In Canada, parents can give blood exclusively for their child's transfusion, a process known as directed donation. This qualitative study aimed to understand parents' perceptions in seeking to provide blood for their newborn. Ten parents whose preterm children were cared for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of one Canadian hospital were interviewed. The beliefs and experiences of parents with regard to directed donation were analyzed with reference to their understanding of the risks and benefits of this form of transfusion. Interview data revealed that parents had little knowledge or understanding of the medical benefits and risks of directed donation and based their decision to seek this type of transfusion largely on emotional grounds. In addition, despite their preference for directed donation, most infants whose parents were interviewed in this study, for practical reasons could not be given this type of transfusion. This may have magnified risk perceptions of non-directed transfusions. Parents need to be better informed about the medical risks and benefits of directed donation and the actual likelihood that their child will be able to receive this type of transfusion. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.