For the media

A good read: A book about the NICU for infants’ siblings

By The Health News Team | January 10, 2023
Dr. Jenny Koo of Sharp HealthCare with her daughter, Charlotte

Dr. Koo, pictured with her three previous children’s books, a stuffed animal of her character Hamilton, and daughter, Charlotte.

Inspired by her international travels and passion for caring for babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Dr. Jenny Koo, a Sharp Community Medical Group neonatologist affiliated with Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, is the author and illustrator of three children’s books. Her beloved characters — Hamilton, a pig, and Eleanor, a bunny — appear again in her newest book, “Where’s Baby? A NICU Story,” guiding Chloe, a sister to a baby being treated in the NICU, throughout the unit.

“A family’s newborn in the NICU can cause significant stress on the parents and caregivers but also on the older siblings,” says Dr. Koo. “I wanted to create a book that helps to explain the NICU and diminish fears surrounding it for the older siblings.”

Explaining the NICU in terms understood by little ears

Dr. Koo had the idea for “Where’s Baby? A NICU Story” as she worked on her earlier books. She reflected on times when overwhelmed parents asked her to explain their NICU baby’s illness to their older child.

“I used analogies to help explain the various NICU equipment to siblings who were 6 and 9 years old,” says Dr. Koo. “For example, I said the oxygen mask was like a snorkeling mask, and that the wires are helping to ‘charge’ the baby and improve their health.”

This analogy and other metaphors are depicted in Dr. Koo’s book, which received a publishing grant from the Little Giraffe Foundation. The foundation helps fund neonatal research and supports families with a baby in the NICU. Dr. Koo applied for the grant and was elated to learn she was a $1,000 recipient.

“I have always dreamed of writing and illustrating a book for NICU families but did not have the means to publish one,” she says. “This grant helped kickstart the project.”

Treating infants — and their families

Sharp Mary Birch is the largest maternity hospital in California. Last year, the hospital delivered the most babies in the state, welcoming nearly 8,000 newborns. Sometimes, these babies need care in the hospital’s 84-bed Level III NICU, where several dedicated team members like Dr. Koo help the newborns grow healthier.

“Our NICU is the largest of its kind in California, and we treat over 1,300 newborns annually,” Dr. Koo says. “I believe treating our NICU babies encompasses supporting the mental health and well-being of the baby’s family, which includes the older sibling.”

Dr. Koo’s devotion for caring for NICU babies deepened when she gave birth to her own baby, Charlotte, early last year. As a first-time parent, she found she could truly empathize with other parents. “I have always had a special place in my heart for all families of NICU babies, and motherhood has expanded my passion,” she says.

Courtney Akel, manager of the hospital’s NICU, says she admires Dr. Koo’s commitment and drive to care for newborns. “Dr. Koo brings great comfort to our NICU families — she is a gift to our NICU,” she says. “Our patients and visitors adore her and her past books, which we carry in our New Beginnings Boutique.”

Thanks to the grant, Dr. Koo anticipates being able to publish, print and distribute her newest book in early 2023 to NICU families with older siblings. “By instilling knowledge through this book, I hope I can help reduce the fear and empower children who have siblings in the NICU,” she says.

Learn more about programs and services offered at the Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns NICU.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Koo about this story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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