Neonatology and the NICU

Expert Care for Newborn Babies

Sanford Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) provide advanced care for critically ill babies and their families. The NICUs offer specialized equipment and have providers who are specially trained to give the highest level of care to our youngest and tiniest patients.

A NICU cares for all newborns in need of specialized care. Patients include babies born prematurely before 37 weeks of pregnancy and infants born after high-risk births or with health conditions that need expert care and management.

There are factors that may place a baby at a greater risk of being in the NICU, including those based on the birth parent’s condition, the baby’s condition and the delivery experience.

See the different risk factors below:

Birth Parent Risk Factors

  • Being younger than 16 or older than 40
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Bleeding
  • Being pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)
  • Sexually transmitted diseases

Baby Risk Factors

  • Premature birth
  • Being small for gestational age
  • Birth defects
  • Medicine or resuscitation in the delivery room
  • Seizures
  • Low blood sugar

Delivery Experience Risk Factors

  • Changes in a baby’s organ systems due to a lack of oxygen
  • Breech birth or other abnormal delivery position
  • Umbilical cord wrapped around baby’s neck
  • Forceps or cesarean delivery

Just because these factors may be present during birth does not automatically mean the baby will need to spend time in the NICU.

For physicians: Refer a patient to Sanford Health.


Family-Centered Care

At Sanford Children’s, our neonatal intensive care unit is family focused. The families of our patients play a vital role in the NICU. Studies show that family-focused care results in shorter hospital stays and better long-term health outcomes. Parents are encouraged to stay with their babies for as long as they wish and can come and go freely.

Learn about parenting in the NICU.


Highly Specialized Care

Sanford Children’s has at least one provider specializing in neonatology on-site 24/7 to monitor and care for your baby. You and your family will work with newborn care specialists, including neonatal nurse practitioners, neonatal physician assistants, neonatal nurses, pediatric surgeons, neonatal transport services and family support services. Your child’s care team will collaborate to create a treatment plan for your baby.

At Sanford Children’s, we’re setting the standard for neonatal intensive care nationwide. Learn about the exceptional care available at each of our NICU locations below. Care teams and services vary by location.

Sioux Falls
The Boekelheide Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a member of the National Institute of Health’s Neonatal Research Network – one of only 15 sites in the country. This unit is also the region’s only Level IV NICU, which means it is specially qualified to provide the highest level of care for your newborn. All family rooms offer privacy and are each equipped with a Giraffe OmniBed for critically ill and premature babies.

The NICU at the Sanford Children’s Hospital in Fargo, North Dakota, is a Level IV NICU. It offers twin rooms and private rooms so you and your family can stay in the same room as your baby. All rooms are equipped with a Giraffe OmniBed to provide the best care to critically ill and premature babies. Through our micropreemie program, we offer advanced care for the smallest, most premature infants.

The Sanford Children's Hospital in Bismarck, ND includes a brand new Level III NICU with advanced technology to ensure your baby receives the best care. The NICU is the only facility in central and western North Dakota with private rooms. All rooms include a Giraffe OmniBed to help critically ill and premature babies grow.

Learn more about what to expect in the NICU.


Taking Your Baby Home

Every case is different. Some babies may spend days in the NICU while others spend weeks. The care team works with each family to determine goals and expectations for discharge.

Babies are often ready to go home when they:

  • Start to gain weight
  • Have a stable temperature
  • Can feed without issues
  • Have a steady heartbeat
  • Can breathe normally

Some parents feel nervous about taking their baby home, especially if their baby needs extra care, special medications or medical devices after their NICU stay.

Ask your doctor for help if you feel unsure about:

  • Baby care
  • Feedings
  • Illness care
  • Infant CPR
  • Using your baby’s medical equipment
  • Your baby’s medications

Additionally, you can work with your care team to get recommendations for a pediatrician and any specialists your child may need.



The NICU cares for newborns in need of advanced medical treatments.

In the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), children older than newborns benefit from highly trained specialists constantly monitoring their condition. Any child in need of advanced medical treatments will find the highest level of care in our PICUs.

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Classes & Events

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    Post-Natal Yoga

    Sun 07/21/24 1:30 PM - Sun 07/21/24 2:30 PM
    Sanford Family Wellness Center

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    Pre-Natal Yoga

    Sun 07/21/24 2:45 PM - Sun 07/21/24 3:45 PM
    Sanford Family Wellness Center