The postnatal period is crucial for infants in establishing a connection with and security in primary caregivers and can have enduring effects on attachment patterns. However, due to the need for symptom management, many infants diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) may be separated from primary caregivers and cared for in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or special care nursery (SCN) soon after birth. Research has shown that substance-exposed infants are more likely to experience insecure attachment patterns with their primary caregivers and that mothers with a history of substance abuse are less sensitive to their infants’ cues. Therefore, the aim of this research was to explore nurses’ and midwives’ experiences in promoting the attachment relationship for infants admitted to an NICU/SCN with NAS. A qualitative research design was used to gather data on the experiences of nine nurses/midwives from various NICU and SCN settings in Australia. Individual, semi-structured interviews were conducted, and transcribed interviews were coded using thematic analysis. While nurses/midwives valued the attachment relationship for infants with NAS, facilitation of the attachment relationship was mainly promoted when the mother was present. However, parents were often reported to be absent from the nursery. Difficulties in promoting an attachment relationship were also identified when an infant had child protection involvement. This research identifies areas in need of innovative change regarding the approach taken to promote the attachment relationship for infants with NAS when they are admitted to an NICU/SCN.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited