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Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Our NICU teams care for newborns who are born early, have medical challenges, or are recovering from surgery. 

Both of our hospitals offer NICU support for babies who need special care, including:

  • Level II Intermediate NICU at UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest for babies who require short-term intensive care after birth
  • Level III NICU at Jacobs Medical Center in La Jolla for babies with critical or more complex medical needs 

Video Tour of Jacobs Medical Center Childbirth Facilities and NICU

Get a glimpse of neonatal care located at Jacobs Medical Center in La Jolla. The eighth floor is dedicated to providing the most advanced yet least invasive intensive care for our tiniest patients, including private rooms designed to encourage a high-touch environment for newborns and their parents. 

What to Expect in the NICU

Upon arriving, your baby will be placed in a special open bed called a radiant warmer, which has overhead heaters that keep your baby warm. Several white pads placed on your baby's skin can transmit vital information to monitors so we can keep watch over your baby’s heartbeat, blood pressure and breathing rate. To help monitor your baby’s oxygen needs, we may also use an oxygen saturation sensor. If your baby requires breathing assistance, a mechanical ventilator may be used. If your baby becomes jaundiced, as many special-care infants do, your baby will be placed under phototherapy lights to reduce the jaundice.

When first admitted to the unit, many babies cannot yet take fluids by mouth, so liquids are given through a small, clear catheter placed into an artery in the umbilicus (navel) or through a tiny catheter attached to a clear tube and inserted into a vein in the scalp, hand or foot. If your baby is too young to suck, nourishment will be given directly into the stomach by a tube inserted into the mouth or nose in a process called gavage.

Partners in Your Baby's Care 

Although the sites and sounds in NICU rooms may at first be strange and confusing, you will soon become comfortable with the surroundings. We encourage you to ask questions concerning your baby’s care and participate in providing some of this care. Our team includes specialized lactation consultants to help you learn how to breastfeed your premature baby.

You are encouraged to visit your baby almost any time of the day or night. Our NICU nurses and physicians welcome telephone calls from parents, and we are always happy to provide information about the care and condition of your baby. Please feel free to call us at 858-249-5800.

In addition, parents and other family members can interact with their baby via an Internet-based camera placed at the baby's bedside. They can "visit" the baby by logging into a secure account from their laptop, tablet or smart phone for live video streaming and direct, one-way audio. This system promotes bonding even when you are away from the hospital.
  Watch a video about our Angel Eye cameras

NICU Visitors 

Because of the current health risks from COVID-19, routine visitation is currently restricted. See Updated Visitor Restrictions for the latest information.

Going Home

As the discharge date approaches, we will encourage you to perform more of your baby’s daily care and provide an infant CPR course. A nurse will also give you special training if you need to perform special procedures for your baby following discharge.

Once at home, please call your pediatrician if you have any questions. Our discharge coordinator will set up an appointment for you with your local family pediatrician after you take your baby home. If you don’t have a pediatrician, learn more about our providers at UC San Diego Health.

We also offer a NICU Follow-Up and Early Development Clinic for premature babies who might be at risk for neurological problems and developmental delays.

Please keep in touch with us and let us know how you and your baby are doing. And don’t forget to attend our annual Little Grad Picnic, which reunites parents and their babies with our nurses and doctors.

Contact the NICU

  • 858-249-5800


La Jolla

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