N/IICU Child Life

While in the Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit (N/IICU) your family may receive support from a certified child life specialist, music therapist or art therapist.

What do child life specialists, music therapists and art therapists do in the N/IICU?

A certified child life specialist in the N/IICU is specially trained in child development and assisting patients and families in coping with hospitalization.

All child life staff specialize in working with hospitalized children. They understand the unique stress that a hospital stay and/or medical illness can cause. By using education, preparation and supportive activities, they strive to minimize that stress and help children and their families cope positively with their healthcare experience.

A music therapist may sing or play the guitar at crib side to offer positive stimulation, support bonding with your baby and support your baby’s development.

An art therapist works primarily with you and members of your family to find creative ways to express yourselves and bond with your baby. There may also be the opportunity to work with your baby’s siblings, if they are having a difficult time coping with various issues.

How can a child life specialist, music therapist or art therapist help me to support my baby?

Child life specialist

Certified child life specialists provide support for the whole family:


  • Emotional support, education and resources.
  • Ways for you to assist in supporting and caring for your baby during daily care and painful or stressful procedures.
  • Ways for you to learn about the N/IICU and the hospital environment.
  • Ways to help you with your other children. For example, explaining why the baby is in the hospital, supporting the other children with separation anxiety from parents, and bonding with their new sibling.
  • Promote creative ways to bond and capture your baby’s special moments in the N/IICU.


  • Preparation and support during their first visit. (What they will see, hear …)
  • N/IICU tours and “child friendly” explanations about why their sibling is in the hospital.
  • Playroom and therapeutic activities to help siblings understand the hospital and their baby’s medical condition.

Your Baby

  • Developmentally supportive play.
  • Support during stressful/painful procedures.
  • Positive touch.
  • Bedside toys and music.

Away from the bedside, the child life specialist holds special events for N/IICU families.

Please ask your RN, social worker or physician for a child life referral. The child life specialist will work with your other child(ren) to provide an outlet for their emotions, help encourage healthy coping and increase their sense of control.

Music therapists

Music therapists may:

  • Encourage parents/siblings/family members to sing and talk to your baby to help with bonding.
  • Create a music CD to be played for your baby when you cannot be at the bedside.
  • Sing and/or play the guitar for you and your baby to mask environment sounds and encourage your baby to maintain a calm state, whether awake or asleep.
  • Work with staff to identify your baby's social, emotional, cognitive and physical development needs, and offer support through individual music therapy sessions at bedside, including singing and small instrument play.

For parents and caregivers, there is a monthly Music Relaxation Group on the unit, which includes muscle relaxation and listening to music away from the bedside.

Art therapists

Art therapists may: 

For parents/caregivers, an art therapy group is offered monthly to:

  • Offer a safe environment for you to express your emotions with other N/IICU parents/caregivers.
  • Create “keepsakes” through art, during your time in the N/IICU.
  • Enhance a sense of connection with your baby.