Getting connected: how nurses can support mother/infant attachment in the neonatal intensive care unit

Hayley Kearvell, Julian Grant

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    44 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: To explore how nurses can support the mother-infant dyad within the neonatal intensive care unit. Setting: Neonatal unit, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Data Sources: A literature search was conducted using CINAHL, PubMed, Web of Knowledge electronic databases and other key references. Primary Argument: Hospitalisation and infant ill health interrupts the natural attachment process between a mother and her baby. This can cause great stress and affect the mother-infant relationship and their ability to bond reciprocally. While nurses provide specialised care to sick infants, two major themes and five sub-themes emerged on how nurses can also support mother-infant attachment. In the area of mother-infant interaction kangaroo care, breastfeeding and participation in routine care were found to enhance the mother's maternal role, feelings of closeness, inclusion and confidence. In the area of nurse-mother interaction, nurses who provided psychosocial support, communicated and engaged with mothers were found to assist in developing positive and trustful relationships. This alleviated mother's anxiety and enhanced their confidence when interacting with their baby. Conclusion: Nurses working in neonatal intensive care units need to construct nursing care around the mother-infant dyad, with roles and responsibilities that incorporate mother-infant and mother-nurse relationships in support of the mother-infant attachment process.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)75-82
    Number of pages8
    JournalAustralian Journal of Advanced Nursing
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


    • Breastfeeding
    • Kangaroo care
    • Mother-infant attachment
    • Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)
    • Neonatal nursing
    • Support


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