This type of care uses skin-to-skin contact to help parents bond with their new baby and can provide several health benefits.
Kangaroo care is a method of developmental care for babies using skin-to-skin contact with the parent that provides several benefits for both infants and parents. The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Johns Hopkins All Children’s supports Kangaroo Care to help families bond with their new baby.
What is Kangaroo Care?
Kangaroo Care involves holding your baby on your chest so he or she is resting directly on your skin. It provides many parent-infant benefits, including parent-infant attachment, optimal neuro-sensory input for the infant’s developing brain and more.
Benefits of Kangaroo Care include:
- Improved immunity
- Better weight gain for preterm babies
- Reduced stress
- Decreased crying
- Improved sleep
- More stable breathing
- More stable heart rates
- Increased initiation, duration, exclusivity and success of breastfeeding
- Keeps infant warm and helps provide better temperature regulation than incubator
- Optimal neuro-sensory input for the infant’s developing brain
- Parent-infant attachment
- Increased confidence and competence in parents
- Enhanced attachment to both mother and father and increased sensitivity and responsiveness to the infant
Benefits of skin-to-skin contact for premature babies
For babies in the NICU, research suggests that skin-to-skin contact between baby and parents can improve recovery time and help them leave the NICU sooner. Research has also shown that it has benefits for all babies – not just babies born prematurely – especially for brain development.
How Kangaroo Care Works
- Mothers and fathers can both participate in Kangaroo Care.
- Place your baby, dressed in just a diaper and a hat, on your chest so that your little one is resting directly on your skin.
- Turn his or her head to one side so that baby’s ear is against your heart.
- Cover your baby with a blanket to help keep him or her warm.
- Hold your baby in this fashion for a minimum of one hour.
- Parents should not wear perfume or smoke before skin-to-skin care.
The experts at Johns Hopkins All Children’s encourage expectant mothers to find out the Kangaroo Care practice of the hospital where they will deliver. Since nurses can do most newborn care with baby on mother after the first hour of life, plan to hold your new baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth.
If you have a C-section, or if your baby is premature or needs to go to a NICU for another reason, hold your baby in Kangaroo Care as soon as possible. Kangaroo Care is the only way to hold small premature babies at first because of their size and risk of getting cold.
It may take a few minutes for your baby to settle down and become comfortable during Kangaroo Care. Many babies soon fall asleep on the parent’s chest. It is important to remember that the parent should never fall asleep during skin-to-skin care.
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Read stories about our families learning the value of kangaroo care:
Kangaroo Care creates a bond between babies and their parents that has proven to have benefits for all involved.