Parents who have had a baby in the NICU are familiar with kangaroo care or skin-to-skin care. Kangaroo care is a way to hold your baby so that there is as much skin contact between you and your baby as possible. It has wonderful benefits for parents and preemies. A new study shows that the benefits of an intensive form of kangaroo care, kangaroo mother care (KMC), may last into adulthood.
Kangaroo mother care was initially developed in Bogota, Columbia in the late 1970s. It was initiated in response to a shortage of incubators and a high rate of severe hospital infections. KMC involves continuous skin-to-skin contact, exclusive breastfeeding (or nearly exclusive), and timely (early) discharge with close follow-up. At the time, this was a revolutionary idea and very different than the typical practice of limited parental access to premature and low-birthweight infants. From 1993-1996 a study was conducted to scientifically prove the benefits of kangaroo mother care. It found that the survival, growth, development, and other selected health-related outcomes were equal to or better than those of infants cared for in a traditional manner.
The same researchers have now done a follow-up study of these children to see if the benefits of KMC have lasted into adulthood. They again compared the groups who had kangaroo mother care vs. traditional care. The researchers found that the KMC group had “significant, long-lasting social and behavioral protective effects 20 years after the intervention.” They were less aggressive, less impulsive, and less hyperactive than the group that did not receive KMC.
More studies are needed to help better understand how KMC influences long-term outcomes. But we know that kangaroo care has immediate benefits for both parents and babies while they are in the NICU. Kangaroo care may help your baby:
- Keep his body warm
- Keep his heart rate and breathing regular
- Gain weight
- Spend more time in deep sleep
- Spend more time being quiet when awake and less time crying
- Have a better chance of being able to breastfeed
And, kangaroo care may help you:
- Make more breast milk
- Reduce your stress
- Feel close to your baby
Kangaroo care can be beneficial, even if your baby is connected to machines. Whatever your situation, kangaroo care is a precious way to be close to your baby.
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