Invitation to fathers: if you had a newborn on a neonatal unit during the Covid-19 lockdown, what was your experience?

bonding skin-to-skin father

An international group of neonatal researchers, FINESSE, is asking fathers to complete a 20 minute questionnaire about their experiences of having a baby on a neonatal unit during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Survey in English or Italian

Version française de l’enquête

Having a sick baby in a neonatal unit is an intense hardship for families at any time. Experiencing this during lockdown, when children and families were being forced to separate, introduced another level of difficulty.

FINESSEThe team of researchers from Australia, Canada, Italy, France, United Kingdom, Denmark, Qatar, Sweden and the USA originally came together to publish a joint article on fathers in neonatal units. More recently the group published a letter in BMJ Global Health, highlighting the problems for families when fathers are excluded from neonatal units. The researchers pointed out that the wide variation in approaches across the world suggests that responses are not evidence based. 

father baby mexico love joy skin-to-skin
Photo: © UNICEF/UN0205039/Zehbrauskas.

Are you a father interested to participate? If so please read the FAQs below.

For further information and questions about the study, please email the team at

Who is the research team?

The research group, FINESSE (Fathers in Neonatal Environment Shaping Salubrious Experiences), is made up of up of researchers from universities and hospitals in interested in fathers’ experiences of neonatal care. The research chair of the group is Dr Minesh Khashu, Consultant Neonatologist at Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Professor of Perinatal Health at the Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, UK. The Principal Investigator of this research is Dr Esther Adama, Lecturer in Nursing within the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Edith Cowan University, Australia.

A full list of the researchers is given after the FAQs below.

What is the aim of the research project?

The research project, called Fathers’ Perceptions of Having a Baby in the Neonatal Unit During the Covid-19 Pandemic, aims to explore experiences and perceptions of fathers whose babies spent some time in a neonatal unit during the Covid-19 pandemic. These insights into unique perceptions and experiences will help to generate recommendations for providing better support for fathers of babies on neonatal units in future.

Unicef father skin to skin baby
Photo: © UNICEF/UN0205044/Zehbrauskas.

What is required if I participate? 

The survey will take 20 minutes to complete. You can save an uncompleted survey and return to complete it within a week.

Participation in this research is voluntary.

If you decide not to continue with the survey once you have started it, there will be no consequences. Uncompleted survey data will not be included in the survey unless you consent to this.

The first page of the survey explains the study and you will be required to provide consent before proceeding to complete the survey questions.

How will I benefit from this research? 

You will have the opportunity to share your unique perceptions with the researchers. We hope to understand your experiences, concerns and support needs in order to improve service provision for fathers on neonatal units in future. You will also contribute to knowledge about fathers of infants in neonatal units during the Covid-19 pandemic.

What are the potential risks associated with this research? 

As you are describing your lived experience, you may experience emotional distress.

When completing the online survey, if you feel emotional, you can stop and take a break. You are encouraged to contact your General Practitioner / local health practitioner if you need help.

Photo: © UNICEF/UN0204068/Zehbrauskas.

How will you protect my privacy? 

All your responses will be treated with utmost confidentiality. Your details and that of your child will be de-identified and will not appear in any publication/report that will arise from this study. Your data will be shared with the research team only during the project. Your data will be kept in a pass-worded computer and secure online server. This data will be shared with the international research collaborators who will observe strict confidentiality when working on the data. All your personal data will be removed before data analyses. Once the survey is completed, you cannot opt-out as the responses are anonymised. At the end of this project, your de-identified or anonymous responses will be kept confidential and managed according to the Edith Cowan University (Australia) data management plan.

How will the results of the study be communicated? 

When the project is completed, a summary of the published results will be made available for any participant who requests a copy. They will also be published in journals or conferences (without any of your personal details) so that fathers like yourself as well as healthcare professionals can learn from your experiences and all work together to improve care and outcomes for infants and their families.

Photo: © UNICEF/UN0204066/Zehbrauskas.

Researcher names

Dr Esther Adama, Lecturer in Nursing within the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Edith Cowan University, Australia. Research topics: support needs of carers of preterm infants; support needs of vulnerable infants in the community; child health Nursing; culture and health outcomes; systematic literature reviews (meta-synthesis); Narrative Inquiry (research methodology).

Professor Charlotte Casper, neonatologist and Professor at the Toulouse Hospital University, France. Research topics: mother to child transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1, water balance in newborns, CMV mother to child transmission. Dr Casper is a member of the Société de Néonatologie.

Professor Nancy Feeley, Associate Professor at the School of Nursing, University of McGill, Canada. Research topics: children born preterm, parenting, fathers, intervention studies, parent- infant interactions, parental psychological well-being and neonatal intensive care.

Duncan Fisher OBE, editor of Family Included (this website) and initiator of the neonatal research partnership.

Professor Craig Garfield, Professor of Pediatrics at the Northwestern University of Illinois, USA. Research topics: child health within the context of the family, with particular emphasis on the social determinants of health; the role of fathers; the ability of technology to support parenting.

Jillian Ireland, Visiting Associate at the Centre for Midwifery, Maternal and Perinatal Care, Bournemouth University, UK. Jillian does research in higher education (see ResearchGate and PubMed). Her latest publication is Qualitative evaluation of mental health training of auxiliary nurse midwives in rural Nepal. She also works as a Professional Midwifery Advocate at Poole Hospital NHS Foundation NHS Trust, UK.

Professor Minesh Khashu, Consultant Neonatologist at Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Professor of Perinatal Health, Bournemouth University, UK. Research topics: neonatal care, NEC, Fathers’ experiences, Quality Improvement and pregnancy outcomes. (See ResearchGate and PubMed.)

Dr Flora Koliouli, clinical psychologist and a health psychology researcher at the University of Toulouse II-Jean Jaurès, France and at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. Research topics: families of children with disabilities; fathers – premature infant bond, paternal stress, PTSD and sources of social support.

Carl MacDonald is a father of twins who were born at 27 weeks gestation, and spent 9 weeks in neonatal intensive care. He now writes about his experience on his blog,

Dr Livio Provenzi, developmental psychobiology researcher, IRCCS Mondino Foundation, Pavia, Italy. He studies biomarkers of early socio-emotional and behavioral development in healthy and at-risk infants. To date, his major projects include the preterm behavioral epigenetics study and clinical trials on early parenting interventions.

Associate Professor Frances Thomson-Salo, Royal Women’s Hospital, Victoria, Australia. Research topics: child psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. Frances has published on a group for neonatal fathers at the Royal Women’s Hospital that she ran.

Professor Edwin van Teijlingen, Professor of Reproductive Health at the Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health, Bournemouth University, UK. Research topics: public health and maternity care (mixed-methods research, qualitative and evaluation research).

For further information and questions about the study, please email the team at


Header photo: © UNICEF/UN0205036/Zehbrauskas.