Troubling care in the neonatal intensive care unit

Lindsay Naylor, et al.

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.

Suggested citation

Naylor, Lindsay, Abigail Clarke-Sather, and Michael Weber. 2020. “Troubling Care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.” Geoforum 114 (August): 107–16.