Objective: To describe new parents' choice of the type of maternity care they wanted to receive, the family suite (FS) or an early discharge (ED), and to gain a better understanding of parents' experiences of different postnatal care alternatives.
Design: A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews. The interviews were analysed by content analysis.
Setting and participants: Eleven couples and one mother, including both first-time and experienced parents. Six families received care at a FS while the others chose an ED within 24 hours after birth.
Measurements and findings: The postpartum period was experienced as an unpredictable time for new parents, when the need for safety, participation in decision-making, and 'bonding' was felt to be central and decisive to their choice of care. The type of care that the parents felt best met their needs varied according to the mother's assessment of her own and the baby's health status, the parents' requirements and experience and the way in which they, as parents, handled the opportunities and demands of different environments. However, the opportunities for the parents to choose the form of care they considered best for their family were limited.
Practical implications: To best fulfil parents' wishes and needs in postnatal care alternative care forms are needed. Also, a way to treat the family as a whole on an individual family basis must be found and parents of newborn babies should be allowed to choose the form of care they consider best.