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Nurtured in the NICU: SnackChat

Updated: Mar 6, 2020

By Francis La Rosa

“A lot of families and friends are doing and saying the right thing for a parent in the NICU, but so often they haven’t walked the walk”, says Karen Beattie, the parent advisor in the NICU at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario.

Karen, mother to a son who was born at 29 weeks, understands the importance of being able to share her personal connection to prematurity with other families. During her time at McMaster Children’s Hospital and the NICU, she was able to receive support from clinicians and and other healthcare professionals, but there was no peer support group for families in the NICU.

There was a real opportunity for McMaster’s NICU to improve its supports for families living in the unit. With McMaster being one of the largest NICU in the most populated province in Canada, there was a need for families in the NICU to receive peer support and the positive impact it could have.

And so, in November 2017, SnackChat was born, offering weekly education and support sessions for parents who have children in the NICU.

Parents in the NICU go through a very difficult time during their stay and it is important to have support groups to help their journey through the NICU. Groups like this offer opportunity for parents to connect with one another, as well as meaningful learning opportunities.

With the relationships Karen developed following the birth of her child, she was able to collaborate with the hospital to create SnackChat and give NICU families the opportunity to receive peer support.

SnackChat runs on a weekly basis at the hospital.

SnackChat’s goal is simple: to provide families a snack while offering them an opportunity to chat and get to know some of the people going through many of the same motions in the NICU. The impact that it has on families in the NICU is priceless. Of the SnackChat sessions, Karen says, “They promote connection between parents and the relationships extend beyond the NICU walls.”

Feedback from families

Thank you! You have made my days brighter in the NICU”

“You made our long NICU stay bearable”

The impact that SnackChat has is long lasting, and if it helps 100 or 1,000 parents, what Karen created has made a difference.

Learn more from our friends at McMaster Children's Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario

Do you want to make a difference? Contact your NICU clinic manager to discuss the opportunity to create a support group for families in the NICU. Canadian Premature Babies Foundation trains NICU parents to provide effective peer support and provides grants for hospitals to help get these groups up and running.

Looking to connect with families with premature babies outside the NICU? Join us in our private Facebook support network!

Nurtured in the NICU stories are created by the Canadian Premature Babies Foundation to highlight the wonderful work of doctors, nurses, and parent volunteers in Canada’s NICUs. For more information or if you would like to share an initiative happening in your NICU, please send us an email at

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