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Reconceptualizing the Nurse's Role in the Newborn Period as an “Attacher”

Karl, Donna J. MS, APRN BC, PNP; Beal, Judy A. DNSc, RN BC; O'Hare, Cynthia M. MSPH, RN; Rissmiller, Patricia N. DNSc, APRN BC

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: July-August 2006 - Volume 31 - Issue 4 - p 257–262
feature article

In the first few days and weeks after a child's birth, attachment is a major task for the mother and her newborn. Success in this long-term psychological process is associated with positive life-long outcomes for both the parenting mother and her child. This article proposes a relational approach to newborn nursing grounded in the principles of attachment theory. Understanding this “attacher” approach can benefit nurses by bringing a gratifying depth to their practice and can benefit families by helping mothers and newborns address the most compelling task before them.

Nursing has come so far from being a task-oriented profession. While there are still tasks to be performed, we now know that we should do them with a higher purpose in mind-in this case, to serve as the model of attachment for mothers and newborns.

Donna J. Karl is a Newborn Coordinator, Healthy Connections Program, Children's Hospital, Boston. She can be reached via e-mail at

Judy A. Beal is Chair and Professor of Nursing, Associate Dean of The School For Health Studies, Simmons College.

Cynthia M. O'Hare is an Obstetrical Clinical Nurse at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, and an Obstetrical Clinical Instructor, Simmons College.

Patricia N. Rissmiller is Associate Professor and Director of Parent Child Health of The School for Health Studies, Simmons College.

None of the above authors has conflicts of interest in the form of financial arrangements with any company that might be mentioned in this manuscript.

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.