Kangaroo Care for Infants

Definition:

A method of caring for premature babies in which the infants are held skin-to-skin with a parent, usually the mother, for as many hours as possible every day.  Especially helpful with preterm and/or low birth weight infants.

Process:

Mom and/or Dad/partner wears an over-sized shirt, large hospital gown or loose clothing exposing their chest. Can also be successful with using a warm blanket.  The nearly naked (diaper and possibly cap only) infant is placed directly on the parent’s exposed chest and the shirt/blanket is wrapped snugly around baby, drawing him or her into the parent’s chest where he or she settles and snuggles.

Multiples can also receive kangaroo care from either parent at the same time.  If the babies are healthy enough and parents are comfortable with it, they may place two or more babies on their chest at the same time.  It is a good idea to begin kangaroo care with support from a NICU* nurse in order to learn the procedure and perform it safely.  If one or more babies has monitoring wires on their body, it may be more challenging but worth trying with input from hospital staff.  Providing kangaroo care to more than one baby at a time will offer greater opportunity for the babies to continue to enjoy their connection established while in utero, and improve their bonding with their parent(s).

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Benefits for Babies:

-helps stabilize heart rate and regulates breathing
-improves oxygen saturation levels
-results in more rapid weight gain
-helps maintain baby’s body warmth
-makes babies easily accessible for easier breastfeeding
-helps relax and sooth babies and results is less time crying
-increases alert time
-allows baby to hear parent’s heart beat, replicating womb experience
-may contribute to an earlier hospital discharge for the babies

Benefits for Parents:

-helps build confidence knowing they are offering intimate care and a loving start
-facilitates early closeness to babies and promotes bonding
-makes babies easily accessible for breastfeeding (when with mother)
-slows parents down to focus on their infants and less worry about other matters
-can offer “closure” for parents to having NICU babies

*NICU:  Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Bibliography:

www.marchofdimes.com/baby/inthenicu_kangaroocare.html
www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/kangaroocare.asp
www.kangaroomothercare.com