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An Observational Cohort Study Examining the Effect of the Duration of Skin-to-Skin Contact on the Physiological Parameters of the Neonate in a Neonatal Intensive Special Care Unit

Jones, Hannah, RN, MANP; Santamaria, Nick, PhD, RN

Section Editor(s): Dowling, Donna PhD, RN; ; Thibeau, Shelley PhD, RNC-NIC;

doi: 10.1097/ANC.0000000000000485
Original Research

Background: Focus on skin-to-skin contact (SSC) as a family-centered care intervention in Neonatal Intensive Special Care (NISC) Units continues to increase. Previously, SSC has been shown to improve neonatal physiological stability, support brain development, and promote bonding and attachment. Limited research exists investigating SSC duration and neonatal physiological responses.

Purpose: This study examined the relationship between SSC duration and the neonate's oxygen saturation, heart rate (HR), respiratory rate (RR), and temperature.

Method: An observational cohort study was conducted at The Royal Women's Hospital NISC Unit in Melbourne, Australia. For each neonate participant, 1 SSC with their parent was studied (parent convenience) and neonatal physiological parameters recorded, with a bivariate correlation used to explore the relationship between the duration of SSC and the percentage of time during SSC that the neonate's physiological variables remained within a target range.

Findings: No correlation existed between the duration of SSC and the neonatal physiological variables of oxygen saturation, HR, RR, and temperature. However, neonatal oxygen requirement was more often reduced across the duration of SSC.

Implications for Practice and Future Research: Due to previously documented benefits to neonates physiologically from SSC, and our supportive finding that SSC reduces neonatal oxygen requirement, we believe that this study adds to the evidence to support promotion of SSC in NISC Units. The duration of SSC does not appear to negatively impact the physiological effects to the neonate. Thus, SSC should be encouraged in all NISC Units to be conducted for the length of time the parent is able. This study should be repeated with a larger sample size.

University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (Ms Jones and Dr Santamaria); and Newborn Intensive Special Care Unit, The Royal Women's Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia (Ms Jones).

Correspondence: Hannah Jones, RN, MANP, The Royal Women's Hospital, 20 Flemington Rd, Parkville, 3052 VIC, Australia (

Original research undertaken at The Royal Women's Hospital.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2018 by The National Association of Neonatal Nurses