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Posted on May 13,2016

While the technology used to care for the tiniest and most fragile babies is always evolving, one thing has stayed the same: the need for parental love and nurturing.  To help families bond with their new baby, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital offers Kangaroo Care.

A method of developmental care for babies, Kangaroo Care lays the foundation for healthy emotional relationships and provides optimal neuro-sensory input for the infant’s developing brain. Research has even suggested that skin-to-skin contact between baby and parents can improve recovery time and help them leave the NICU sooner.

“Kangaroo Care is a natural approach to care for all newborns,” explained Deborah Locicero, BSN, CKC, IBCLC, lactation education in the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital NICU. “Birth skin-to-skin care is now practiced for all deliveries. This ‘Magical Hour’ (or so) after birth facilitates amazing bonding between mother and baby.”

Here is how it works

  • 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 of a minimum of one hour.

Though the focus of Kangaroo Care was once on premature babies, recent research has shown that it has many benefits for all babies, especially as it pertains to brain development. Other benefits include:

  • Improved immunity
  • Better weight gain
  • Reduced stress
  •  Decreased crying
  •  Increased initiation, duration, exclusivity and success of breastfeeding
  • Keeps infant warm and helps provide better temperature regulation than incubator
  • Improved sleep
  • More stable breathing
  • And much more

Kangaroo Care doesn’t just help babies develop. Parents also benefit from this important bonding time. New parents may feel anxious about caring for their child when it is time to go home, especially if their child has needed the extra care of the NICU.

New mom Laura knows the feeling well. Her new daughter, Kestrel, was born prematurely and needed to spend time in the johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital NICU.

“I was nervous to hold her the first time because she was so fragile,” she said. “Once I held her though, felt her skin, breathing and wriggling, that nervousness washed away. Kangaroo Care has helped so much.”

By participating in Kangaroo Care while still at the hospital, parents are empowered to care for their baby with increased confidence and competence. The nurturing interaction enhances attachment to both mother and father and provides increased sensitivity and responsiveness to the infant. These benefits all lead to a better transition to the home environment.

The experts at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital encourage expectant mothers to find out the Kangaroo Care practice of the hospital they will deliver at. Since nurses can do most newborn care with baby on mother or 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.

The Johns Hopkins All Children's Maternal, Fetal & Neonatal Institute offers the most advanced and comprehensive neonatal care to premature newborns and infants. Our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a 97 bed Level 3 NICU, offering the highest level of neonatal care to newborns. Our NICU also operates and provides supportive services to regional hospital NICUs within its care network and a neonatal transport team is available at all times to safely and efficiently transport our fragile patients by ambulance or air from Florida, the Southeast and many neighboring international locations.


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