Support like a walking stick: parent-buddy matching for language and culture in the NICU

Neonatal Netw. 2011 Mar-Apr;30(2):89-98. doi: 10.1891/0730-0832.30.2.89.


Purpose: (1) To explore the experience of non-English-speaking mothers with preterm, very low birth weight (VLBW) infants (,1,500 g); and (2) to examine mothers' assessment of a peer support program matching them with linguistically and culturally similar parent-buddies.

Design: An exploratory, qualitative analysis based on grounded theory.

Sample: A convenience sample of eight mothers from four of the most prevalent non-English-speaking cultures (Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Tamil) in an urban Canadian-teaching hospital.

Main outcome variable: Non-Anglophone mothers' experience and support in the NICU.

Results: Study mothers experienced intense role disequilibrium during the unanticipated crisis of preterm birth of a VLBW infant; situational crises owing to the high-tech NI CU environment and their infant's condition; and developmental crises with feelings of loss, guilt, helplessness, and anxiety. Language barriers compounded the difficulties. Parent-buddies helped non-English-speaking mothers mobilize their strengths. Culture and language are important determinants of service satisfaction for non-English-speaking mothers. Linguistically congruent parent-to-parent matching increases access to service.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Culture*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth / psychology*
  • Self Report
  • Social Support*