What Is Kangaroo Care?

by Pregnancy.org Staff

mom holding babyKangaroo care is a form of skin-to-skin contact between a parent and their preterm baby. The baby, wearing only a diaper, is held in an upright position against the parent's bare chest. The baby is held this way for 20 minutes to four hours a day. This is called Kangaroo Care because it is similar to the way a baby kangaroo is snuggled against its mother.

History Of Kangaroo Care

Kangaroo care first began in South America, due to a lack of baby equipment and the increased risk of infection in the hospital. Preterm babies were sent home being carried between their mother's breasts in an upright position and fed only mother's milk. Kangaroo Care has proven to be successful in less developed countries. Kangaroo Care soon spread to countries in Europe and is becoming widespread throughout the United States.

Benefits of Kangaroo Care

Kangaroo Care has been shown to provide a number of benefits to both parents and babies. Benefits to the baby may include:

  • Increased parent-infant bonding
  • Comfort from hearing the parent's heart beat
  • Earlier breast-feeding
  • Decreased time spent in the hospital
  • Increased ability to keep warm
  • Increased deep sleep states
  • Decreased breathing pauses and apnea
  • Increased oxygen level
  • Decreased number of slow heart rate spells

Benefits to parents may include:

  • Increased parent-infant bonding
  • Increased breast milk supply
  • Earlier breast-feeding
  • Continuous breast-feeding for longer periods of time
  • Increased readiness for discharge
  • Increased confidence in ability to care for baby
  • Increased sense of control
  • Increased ability to cope with the stress and emotions of having a high-risk infant

When Can the Baby Start Kangaroo Care?

The baby should be stable on room air, or receiving minimal breathing support. The baby should be able to maintain a normal temperature, heart rate, and oxygen level when handled.

How to Get Started

Start by letting your baby's nurse know you would like to Kangaroo with your baby. Together you can decide when the baby is ready. Next, set up a time that will fit into both your and your baby's schedule. We recommend that you wear a blouse or shirt that opens in the front. There are gowns that open in the front available for your use. The baby, wearing only a diaper, will be placed on your bare chest in an upright position. Cover the baby with your shirt, gown, or a blanket. Simply relax and gently rock with your baby in a rocking chair. Mothers and fathers are both encouraged to Kangaroo. The feel of your bodies are different and will provide different sources of stimulation to the baby.

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