Objective: Our objective was to investigate key factors in promoting skin-to-skin contact (STSC) in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Methods: As part of a California Perinatal Quality Care Collaborative on improving nutrition and promoting breastmilk feeding of premature infants, a multidisciplinary group of representatives from 11 hospitals discussed the progress and barriers in pursuing the project. A key component of the collaborative project was promotion of STSC. Sessions were audio-recorded, transcribed, and assessed using qualitative research methods with the aid of Atlas Ti software (ATLAS.ti Scientific Software Development GmbH, Berlin, Germany). Two primary investigators studied the transcripts for themes related to STSC. Using an iterative approach, selected themes were explored, and representative quotes were selected.
Results: Barriers to promoting STSC fell into broad themes of implementation, institutional, and familial factors. The main challenge identified in implementation was defining a clinically stable eligible population of patients. Key institutional factors were education and motivation of staff. Familial factors involved facilitation and sustained motivation of mothers. In response to these barriers, opportunities for promoting STSC were enacted or suggested by the group, including defining clinical stability for eligibility, facilitating documentation, strategies to increase parent and staff education and motivation, and encouraging maternal visitation and comfort.
Conclusions: Our findings may be useful for institutions seeking to develop policies and strategies to increase STSC and breastmilk feeding in their NICUs.