Research Study Abstract

Effect of skin-to-skin contact on parents’ sleep quality, mood, parent-infant interaction and cortisol concentrations in neonatal care units: study protocol of a randomised controlled trial

  • Published on Aug 1, 2018

Abstract Introduction: Separation after preterm birth is a major stressor for infants and parents. Skin-to-skin contact (SSC) is a method of care suitable to use in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to minimise separation between parents and infants. Less separation leads to increased possibilities for parent-infant interaction, provided that the parents’ sleep quality is satisfactory. We aimed to evaluate the effect of continuous SSC on sleep quality and mood in parents of preterm infants born <33 weeks of gestation as well as the quality of parent-infant interaction and salivary cortisol concentrations at the time of discharge.

Methods and analysis: A randomised intervention study with two arms—intervention versus standard care. Data will be collected from 50 families. Eligible families will be randomly allocated to intervention or standard care when transferred from the intensive care room to the family-room in the NICU. The intervention consists of continuous SSC for four consecutive days and nights in the family-room. Data will be collected every day during the intervention and again at the time of discharge from the hospital. Outcome measures comprise activity tracker (Actigraph); validated self-rated questionnaires concerning sleep, mood and bonding; observed scorings of parental sensitivity and emotional availability and salivary cortisol. Data will be analysed with pairwise, repeated measures, Mann Whitney U-test will be used to compare groups and analysis of variance will be used to adjust for different hospitals and parents’ gender.

Ethics and dissemination: The study is approved by the Regional Research Ethics Board at an appropriate university (2016/89–31). The results will be published in scientific journals. We will also use conferences and social media to disseminate our findings.


  • Charlotte Angelhoff 1,2
  • Ylva Thernström Blomqvist 3
  • Charlotte Sahlén Helmer 1,2
  • Emma Olsson 4
  • Shefaly Shorey 5
  • Anneli Frostell 6
  • Evalotte Mörelius 1


  • 1

    Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Division of Nursing Science, Linköping University, Norrköping, Sweden

  • 2

    Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine and Department of Paediatrics, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden

  • 3

    Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

  • 4

    Department of Pediatrics and Centre for Health Care Sciences, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden

  • 5

    Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, National University Health System, Singapore, Singapore

  • 6

    Division of Psychology, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Learning, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden


BMJ Open