What is Kangaroo Care?
Kangaroo Care is a skin-to-skin contact technique that promotes infant-parent bonding. It's a technique that is especially stressed for premature baby care. The baby is laid on the bare chest of her mother or father, where the head is resting over the heartbeat. Usually, the baby wears only a diaper and hat to maximize the skin-to-skin contact. Literally, it's like a form of human incubation that fosters the development of the young infant. It's so effective that most NICU nurses are very serious about providing Kangaroo Care opportunities while still in the hospital.
Kangaroo Care and Premature Babies
A lot of stress revolves around the birth of a preemie; the sense of perceived loss over the early end of a pregnancy; anxiety over the infant's health; immediate separation from the infant to NICU; and a sense of failure or even guilt over not being able to carry the pregnancy to term. This is why neonatologists originally studied Kangaroo Care, because they thought it would lessen the impact of stressors and promote a happy union between parents and child.
What Are the Benefits of Kangaroo Care?
There are numerous benefits to the infant and parents. For parents, it significantly decreases the stress associated with having a preemie and promotes successful breastfeeding for the mother. For the infant, there is a laundry list of benefits:
- promotes successful, early breastfeeding
- decreases time spent in hospital
- keeps baby warm, promoting optimal temperatures for recovery
- increases oxygen in the blood
- increases time spent in deep sleep states
- lowers the amount of breathing pauses and apnea
- lowers the number of slow heart rate periods
- increases bonding between infant and parents
- provides comfort
Some truly amazing findings have surfaced in recent studies. For example, 'kangarooing' works to promote optimal temperatures between the parent and infant. In fact, after nurses told mothers their baby was too warm, nurses registered a drop in mother's temperatures to optimize their baby's temperature. This is just one of the many wonders behind the numerous benefits of Kangaroo Care.