“Kangaroo care” and “skin-to-skin” are common phrases expectant and new parents eventually have to learn, but while it may be easy to guess what they mean, why do they matter? Let’s go over the benefits of kangaroo care and skin-to-skin contact for both babies and parents.
So what exactly is Kangaroo Care anyway?
The phrase “kangaroo care” gets its term for its similarities to how marsupials carry their young. Skin-to-skin care imitates the protective and nurturing setting of a kangaroo pouch. By definition, kangaroo care is developmental care by holding an infant skin-to-skin against the mom or dad’s bare chest. The more you do it, the better — especially in the first two hours after birth, as it will ease your baby into the world.
Kangaroo care initially emerged in the 1970s as a way to promote bonding and early breastfeeding for full-term infants. In the late 70s, this practice was drawn out to preterm infants because of the over-crowded nurseries, high mortality rates, high infection rates and a lack of resources, like warming devices, or isolettes. Fast forward to almost 50 years, and the practice of kangaroo care is continually practiced in NICUs around the world, based on its profound benefits to both momma and infant.
The idea of skin-to-skin is a lot like kangaroo care, and in most cases, the terms are used interchangeably. Today, skin-to-skin is generally a term directed to full-term infants, describing how much of the first hours and days of the infant’s life are spent against their mother’s chest, promoting both bonding and the production of breast milk. Kangaroo care is more typically used when someone’s talking about the care a preterm baby in the NICU gets.
Kangaroo care gives physiological and psychological advantages, both to infants and parents. It can take place any time of day, as frequently as the infant tolerates. It’s recommended daily, for a minimum of one hour, but any amount of kangaroo care can be good for you and your little one.
There are plenty of benefits of kangaroo care when it comes to infants. It helps the baby adapt through physiologic stability (temperature and blood pressure regulation), it encourages a healthy heart rate and respiratory stability, it boosts their brain cognitive and motor development, improves immunity, promotes a healthy weight gain, helps the baby get better, deep sleep, and minimizes their stress and pain.
As for the parents, it promotes a better sense of attachment and bonding, increases the milk supply, makes breastfeeding less of a hassle, promotes bonding with dad.
Infants are often comforted by the sound of their mom or dad’s heartbeat. If your baby starts to get fussy, try covering them with a warm blanket while against your chest and reduce external stimuli. Remember to practice safe skin-to-skin time while staying awake throughout kangaroo care. It’ll promote safe practices at home due to the risk of infant falls and sudden infant death
syndrome (SIDS). Parents are encouraged to continue skin-to-skin as long as both parents and baby benefit from the experience.
Don’t get discouraged if a kangaroo attempt doesn’t go how you hoped it would. Give your little one a few days to recuperate, and try again!
If you need to get started with kangaroo care, you and your partner don’t have to approach it by yourselves. Dr. Ghea, a top female OBGYN in Fort Lauderdale, is the OBGYN to turn to for your journey as a parent and your journey as a woman, with all the beneficial women’s health tips you could ask for. You can set up an appointment with her offices at Westside OB/GYN Group by calling 954-473-2011 or simply filling out an online request.