Kangaroo care in the NICU

kangaroocareFor 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?

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8 Responses to “Kangaroo care in the NICU”

  1. Patti Ruppert Says:

    This is wonderful for both parent & child!!

  2. Christy Says:

    When my son was born early, I was scared to death to be around him. I thought I was going to accidentally pull out one of his IVs or extabate him or something else equally horrible. His eonatologist explained Kangaroo Care to us, and when he was stable enough to be held 3 days after his birth, that’s what we did. At first I was still scared, especially of the chest tube, but we managed to snuggle together for about an hour that first time. He was in the NICU for 5 weeks, and I spent the majority of my waking hours with him, most of the time holding him. If I wasn’t holding him, my daughters would use ‘hand containment’ so they could be involved as well. I always felt a little more like his mother after we snuggled, and less like a visitor. Doing the diaper changes, taking his temperature, and choosing his outfits once he was big enough for clothes helped me feel like his mom, too. A few weeks after he was born, he got to learn how to breastfeed. I think that all the time he spent snuggled up against my chest made that an easier task. We didn’t have as many problems as a lot of people whose stories I have read. All in all, I think that Kangaroo Care is awesome!

  3. Alison Says:

    Kangaroo Care was the most amazing experience for me. I lived for the time I could hold and snuggle with my daugther. It helped me to feel that I could do something for my baby. I felt so helpless watching her in her incubator, with tubes and wires all over her. Our bonding time was so special. It helped me as much, and maybe even more, as it helped her. It built my confidence as a parent and it gave me a peace and calmness that I really needed during that time. I think it did the same for my daugther. She would bury her head in my chest and sleep so peacefully. She cried every time Kangaroo Care was over.

  4. Teresa Powell Says:

    we used kangaroo care on our son who was premature. And it was wonderful getting to hold him so close and watch his heart and o2 rate stay where they needed to stay. Falling asleep with him on my chest was exactly what i needed too.
    My husband told me that i never looked so peaceful sleeping. its good for momma (and daddy) as well as baby too!

  5. Carly Says:

    My son, now a strong 3 year old, was in the NICU for 3 months when he was born. He was barely over 2 pounds and came 3 months early. It was one of the worst experiences, having a baby and then not being able to hold him or touch him right away. I thank God and our wonderful angel nurses that allowed me to start the Kangaroo hold with him. I had to wait a few days after he was born. Luckily I was in the hospital for a week following so I spent every waking moment by his side, but the third day I went in, expecting the same, and Angel Lisa told me “you need to hold your baby and he needs you”. She set me up to hold him for the first time and I will never forget how that felt. We almost lost him due to NEC after about 4 weeks in the NICU and I have no doubt being able to Kangaroo with him helped him get strong enough to survive. I know how much it helped me! Best thing ever when you have a preemie!

  6. Christy Says:

    I meant to say Neonatalogist!

  7. Traci Says:

    I was disappointed in the NICU we were at when it came to Kangaroo care. I expressed my interest in this early on when my daughter was first born at 2lbs 10.25oz. I had them document it in her charts and everything and not once was I given the opprotunity. I was able to hold her long than 20 minutes a day 1 week before she was discharged and it seemed pointless at that point. I felt disconnected from her for about a month after she was released and I wonder if it would’ve made a difference as far as how long it took for us to bond. She turned 2 in June and is definitely a momma’s girl. But I believe kangaroo care is extremely important not only for bonding, but for a baby thriving and I hope that particular NICU exercises kangaroo care practices.

  8. Laurie Says:

    My son wasn’t a preemie but born late and had problems. He was in the NICU for 2 days before letting me hold him. Finally when his doctor returned from a seminar I asked him to write an order to let me hold him. That took care of that! He started improving at once and we were much closer for the experience.