Rooming-in, the practice of caring for the mother and her newborn together in the same room immediately following birth, has been widespread across Canada since the 1990s. However, standard care for substance-exposed newborns generally means immediate separation following birth and transfer to a higher-care nursery or neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Rooming-in is known to have numerous benefits in terms of mother-infant bonding and attachment and encouraging breastfeeding. Traditionally, substance-exposed infants have been separated from their mothers due to a belief that withdrawal management is safer when they are not in the care of their mothers.

A study published last week explored the possible benefits and risks of rooming-in for substance-exposed infants. The evaluation found that rooming-in is both safe and beneficial for newborns. Rooming-in was associated with:

  • a significant decrease in admissions to NICU
  • a shorter NICU length of stay for term infants
  • a greater likelihood that infants remained in the custody of their mothers at discharge.

This study was conducted in British Columbia. The group of infants that received rooming-in were located at Fir (Families in Recovery) Square, a combined care unit within BC Women’s Hospital. To learn more about Fir Square, click here.


Abrahams, R.R., MacKay-Dunn, M.H., Nevmerjitskaia, V., Macrae, G.S., Payne, S.P., and Hodgson, Z.G. (2010). An evaluation of rooming-in among substance-exposed newborns in British Columbia. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 32(9): 866-871.