Infant Mental Health Pro­motion (IMHP) at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) has created a unique resource to promote and support the parent-infant attachment relationship within the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This resource provides parents with specific actions they can take to support and promote their attachment with their baby during the NICU stay.   The key message that guided the development of the From the Heart Campaign resources is “I Need You” spoken from the infant. 

2 page Descriptive Flyer 

Why Create A Resource Like This?

For most parents, the NICU is not where they expected to be after the birth of their baby.  Emotions may include all or some of the following:

  • Feelings of loss about the baby they were expecting
  • Overwhelmed by the medical equipment and personnel
  • Frightened about their baby’s situation
  • Unsure about how important they are to their baby’s care amidst the machines and experts
  • Uncertainty about what they can do to comfort their baby or interact in any way that will contribute to their baby’s healing

Yet all babies, no matter what challenges they may face, are born relationship ready and have already begun to form an attachment to their mother.  Even before birth, an infant is attuned to their moth­er’s voice.  A newborn can be soothed by his parents smell, voice and gentle touch.  For a medically fragile baby, the continued attachment relationship with their parent(s) is essential.   This resource gives parents concrete ways they can be part of their baby’s care while in the NICU in a meaningful way. 

Who are we talking to?

Regardless of ethnicity or socio-economic status, all babies are born relationship ready and all parents need and want to know what they can do to support and care for their baby in an emotionally challenging environment. This resource was developed with the diversity of NICU families in mind.   For this reason, these important messages will be translated into many languages and placed throughout the NICU environment. 

What do we want our messages to do?

With this resource, our hope is that every parent will know how important their presence and involvement is to their baby’s care in the NICU.  These messages, combined with the support of the clinical staff, will strive to show a parent how they can be a key and active part of their baby’s NICU stay with an emphasis on the attachment relationship their baby needs.  They will begin to see themselves as their baby’s champion. 

We hope that these messages will help parents to understand that they play a pivotal role in the recovery of their child and they are still their baby’s primary caregiver.

The following considerations guided the development process:

1) Maximum reach 
All partners are committed to ensuring these messages are accessible to an ethnically diverse population.  The needs of infants in the NICU are diverse as is the background of the parents. By using a text based approach we hope to create a universal message that does not reflect any specific culture or medical condition - but is a strong visual reminder for both parents and NICU staff.

2) Simple language
By using simple messages from the child’s perspective we hope to give a voice to the infant who cannot speak themselves to ask for nurturing and care while engaging both the parents and the professionals involved in their care. The mes­sages that are conveyed are universal enough to be appropriate for a wide range of needs and are culturally appropriate.

3) Avoiding images of a typical plump & healthy baby 
Although this is the goal for infants in the NICU it is not indicative of the reality of the patients. While in the NICU the family is surrounded by medical equipment. We have used the image of the Heart Rate monitor throughout the campaign to counter the intimidating nature of that equipment. We hope that parents will see this and consider themselves as important as the equipment to their child’s re­covery, and will make the medical equipment seem less intimidating and more of an object of hope.

4) Translation
Posters and information will be translated into the top languages most common to SickKids to reduce potential language barriers and encourage parents of all cultures to be active participants in their child’s well being and recovery.  Funding for translation was provided by the Hospital for Sick Children New Immigrant Support Network.

From the Heart...  will be piloted in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units of SickKids with our partners at Mount Sinai Hospital actively waiting.  Ultimately these resources will be made available for purchase by other units through Infant Mental Health Promotion.

From the Heart Planned Resources

  • Multi-lingual Posters
  • Window and Floor Decals
  • Multilingual Parent Booklet
  • Thoughts From the Heart interactive waiting room display
  • Computer Monitor Screen Savers

Background – How We Got Here

The creation of this resource would not have been possible without a partnership between The Hospital for Sick Children Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Infant Mental Health Promotion (IMHP), Mount Sinai Hospital NICU, Smith Roberts Creative Communica­tions who generously donated their creativity to the development of this resource and KP Graphics for a considerable portion of the resource printed at no cost.  This partnership was committed to a consultative process that included the multi-disciplinary team within the NICU as well as the NICU Family Care Committee.