Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

LaVonne Fox


Infant, Premature; Intensive Care, Neonatal; Parents -- education


Parents often feel overwhelmed by their premature infant's fragile medical state and intimidated by the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) environment. The birth of a premature infant is a stressful event for parents because they are coping with their newborn facing life threatening immaturity and its possible consequences, such as handicap or even death. Due to the premature infant's fragile medical state parents often feel their infant does not belong to them but rather to the healthcare staff.

A parent's lack of involvement in their infant's care is a major source of stress, feelings of dis empowerment and a lack of confidence in their parenting abilities (Franck & Spencer, 2003). The parental lack of involvement, in the initial weeks of the infant's hospitalization, is a primary factor that can contribute to high-risk parenting. High-risk parents often demonstrate a hesitancy to develop a close relationship with their infant due to their difficulty in coping with their feelings and emotions related to their infant's fragile medical state. This can have a significant impact on the early formation of a relationship between the infant and parents. "Failure to form an attachment during the first few weeks and months, or disruption of the attachment process, leads to a higher risk of abuse and neglect of the dependent infant" (Aucott, 2002, p.303).

Both the parents' and infant's quality of life is dependent upon the parents' confidence in their parental roles, adaptation abilities and their positive relationships with the healthcare providers of their premature infant. It is essential that the parent be involved, be provided resources and be informed about each step in the care of their infant.

According to Hurst (2002) "families spend a median of 20 hours in the first week after birth seeking information, the equivalent to a part time job. Families desired more information than was provided" (p. 42). The purpose of this scholarly project was to create a resource for parents of infant's born prematurely within the NICU setting. An Occupational Therapy Parent Education Handbook: Parenting in the NICU is offered in an easy to read format focusing on psychological, physical and emotional components of having an infant in the NICU.

The methodology used includes: a review of the literature, observation in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) environment and discussions with parents who have experienced having an infant in the NICU. The researchers also met with therapists who currently work within the NICU setting and toured the NICU environment while meeting the various staff who work within this area.

Based on the information gathered there is a need for additional resources to be provided for parents of premature infants in the NICU. The following results were discovered after extensive research:

» There is a lack of resources available for new parents of infants in the NICU » There is a lack of information and resources available to parents during the infant's transition home and into early infancy » There is a lack of education of NICU parents regarding what their infant is going through and what they can expect during this difficult time

There is a need for a resource to be available to parents' who have infants born prematurely in the NICU setting that is offered in an easy-to- read and accessible format. An Occupational Therapy Parent Education Handbook: Parenting in the NICU is designed to be a guide and offer support to ease the stress and overwhelming feelings new parents experience when their infants are born within the NICU setting.