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CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange Tuesday opened a neonatal intensive care unit with 36 all-private rooms to allow parents to remain closer to their newborns during their stay in the unit.

The 25,000-square-foot unit nearly triples the size of the hospital’s previous NICU, which had an open layout that grouped patients in “pod-style” beds.

The new unit, on the fourth floor of CHOC’s Bill Holmes Tower, is more “homey” and allows parents to sleep over, according to hospital officials.

“CHOC is proud to offer private rooms to our smallest patients and their parents,” said Dr. Vijay Dhar, medical director of the neonatal intensive care unit. “No one’s vision of parenthood includes a NICU stay, but our new unit will provide parents with the space and privacy to get to know their new baby, and reassurance that they’ll be nearby while their newborn receives the highest level of care.”

Hospital officials say private NICU rooms are a new industry standard for improved patient outcomes. According to CHOC, benefits for babies cared for in single-family rooms include higher weight at discharge and more rapid weight gain. Also, they require fewer medical procedures and experience less stress, lethargy and pain, which researchers have attributed to increased maternal involvement.

Three rooms within the unit can quickly be converted into space for surgeries. The unit also features rooms that adjoin and can be used to accommodate triplets, a nutrition lab for the preparation of breast milk and formula, a family dining space, a room dedicated for siblings and a lactation room.

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