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The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) provides critical care to newborns who are ill or premature. Many factors may lead to a newborn being admitted to the NICU, including low birth weight or complications during delivery. The NICU staff works closely with parents to develop a treatment plan for their newborn.

Neonatal intensive care in North Texas

Although no parent wants to think about their newborn in a neonatal intensive care unit, knowing your hospital offers an exceptional level of care can provide great peace of mind.

At Medical City Healthcare, in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, we have several hospitals that provide high-level, compassionate neonatal care.

What is a neonatal intensive care unit?

A neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is a department in a hospital that provides care for newborns who require a higher level of care before going home. Many specialists are involved in the care of newborns, including neonatal doctors, surgeons and NICU nurses.

When choosing a hospital for labor and delivery, it is important to consider the level of neonatal care offered. Medical conditions treated in a NICU can range from minor to severe, which is why NICUs are designated by the American Academy of Pediatrics from Level I through Level IV, with Level IV NICUs offering the highest level of care. Medical City Healthcare hospitals maintain Level II, Level III and Level IV NICUs.

Level I NICU

Level I NICU facilities are also known as "well-baby nurseries" and can provide a basic level of neonatal care to low-risk newborns. They are equipped to care for premature babies born between 35 to 37 weeks who are otherwise healthy. Level I facilities can also stabilize ill infants or those born before 35 weeks until they can be transferred to a higher-level facility.


Level II NICU facilities provide all the same care as a Level I NICU, and care for stable or moderately ill newborns who:

  • Are born prematurely between 32 to 37 weeks
  • Weigh at least 3.3 pounds
  • Have problems that are expected to resolve rapidly
  • Do not require subspecialty services on an urgent basis


Level III NICUs provide all the same services as lower level NICUs, in addition to providing higher-level care for infants who:

  • Are born before 32 weeks
  • Weigh less than 3.3 pounds
  • Have a medical condition or require surgery

Level III NICUs also provide subspecialty care, including expertise in neonatology, as well as continuously available personnel and equipment to provide life support for as long as necessary.


Level IV NICUs offer the highest level of care, with all the capabilities of lower level NICUs in addition to considerable experience in caring for the most complex and critically ill newborns. Level IV NICUs also have pediatric medical and surgical specialty consultants available 24/7/365.

What to expect in the NICU

Having your baby admitted to the NICU can be an overwhelming feeling. We are here to support your newborn and your family with NICU family support groups at select hospitals.

We also provide teleNICU consulting services to help reduce the need for infant transfers to other facilities. Neonatal doctors assist physicians at other hospital nurseries or NICUs whose patients are in need of a higher level of care.

Breastfeeding in the NICU

We believe breastfeeding is an important part of the postpartum process, which is why we provide a variety of ways to breastfeed in the NICU. Many babies are strong enough for traditional breastfeeding. For babies who require delicate care, mothers have the option to pump milk into a bottle or feeding tube. Sometimes the conditions of a premature birth may make it more difficult for mothers to produce breast milk. Newborns can be fed with formula or, if it's preferred and available, we provide thoroughly tested donor breast milk.

Bonding in the NICU

When you're away from the hospital, we offer live video streams of your baby for you to watch 24/7 via a secure web address, accessible from laptops, tablets, desktop computers and smartphones.

All but the smallest babies benefit from bonding with parents through physical touch, which is why Medical City Healthcare encourages skin-to-skin time, sometimes referred to as "kangaroo care." For the smallest newborns, or those with critical conditions, even if physical touch is not possible because of the stress it causes the baby, we still encourage sitting bedside and reading aloud for bonding.

Common conditions for NICU admission

NICUs are able to treat many types of medical conditions affecting newborns. Some of the most common reasons newborns are admitted to a NICU are:

  • Congenital heart defects
  • Premature birth (born before 37 weeks)
  • Trouble breathing
  • Respiratory distress syndrome (difficulty breathing due to premature lungs)
  • Transient tachypnea of the newborn (fluid retention in the lungs)
  • Sepsis or infection, such as RSV
  • Inability to regulate body temperature
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes caused by a build-up of the chemical bilirubin)
  • Anemia
  • Issues with feeding
  • Macrosomia (newborns born larger than 8 pounds, 13 ounces)
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)

Videos about our NICU services

Showing 5 Videos

What can you expect if your baby is in the NICU?

Dhruv Balkundi, MD explains what parents can expect with a newborn in a neonatal intensive care unit.

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