This article addresses general principles of designing a quiet neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and describes basic aspects of room acoustics as these apply to the NICU. Recommended acoustical criteria for walls, background noise, vibration, and reverberation are included as appendices. Crowding in open, multiple-bed NICUs is the major factor in designs that inevitably produce noisy nurseries with limited space for parents. Quiet infant spaces with appropriate sound sources rely on isolation of the infant from facility and operational noise sources (eg, adult work spaces, supply delivery, and travel paths) and extended contact with family members.However, crowding has been an important influence on the clinical practice and social context of neonatology. It allows clinicians to rely on wide visual and auditory access to many patients for monitoring their well-being. It also allows immediate social contact with other adults, both staff and families. Giving up this wide access and relying on other forms of communication in order to provide for increased quiet and privacy for staff, infants, and parents is a challenge for some design teams. Studies of the effects of various nursery designs on infants, parents, clinicians, and the delivery of services are proposed as a means of advancing the field of design.