Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Specialized Care In Case Your Baby Needs It
Premtaure baby in isolette in NICU

More than half a million babies are born prematurely each year in the United States. And, while chances are good that your little one will not need the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), it's still a good enough reason to give birth in a hospital with all the specialized services and care.

Why Would My Baby Need the NICU?

Babies may be sent to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) if they're born prematurely, have difficulties during delivery or show signs of a problem in their first days of life. UnityPoint Health's Neonatal Intensive Care Units offer equipment designed specifically for infants with staff specially trained in newborn care and conditions, such as such as low blood pressure or respiratory distress syndrome, to provide in-hospital 24/7 coverage. 

Kangaroo Care

If your baby is not able to breast feed, your nurse will help promote closeness between you and your baby through "Kangaroo Care." This is where your baby is placed skin-to-skin on your chest to nurture the baby through your warmth, touch, smell and closeness.

Cuddlers Program

UnityPoint Health has launched the Cuddlers Program in certain NICU and Pediatrics Units. Our Cuddlers can help comfort the little one while mom and dad are away from the hospital. The Cuddler will gently hold the baby, sing lullabies, read to him or her or simply just sit next to the bassinet. The Cuddler is an adult volunteer who has completed extensive training. The training, led by a team of physical therapists and nurses, includes infection control, hand washing, privacy, baby development and proper cuddling techniques. The volunteers also must complete a background check and have up-to-date immunizations. Learn if this program is available at a hospital near you by clicking on a location below.

Mother's Milk Bank

Many of our NICU location partner with the Mother's Milk Bank of Iowa to offer donor human milk. Because decades of research have established that human milk is the perfect food for infants, the Mother's Milk Bank of Iowa collects, stores, and distributes human milk to those who need it. All the donated milk collected and stored by Mother's Milk Bank of Iowa is pasteurized. After pasteurization, it is tested for bacteria. Most immunologic and nutritional components of human milk remain intact after pasteurization. Check with your hospital's Maternity staff to learn more about if this option is available near you.


A neonatologist is a board-certified medical doctor who has received special training to care for premature and sick newborns. All neonatologists are also pediatricians. They have attended medical school and completed a full pediatric residency. Following residency, they complete an additional three-year special program known as a fellowship. Neonatologists work in the special care nurseries or newborn intensive care units of hospitals and provide expertise in:

  • Coordinating care and medically managing newborns born premature, critically ill, or in need of surgery.
  • Diagnosing and treating newborns with conditions such as breathing disorders, infections and birth defects.
  • Stabilizing and treating newborns with life-threatening medical problems.
  • Ensuring critically ill newborns receive proper nutrition for healing and growth.
  • Providing care to the newborn at a cesarean or other delivery that involves medical problems in the mom or baby that may compromise the infant's health and require medical intervention in the delivery room.
  • Consulting with obstetricians, pediatricians and family physicians about conditions affecting newborn infants.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNP) have completed several years of additional specialized education and training in the care of sick newborns and infants after their initial RN education. They have obtained a certification that allows them to work in collaboration with neonatologists, supervising and assisting with the treatment and delivery of infants. If an infant is born with any health complications, NNP's are essential to addressing the health issues that arise from these conditions. Neonatal nurse practitioners have the skills to conduct neonatal resuscitations, start and maintain IV lines, monitor specialized equipment in caring for infants, order or perform diagnostic and laboratory tests, design treatment plans, prescribe medications, and guide new parents to properly care for their newborn infant.