What is Kangaroo Care (Skin-to-Skin)? | Advice For Parents On NICU

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What is Kangaroo Care (Skin-to-Skin)?

Skin-to-skin - often called Kangaroo Care - is usually used to describe your newborn, healthy term baby being placed directly onto your naked chest following a picture-perfect birth.

Unfortunately for you, your labour will probably have been on the traumatic side, and baby will have been taken straight to the NICU for medical care. If this is the case, you will be chomping at the bit to get your hands on your baby. In the first instance, it may not be appropriate for baby to have any skin-to-skin care - they may be to unwell, or unstable, and it may upset them to be handled. Bide your time, the day will come, when a nurse will utter the words “would you like a cuddle today?”.

Baby will be completely undressed, except for their nappy - and you will be expected to be naked from the waist up too. You can pull the curtains around the bed space, if its appropriate, and make a safe and warm cocoon for you and your baby to enjoy some bonding time together. 

What are the benefits of Kangaroo Care (Skin-to-Skin care)?

Kangaroo care offers your premature baby lots of benefits:

  • Kangaroo Care calms and relaxes both mother and baby
  • Regulates the baby’s heart rate and breathing
  • Stimulates digestion and an interest in feeding
  • Regulates temperature
  • Enables colonisation of the baby’s skin with the mother’s friendly bacteria, thus providing protection against infection
  • Kangaroo Care stimulates the release of hormones to support breastfeeding and mothering.

Additional benefits for babies in the neonatal unit

  • Kangaroo Care improves oxygen saturation
  • Reduces cortisol (stress) levels particularly following painful procedures
  • Helps baby regulate their blood sugar
  • Encourages better maternal attachment
  • Reduces maternal anxiety 
  • Kangaroo Care encourages pre-feeding behaviour
  • Assists with growth
  • May reduce hospital stay
  • If the mother expresses following a period of skin-to-skin contact, her milk volume will improve and the milk expressed will contain the most up-to-date antibodies

Top tips for kangaroo care

  • Make sure you wear comfortable clothes - often stretchy vests, or front-fastening shirts are the easiest (but NICU nurses will be able to work with anything you give them!). 
  • Although everyone involved is basically naked, make sure that baby has a hat on (this is a huge surface area in realtion to the rest of their body, and where they lose the most heat from), and make sure there is a blanket covering baby’s back. You can find lovely blankets and hats in our Little Mouse shop to keep under the incubator or cot, and bring out when you have your kangaroo care. 
  • Make sure you’ve had a wee beforehand, theres nothing worse than being trapped under your little mouse, and be busting for a toilet break.
  • We aim to have baby out for skin-to-skin for as long as feasible. Your nurse will often factor it in around cares and feeds, so make sure you are aware of their expectations - if you are only able to to spend twenty minutes or so, make sure that your nurse knows this - and they will let you know if you should leave it for another day, to make the most of baby’s development. 
  • Although its important for mum to bond with their premature baby, we mustn’t forget daddy. A hairy chest is just as good for a bit of kangaroo care - and it often means mum can take advantage of her two most favourite people being busy and have some me-time. 

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