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Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Levels of Care and Treatment

Banner Health’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit provides expert newborn care for premature, complex and seriously ill babies. Our specialized neonatologists and team of NICU health professionals are dedicated to providing the most advanced care possible to our tiniest patients.

What Is the NICU?

Banner Health’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) provides specialized care to newborn babies. Most women have healthy pregnancies. However, sometimes mother and/or baby have conditions or experience complications that require a higher level of care. 

Most babies admitted to the NICU are due to preterm delivery, low birth weight or a health condition. Some factors may increase the chances of a baby needing NICU, including:

  • Mother’s age, health and lifestyle 
  • Complications during childbirth such as fetal distress, breech birth or cesarean delivery
  • Baby’s size, gestation and weight
  • Birth defects, infections, seizures, low blood sugar or respiratory issues

What are NICU Levels of Care?

Banner Health’s nurseries are divided into four “levels” of care. Most babies go to Level I for basic newborn care. Babies who need extra care go to a higher level depending on their needs. 

Level I: Well Baby Nursery cares for healthy, full-term babies.

Level II: Special Care Nursery cares for babies:

  • Born 32 weeks or after who have minor health problems
  • Transitioning from NICU before being able to go home
  • Temporarily needing equipment to help them breathe

Level III: NICU provides intensive care for babies:

  • Born before 32 weeks
  • Are critically ill
  • Needing equipment to breathe to stay alive

Level IV: NICU provides the highest level of care for babies:

  • Born as young as 22 to 24 weeks or weighing less than 1 pound 13 ounces
  • Needing special surgery for birth defects and other disorders

Banner Health facilities offer a full range of pediatric medical and surgical care onsite. Our NICU clinical team includes highly skilled pediatric subspecialists and specialized nurses devoted to caring for very sick babies.

Conditions Treated at Banner Health NICUs

  • Feeding help: While breast milk provides many health benefits for newborns, sometimes babies need something different. Whether a baby is small, sick or just not able to latch, Banner Health nurseries can help. We offer many feeding options and lactation support resources to ensure your baby receives the necessary nutrition to grow and thrive.
  • Body temperature regulation: Babies born small or early often have trouble controlling their body temperature because they don’t have much body fat for insulation. Babies who maintain a healthy temperature grow faster. To help regulate temperature, a baby is placed in an incubator with a tiny thermometer taped to the stomach. The thermometer measures the baby’s temperature and adjusts the incubator’s heat accordingly.
  • Breathing support: Doctors use medicine and/or a ventilator to help babies with breathing problems. Babies born prematurely often have underdeveloped lungs, which makes it hard for them to breathe. Babies also can develop breathing problems during delivery or from infections.
  • Intravenous (IV) therapy: Some babies may need fluids or medications given via an IV to assist with healing or treatments.
  • Extra monitoring
  • Tests and procedures

Banner Health Neonatal Programs

Banner Health’s highly skilled neonatal team delivers the highest level of newborn care. We offer many innovative programs to give babies their best start in life. 

  • Protective hypothermia program: A highly specialized treatment option for oxygen deprivation at birth, protective hypothermia helps maintain and preserve your baby’s brain health. Shortly after birth, your baby’s body temperature is lowered to reduce the chance of brain damage and slow down disease progression.
  • Extremely premature infants program: Banner Health’s NICU team are experts in caring for extreme preemie babies born from 22 to 26 weeks' gestation. We offer specialized developmental care, procedures and therapies to give these tiniest babies their best start in life.


Having a baby in the NICU is very stressful for new parents. You’re likely to feel overwhelmed with worry for your baby. Banner Health’s caring NICU team understands and is here for you. Ask us about ways to cope and resources available to you. Banner Health also offers a NICU parent advisory board at select locations.