Federal health officials recently announced the nationwide birth rate has reached a 32-year low, with fewer babies born for the fourth consecutive year.

This is not the case at Aurora Medical Center, 10400 75th St.

“I saw that and laughed,” said Krista Berger, a patient care manager at Aurora. “Certainly, not by us it isn’t. We’re experiencing at least 15 percent growth each year, and we’re anticipating those volumes to continue.”

Aurora upped its ability to handle an increasing number of births — specifically its most critically ill babies — with an expanded level-2 neonatal intensive care unit.

The unit, which opens on Monday, operates in a manner that mimics conditions in the womb, with low lights and a soothing environment for its tiniest patients.

The expansion includes four new bays with high-tech lighting, equipment and incubators.

There is also additional room for patient care and increased privacy for families, according to Aurora nurse educator Megan Pignatari.

“We’re excited,” Pignatari said. “This is a huge step forward for us.”

Aurora averages about three to five births per day, with about 15 to 18 percent requiring care in the NICU, according to Pignatari.

There are nine NICU bays with the addition of four new ones.

The upgraded NICU allows nursing staff to control lighting and limit stimulation at each bay.

“We know when we’re caring for our most critical and littlest patients, research has proven they want to replicate being in the womb,” Pignatari said.

“We’re able to dim our procedure light or completely turn it off. There is lighting at the top and down at the feet too.

“When our babies are convalescening, we really want to nurture them and let them grow. The less stimulation the better. The lighting control gives us the power to do that.”

The shiniest new toy in the NICU is the Giraffe Omnibed, an all-in-one neonatal care station featuring a full-featured incubator and radiant warmer. The bed swivels and extends to allow easy access.

“A lot of times when moms deliver prematurely, they might be in a wheelchair, and it makes it physically hard for them to touch their baby,” Pignatari said.

“(The bed) comes out and allows them to touch the baby. It’s like a Lazy Susan for babies”

Aurora is a level-2 birthing facility with care provided for neonates 32 weeks and up.

Babies delivered 32 weeks and younger are stabilized and transferred to level-3 care centers at Aurora Sinai Medical Center in Milwaukee or Aurora West Allis Medical Center.

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