Surveying family access: kangaroo mother care and breastfeeding policies across NICUs in Italy

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Background: Studies on the application of developmental care initiatives in Italian NICUs are rather scarce. We aimed to assess parental access to the NICUs and facilities offered to the family members and to test “the state of art” regarding kangaroo mother care (KMC) and breastfeeding policies in level III Italian NICUs. Methods: A questionnaire both in paper and in electronic format was sent to all 106 Italian level III NICUs; 86 NICUs (i.e., 80% of NICUs) were completed and returned. The collected data were analysed. In addition, a comparison between the 2017 survey results and those of two previous surveys conducted from 2001 to 2006 was performed. Results: In total, 53 NICUs (62%) reported 24-h open access for both parents (vs. 35% in 2001 and 32% in 2006). Parents were requested to temporarily leave the unit during shift changes, emergencies and medical rounds in 55 NICUs (64%). Some parental amenities, such as an armchair next to the crib (81 units (94%)), a room for pumping milk and a waiting room, were common, but others, such as family rooms (19 units (22%)) and adjoining accommodation (30 units (35%)), were not. KMC was practised in 81 (94%) units, but in 72 (62%), i.e., the majority of units, KMC was limited to specific times. In 11 (13%) NICUs, KMC was not offered to the father. The average duration of a KMC session, based on unit staff estimation, was longer in 24-h access NICUs than in limited-access NICUs. KMC documentation in medical records was reported in only 59% of questionnaires. Breastfeeding was successful in a small proportion of preterm infants staying in the NICU. Conclusion: The number of 24-h access NICUs doubled over a period of 13 years. Some basic family facilities, such as a dedicated kitchen, rooms with dedicated beds and showers for the parents, remain uncommon. KMC and breastfeeding have become routine practices; however, the frequency and duration of KMC sessions reported by NICU professionals still do not meet the WHO recommendations.




Artese, C., Ferrari, F., Perugi, S., Cavicchioli, P., Paterlini, G., Mosca, F., … Montirosso, R. (2021). Surveying family access: kangaroo mother care and breastfeeding policies across NICUs in Italy. Italian Journal of Pediatrics, 47(1).

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