a calming and peaceful atmosphere among the unpredictable chaos of a NICU.

Each room features a breast pump for the mother to use if she is breastfeeding, along with a special chair to allow caregivers to practice skin-to-skin care, and plenty of storage for long-term stays. The overall goal of the NICU? To let parents be with their babies 24/7 and provide a place where a mom can receive her postpartum care in the same space as her baby.

Salaberry explained to Babble that the NICU was designed after studies and literature found that both moms and babies suffer stress after being separated. And it makes sense — anyone would want to be physically near their baby, especially if that baby is sick. From a practical standpoint, being together also helps facilitate bonding and breast milk production. 

In order for mothers to stay in the same room as their babies, the babies must be born at or above 33 weeks gestation and Mom must be considered low-risk. If they qualify, moms can recover postpartum in the same room as their infant and receive care from the nursing staff as well. It’s important to remember that the mothers are recovering from birth and adjusting to life with a NICU baby, so they need lots of care and attention as well — that’s exactly why a hospital care model like this is so important. 

Hopefully, we will be seeing more of this type of care in the future. Care for both mom and baby at the same time? That’s something the world definitely needs more of, from the NICU level and beyond.


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