NICU Maternal-Infant Bonding: Virtual Visitation as a Bonding Enhancement Tool

J Perinat Neonatal Nurs. 2020 Apr/Jun;34(2):171-177. doi: 10.1097/JPN.0000000000000484.


The admission of an infant to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) presents specialized barriers to the maternal-infant bonding (MIB) process. Virtual visitation (VV) provides a mother with the opportunity to have continual access to her hospitalized infant via a one-way live Web camera. While increasingly used in the NICU, VV remains a novel concept. The objective of this study was to introduce a conceptual model that incorporates the use of VV into the NICU MIB process. Adapted from the Model of Mother-Infant Bonding After Antenatal HIV Diagnosis, a newly developed model of MIB using VV as a bonding enhancement tool is offered. A Model of NICU Maternal-Infant Bonding Incorporating Virtual Visitation presents the NICU bonding process in a chronological manner, with 5 primary propositions and an explanation of their related themes. Virtual visitation is introduced into the bonding process and is shown to act as a moderated variable. A Model of NICU Maternal-Infant Bonding Incorporating Virtual Visitation introduces VV as a tool to enhance the MIB process that occurs in the NICU. The model provides the basis for the development of a research program to examine the multiple potential effects of VV in the NICU.

MeSH terms

  • Communication Barriers
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / psychology*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / organization & administration
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal* / methods
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal* / psychology
  • Mother-Child Relations / psychology*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Neonatal Nursing / methods*
  • Nurse's Role
  • Object Attachment*
  • Virtual Reality*