Family support is essential for kangaroo mother care (KMC), but there is limited research regarding perceptions of female relatives, and none published from West African contexts. In-depth interviews were conducted from July to August 2017 with a purposive sample of 11 female relatives of preterm neonates admitted to The Gambia's referral hospital. Data were coded in NVivo 11, and thematic analysis was conducted applying an inductive framework. Female relatives were willing to support mothers by providing KMC and assisting with domestic chores and agricultural labor. Three themes were identified: (a) collective family responsibility for newborn care, with elder relatives being key decision makers, (b) balance between maintaining traditional practices and acceptance of KMC as a medical innovation, and (c) gendered expectations of women's responsibilities postnatally. Female relatives are influential stakeholders and could play important roles in KMC programs, encourage community ownership, and contribute to improved outcomes for vulnerable newborns.
Keywords: The Gambia; West Africa; family; female relative; gender; grandmother; in-depth interviews; kangaroo mother care; low birth weight; neonate; newborn, preterm; qualitative; skin-to-skin.