When an baby is newborn, he or she has to get used to living in a different environment from the womb, where a baby is completely surrounded by warm amniotic fluid and the sound of mom’s heartbeat and body. Kangaroo Baby Care is a means of helping the newborn or infant get back a little of the familiarity of the womb while also getting used to the harsher environment of being in the world.
How Kangaroo Care is Performed
When performing Kangaroo Care on a baby, parents remove their shirt or exposes their bare chest, and the baby, wearing only a diaper and a hat to keep heat in, is placed upright against the bare chest of their parent, between the breasts.
After this, a light receiving blanket or the parent’s shirt is then placed around the baby, so the baby is enclosed in a “kangaroo pouch”.
In this position, the baby feels the warmth and comfort of the skin-to-skin contact, can hear the parent’s heartbeat and body sounds, while feeling the stimulation of skin contact that is unfamiliar from being in the womb.
How Was Kangaroo Care Developed?
While other types of infant and newborn stimulation have been around for decades, Kangaroo Care for babies was, according to the Cleveland clinic, developed in Bogota, Columbia, during the late 1970s, in response to a much higher than average infant mortality rate, particularly among prematurely born babies. It was discovered that babies who spent more time being held closely to their mothers had a higher survival rate, and not on that, they began to thrive in their new, harsher environment outside the womb.
Benefits of Kangaroo Care for Baby
Kangaroo care for mother and baby can help to calm the mother, and studies have proven that a calmer mother with less anxiety can help keep her infant calm and it also makes breastfeeding and bonding easier. For the baby, mother’s body is warm and can act similar to an incubator for regulating body temperature and keeping baby cozy, like he or she was used to being in the womb. Because baby is being held upright, breathing is easy and unrestricted as well.
Additionally, the skin-on-skin contact of baby to mother or baby to father provides stimulation to the child, getting him or her accustomed to the feeling of touch and the sensations on the skin in a very soothing manner.
An article on WebMD also indicates that Kangaroo Care can help reduce a premature or preterm baby’s pain before, during and after medical procedures. It also establishes that very pre-term babies will learn to self-regulate their bodies faster and for the blood to clot faster after a heel stick or blood draw, a process known as homeostasis.
Kangaroo Care in the Hospital
Kangaroo Care for baby can begin in the hospital, even if the infant is in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and even if the child is being monitored with leads and wires. Parents should inform the staff they have planned to do Kangaroo Care, and assist the nurses and doctors with understanding the need for this bonding and healing practice. Kangaroo Care can last as long or as short as the parent wishes, and mother and father can take shifts “Kangarooing” their baby.
The longer a parent Kangaroo Cares with the child, the more improvement the child is likely to show, so parents can nurture and bond with their baby like this as long as it doesn’t interfere with necessary medical procedures.
Kangaroo Care at Home
Once at home, Kangaroo Care for baby doesn’t have to end. While this type of bonding and comfort works great at helping newborn pre-term babies feel less pain and be more comfortable, it can help full-term infants and older babies feel safe and thrive.