Kangaroo care, also known as skin-to-skin contact, is a method of caring for prematureor low birth weight (LBW) infants and has proven to have numerous benefits.This practice involves placing the baby directly against the parent’s bare chest, with a blanket or cloth covering their back. The physical closeness provides warmth and comfort to the baby, mimicking the feeling of being inside their mother’s womb.
Kangaroo care can be practiced both in the hospital, including the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and at home. The duration of each session, in which you hold your baby, is flexible and dependent on your specific circumstances and your baby’s medical requirements. One of the primary advantages of kangaroo care is its positive impact on premature infants. This intimate connection stabilizes vital signs such as heart rate and breathing, leading to better overall health outcomes. Moreover, it promotes bonding between parent and child and encourages breastfeeding initiation by increasing milk production in mothers. The mother’s body acts as a natural incubator, providing warmth and helping the baby maintain a stable temperature. Unlike traditional incubators, which can be overwhelming for premature infants, kangaroo care offers a gentle and comforting environment.Kangaroo care has been found to reduce stress levels in both babies and parents alike. The close contact triggers the release of oxytocin which is often referred to as the love hormone which not only strengthens emotional connections but also reduces anxiety and promotes relaxation. Thus, implementing kangaroo care can significantly improve the well-being of both preterm and full-term infants while fostering stronger bonds between parents and their newborns. Studies have revealed that babies who receive kangaroo care tend to gain weight faster than those who don’t. The constant physical contact stimulates digestive functions and enhances nutrient absorption.
It also stabilizes the baby’s heart rate, improves the breathing pattern helps him/her to sleep well, and reduces the risk of infections.
Getting started? Here are some essential tips
Dressing comfortably is key: Just make sure whatever you wear allows easy access for skin-to-skin contact with your baby.
Positioning matters: Place your baby upright on your chest with the head resting against one side of it. Keep him/her cozy by dressing them in just a diaper, hat, and socks.
Keep them covered: once settled into skin-to-skin contact, gently drape a blanket over their back for added warmth and comfort while they snuggle against you.
Tips for a safe and comfortable kangaroo care experience: Eliminate distractions by keeping phones and electronic devices out of reach while focusing on bonding with your baby. Prioritize cleanliness and hygiene by refraining from engaging in kangaroo care if you have any skin conditions such as rashes, open cuts, or cold sores. Prepare for the session by cleaning your skin properly without using any perfumes or lotions. Create a smoke-free environment for your baby’s health by avoiding smoking before and during kangaroo care. Protect your baby from potential illnesses by refraining from engaging in kangaroo care if you are sick.
(Author: Dr. Jagdish Kathwate, Consultant Neonatologist & Paediatrician, Motherhood Hospital Kharadi Pune)