Background: Family-centered care (FCC) in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) was initiated in 1992 to promote a respectful response to individual family needs and support parental participation in care and decision-making for their infants. Although benefits of FCC have been reported, changes in the maternal experience in the NICU are unknown.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare mothers' experiences in NICUs where FCC is the standard of care and to compare these with the experiences of mothers 2 decades ago.
Methods: In this qualitative descriptive design, mothers of infants born under 32 weeks postconceptional age were asked to describe their experiences with their infant's birth and hospitalization. Open-ended probing questions clarified maternal responses. Saturation was reached after 14 interviews. Iterative coding and thematic grouping was used for analysis.
Results: Common themes that emerged were: (1) visiting; (2) general caregiving; (3) holding; (4) feeding; and (5) maternal ideas for improvement. Findings indicated important improvements in privacy, mother-nurse relationship, ease of visiting, and maternal knowledge and participation in infant caregiving.
Implications for practice: Mothers suggested improvements such as additional comforts in private rooms, areas in the NICU where they can meet other mothers, and early information on back-transport. Better recognition and response for mothers without adequate social support would provide much needed emotional assistance.
Implications for research: Future research addressing benefits of webcams, wireless monitors, back-transport, maternity leave, and accommodations for extended visiting for siblings would address other needs mentioned by mothers.