Fathers are important to infant outcomes. Infants of involved fathers have improved weight gain, sleep, and psychosocial behaviors. Father involvement with neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) infants reduces the length of stay. The purpose of this study was to explore and describe involvement, confidence, and beliefs of fathers of infants who were hospitalized in the NICU and discharged home in order to begin to investigate NICU father involvement from a longitudinal perspective. This exploratory qualitative study was conducted 4 to 5 years after the initial NICU stay using telephone interviews. Fathers who participated in this study were selected from participants of a previous NICU study. Nineteen fathers participated in the study. The major themes were “It was scary,” “Just be there,” “It was rough,” “It's not about yourself,” “A special bond,” and “Almost a treat.” The fathers reported that the NICU providers, nurses, and staff helped them to overcome uncertainty and lack of knowledge, which helped them improve their confidence and involvement during the NICU stay. Fathers see nurses as a source of support. Nurses can encourage fathers to visit regularly and participate in infant care activities. NICU presence aids fathers in developing confidence and knowledge in parenting during their child's infancy, which can set the stage for ongoing involvement. Future work should continue to focus on longitudinal studies of fathering and the role of the NICU in encouraging involvement and parenting readiness.
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