Kangaroo Care – More Than a Cute Name & Beautiful Photos

This blog was originally published in LinkedIn. Written by Melinda Cruz and co-written by Naomi Rohr.

Above: Kangaroo Care with my middle son Dillon at 10 days old. Photo: Miracle Babies Foundation

International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day – click here for photos and activity across the day.

Kangaroo Care – yes it has a cute name and yes, it provides some of the most beautiful pictures you’ll ever see but Kangaroo Care for premature and sick babies has immeasurable health benefits for both baby, mum and dad and everyone needs to get on the bandwagon.

So what is it? Kangaroo Care is the act of holding a preterm baby skin to skin.

A premature baby’s body is simply not yet ready for the physical world. Everything our body automatically does and we take for granted is an almost impossible struggle for a baby born weeks before it is due and they need all the help they can get. Their tiny fragile bodies need help to breathe, regulate body temperature and accept feeds, and their tiny bodies need to rest as much as possible.

Mother Nature already provides the perfect method to tackle all these needs and more. A method that completely compliments modern medicine and best of all, it’s free. So, why are we not seeing more of this?

The concept is not new. Kangaroo Care was encouraged in the late 1970’s in an effort to reduce the high death rate (70%) of preterm babies being seen in Bogota, Columbia. Babies were dying from respiratory problems, complications due to infection and a lack of human contact. Studies found that babies who were held skin to skin with their mothers for long periods during the day, not only survived, but thrived.

And this is echoed by many other studies right around the world that have demonstrated the many benefits of Kangaroo Care. Here are just some.

Kangaroo Care:

  • regulates baby’s heart and breathing rates
  • maintains baby’s body temperature
  • earlier hospital discharge
  • improves oxygen saturation levels (which indicates how well oxygen is being delivered to the baby’s organs and tissues)
  • decreases incidence of infections
  • has positive effects on brain development
  • encourages baby to spend more time in a deep sleep
  • increases baby’s weight gain
  • babies are alert for longer periods
  • improves breast milk production, promotes frequent breast feeding, and increases the chance of successful breastfeeding
  • builds parental confidence
  • increases parental bonding and closeness with their baby and can ease feelings of separation and depression.

And did we mention that it’s not just for mums … dads can (and should) do it too. Having a baby born early or sick is one of the most heartbreaking and traumatic times a parent can go through. There are so many aspects of the entire experience that are removed from the fairy tale you imagine, so when parents are provided with the knowledge that they have the power to positively contribute to their baby’s outcome, the whole experience can change. A win for everyone.

In the recently published Every Newborn Action Plan coordinated by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, Kangaroo Care was listed alongside breastfeeding as one of the top methods of helping to reduce the global death toll of babies born premature and while there are differing opinions on whether we do it well for a developed country like Australia, we still have a long way to go to meet the gold standard of Kangaroo Care in action at a neonatal unit in Uppsala, Sweden. The unit at The University Children’s Hospital, Uppsala oversees the provision of continuous Kangaroo Care throughout the baby’s entire hospital stay where the parents continuously hold their baby 24/7. The hospital supports their philosophy to keep parents and their babies together at all times in many ways including offering specially designed clothing to allow baby’s to receive Kangaroo Care and parents be mobile at the same time, to providing procedures such as blood tests and inserting naso-gastric tubes whilst being held in safety and comfort against their chests of their parents.

Today on International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day, Miracle Babies Foundation launched Australia’s first Kangaroo-a-thon. Our goal, is to encourage all the Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) and Special Care Nurseries across the country to actively promote Kangaroo Care and log as many hours of Kangaroo Care holding (including modified holding) in a 2 week period. The Foundation would like to see as many hours of brain developing, neuro-protective, attachment building, and immunity boosting good times and are pleased that so far more than 10 units have taken up the challenge.

You can follow their progress in the coming weeks online at miraclebabies.org.au And, as for some of most beautiful photos you’ll ever see, jump onto social media using #kangarooathon #miraclebabies and #kangaroocare. You’ll be blown away.

It is not a magic bullet, we know that, but we should be allowing Mother Nature to help increase a premature or sick baby’s chance for a survival and better outcomes. The perfect complement to the amazing care our babies are already receiving.

Kangaroo Care – cute name, beautiful photos, life-saving.

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