Historically, the relationship between infant and mother in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) has been the main focus of parenting research, leaving a gap in the literature regarding the paternal experience.
The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the lived experience of fathering an infant born at less than 28 weeks' gestation admitted to a level III NICU.
Seven fathers of premature infants (25-27 weeks' gestation) participated in a semistructured interview about the experience of becoming a father to a premature infant at least 1 to 2 weeks after the NICU admission. Data were collected in 2015.
The primary themes identified were looking in, persevering, holding, and finding my way. Fathers in this study described feeling like an outsider in the NICU while learning to trust strangers, protect the mother and the child, and continue to work and provide for the family. Holding for the first time is pivotal in this journey, as the moment of solidifying the connection with the child.
The findings from this study bring awareness of the experiences of fathers during the NICU journey of having a premature infant. Nurses should encourage paternal participation and involvement, visitation, and facilitate kangaroo care opportunities early and often.
The findings from this study allow nurses to better understand the paternal experience of having a premature infant born at less than 28 weeks. However, future research should continue to investigate the paternal experience with other gestational ages as well as the influence of stress of fathers during this experience.
Berry College Division of Nursing, Mount Berry, Georgia (Dr Logan); and Texas A&M University College of Nursing, Bryan, Texas (Dr Dormire).
Correspondence: Rebecca M. Logan, PhD, RN, Berry College Division of Nursing, 2277 Martha Berry Hwy NW, Mount Berry, GA 30149 (email@example.com).
The research was completed at Georgia Baptist College of Nursing of Mercer University.
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.