Kangaroo care (KC) is a method of skin-to-skin contact that provides a nurturing and supportive experience for your premature infant. The practice is called “kangaroo care” since it simulates how marsupials hold their young in protective pouches as the babies continue to develop and grow.
To perform kangaroo care, the baby will be bare-skinned (except for a diaper) and lay against the parent’s bare chest. The parent can then cover the baby with a receiving blanket (or the parents clothing) to create the “pouch” and hold the baby.
What is the Origin of Kangaroo Care?
Kangaroo care originated in the late 1970s in Bogotá, Colombia. Caregivers encouraged mothers to hold their infants to mitigate overcrowding in hospital wards and to reduce infant mortality rates. Research found that preterm babies held against their mother’s chests survived and thrived. Fifty years later, kangaroo care is now a standard practice among NICUs across the globe.
What are the Benefits of Kangaroo Care?
Benefits of kangaroo care range from relaxation and bonding to increased milk production. From an anthropological standpoint, mothers instinctively hold their infants to their chests frequently during the first few months. Kangaroo care starts this natural process even if the baby needs to spend some time in the NICU first.
Research has found that some of the top advantages of kangaroo care include the following:
- Psychological stability (increased bonding from skin-to-skin contact (SSC) along with a decrease in stress)
- Physiological stability (promotes stabilization of temperature blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate)
- Increased deep sleep (most infants snuggle and fall asleep within minutes)
- Balance of sleep and quiet alert state (the steadiness of the parent’s heartbeat soothes the infant)
- Body warmth from parent to infant
- Decreased crying
- Increased weight gain
- Increased breastfeeding
- Improved brain and cognitive development
- Possible decrease in length of NICU stay
Parents also benefit from kangaroo care. Some of the major benefits include:
- Encouraging the bonding process
- Increased awareness and responsiveness to infant
- Improved confidence in future care for infant at home
- Increased breast milk production
- Decrease in the likelihood of postpartum depression
Can Dads Give Kangaroo Care?
Certainly! Contact the NICU ahead of time so that you are not overwhelmed with the process. Most NICUs or nurseries have rocking chairs that staff can place directly in your child’s area. You can wear a shirt that opens in the front or use a hospital gown if provided. Snuggle the baby upright against your chest or lay the baby’s head across your chest. If you have any concerns, the staff can also assist you in help positioning your child.