Premature Infants

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Thousands of infants are born prematurely on an annual basis, and it is a challenge in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to facilitate parent-child attachment while still providing the safest clinical environment for the infant. One significant area of research where premature infants are concerned is the effect of early skin to skin contact (SSC), or kangaroo care, between the parent(s) and child during their stay in the NICU. Although it has been found that early and frequent SSC promotes positive physiological responses in preterm infants, there is mostly speculative data regarding the long-term psychosocial effects where parent-infant bonding is concerned. An important question for the clinician working in this specialty area to find a quantifiable answer for is, “Do parents who are permitted to touch and/or hold their infant in the NICU bond with their infant better than those who are not able to do this?” This type of question is structured in the PICO model, which is one of the most common models used in evidenced-based practice (EBP). The question is structured in a way that the patient population and practice or intervention are clearly identified, making it easier for the researcher to find relevant research data using the internet and databases. More specifically, PICO can be broken down into: P (patient population or condition of interest), I (intervention of interest), C (comparison of interest), and O (outcome of interest). (Schmidt & Brown, 2012) For the question at hand, the P (population) was parents of infants in the NICU, the I (intervention of interest) considered was the ability to touch and/or hold their infant, C (comparison) was parents who were not permitted physical contact with their infant,... ... middle of paper ... have to realize that they are not just caring for a premature infant, but also a new family. It is also important for the nurse to understand that the mothers’ and fathers’ approach to touching and bonding with their infant may differ. Although quantitative data from Chiu and Anderson (2009) did not reveal significant differences between the control group and the SSC group at 18 months, the data from Latva et al. (2008) showed significant behavioral differences at six years old when infants were touched as newborns and formed a secure attachment. Therefore, for the health and well-being of both parents and child, time and opportunity to have SSC and bonding experiences must be priorities in the plan of care for infants in the NICU. As one mother stated, “I need to be allowed to feel that he is mine.” (Fegran, Helseth, & Fagermoen, 2007, pg. 813)

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