What is Kangaroo Care?
Put simply, Kangaroo Care is nestling a baby skin to skin, next to his/her mother (or father), from the very first moments of life and beyond. This method of care originated in Colombia in 1978 by Dr. Edgar Rey Sanabria, a paediatrician and a professor at the National University of Colombia, in a desperate bid to alleviate a hopeless lack of technical support, and since that time the idea has spread world wide. Originally intended to help premature babies, today research has proven beyond a doubt that all babies benefit from the effects of Kangaroo Care.
Kangaroo Care is a universally available and biologically sound method of care for all newborns, but in particular for premature babies. There are three components to Kangaroo Care:
*Skin to skin contact
*Support to the Mother infant relationship and of course Fathers can benefit from bonding skin to skin also
Kangaroo Care returns the baby to be as close as possible to his/her Mother. This prevents a stress response in the baby in order to promote survival. This allows the baby to stabilise physiologically, initiate breast freeding and promotes growth. It also enhances maternal/infant bonding and instils parent confidence.
Benefits of Kangaroo Care For Mother (and Father)And Baby:
* Promotes normothermia – normal range of body temperature
* Prevents the release of stress hormones
* Increases immunity
* Promotes growth
* Minimises weight loss
* Initiates early feeding
* Decreases length of hospital admission
* Decreases irritability
* Stabilises physiological parameters (heart rate, respiratory rate and body temperature – mother can be the baby’s unique source of temperatue control, her own body will adjust it’s own temperature to stabilise the baby’s temperature)
* Reduces stress during painful episodes
* Increased breastfeeding (mother is the baby’s unique source of nutrition. Baby will crawl up the chest searching for the breast and self attach)
* Positive future behaviour at 6 months of age
* Better future development
* Healthy full term babies employ a set of innate behaviours immediately following birth when placed skin to skin
*Newborn babies are able to localise the nipple by smell, and have a heightened response to odour cues in the first few hours after their birth. The mother has a heightened sense of awareness following birth too.
* Skin to skin promotes infant/mother bonding and increases maternal confidence
* Skin to skin decreases the amount of crying, therefore helps keep baby calm and comforted
* If undisturbed when skin to skin is initiated, the infant is more likely to self attach at the breast within the first hour and a half of birth
* Skin to skin and early breast attachment decreases the incidence of neonatal hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), neonatal jaundice and increases the likelihood of successful breastfeeding
* Early breast attachment can increase uterine activity and decrease the risk of postpartum haemorrhage
* The sight, feel and smell of the new baby encourages powerful feelings of love and protectiveness
* Increases hormone production
* Promotes strong feelings of attachment
* Synchronization of infant sleeping patterns
* Increased sense of control
Benefits of Kanagaroo Care For The Community:
* Increased initiation, duration and rates of successful breastfeeding
* Decreased childhood illnesses
Kangaroo care is a win/win situation for the mother/infant dyad and the communtiy.
Kangaroo Babies: A Different Way Of Mothering, Charpak, Nathalie (2006), Souvenir Press: London.
The Northern Hospital (Epping, Victoria, Australia), Paediatric Manual, Kangaroo Care in the Special Care Nursery (2012).
Source: The Northern Hospital, Epping, Victoria, Australia.