Background: From birth the child has an ability to respond to the environment, which influences the interaction between mother and child. If this attachment is interrupted, the child's emotional development is negatively influenced. When the child needs care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) it is difficult to establish contacts between mother and child. Separation from the child is found to be the most difficult aspect for mothers when their newborn child is hospitalized in a NICU.
Aim: The aim of this study was to describe mothers’ experiences when their full-term newborn child was cared for in a NICU during the postpartum maternity care period.
Method: A phenomenological hermeneutic interview study was performed. Ten mothers were interviewed once, 6 months to 6 years after the experience.
Results: The essence of the experience is understood as an alternation between two opposite concepts, exclusion and participation, with emphasis on exclusion. A feeling of exclusion dominates when the new mother feels a lack of interaction and a sense of not belonging to either the maternity care unit or the NICU. This has a negative effect on her maternal feelings. On the contrary, when a feeling of participation dominates, a continuous dialogue exists and the mother is cared for as a unique person with unique needs. This supports her maternal feelings in a positive direction. The implication of the result for nurses is that it is important to decrease mothers’ experience of exclusion and to increase their feeling of participation when their child is cared for in a NICU. A return visit to the responsible nurse to go through the treatment and experiences should be offered to all parents whose child has been cared for in a NICU.