Late preterm infants account for 70% of the preterm population and 9% of all births. Until recently late preterm infants have been cared for as either small term infants or as preterm infants. As the numbers of infants born in the late preterm period increases, the risks associated with late preterm birth have become apparent. Studies indicate increasing readmission rates following birth, increased follow up visits and delayed academic abilities in infants born between 34 and 37 weeks gestation. More research is needed to increase our understanding of why these negative outcomes are occurring. Even though this group of infants has been described as """"""""just a little small"""""""" their needs are much greater than size. Late preterm infants have limited compensatory resources that are depleted rapidly in the early newborn period placing the infant at risk of temperature instability, hypoglycemia, respiratory distress, and sepsis. Brain growth and development are at critical points prior to 38 weeks gestation. In addition the ability to suck/swallow/breathe and the ability to regulate sleep-wake state are under developed. These behaviors and inabilities may contribute to altered maternal perception of the infant's temperament and an increased sense of infant vulnerability. Maternal perception of the infant contributes to maternal competence and is vital to the mother's ability to care for her infant, read infant cues, and gain satisfaction in the role as mother. These perceptions contribute to the child's development.
The specific aim of this study is to examine maternal perception of competence in mothers of late preterm infants compare to mothers of term infants. Factors associated with maternal competence, including antecedents to maternal competence (social support, self- esteem, well-being, stress and mood) and maternal perceptions of the infant that may contribute to competence (infant temperament and perception of vulnerability) will also be examined. A non-experimental cross-sectional, repeated measures design with a convenience sample of 160 mother/infant dyads (80 mother of late preterm infants and 80 mothers of term infants and their infants) for a total of 320 participants will be used. Data will be collected at 2 time points (postpartum prior to discharge from the hospital and at 6 weeks postpartum). Both descriptive and inferential statistics will be calculated. Findings will also be examined using paired T-test and repeated measures ANOVA at both time points. More infants are being born in the late preterm period but we do not know much about how mothers of these infants develop mothering skills appropriate for their needs. Understanding what affects the mother-late preterm infant relationship will result in improved care for these mothers and their infants.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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National Institute of Nursing Research Initial Review Group (NRRC)
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Banks, David
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Virginia Commonwealth University
Schools of Nursing
United States
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Baker, Brenda; McGrath, Jacqueline M; Pickler, Rita et al. (2013) Competence and responsiveness in mothers of late preterm infants versus term infants. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs 42:301-10