Supporting Parenting Transitions

Posted on October 14, 2012 by

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This “Editor’s Pick” article by Dr. Karen Pridham and her colleaguesprovides interesting insights into the challenges of parenting prematurely born infants during their first year of life. The article is titled “Caregiving Motivations and Developmentally Prompted Transition for Mothers of Prematurely Born Infants,” and is authored by Karen Pridham, PhD, RN, FAAN; Tondi Harrison, PhD, RN; Roger Brown, PhD; Mary Krolikowski, MSN, RN; Rana Limbo, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, FAAN and Michele Schroeder, PhD, RN, CPNP

Dr. Pridham shared this account of the team’s ongoing research in this area:

Early in 40 years of observing parents—mostly mothers—feeding their babies and listening to their accounts of what was happening for them and their babies as they grew older in the first year, it became clear that parents’ motives for feeding changed in ways that reflected infant anticipated or realized developmental changes. Parents’ stories of their babies’ feedings and the feedings they shared with us by allowing us to be present during the feeding and to discuss with them as we watched a video tape together after the feeding were powerful in shaping our view of transitions in parenting made evident in the context of infant feedings. These experiences also helped us view the infant as an important agent of the parent’s transition to new motivations, along with the new goals, expectations, and intentions they entailed. These transitions were at the micro level of developing parenthood, but we saw the transitions make a substantial difference in the parent-child relationship as well as in the parent’s confidence and self esteem.  Sometimes a nurse was in a position to help a parent make a transition to a new way of being with her child.

The mother of the 12-month old child in this picture* wanted him to progress to new foods and methods of feeding, a motivation constrained by feeding practice learned with older children and desire for efficiency and neatness in feeding. When she was encouraged by the nurse to give her son opportunities to feed himself in response to his signals of interest, she was amazed when he used the spoon to put food into his mouth. He was soon self feeding with pride, and mother and child were getting new pleasure out of their feeding interaction. Parents, at a problem solving session, discussed how they could feed consistently, advancing their transition in feeding practice to accommodate their son’s developing capacities .

Much work remains to be done to explore the features and health implications of parenting transitions as they are elicited and facilitated by the child’s advances in development.  The research team is currently modeling guided participation interventions to support parents, both mothers and fathers, in making adaptive transitions when anticipating or experiencing developmental advances of an infant with a complex congenital heart defect.

* All photographs used by permission of the parents

Visit the ANS Web Site to see more details of this article!

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