Kangaroo care in the NICU
For most parents, one of the greatest joys is holding their newborn baby. Full-term infants spend hours close to their parents’ bodies—feeding, sleeping, snuggling. However, for premature babies, that isn’t the case. When a premature baby is born they are frequently whisked off to the NICU where they are immediately hooked up to monitors, tubes, and then placed in an incubator.
Kangaroo care is the practice of hoding your naked preemie (dressed in just a diaper) on your bare chest (if you’re the father) or between your breasts (if you’re the mother), with a blanket draped over your baby’s back. This skin-to-skin contact is beneficial for both you and your baby. Studies have shown that preemies who experience kangaroo care maintain their body temperature as well as, or better than in an incubator. They cry less, experience less apnea, have higher levels of oxygen saturation, and have more restful sleep periods. Basically, skin-to-skin holding can simply make a preemie happier.
For the parents, there are many benefits too. It builds confidence as you provide intimate care that can improve your baby’s health and well being. You are giving something special to your baby that only you can give. By holding your baby skin-to-skin, you will feel the experience of new parenthood and closeness to your baby. Many parents say kangaroo care allows them to be with their baby the way nature intended.
Ask your NICU staff about its policy on kangaroo care. Some NICUs postpone kangaroo care until the infant is medically stable, while others use it from birth onward. Kangaroo care is safe and beneficial, even if your baby is connected to machines, so don’t let all the wires and tubes intimidate you.
Kangaroo care is healing in many ways, for both you and your baby. And there is nothing more satisfying than taking your preemie from her solitary isolette, placing her on your warm chest, and falling asleep together in peace and contentment. If you had a premature baby, what was your experience with kangaroo care? How did you feel afterwards?