Aug 28 , 2020
What comes to your mind when you hear the words “Kangaroo Care”? You might imagine a nature documentary, or perhaps envision men and women carrying infants in a large pouch. Kangaroo Care might sound like a parenting technique more suited for wild animals than humans, but it’s actually one of the best practices you and your baby can enjoy.
Also known as skin-to-skin contact, Kangaroo Care is an inexpensive and natural form of baby care practiced by dozens of parents both at home and in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) all over the world. Research has shown that practicing skin-to-skin contact promotes better health and sleep, lowered infant mortality rates, and a deeper bond between parent and child. Read on to find out more about Kangaroo Care and the benefits it promises for your little one.
What Is Kangaroo Care?
Kangaroo Care was first used in Bogota, Colombia during the 1970s to address high infant mortality rates due to overcrowding in nurseries and limited access to incubators. Mothers were advised to hold their babies upright and close to their skin for up to 24 hours a day, as well as practice frequent breastfeeding. This resulted in a better understanding of how to care for infant children, a sharp decrease in overcrowding, and reduced infant mortality rates. Since then, Kangaroo Care has been adopted in hospitals and homes all around the world.
As the name implies, Kangaroo Care involves holding your baby close to your chest—similar to how kangaroos and other marsupials keep their young in a warm protective pouch. This practice allows your baby to regulate their body temperature after birth, enjoy easy breastfeeding, and hear your soothing voice and heartbeat. Many parents around the world are avid fans of Kangaroo Care as it’s easy to do, safe, and beneficial for both pre-term and full-term babies.
How to do Kangaroo Care
You can begin doing Kangaroo Care with your newborn as early as two hours after birth. Each session should be at least an hour-long as limiting skin-to-skin contact to just a few minutes at a time may be stressful for your child.
It’s best to seek assistance from a qualified nurse if you plan to do Kangaroo Care in a hospital, especially if your baby requires a breathing tube or if you haven’t fully recovered from childbirth yet. Your assigned nurse will keep track of your baby’s body temperature and overall health, as well as help you position your baby better during each session.
To do Kangaroo Care at home, follow these easy and simple steps:
Benefits of Kangaroo Care
One of the most prominent benefits of Kangaroo Care is improved growth and development. Skin-to-skin contact stabilizes a baby’s breathing, sleep, heart rate, organ and brain function, and body temperature. This ensures healthy brain and body development, as well as less crying and risk of illness or infection.
Kangaroo Care also makes healthy weight gain easier for babies. Since babies who enjoy regular skin-to-skin contact don’t have to exert much energy into regulating their body temperature, they can focus more on growing and healthy breastfeeding.
Speaking of breastfeeding, another great benefit of Kangaroo Care is that it helps babies breastfeed better. Newborns who get to be in close contact with their mothers’ chests can begin breastfeeding much earlier, which translates to stronger immunity against diseases and better growth and development later on in life.
Regular skin-to-skin contact has also been known to reduce stress in both babies and parents. When babies are held close to their mothers’ chests, they produce more ‘oxytocin’—the hormone responsible for feelings of love and happiness. By reducing stress and anxiety, Kangaroo Care makes sleep easier for babies. Mothers also get to enjoy reduced stress with each Kangaroo Care session, as well as a stronger bond with their kids.