How kangaroo care works

If you’ve ever kangarooed your baby, you know it’s a miraculous feeling. Those tiny hands and that warm little body, snuggled up so tenderly on your bare skin. It’s an amazing feeling for the mom as well as the baby.

Kangaroo care is especially helpful for babies born prematurely. Preemies are fragile and often suffer from difficulties arising from their too-early departure from the womb. And while the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is set up to provide for their medical care, they are missing out on the normal developmental progression that happens while still inside mom.

Take just sleep, for example. In the last six weeks of gestation, babies sleep upwards of 20 hours a day. But in the NICU, premature babies often only get two hours of deep sleep, often less than a minute at a time.

Kangaroo care, or skin-to-skin time with mom (or dad), can bring an amazing set of benefits for premature babies.

  • Better, deeper sleep
  • Regulated heart rate, breathing and oxygen levels
  • Regulated body temperature
  • Improved breastfeeding
  • Better weight gain
  • Calmer movements, with less crying

For moms, too, there are wonderful benefits. Your breast milk supply will receive a natural boost, and you’ll bond in a very intimate, natural manner with your child, gaining confidence in your ability to care for your baby.

In fact, these benefits can apply also to full term babies, too.

Physiologically, the closeness of you and your baby’s bodies causes amazing things to happen.

Studies have shown that a mother’s body will produce just the right amount of heat her baby needs to maintain a healthy temperature. Her chest will warm up quickly and then cool off as needed, more efficiently than any incubator. Her heartbeat soothes the baby, who is reminded of safe, comfortable days in the womb. He will relax and sleep deeply, which allows him to gain weight and grow neurologically, developing in leaps and bounds that are impossible in the busy, noisy NICU.

See Kangaroo Care: Why Does it Work? and Kangaroo Care Benefits for an outline on the research studies around kangaroo care. Then get set to snuggle up with your little one the next chance you get!

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