Academic journal article Fathering

Indian Fathers and Their Premature Baby-An Early Beginning: A Pilot Study of Skin-to-Skin Contact, Culture and Fatherhood

Academic journal article Fathering

Indian Fathers and Their Premature Baby-An Early Beginning: A Pilot Study of Skin-to-Skin Contact, Culture and Fatherhood

Article excerpt

This pilot study evaluated the impact of skin-to-skin contact on the sensitive care that fathers provided to their premature babies in five Kangaroo Mother Care programs in India. Two groups of fathers were identified: The first group (n = 14) carried their babies in skin-to-skin contact, while the second (n = 23) did not. Fathers' sensitivity and perceptions of their role were assessed using Q-sort methodology. Fathers who carried their babies in skin-to-skin contact had higher sensitivity scores and exhibited more caring behaviours than fathers who did not. It appears that early skin-to-skin contact promoted fathers' greater involvement with infants.

Keywords: Kangaroo position, paternal sensitivity, Q methodology

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Each year, an estimated 3.6 million infants die worldwide in the first four weeks of life (neonatal period) due to complications of preterm birth (Lawn, Kerber, Enweronu-Laryea, & Cousens, 2010). To deal with this problem, the Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) method has proven to be an effective alternative to ensure the survival of preterm and/or low birth-weight infants and to promote a better quality of life for them (Conde-Agudelo, Belizan, & Diaz-Rossello, 2011). This pilot study examined the impact of skin-to-skin contact on the sensitive care that fathers provided to their premature babies in five Kangaroo Mother Care programs in India.

Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) consists of three basic components: direct skin-to-skin contact for up to 24 hours a day (kangaroo position), exclusive breastfeeding, and interdisciplinary monitoring during the first year of the child's life. Its benefits have been corroborated in research and include a decrease in neonatal mortality, a reduction in hospital costs due to the replacement of incubators by the kangaroo position, and the strengthening of the bond between the baby and the parents (Als, Duffy, McAnulty, Rivkin, Vajapeyam, Mulkem. et al., 2004; Conde-Agudelo et al., 2011; Feldman, Weller, Sirota, & Eidelman, 2003; Tessier, Cristo, Velez, Giron, Nadeau, Figueroa de Calume, Ruiz-Pelaez et al., 2003). In the light of these studies, some developed countries, including the United States, England, France, Sweden, Canada and the Netherlands have introduced skin-to-skin contact in nurseries for premature infants. It is generally hypothesized that this kind of care promotes physiological stability and enhances the parent-child relationship (Tessier, Cristo, Velez, Giron, Figueroa de Calume, Ruiz-Pelaez et al., 1998). One of the key factors for successful adherence to the method, thereby ensuring the survival and quality of life of the premature and/or low birthweight baby, is the bonding and support offered by the father to the family. The father is asked to share, with the mother, the responsibility of carrying the infant in skin-to-skin contact and to participate in monitoring the infant during the first months of life. Does this early contact make the father more sensitive? The impact of this early involvement between father and child has not been sufficiently studied across cultures.

In Colombia, there have been several scientific explorations of the impact of the Kangaroo Mother Care method on the family. One of the earliest investigations was the randomized controlled trial conducted by the Bogota Research Team, where they concluded that KMC has a positive impact on the home environment, especially when the father is involved (Tessier, Charpak, Giron, Cristo, Figueroa de Calume, & Ruiz-Pelaez, 2009). Other research conducted in Sweden states that fathers who carried their babies in the kangaroo position felt more secure and confident in their role as a father (Blomqvist, Rubertsson, Kylberg, Joreskog, & Nyqvist, 2012). Moreover, these findings suggest that the father's involvement in the early care of the baby not only impacts his role as father but also the infant's development.

Being one of the most conservative countries, the richness and uniqueness of India is rooted in a combination of religious and cultural traditions (Entem'a, 2007; Roopnarine, Krishnakumar, & Vadgama, 2013; Sriram & Navalkar, 2012). …

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