Aim: To synthesize and interpret qualitative research findings focusing on parental experiences of skin-to-skin care (SSC) for newborn infants.
Background: SSC induces many benefits for newborn infants and their parents. Three meta-analyses have been conducted on physiological outcomes, but no previous qualitative meta-synthesis on parental experiences of SSC has been identified.
Design: The present meta-synthesis was guided by the methodology described by Paterson and co-workers.
Data sources: Four databases were searched, without year or language limitations, up until December 2013. Manual searches were also performed. The searches and subsequent quality appraisal resulted in the inclusion of 29 original qualitative papers from 9 countries, reporting experiences from 401 mothers and 94 fathers.
Review methods: The meta-synthesis entails a meta-data analysis, analysis of meta-method, and meta-theory in the included primary studies. Based on the three analyses, the meta-synthesis represents a new interpretation of a phenomenon. The results of the meta-data analysis have been presented as a qualitative systematic review in a separate paper.
Results: When synthesizing and interpreting the findings from the included analyses, a theoretical model of Becoming a parent under unfamiliar circumstances emerged. Providing SSC seems to be a restorative as well as an energy-draining experience. A supportive environment has been described as facilitating the restorative experience, whereas obstacles in the environment seem to make the provision of SSC energy-draining for parents. When the process is experienced as positive, it facilitates the growth of parental self-esteem and makes the parents ready to assume full responsibility for their child.
Conclusion: The results show that SSC can be interpreted not only as a family-including and important health care intervention but also in terms of actually becoming a parent. The process of becoming a parent in this specific situation is influenced by external factors in three different levels; family and friends, community, and society at large. The descriptions of providing SSC are similar to what has previously been described as the natural process of becoming a mother or a father.
Keywords: Kangaroo mother care; meta-study; meta-synthesis; newborn infant; qualitative research; skin-to-skin care.