The aim of this study was to investigate whether preterm infants whose families have lower socioeconomic status (SES) or communicate with clinical staff in a language other than English experience differences in the rate, frequency, and duration of kangaroo care (KC) in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) compared with preterm infants of higher SES or primarily English-speaking families.
Participants were infants born <32 weeks' gestational age (GA), N = 116. We defined SES by the infants' health insurance (private/higher vs public/lower) and language by the language mothers used to communicate with clinical staff (English vs Other language). SES or language groups were compared on (1) rate of KC infants experienced during hospitalization per visitation days, (2) frequency of KC per visitation days, and (3) duration of KC events per day.
Infants in the lower SES and Other language groups experienced KC in reduced amounts, lower frequencies, and shorter durations than infants in either the higher SES or English language groups. SES and language group differences remained significant after controlling for family visitation and GA at birth. After controlling for SES, language group differences in KC duration remained significant.
Our findings revealed disparities in the rate, frequency, and duration of KC experienced in the NICU as a function of both SES and language. Such disparities reduced infants' access to this developmental care practice shown to stabilize clinical status and promote neurodevelopment. We recommend that hospital nurseries implement policies that minimize these disparities.