Kangaroo Care is just another way of saying skin-to-skin contact. It is called kangaroo care due to the similarities it has to a mother kangaroo carrying her baby joey in her pouch. This doesn’t mean you are both naked. You or your partner are simply topless and your baby will still be in a diaper. You can then wear a robe or jacket, or wrap a blanket around your both to stay warm. When your baby is a bit older you can even hold them skin-to-skin with a wrap. Kangaroo Care can be one of the best ways to help your preterm baby, and is great for full term babies as well! When you hold your baby skin-to-skin you help your baby stabilize their heart rate and respiratory rate, improve their oxygen saturation rate, and help them regulate their body temperature. Helping their body with all of these tasks helps them conserve energy and thus they will be less likely to lose too much weight. Kangaroo care can also help with brain development and immune system function. The benefits are amazing! Most tests and procedures can be preformed while you hold your baby skin-to-skin.
Even if your baby is in the NICU, and/or needs assistance breathing or eating, you can still hold your baby skin-to-skin while they are hooked up to almost all machines they need. While you hold them skin-to-skin you will likely see their rates beginning to improve and these improvements can continue even after you set them down. The more you can hold them skin-to-skin the better. When the mom is holding the baby her breasts can even change temperature to help regulate the baby’s and they make cozy pillows to snuggle in! Your baby is also likely to sleep better when being held skin-to-skin, which allows them to best conserve their energy.
Not only does kangaroo care help your baby, but it can help you feel less stress. It can also help with milk production in the mom even if your baby isn’t yet able to latch. Holding your baby skin-to-skin can also decrease your risk for postpartum depression.
If your nurses aren’t encouraging or haven’t suggested daily kangaroo care, ask if it is something they will allow. If the nurse you ask says no, make sure you ask the nurse on the next shift—they may have a different opinion on the benefits of skin-to-skin contact with your baby. Some NICUs will only allow kangaroo care once your baby is stable, while others understand that holding your baby skin-to-skin can help to stabilize your baby more quickly. If you aren’t able to hold them skin-to-skin yet, even just touching their head, feet, or holding their hand can help calm them. When touching your baby try to refrain from stroking them as it can overwhelm them, all they need is to feel your touch.
Did you hold your baby skin-to-skin? Most will at least right after birth, and those first two hours are very beneficial to you both.
Next I will blog on the letter L… L is for Lanugo.