Do kangaroos know best when caring for tiny babies?
Kangaroo Care is a natural way to help both mom and baby bond, but also includes a number of health benefits at birth.
According to a new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is also found to reduce the mortality rate for some of smallest and most high risk preterm babies. KMC is when a mother has continuous skin-to-skin contact with her newborn.
Researchers found that among newborns weighing less than 2,000 grams (4.4 pounds, who survived to receive KMC), there was a 36 percent reduction in mortality and 47 percent lower risk of sepsis or major infection. Newborns who received KMC also had higher oxygen levels and head circumference growth, as well as lower pain measures.
KMC is described as placing a diaper-clad infant directly on the bare chest of the parent. This touch creates synergy that allows the premature infant to experience positive sensory feedback and also allows the parent to bond. The baby can smell their parent’s skin, hear their heartbeat and be soothed by the slow rhythm of their breathing. The parent can touch their newborn and feel the infant respond.
“Delivery of an infant whether term or preterm causes separation of the baby from the mother,” says Dr. Mohammad Alattar, a neonatologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “The fetus who has been sensing the mother’s heart beats will definitely miss that when born. The skin-to-skin contact during Kangaroo Care helps lessen that separation.”
Only warm human touch can truly provide this level of care, it’s beyond technology, he says. KMC gives parents the chance to hold their fragile infants outside of the incubator for extended periods of time.
KMC is now an integral part of the care provided in NICUs across the U.S. and requires the help of the NICU nurses, physicians and respiratory care staff to be done safely. Families of medically stable infants are encouraged and helped to participate in KMC.
“It has been well studied and shown to be both safe and effective in increasing the infant and mother bonding and improving the breastfeeding success, as well as improving pain tolerance,” Dr. Alattar says. “As a father and a neonatologist, I think that Kangaroo Care should be provided for all infants as soon as possible for the most benefit.”
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.