kangaroo careThere is nothing more important than skin to skin contact between mother and child, according to the March of Dimes and other supporters of pregnancy and infant health. Kangaroo care is a method of personal contact between mother and child or father and child. The practice is encouraged in many hospital neonatal intensive care units (NICU) as means of improving infant health and supporting a closer bond between parent and child.

How to Practice Kangaroo Care

Kangaroo care requires skin to skin contact; your baby will be dressed in only a diaper and you will need to bare a portion of your chest. Button-up shirts or robes are perfect as they provide some coverage while allowing the infant to nestle directly on your skin. Mothers need to remove their bra and any under-clothing. Fathers need to remove undershirts of all kinds. Your nurse helps position baby between the breasts, for mothers, or directly on the bare chest, for fathers. A blanket is draped over baby’s back for warmth and privacy.

Benefits of Kangaroo Care for Baby

Kangaroo care is an excellent means of supporting infant body temperature and regulating breathing and heart rates. Doctors have also noticed improvements in weight gain, deep sleep patterns and reduced crying times in infants who participate in kangaroo care. Skin contact between the breasts helps stimulate milk production making it easier for mothers to breastfeed or pump milk until baby is able to breastfeed on his own.

Benefits of Kangaroo Care for Mom

Kangaroo care provides wonderful health and calming benefits for baby, but mom also gains from the experience. Mothers who practice skin to skin contact care tend to feel more comfortable caring for baby with improved confidence and emotional healing. This is especially important for parents of infants in NICU as personal contact may be limited due to health concerns and treatments.

Who to Ask About Kangaroo Care

Mothers and fathers interested in kangaroo care should speak with the NICU nurse or attending pediatrician. Not all hospitals are educated in the benefits of kangaroo care, but that does not mean you will be denied skin to skin contact. Some mothers complain of a lack of privacy, something extremely important for proper kangaroo care. Find a nurse or doctor you are comfortable with and ask for assistance holding baby to your skin in a private setting.

Kangaroo care is about more than decreasing the space between you and baby. Skin to skin contact is proven to improve overall infant health and give new parents a sense of confidence.