Barbara Bush Children's Hospital

Neonatal Intensive Care | Neonatology

The MaineHealth Barbara Bush Children's Hospital (MHBBCH) Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) provides advanced care for babies born prematurely, or with serious medical conditions.

Expert care for special babies

In the event of complications, babies born at the MaineHealth Family Birth Center Portland get rapid access to onsite neonatal intensive care. Our NICU provides highly-specialized, 24/7 care for more than 1000 newborns each year. We are the largest and most comprehensive NICU in Northern New England and the only level 4 NICU in Maine.

What is neonatal intensive care?

Problems can arise before, during and after delivery that cause a baby’s body not to function as it should. When this happens, our NICU doctors and nurses are available around the clock to provide a higher level of care and monitoring, right in the same building. We use special neonatal procedures and diagnostic technology to provide doctors and families with fast answers to help determine the best treatment plan.

Working together to achieve the best possible outcome for your baby

If needed, your baby will have direct access to a wide spectrum of pediatric medical expertise - including Maine’s only pediatric cardiovascular surgeon, pediatric neurosurgeon and pediatric interventional cardiologist.

  • Pediatric cardiologists
  • Pediatric neurologists
  • Genetic specialists
  • Pediatric surgeons
  • Pediatric pulmonologists
  • Congenital heart specialists
  • Pediatric gastroenterologists
  • Neonatologists
  • Maternal-fetal medicine specialists
  • Pediatricians
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Specialty care nurses
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Ear, nose & throat specialists

This unique team is also involved in research that helps provide the newest treatments for your baby.

More about our NICU

We stay on the cutting edge of neonatal technology and treatments, including pediatric extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). ECMO treatment involves a mechanical pump and oxygenator that can be used to replace the function of the heart and/or lungs when a child's organs are too sick to do the job. ECMO can help support the body and allow the heart and/or lungs time to rest.

Other services include, but are not limited to:

  • Diagnostic imaging including non-sedated cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Enteral and parenteral nutrition (TPN)
  • All forms of respiratory support including non-invasive continuous positive airway pressure (conventional ventilation), high-frequency oscillatory ventilation and inhaled nitric oxide
  • Therapeutic hypothermia, which involves temporarily reducing a newborn’s body temperature in order to slow disease progression and improve long-term neurological outcomes in infants with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)
  • Surgical repair of congenital heart defects by Maine’s only pediatric cardiac surgeon
  • Surgical repair of neurological conditions by Maine’s only pediatric neurosurgeon
  • Minimally invasive repair of congenital heart defects by Maine’s only pediatric interventional cardiologist
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Echocardiography
  • Electrophysiology
  • Medical management

Some of the most common conditions treated in our NICU include:

  • Prematurity
  • Respiratory distress
  • Respiration distress syndrome
  • Newborn infections, including pneumonia and sepsis
  • Congenital anomalies
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Newborn surgical problems
  • Apnea of prematurity
  • Feeding issues
  • Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye
  • Kawasaki disease
  • Rheumatic heart disease
  • Infective endocarditis
  • Cardiomyopathy


Having a sick or premature baby who needs care in the NICU is very scary for new parents and caregivers. NICU providers help families feel comfortable and safe while their baby gets the special care he or she needs.

Our NICU is the only one in the state that participates in the March of Dimes Family Support Program. This means that a dedicated staff person focuses exclusively on parents and their needs as they go through what can be a very difficult time. You can connect with other NICU parents through the March of Dimes website.

Other amenities and resources for parents of hospitalized newborns include:

  • All private NICU and continuing care nursery rooms, each with a pull-out couch or chair so parents can stay overnight
  • Parent invitation to participate in daily rounds to ensure that they are informed about their baby’s condition and involved in treatment decisions
  • Flexible visiting hours
  • Alternative therapies, including osteopathic manipulation and Reiki, to promote wellness and healing
  • A spacious, well-appointed lounge
  • Kitchen facilities, laundry and showers

MaineHealth Emergency Medical Services provides expedited, 24/7, critical care transport services from across our health care system. Within minutes of a call from a referring physician at another hospital, our pediatric critical care transport team can be dispatched to provide ground transport of critically ill infants within a 2-hour radius of Portland. The team uses specially-equipped ambulances donated by the Children’s Miracle Network. When necessary, a LifeFlight air ambulance also can be activated.