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Maternal Experience with Neonatal Jaundice

Brethauer, Margaret MSN, RN; Carey, Lynn PhD, RN

MCN, The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: January-February 2010 - Volume 35 - Issue 1 - p 8–14
doi: 10.1097/01.NMC.0000366803.88540.1d

Purpose: To describe the lived experience of mothers having an infant with neonatal jaundice.

Study Design and Methods: A descriptive phenomenological design with 6 mothers who had infants with neonatal jaundice. Streubert's method of phenomenology guided the collection, organization, and analysis of data to abstract themes.

Results: Eight major themes emerged relating to the lived experience: (1) physical and emotional exhaustion, (2) feeling robbed, (3) distressed by infant's physical appearance, (4) loss of control, (5) maternal vigilance, (6) feeling discounted but only for so long, (7) family impact, and (8) supportive environment. Three major themes emerged relating to the mother's educational experience: (1) everyone has a different opinion, and therefore no one really knows for sure; (2) feeling defensive and at fault; and (3) knowing now what I would do differently if I had another baby. Mothers reported receiving infant care advice contrary to AAP (2004) guidelines from multiple healthcare providers.

Clinical Implications: In this study the physical, emotional, and learning needs of the mothers were rarely met. Nurses are the healthcare professionals who have the most contact with new mothers, and therefore must remain current with the evidence for appropriate care. Much needs to be done to help mothers who have infants with neonatal jaundice. Additional studies about how nurses and other healthcare providers interact with families facing this problem are warranted.

These nurses wanted to know what happens to mothers who are sent home with a baby with jaundice. What do they experience? What do they need?

Margaret Brethauer is an Education Specialist at ProHealth Care Center for Learning and Innovation, Waukesha, Wisconsin, and Adjunct Faculty, Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She can be reached via e-mail at

Lynn Carey is a Contributing Associate Professor, Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The authors have disclosed that there are no financial relationships related to this article.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.