What is Kangaroo Care?
Holding your baby in your arms can seem like the most natural thing in the world to do. And it is. Even parents with grown children will talk about how they enjoyed just holding and rocking their children. But did you know holding your child close to you can be healing as well - especially for preterm babies?
The technique is called Kangaroo Care, and it is based on skin-to-skin contact between child and parent. Kangaroo Care was named for how certain marsupials carry their young. It was first developed in South America in areas where incubators were not available or reliable to keep premature infants warm. Mothers were taught to hold their children, clad only in diapers, under their clothing close to their chests. This position provided easy access to nourishment and the mother’s stable body temperature helped regulate the baby’s temperature more evenly than an incubator. It also allowed babies to be released early from overcrowded and under staffed hospitals.
Today, Kangaroo Care is practiced around the world, but its principles remain the same. Simply place your child, wearing only a diaper, skin-to-skin and chest-to-chest to you for an hour. Having your baby’s skin next to you strengthens paternal bonding and comforts both of you. It can be done by both mother and father once or several times a day. Kangaroo Care is not just for premature babies, but full-term infants as well. It can offer parents special moments with their children that will be remembered for a lifetime.
Recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kangaroo Care is used in approximately 82 percent of U.S. neonatal intensive care units. Not surprising since benefits for infants include improved:
- Weight gain
- Breathing patterns
- Heart and respiratory rate
- Sleep patterns
- Early discharge from the hospital
It may also be an effective intervention for colic.
At Children’s Hospital, Kangaroo Care is a vital part of the comprehensive care we offer our infants. From the moment an infant in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is able to be held, parents are encouraged to use this practice. We know the benefits Kangaroo Care offers, and we are dedicated to making sure our patients receive them both in the hospital, and when they go home.
Holding your baby, a simple thing to do, but with life enhancing results.