Inside the NICU

Words from a winner (part 1)

One of the greatest parts of the Kangaroo Challenge is how much we can learn from the participating units (as you can see from this post from one of last year’s winners).  We asked this year’s champions to share their thoughts about the Challenge, and we thank them for being so generous with their time and their ideas.


First up: Donna from the winning Level 2 unit, North York General Hospital (Toronto, Ontario)

I would say that the biggest challenge we overcame was surrounding skin-to-skin time being dependent on ‘do up time’ for the infants.  We would have several families sitting by the bedside, reading or on their tablets, but not holding their sleeping infants.  Some were afraid to hold, or didn’t realize that they could.  Once they started doing skin-to-skin, they so enjoyed it and didn’t have to ask any more … they expected to hold!

Our staff was used to encouraging parents to hold their infants, but usually around these ‘do up times.’  With the education and promotion of the Kangaroo Challenge, they realized that any time was Kangaroo Time, as long as the infant was stable.  We used the Kangaroo Toolkit provided by Sunnybrook to post pictures all around the unit, as well as their ‘Benefits of skin-to skin’ for Mom, Dad and Baby.  We also posted educational information in the Parent Lounge, common areas, such as the hand washing sinks, as well as the entrance door to the NICU to educate all.  We used the Daily Parent and Staff Tips and posted them on our white board in the hallway.  We created an interprofessional working group that met weekly to plan for this event, which was a great idea, as teamwork made this a possibility.  We also involved our Corporate Communications Department to promote our event on our Corporate Twitter feed.

We decided not to make individual kangaroos and hand out to families depending on the time they held, as we didn’t want to make any of the families feel bad, if for whatever reason they were not able to be present and hold.  We kept this event positive and fun for all.

We are going to keep this education going by leaving the posters and educational sayings up, as there are always new families coming into the NICU and we know that the benefits of skin-to-skin do not stop when the Challenge is over, as they last a lifetime.

Our longest cuddle was 10 hrs.    Our families were a very motivated and competitive group with 1 family holding for 9 hrs. and 40 minutes, 1 family for 9 hours and 4 families for 8 hours.  We really didn’t expect this, but once the Challenge commenced they were so eager to start!  The day the Challenge ended one of our Moms said, “Great, now I can give him a bath.  I skipped the bath so that I could get more Kangaroo hours in!”  We all had a great laugh.

We so enjoyed this Challenge and thank you for including us. We hope to surpass our goal for next year and keep ‘The Crown’, but realize that all NICUs have great staff members who provide nothing but the best evidenced-based care for their families in the NICU.  We are all winners in my mind!

Donna – thank you so much for sharing these wise words with us. You have an exceptional team at North York, and on behalf of all the babies and families you help, thanks for your wonderful work!

About the author


Kate Robson