Troubling care in the neonatal intensive care unit

Lindsay Naylor, Abigail Clarke-Sather, Michael Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is a site of medical treatment for premature and critically ill infants. It is a space populated by medical teams and their patients, as well as parents and family. Each actor in this space negotiates providing and practicing care. In this paper, we step away from thinking about the NICU as only a space of medical care, instead, taking an anti-essentialist view, re-read care as multiple, while also troubling the community of care that undergirds it. Through an examination of the practice of kangaroo care (skin-to-skin holding), human milk production and feeding, as well as, practices related to contact/touch, we offer a portrait of the performance of the community of care in the space of the NICU. We argue that caring practices taking place in the NICU are multiple and co-produced, while simultaneously being subject to power and knowledge differentials between actors. Here we analyze the negotiations over the knowledge and practice of care(s) to open up the NICU as a particular community of care, and consider care as a both a joint accomplishment and a gatekeeping practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-116
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We first want to thank all of the participants in this research, the mothers and NICU staff who were so generous with their time and so passionate about the subject. We are also deeply grateful to the research office at the hospital and the staff members who co-created and facilitated our study for the time and energy spent on the project with us. As we were revising this paper, COVID-19 disrupted life as we have known it?we want to acknowledge all of the care labor that is ongoing and those who are doing it. It is essential and undervalued. We value you and your labor and we thank you. We also value the labor of the editors and the reviewers who not only helped us make this paper better, but who worked with us during a time of enormous upheaval in labor demands. We also thank our families for support during time spent working and living under shelter-in-place orders in our states.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Care
  • Care-work
  • Community
  • Kangaroo care
  • Labor
  • Neonatal intensive care unit


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