The role of fathers in supporting the development of their NICU infant

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Contemporary models of NICU care emphasize the critical role of parents in supporting their infant's development. Fathers play an important, but underutilized, role throughout their infant's NICU journey. This narrative review describes the main direct and indirect mechanisms through which fathers support the development of their NICU infant, and the barriers and facilitators to this support as described in current research. Studies have identified several mechanisms through which fathers can directly enhance their infant's health and development. Several studies described the benefits of fathers providing kangaroo care, but infant-directed speech, tactile stimulation, and parent scent also appear to yield developmental benefits. However, most of the literature focused on the indirect ways that fathers support their infants through the coparenting alliance, assuming additional responsibilities that allow mothers to spend more time engaged in infant care, and by providing financial support for the family. Reduced access to the NICU setting has been identified as a key barrier to fathers' direct involvement in infant care, which has been further exacerbated due to additional restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, negative perceptions held by fathers, mothers, and nursing staff regarding the role of fathers in preterm infant care may also represent a barrier to fathers' engagement. Nursing staff were identified as playing a crucial role in promoting fathers' capacity to support the development of their infants. This research can help to inform interventions and policies geared toward optimizing infant development by improving the involvement of fathers during a NICU admission, and beyond.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)714-719
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neonatal Nursing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


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