Research has shown that skin to skin holding, also known as “kangaroo care,” is one way to help stabilize your baby’s body temperature and help his heart rate become regular. It is comforting to your baby, and may help him gain weight. Even very sick or fragile babies can usually benefit from kangaroo care.
It’s good for parents, too. It helps you bond with your baby, which boosts your spirits. For moms, it encourages your breast milk supply, too.
What is skin to skin holding or kangaroo care?
It is when you hold your baby, skin to skin, bare chest to bare chest, in an upright position. Your baby is wearing only a diaper.
Does it have other benefits?
Yes. For your baby…
Skin to skin holding may help lower the risk of infection, improve survival rates, and encourage your baby to spend more time in deep sleep (which is important for growth and good health). It may also lessen your baby’s pain and help with brain development. Kangaroo care may help your baby spend more time being quiet when awake, and less time crying.
For you and dad…
Skin to skin increases the feeling of intimacy between the baby and parent, helping the mom or dad feel connected. Often dads are fearful of holding their baby – skin to skin may promote a sense of empowerment and confidence. It may decrease anxiety, fear and depression and encourages attachment. Parents say it is the most comforting activity they experience in the NICU.
One mom told us she wrote in her journal “Today I feel like a mother for the first time” – that was the first time she held her twin boys skin to skin, 5 weeks after they were born!
Should you ask to hold your baby?
Yes! If you have not yet held your baby skin to skin, ask if you can. Often, the NICU staff is just so busy with other important duties that they don’t think to offer it. Typically, your baby must be medically stable before he is ready for kangaroo care. But, you can do it even if your baby is hooked up to machines.
How much kangaroo care should you do?
The more you can do, the better. It has been shown that skin to skin contact should take place for a minimum of one hour, but several hours at a time are better. It takes a while for a baby to transition from the isolette to chest and back, so you must take that into account. In some countries, parents are encouraged to do kangaroo care round the clock – that’s how good it is for babies!
Still wondering if skin to skin holding is for you?
Did you experience kangaroo care in the NICU? Please tell us about it.
Have questions? Email or text AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We are here to help.