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.

NICU Visitors 

Only two visitors are allowed to visit the baby’s bedside at any time. Visitors who have colds, sore throats, or runny noses should not visit the NICU. If you have special requests about visitors, please discuss them with the nurse in charge. We will do everything possible to accommodate family members while still placing the care of your baby as our top priority.

Contact the NICU

  • 858-249-5800


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