Neonatology & Developmental Biology
At UCLA Health, our neonatologists work closely with other specialists to deliver compassionate, customized treatments and support. Your baby receives leading-edge care from a team of experts.
UCLA Health excellence in neonatology
Specially trained neonatology experts at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital provide state-of-the-art treatment and support to newborns and infants. We specialize in helping premature and full-term babies who are critically ill. When you come to us, you’ll find:
Renowned expertise: The neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) at UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center and UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital have been ranked among the top NICUs in the country. As a major referral center for high-risk pregnancies, UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital leads the nation in specialty neonatal care. Our team members are nationally and internationally recognized for their expertise in pediatric nephrology, cardiology and surgery.
Comprehensive support for premature babies: To help premature babies thrive, we offer a unique program called NEMO (Neurodevelopment and Early Movements Observation). The NEMO team includes experts from neonatology and developmental and behavioral pediatrics. We meet with premature babies and their families to bridge the transition from the NICU to outpatient care.
ECMO Center of Excellence: UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital is recognized as a Center of Excellence for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization. ECMO is a type of advanced life support for babies with life-threatening heart and lung problems. This high level of life support is available at just a handful of neonatal centers in the nation.
Multispecialty team: Neonatal specialists work closely with respiratory therapists, pediatric surgeons, cardiologists and pulmonologists to deliver expert care. Through this team approach, your child also receives treatments and support from dietitians, social workers and physical and occupational therapists. We come together to focus on your baby’s needs.
Specialized care for congenital heart disease: Our experts partner with pediatric surgeons and specialists in the UCLA Health Fetal Cardiology Program to treat babies with all types of congenital heart disease. Heart defects are usually diagnosed before birth or during infancy. We use sophisticated technology to evaluate and treat these heart conditions. Learn more about the UCLA Health Fetal Cardiology Program.
Our areas of care
At UCLA Health, neonatology experts work as a team to deliver outstanding, compassionate care. We specialize in helping premature and full-term babies with the full spectrum of health conditions, including heart and lung problems, congenital abnormalities (birth defects) and gastrointestinal (GI) issues. We customize care to meet your child’s needs while supporting your family. Our specialties include:
Advanced neonatal (newborn) care
Our highly trained NICU team provides expert care to critically ill newborns. You can trust our experienced team to deliver leading-edge treatments for your baby while offering guidance and encouragement to you and your family. We’re by your side every step of the way.
Our NICUs are part of the comprehensive women’s and children’s services at UCLA Health. Using the most advanced technology and with unmatched expertise, our specialists are passionate about meeting the needs of newborns as well as parents.
Our experts assist with high-risk deliveries and provide care the moment your baby is born. We offer surgical and nonsurgical treatments, including respiratory therapy, breastfeeding help and a wide range of services, including support groups.
At UCLA Health, registered neonatal dietitians work with parents to maximize each baby’s growth and development. Our neonatal nutrition team includes lactation (breastfeeding) consultants, pharmacists, nutritionists and subspecialists who tailor every plan based on the child’s needs.
Whenever possible, we focus on feeding infants human milk because it has been proven to reduce infections and enhance brain development in preterm babies. When mother's milk is not available, our NICU provides donor milk to the most vulnerable infants.
Our NICUs include a “milk room” where we prepare customized recipes for each infant in the NICU. Feeding specialists add precise amounts of proteins and minerals to human milk based on each baby’s specific needs.
Our NICU team has developed evidence-based nutritional protocols to ensure that babies with GI disorders receive the appropriate amount of protein and other nutrients. We use a real-time system to track their daily and weekly growth. Our team also specializes in helping babies who need total parenteral nutrition (liquid nutrition provided intravenously, or through a vein).
UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital High Risk Infant Follow-Up (HRIF) Program
At the HRIF Program, our team provides comprehensive medical treatments, follow-up care and early intervention services to graduates of the NICU. We work with children from birth to 3 years old.
Babies who spent time in the NICU have a higher risk of medical and developmental problems as they grow up. Our expert team evaluates each baby’s health in several areas, paying close attention to developmental, nutritional, psychological and medical health. Our goal is to identify any issues early and connect families with services that will allow children to reach their full potential.
Neonatal nephrology (kidney) care
Nephrologists provide world-class care for babies with a wide range of kidney disorders. We offer effective treatments and therapies, including dialysis, which uses a machine to remove waste from your child’s blood.
Our nephrology doctors are nationally and internationally renowned. As leaders in pediatric nephrology, we deliver family-centered care and groundbreaking research to our youngest patients.
Advanced care for congenital heart defects
Neonatology experts partner with the UCLA Health Fetal Cardiology Program to care for babies with heart defects. If your baby receives a diagnosis while you’re pregnant, you receive compassionate care from a team that includes cardiologists, pediatric surgeons, genetic experts and maternal fetal medicine specialists.
If your baby is diagnosed with a heart defect after birth, we may recommend a fetal ECHO (ultrasound of the heart), cardiac MRI or a minimally invasive procedure called cardiac catheterization. These imaging studies allow us to see detailed images of the heart and blood vessels so we can plan treatments and guide surgical procedures.
Your baby’s treatment depends on several factors, including the severity of the condition. Some babies need to be monitored as they grow and may not need treatment right away. Other babies need medications or surgery. We tailor every treatment plan to your baby while offering you and your family support and guidance.
UCLA Health Fetal Care Center
At the UCLA Health Fetal Care Center, our surgeons have extensive experience performing neonatal surgery on infants immediately after they’re born. This high level of expertise is available only at a handful of medical centers in the world. Learn more about the UCLA Health Fetal Care Center.
At this multispecialty care center, our team offers the full continuum of care for babies with congenital (at birth) abnormalities, including those who need surgical care when they’re born. Pediatric surgeons work alongside experts from maternal fetal medicine, pediatrics and neonatology. We provide seamless care for moms and babies before, during and after delivery, all on the same floor.
During pregnancy, we offer parents prenatal consultations, compassionate support and important information about their baby’s treatment plan. On delivery day, babies transition directly to neonatal care (and receive neonatal surgery, if necessary) without needing to be transferred to a different hospital. This approach enables our surgeons to deliver treatments as soon as possible and allows parents and babies to stay close during treatment.
Neonatal conditions we treat
At UCLA Health, we have experience caring for babies with a wide range of conditions, from common to complex. We’re qualified to treat life-threatening disorders that require immediate care as well as conditions that occur along with other medical problems. Some of the most common conditions we treat include:
Birth defects (congenital abnormalities): These include abnormalities in the GI system that cause problems with digestion. Birth defects can also occur in the genitals, urinary system, limbs or throughout the body.
Breathing problems: Newborns can experience a range of respiratory problems, including pneumonia, lung infections and bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). This lung problem affects some premature babies and is caused by damaged lung tissue. Preemies also commonly develop respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), which occurs when the lungs haven’t developed enough to work properly.
Congenital diaphragmatic hernia: This birth defect happens when there is an abnormality in a baby’s diaphragm (the muscle that separates the chest and the abdomen).
Eye problems: Premature babies have a higher risk of certain eye problems, such as retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). ROP is a common eye condition in extremely premature infants. It is caused by abnormal blood vessels growing on the retina (the back of the eye).
Heart defects: Many different types of defects can affect the heart’s chambers, valves or blood vessels. They cause problems with how blood flows to the heart as well as to the rest of the body. Neonatologists, in conjunction with pediatric cardiologists and pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons, specialize in treating congenital heart defects (problems that are present at birth).
Meconium aspiration syndrome: This condition happens when a baby inhales meconium (infant feces) and amniotic fluid during birth.
Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN): This condition occurs when a baby has high blood pressure in the lungs.
Treatments we offer
We provide customized treatments based on your baby’s health and medical needs. Our team offers a wide range of medications, therapies, procedures and support to ensure every baby gets the care they deserve. We specialize in:
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)
UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital has been recognized as an ECMO Center of Excellence by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO). ECMO is advanced life support. It takes over the function of the heart and lungs when those organs don’t work properly.
We may use an ECMO machine to allow time for the heart and lungs to recover from surgery or infection, or while a baby waits for a heart transplant. ECMO can also be used as a bridge to a ventricular assist device (VAD). A VAD partially or completely does the work of a failing heart.
UCLA Health neonatologists have unparalleled experience using ECMO to treat babies with many different conditions. Established in 1998, our ECMO program has successfully treated newborns with pulmonary hypertension, severe pneumonia and the full spectrum of respiratory problems.
At UCLA Health, our experienced pediatric surgeons are skilled at performing delicate procedures on the tiniest patients. Our team specializes in lifesaving surgeries just hours, days or weeks after a baby is born. If your baby needs a surgical procedure, you can trust UCLA Health to provide outstanding care using the latest techniques with unmatched expertise.
Support and resources
As a team, our goal is to improve your baby’s health while offering you and your family support and encouragement. We understand the emotional and physical challenges that can arise during and after a NICU stay.
Our team is here to guide and sustain your family as we help you navigate the process. Our commitment to well-rounded care includes several support groups and services, including:
NICU family group: The NICU family group meets twice weekly to provide information, resources and support from multidisciplinary team members, including lactation consultants, discharge planners and chaplains. Families of NICU graduates also share their experiences, advice and resources.
Baby Basics class: This monthly class focuses on baby basic care and information about transitioning from the hospital to home.
Outpatient breastfeeding support group: An experienced lactation consultant leads this weekly support group. You receive information, tips and encouragement to help you continue nursing and find solutions to breastfeeding issues.
Early intervention support: Our team works with you to ensure you have the information you need to register your child for early intervention services such as speech therapy and physical therapy. We connect you with the appropriate contacts through the state of California and help you navigate the process.
Meet our team
Neonatologists are board-certified medical doctors who specialize in caring for newborn babies. We work closely with a team of specialists, including pediatric surgeons, occupational therapists, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, lactation consultants and social workers.