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Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

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At Temple, we hold a special place in our hearts for infants. Our goal is to help babies get better as soon as possible so that they can go home healthy to their families.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (also known as the NICU or the Infant Intensive Care Nursery/IICN) at Temple University Hospital offers specialized care for sick or premature babies. The NICU is located on the third floor of the Rock Pavilion, close to the Delivery Room and the Mother-Baby Unit. It is a Level III unit with 25 beds, staffed 24 hours a day and equipped to manage the conditions of most critically ill newborns. Our experienced and compassionate team members work together to deliver excellent health outcomes that exceed the national average for critically ill newborns.*

Each year, our team provides specialized care for about 400 babies. Many of these newborns are born prematurely — before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Some may need special medical care because of respiratory, cardiac, feeding, neurologic, and other problems related to prematurity. We also care for babies from our regular nursery if they develop complications and must be transferred to our NICU.

Other important facts to know about our Infant Intensive Care Nursery:

  • We care for babies born as early as 23 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Many of our premature babies have a birthweight of about 1 pound, and we care for babies as small as 12 ounces (0.75 lbs)
  • Temple University Hospital is a Center for Excellence for opioid use disorder. The NICU team works with physicians from the TRUST Clinic, who take a welcoming, nonjudgmental approach to caring for those with opioid use disorder, helping mothers both pre- and post-birth about breastfeeding and caring for their new babies.

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Personalized Support for Infant Respiratory Issues and Other Conditions

The babies in our NICU typically have breathing problems related to their respiratory system, which are often a result of their underdeveloped lungs. These babies may need ventilator care and other critical treatments for a while to help them breathe.

One example of a breathing problem we commonly treat is respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). Babies born with RDS lack a substance in their lungs called surfactant, which helps their lungs fully expand so that they can breathe. Without surfactant, their lungs collapse and they struggle to breathe. Surfactant, along with other treatments are given to babies with RDS.

Other conditions we treat in newborns include pneumonia, sepsis (an infection of the blood) and other infections; hypoglycemia (low blood sugar); and difficulty maintaining a normal body temperature.

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A Dedicated Team Approach to Newborn Care

When you choose to deliver your baby at Temple, an experienced team of specially trained doctors and clinical staff will be by your side if your baby needs treatment in our NICU.

Our team approach means that many specialists will work together with the goal of giving your baby the best possible care. Your baby’s care team may include:

  • Physician neonatologists (doctors specially trained in newborn intensive care)
  • Neonatal physician assistants
  • Neonatal nurses, some of whom have worked in our NICU for almost 30 years
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Social workers
  • Nutritionists
  • Unit clerks

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Spend More Time With Your Family

We support families and babies spending as much time together as possible in the NICU. You can visit the nursery daily and hold your baby. We encourage you to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby whenever possible. This practice – known as kangaroo care – promotes bonding and breastfeeding.

Expanded Support Services to Meet You and Your Baby's Health Needs

Postpartum counseling and breastfeeding support services are available to you if you’d like to take advantage of them. Other services offered include:

  • Kangaroo care
  • Nutritional support
  • Primary nursing
  • Ophthalmology (eye specialists)
  • Infant CPR care
  • Speech therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Scrapbook journaling

If you would like to join a support group for families with ill or premature babies, we can help you connect with one. If you’re interested in spiritual care and guidance, we also have chaplains on site.

Research Innovation Leads to Quality Newborn Care

Our team of specialists takes part in research that seeks to improve the quality of care for critically ill newborns. Their research activities have included quality improvement projects involving new approaches to treating newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome, which babies can develop if they are exposed to opioids while in the womb. This quality improvement initiative goes hand in hand with our welcoming and nonjudgmental approach to caring for mothers with substance-use disorders and their babies.

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Frequently Asked Questions

At Temple Health, we welcome and expect your questions. We realize that this may be a very trying time for you and you may feel overwhelmed. Sometimes it helps to write your questions down as you think of them and bring these questions with you.

How long will my baby have to stay in the intensive care nursery?

This is probably the most frequently asked question. It’s not possible to determine upon admission how long your baby will remain in the unit. However, once your baby is able to feed, grow and stay warm, they are usually ready for discharge. For very preterm babies, this may take some time because it takes coordination to suck, swallow and breathe. In addition, it takes energy. 

We begin to prepare for discharge upon admission. That is why your frequent visits are really important.

Why is there a limit on visitors?

Sick infants and premature infants are at risk for infection. Because of this, we use different measures to reduce this risk, including hand washing and limited visitation. We limit our visitors to parents and grandparents. 

It’s also important that if you or a family member is sick to limit contact to telephone calls to check on your baby. While family members are welcome, no one should visit with any signs of a cold or flu. We want you to spend as much time as you can with your baby during their stay.

What is all the noise and equipment?

Your nurse will explain all the monitors and equipment needed for your baby. All babies in the intensive care unit are on a monitor, which allows us to monitor their heart rate, breathing rate and oxygen status. These machines may alarm at times. 

Some babies may need an IV line as well. This IV line may be in the arm, hand or foot, but it may also be in a special line placed within the umbilicus. 

Some babies in the intensive care unit need respiratory support, which may include oxygen that is delivered through small tubing secured in the nose. Or, they may need assistance to breathe with a machine called a ventilator.

When can I feed my baby?

Your neonatologist will determine when your baby is ready for feedings. For the preterm infant, feeding is work. It takes them a while to coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing altogether. Until they are ready for nipple feeding, we will feed them with a small tube that is passed through the mouth or nose into the stomach. The best milk to feed them at any time is breast milk.

How can I store and pump breast milk?

We have a room on the unit with a breast pump for your use. In addition, case managers are available to assist you with obtaining a pump for use at home. The nursing staff can give you information on how to pump, including how often to pump, how long to pump and how to store your breast milk.

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Building Ongoing Relationships for Healthier Babies

Our care doesn’t end when your baby is healthy enough to go home. Around the time of your baby’s discharge, we will help you understand how to care for your baby at home. After you leave, we will check in to make sure you and your baby are doing well and to answer any questions you may have.

Upon graduation from our NICU, babies with highly complex medical problems may benefit from comprehensive follow-up care in the Next Steps Clinic, which is offered through an affiliation with St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.

Finally, all babies need regular checkups. If you don’t already have a pediatrician for your baby, we can help arrange an appointment with one before you and your baby go home.

We’re Here Every Step of the Way

We know that having a baby in the NICU can be scary and stressful. That’s why we also support parents through this challenging time. We pride ourselves on extending love and compassion to babies and their families — along with excellent care. Learn more about Obstetrics/Maternity Care at Temple.

*Hospitals across the nation submit such outcome data to the Vermont Oxford Network (VON), a nonprofit of 1,400 member centers collaborating to improve neonatal care globally. Temple submits its health outcomes to the VON and then compares its data to the national average.