Newborn baby

Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine

You want the very best for your baby, especially if s/he faces medical challenges due to premature birth, severe illness, or a congenital anomaly. At the UNC Children’s Newborn Critical Care Center, a Level IV neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), you’ll find the highest level of care for even the most fragile infants.

Every year, our specialists care for approximately 800 babies from more than 50 counties in North Carolina. Some are as young as 22 weeks and weigh less than a pound. So you can trust that we have the medical experience and advanced technology to handle even the most complex conditions.

Conditions That May Need NICU Care

As a regional referral center, our Newborn Critical Care Center cares for babies born at the adjacent N.C. Women’s Hospital, as well as newborns and infants from other hospitals who are transferred to N.C. Children’s Hospital by Carolina Air Care’s pediatric transport team.

Our neonatal-perinatal specialists provide expert, multidisciplinary care for a broad spectrum of conditions that affect newborns, including:

  • Premature birth – Babies born before the end of the 37th week of pregnancy
  • Congenital anomalies, also called birth defects, including congenital heart disease, spina bifida, cleft lip and palate and others
  • Breathing problems, including respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) and airway problems
  • Illnesses requiring complex surgery such as o Diaphragmatic hernia – An opening in the muscle between the chest and abdomen, which allows the organs of the belly to go into the chest cavity
    • Tracheoesophageal fistula – An abnormal connection between the trachea (windpipe) and esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth and stomach)
    • Gastroschisis – A birth defect of the abdominal wall that causes part of a baby’s intestines to stick out of the body
    • Omphalocele – A birth defect of the abdominal wall much like gastroschisis, enabling some of the abdominal organs to protrude outside the baby’s body
  • Perinatal asphyxia – Lack of oxygen around birth
  • Infections
  • Feeding problems
  • Metabolic conditions
  • Kidney diseases

If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you might begin planning care early by meeting with one of our neonatologists before your baby is born. Learn more about maternity care at UNC Medical Center.

Team Care

Your Newborn Critical Care Center Team

Your baby will get round-the-clock care from doctors, nurses, and therapists who specialize in helping premature and critically ill newborn babies grow stronger. Our staff includes:

  • 11 board-certified neonatologists – Specialize in caring for premature and critically ill babies
  • 18 neonatal nurse practitioners (NNP) – Work alongside neonatologists to diagnose and treat health problems in babies
  • Nurses – Monitor and care for your baby daily, and offer support and education to family members
  • Pediatric pharmacists – Prepare medications and intravenous (IV) solutions
  • Respiratory therapists – Assist with managing breathing problems
  • Physical therapists – Evaluate how well your baby moves • Occupational therapists – Assess and treat feeding problems
  • Speech-language therapists – Assess and treat feeding and swallowing problems
  • Dietitians – Watch what babies are fed and how they grow

In addition, we coordinate care with more than 150 specialists from UNC Medical Center, who provide a full range of surgical and nonsurgical treatments 24/7. This includes surgeons and anesthesiologists with special training to safely do procedures in tiny, fragile premature infants.

You’re Part of the Team

At UNC Children’s Newborn Critical Care Center (NCCC), you are an important part of your baby’s care team. You’re encouraged to spend as much time as possible with your baby — as the parent, your soothing voice and caring touch help your baby recover and grow stronger. Two people can be at the baby’s bedside at any time. Additional family members can take advantage of the NCCC waiting room.

Our nurses and physicians are always available to answer questions, discuss treatments, and offer support. If you or another family member needs to return home to care for other children or go to work, we’ll give you a toll-free number so you can reach our nursing station at no cost at any time. The nurses can also offer you the option of “BabyTime” – a chance to use your computer or phone to see your baby “virtually” and talk to your nurse when you cannot be present.


Support for NICU Parents & Families

Because your family is at the center of the Newborn Critical Care Center team, you’ll find a variety of services and programs to keep your family engaged and feeling supported. Take advantage of:

  • Regular family meals, activities, and educational and social events
  • Dedicated social workers – Connect you with community resources and information, help you plan for your baby’s homecoming and provide emotional support
  • Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill – Provides a “home away from home” for families of children receiving care at UNC Medical Center
  • Newborn Critical Care Center Family Advisory Board (FAB) – A group of parents of children who stayed in the NCCC; serves as a link between NICU families and medical teams, offers family-to-family support, plans and supports events, and more
  • March of Dimes family support specialist – Provides supportive and educational materials to families and helps enhance family-centered practices in the Newborn Critical Care Center

Facilities & Services

NCCC Facilities & Services

With 58 beds, the Newborn Critical Care Center is one of the largest NICUs in North Carolina. Our unit includes a designated waiting room, dedicated lactation support rooms, Care-by-Parent rooms for discharge teaching, a private room for family-physician conferences, and a classroom.

When you need a place to rest and recharge, visit the NCCC Family Resource Room, which has a desktop computer for family use as well as educational resources with information about your baby’s medical condition. Or take a short trip to the Ronald McDonald Family Room, which includes an eat-in kitchen with a fully-stocked pantry, free Wi-Fi access, comfortable seating, and television, books and magazines.

Advanced Therapies for Newborns

The NCCC is a regional referral center for advanced therapies, including:

  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) – Provides oxygen to a baby with breathing or heart problems using a heart-lung bypass pump
  • Nitric oxide therapy – Treats infants with severe breathing problems
  • High-frequency ventilation – Helps infants breathe using smaller breaths and less pressure than most mechanical ventilators
  • Body cooling for perinatal asphyxia
  • The latest surgical techniques, including minimally invasive surgery

Follow-Up Care for NICU graduates

After your baby returns home, get coordinated follow-up care from our neonatal specialists through the Special Infant Care Clinic. We’ll monitor your baby’s growth and development through his or her second year and offer services to complement regular pediatric care.

“We knew if anyone could save him, it would be UNC”

Two days after Lennox Pierce was born, he was flown to N.C. Children’s Hospital for lifesaving treatment for a rare congenital condition. From the moment they arrived, the Pierces felt something different about care they were receiving. His mother, Jessica, shares how Lennox’s UNC care team saved his very life.

Find Family-Centered Care at UNC

At UNC Children’s, you’ll find friendly, compassionate staff who are experts at working with children and families. We’ll do our best to ease your anxiety, help you understand your child’s medical condition so you can make informed choices about their care, and offer whatever additional support you need. You can help make your experience go as smoothly as possible by exploring our patients and visitors section to learn about:


UNC Cystic Fibrosis Family Newsletter

We are always looking for ways to keep you better informed. Take a look at the CF Family Newsletter, published quarterly. You can help make the newsletter even better but sharing any ideas for the next newsletter or submitting an article to include. If you have a contribution, please contact Kelly Moormann.

Spring 2022

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Ask for A Referral

You’ll need a physician’s referral for neonatal care at UNC Children’s Newborn Critical Care Center. For more information, talk to your doctor or call us at 984-974-5063.

UNC Children’s works to make N.C. the best place to be born

Led by UNC neonatologist Martin McCaffrey, MD, the Perinatal Quality Collaborative of North Carolina (PQCNC) is a community of organizations, agencies and individuals committed to making North Carolina the best place to give birth and be born. Learn how.

Visitor Restrictions

Beginning November 14th, children age 11 and younger currently are not permitted in the Newborn Critical Care Center, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, or Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at UNC Hospitals. Read more >>

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