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Mothers' Emotional Experiences Providing Care for Their Infants Within the Culture of an Iranian Neonatal Unit

Jabraeili, Mahnaz, PhD; Hassankhani, Hadi, PhD; Negarandeh, Reza, PhD; Abbaszadeh, Mohammad, PhD; Cleveland, Lisa M., PhD, RN, CPNP, IBCLC

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

doi: 10.1097/ANC.0000000000000530
Original Research

Background: Each year, 5% to 8% of Iranian newborns require care in a neonatal unit (NU). Reasons for admission include prematurity, infection, and congenital anomalies. Little research has been conducted on the culture of Iranian NUs and the impact this has on mothers' emotional caregiving experiences.

Purpose: To explore the emotional caregiving experiences of mothers in an Iranian NU.

Methods: Focused ethnography was used for this study. Mothers (n = 19) of term and preterm infants participated. Data were collected using observations and interviews. Roper and Shapira's 5-step framework was used to analyze the data.

Findings: Four major themes emerged: (a) fear, (b) loneliness, (c) competence, and (d) pleasure. Fear occurred when mothers felt unprepared to care for their infants. They were afraid of harming their infant or repeating previous mistakes. Loneliness consisted of bearing the burden of care while feeling alone. Competence occurred when the mothers experienced an increasing ability to provide care for their infants and a growing self-confidence. Finally, the mothers described pleasure as they began to feel worthiness as mothers and intense love for their infants.

Implications for Practice: The sense of fear and loneliness shared by these mothers has significant implications for practice. While it may be a challenge for nurses to provide adequate support for mothers due to the heavy workload of Iranian NUs, close relatives and other support persons may play a key role.

Implications for Research: Future research should be conducted on the impact of maternal support on mothers' NU experiences in Iran.

School of Nursing and Midwifery, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Iran (Drs Jabraeili and Hassankhani); Nursing and Midwifery Care Research Center, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Iran (Dr Negarandeh); Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Tabriz, Iran (Dr Abbaszadeh); and School of Nursing, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Texas (Dr Cleveland).

Correspondence: Hadi Hassankhani, PhD, Center of Qualitative Studies, Department of Medical Surgical Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran (

Work occurred at Children's Hospital of the Tabriz Medical University for the Medical Sciences.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2018 by The National Association of Neonatal Nurses