CHoR is proud to be part of VCU Medical Center, a designated “Baby-Friendly” Hospital recognized along with less than 10 percent of U.S. hospitals for providing an exceptional level of attention to newborn feeding and mother-baby bonding. One of the many ways CHoR supports and encourages newborn feeding and bonding is by promoting Kangaroo Care during the first hours and days of a newborn’s life and throughout an infant’s stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
May 15th kicks off International Kangaroo Care Awareness Week and we are joining the worldwide effort to educate families about this important technique. Our team will celebrate and promote Kangaroo Care this week during a special Kangaroo-a-thon. Each NICU family will receive a zip-up CHoR sweatshirt to help position their baby in a comfortable and confident way during Kangaroo Care.
Below is an overview from the NICU nursing team about Kangaroo Care and the many benefits it offers for baby, mom and dad. We hope all parents of newborns have the opportunity to learn more about this care technique and we encourage you to share this information with the moms and dads-to-be in your life.
What is Kangaroo Care?
Kangaroo Care, also known as skin-to-skin, is a method of caring for a baby in which the baby is held, clad only in a diaper, against the bare chest of a parent. The act of placing the infant skin-to-skin (chest-to-chest) with mom or dad has been shown to maintain skin temperature regulation of the newborn, increase initiation of successful breastfeeding, and ease the transition to life outside the womb.
A mother’s womb is a comforting, cozy place and the transition to the post-birth environment – with more light, loud noises, sleep cycle changes, etc. – can sometimes be stressful for a newborn. Likewise, for an infant being cared for in the NICU, the constant sounds, bright lights and increased stimulation from the medical equipment and care they need to survive can provide further stress. The comfort of Kangaroo Care and skin-to- skin-contact, provided as soon as safely possible for a newborn and as often as possible for an infant in the NICU, supports attachment and bonding for both the infant and caregiver and provides a calm, soothing environment closer to what child experienced before birth.
Kangaroo Care helps infants more easily adjust to life outside the womb which has proven positive effects on a baby’s brain development, sleep patterns and in reducing overall stress levels.
Benefits of Kangaroo Care
Benefits for mom:
- Increases feelings of attachment
- Decreases anxiety
- Increases milk supply
- Promotes earlier breastfeeding
- Improves mother’s ability to recognize her infant’s behavioral cues
- Increases sense of maternal confidence during hospitalization and after discharge
- Triggers the production of antibodies specific to the baby’s environment
Benefits for baby:
- Stabilizes breathing and oxygen levels in the blood
- Helps reduce life-threatening breathing and heart rate issues
- Helps maintain temperature
- Decreases stress
- Has a calming and pain reducing effects during painful procedures (like heel sticks)
- Shortens hospital stay
- Improves baby’s mood—more quiet, alert times and less crying
- Increases the length of quiet, deep sleep state
- Better nursing and weight gain
- Positive impact on physiological and behavioral development
Benefits for dad:
- Helps dad cope with the stress and emotions of having a newborn or an infant being cared for in a NICU
- Enhances sense of control
- Triggers release of hormones which heighten fathers’ protective instincts towards family
- Increases attachment so the baby learns who dad is, his smell, his voice and his touch
Special benefits for babies in the NICU:
While Kangaroo Care benefits all infants, there few benefits that are particularly important to the feeding, bonding and overall health of babies who start their lives in the NICU. Here are a few important ones and some specific ways Kangaroo Care helps:
- Increase in milk supply – Breast milk is so important for babies who were born premature as their internal systems are still developing, yet when a baby comes early sometimes moms have a hard time with their milk supply.
- Increases sense of maternal confidence during hospitalization and after discharge – It is not uncommon for moms to feel like visitors rather than parents in the NICU since the nurse does most of the care for the babies. Kangaroo Care is a time that mothers feel confident in their role as a mother.
- Helps reduce life-threatening breathing and heart rate issues – Babies who are born premature are at a higher risk for breathing and heart rate issues which makes Kangaroo Care critically important for this population.
- Decreases infant stress – A baby being cared for in the NICU typically requires treatments and techniques that can cause stress (lab draws, monitors dinging, being touched when they’re still supposed to be in mom’s belly) and Kangaroo Care can help reduce related stress.
- Enhances sense of control – Fathers oftentimes feel the need to protect their family. When babies are in the NICU, parents aren’t able to always control the situation, but Kangaroo Care provides a time for the father to protect the baby.
Do you and your little one practice Kangaroo Care? What benefits have you experienced?